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Monday, May 7, 2001
Updated: October 10, 3:22 PM ET
Kentucky Derby and
other gambling disasters


By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

Betting against the Lakers in the NBA playoffs has never been a sound investment for gamblers -- especially not in a lazy year like this one, with the Lakers being the defending NBA champions & favored to win again, despite a lackluster season & more internal bitching & squabbling and crazed jealous treachery than a tribe of Hyenas in heat. ...

It might be worth noting here that Hyenas are the only beasts in nature that are born physically bisexual & remain that way all their lives. They also are cannibals that routinely eat their young & everything else that looks helpless. People who know Hyenas describe them as "the filthiest animal in nature -- with the possible exception of English cows & corrupt big-city police officers in 21st century America."

Indeed. But that invidious comparison to Hyenas and crooked Cops was not my real reason for betting against the Lakers on Sunday night. My real reason had to do with The Spread -- which had the Lakers giving 6½ or seven against Sacramento, a fast and flaky team that appeared to have everything necessary to beat L.A., except a cure for Shaquille O'Neal Disease. ... Which turned out to be true: Shaq ran totally wild, dominating the game so completely that the whole Kings' frontline came away looking like they've been Beaten & battered all night by a 300-lb. Meat-Hammer.

Derby Action
The action of Derby Day at Churchill Downs is nearly impossible to resist.
O'Neal totaled 44 points, 21 rebounds & seven crushing blocks at crucial moments in the game. Poor, rich little Kobe added 29, and the rest of the Lakers scored only 35 between them.

That was all L.A. needed to win -- but not enough, ho ho, to beat The Spread. The final score, 108-105, was deceptively close, for a game the Lakers should have won by 19 or 20. They played at the top of their form, against a Sacramento team that couldn't do anything right & played their worst game of the season and still lost by only three. ...

If the line doesn't change for the next game, take the Kings & the points. They have a knack for figuring things out in a hurry, and Shaq won't score 40 points again this season. The Lakers are so bitchy that it would be shameful for the whole NBA if they won another championship.

That game was not my only gambling experience of the weekend. I also bet heavily on the Kentucky Derby & suffered huge losses.

The Derby is not my favorite sporting event of the year, despite my deep Kentucky roots & my natural lust for gambling. I have had more truly heinous experiences linked to Churchill Downs than any other venue. And I can tell you, for sure, that Derby week in Louisville is a white-knuckle orgy of Booze & Sex & Violence that, 99 times out of 100, swamps anybody who goes near it in a hurricane of Fear, Pain & Stupefying Disasters that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

  The Derby is not my favorite sporting event of the year, despite my deep Kentucky roots & my natural lust for gambling. I have had more truly heinous experiences linked to Churchill Downs than any other venue. And I can tell you, for sure, that Derby week in Louisville is a white-knuckle orgy of Booze & Sex & Violence that, 99 times out of 100, swamps anybody who goes near it in a hurricane of Fear, Pain & Stupefying Disasters that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  
  

The behavior of the crowd at Churchill Downs is like 100,000 vicious Hyenas going berserk all at once in a space about the size of a 777 jet or the White House lawn. Going to the Derby in person is worse than volunteering to join General Pickett's famous Charge at Gettysburg, and just about as much Fun. ... Take my word for it, folks: I have done it nine or 10 times in a row, and I still have recurring nightmares about it that cause me to wake up sweating & screaming like some kind of pig being eaten alive by meat-bats.

My memories of the Derby are extremely clear & far too obscene to describe here in any detail. Some involve jails, insane asylums, Rape trials, wife-beatings, police-brutality and private graveyards filled with victims of tragic medical experiments worse than anything the Marquis de Sade was ever accused of.

I went to one Derby party where two teenage girls were deliberately set on fire & tortured by drunken rich people who then hurled their bodies off a cliff above the Ohio River & laughed about it later. The girls' families were told by local authorities that their daughters had "run away with a gang of horse-gamblers from Turkey who loaded them up with gin and told them they were going to Hollywood to get famous."

Things like that happen every year when the Derby comes to town. People "go out to the track," as they like to say in Louisville, and simply disappear into thin air. Some return a few years later with horrible disfigurements & no memory at all of what happened. Others end up in "hospitals down south" and are never mentioned again by people who knew them.

Omerta is the code of the South, especially after weird crimes are committed by rich people. The usual explanation is a brief mention on the Obituary page of another head-on collision with some unidentified truck far out on the River Road & a "private cremation ceremony attended only by close family members who wish to remain anonymous." Horse people have very short attention spans for anything involving humans.

The best thing about the Kentucky Derby is that it is only two minutes long. It is the quickest event in sports, except for Sumo-wrestling & Mike Tyson fights. Maybe Drag-racing is quicker, but I have never been attracted to it. You can find more gambling action at any weekend cockfight in rural Arkansas. ... An NBA playoff game lasts for two & a half hours on live television, but it is a hell of a lot quicker if you watch it on tape without the commercials.

BUY THE BOOK
Click here to buy Hunter S. Thompson's new book, Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist.

That is the only way you can avoid seeing that sleazy little monster, David Stern -- who gets paid millions of dollars a year for doing nothing at all except jabber & giggle every two or three minutes about drafting ugly old women into the NBA as potential replacements for overpaid teenage mutants who might develop shin splints or go lame overnight if they can't take 50 shots a game & get more public love than anybody since Bill Clinton's years in the White House.

OK. I see that I am feeling a bit nasty, myself, this week -- so maybe I should go back to bed & have a few more sick dreams about the Kentucky Derby & David Stern creeping in through my bedroom window with a dead animal in his mouth.

That is what happens to people who watch too much TV & make long-distance hunch bets on horses named Dollar Bill. Maybe it's true that habitual gambling really is a fatal disease worse than brain cancer. I will do some more research and report back next week on my Findings.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Proud Highway, Better Than Sex and The Rum Diary. His new book, Fear and Loathing in America, has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears each Monday on Page 2.