Friday, April 18, 2003 Updated: April 21, 12:54 PM ET
Back in the day ...
By Hunter S. Thompson Page 2 columnist
Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.
The "war" in Iraq is all around us, like one of those San Francisco death-fogs that never goes away. Your immediate instinct is to flee, but to where? It is a lot easier to just go back to bed than to get in the car and look for a place where there may be no fog. The odds are stacked against you, so why even try?
That is the nervous American reality in this downhill spring of the year 2003, and I am keenly aware of it. Something is missing here, and I can't say what it is, can I?
Good to see Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum still rooting on the Raiders.
Maybe it is spring fever, or maybe just the end of another tainted basketball season -- but wait!
Ah ha! The basketball season is not over. It just seems that way, because the brittle hysteria of War has overwhelmed all sport in America, just like it did the Super Bowl and March Madness and the dismal, almost invisible beginning of another vaguely distracting baseball season.
The relentless Bombing News from Iraq commanded all the front-page headlines and all the TV news shows, which drone at us 24 hours of every day. Many people don't have time to even read the sports section, much less focus on it and gamble. ... It is impossible to truly concentrate on anything when your wallet is empty and your heart is full of fear.
But so what? Never mind the war news.
NFL Films came to my house last week, and I felt like Alice in Wonderland. It was beautiful and even historic. For a lifelong, totally committed, fun-loving football addict like me, it was like being taken into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A man called Tuckett led the weird expedition that resulted in my insanely ambitious attempt to explain, in vast detail, the exact Meaning and History of my intense and sometimes tangled relationship with football and gambling and Al Davis and Max McGee and Richard Nixon and Bill Walsh and, quite specifically, with the early days and legends of what is now the RAIDER NATION.
Indeed. I have spent far more time that I can even remember with all those violent people who surrounded and even created the monstrous legend of the mighty Oakland Raiders in all their blighted glory.
About 40 percent of the original Raiders were criminal by nature and deliberately dangerous brutes. They were professional athletes who got paid every week to hurt people. The worse they hurt them, the more they got paid -- especially if you could damage or cripple another team's Quarterback and put him on the Disabled List. That made you an automatic hero of violence, for a while, and entitled you to throw your weight around in downtown Oakland with whores and cops and animals. You were almost above the law.
It was nice work, if you could get it, and winning championships made it even nicer. Being a natural-born Raider was Fun. Ho ho ho.
I fell into that groove quite naturally, back in my outlaw days. I was a fun-loving well-paid Sportswriter. I seemed to have a bottomless expense account. Yes sir. Me and the Oakland Raiders were a match made in heaven.
But "seemed" is a dangerous word in my business, and having those brutes on my account quickly led to trouble -- not for the team or the players, but for me and my professional reputation.
Let us remember, people, that all of this happened many, many years ago, well beyond any statute of limitations. It is ancient history now, and we can talk freely. For me, it is vaguely like watching a documentary film about a young journalist frolicking with the Hell's Angels. It was definitely weird and even perverted to some tastes, but what the hell?
It is over now, lost and gone like the snows of yesteryear. Mahalo.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," 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 regularly on Page 2.