Page 2 columnist
This is a very bad week for the American nation, and next week will be even worse. The Kansas-Syracuse game was barely over when I learned to my horror that the United States Marines were killing journalists in Baghdad.Three journalists have died in Baghdad so far, and not one of them was killed by Enemy Fire. They were shot down like dogs by U.S. military personel, killed and wounded and mangled by Americans, who drive American M1 Abrahms battle tanks and eat all-American pie, just like the rest of us. American troops are killing journalists in a profoundly foreign country, under cover of a war being fought for savage, greed-crazed reasons that most of them couldn't explain or even understand. What the hell is going on here? How could this once-proud nation have changed so much, so drastically, in only a little more than two years. In what seems like the blink of an eye, this George Bush has brought us from a prosperous nation at peace to a broke nation at war. And why are we killing innocent people at point-blank range on the other side of the world -- with big guns and big bombs that kill everything in reach? Indeed, there is something going on here, Mr. Jones, and you don't know what it is, do you? Bob Dylan said that, and he is still right, now more than ever. Hell, there is nothing really new about American enforcers -- especially cops -- killing and brutalizing innocent American citizens. It happens with depressing regularity. But at least the bastards used to have the decency to deny it. That is a big difference, sports fans, and that is why I feel so savagely depressed tonight. When the Pentagon feels free -- and even gleeful -- about killing anybody and Everybody who gets in the way of their vicious crusade for oil, the public soul of this country has changed forever, and professional sports is only a serenade for the death of the American dream.
Another big loser last week was CBS-TV network, which did a credible job and put most of the games on TV -- but the invasion was impossible to compete with, and ratings for the Big Dance were down almost 30 percent overall. I was not among the quitters, but I still had a hard time staying focused on basketball. The total war against Evil dominated every waking moment of our lives.
War has always been a hard act to follow, and this rotten little masacre in Iraq is no exception. It is like that permanent s---storm that Ronald Reagan talked about in his letters to Frank Sinatra. They both believed very deeply in the book of Revelation. Reagan even went so far so to say to his buddy, "We are screwed, Frankie. We are the ones who will have to face the end of the World."They had a good time for sure, those rouges. They were life-long sports fans, but Wars kept getting in their way. I used to laugh when good old Dutch said ominous things like that -- but no longer. It is becoming clearer and clearer that he was right, dead right, if only because he was drawing up the blueprints himself, right in front of our eyes, and we loved him for it. I had a soft-spot in my heart for Ronald Reagan, if only because he was a sportswriter in his youth.
The war news from almost everywhere clamped a mean lid on coverage of the NCAA tournament this year, but that didn't prevent us hoops junkies from getting an adult dose of high-speed, high-style heart-jerking college basketball last weekend. Two of the three Final Four games in New Orleans were serious ball-busters, even for those of us who had long since abandoned all hope of victory in the big-money bracket-bashing "office pools" that littered the newsrooms of the nation.Betting was way off, and TV rating fell 25 percent overall, and none of the favorites survived to reach the Final Four, which left me with no hometown heroes to focus on, once top-ranked Kentucky was scraped off the floor after Marquette diced them up in the Midwest regional finals.
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Nothing had really surprised me until then (with the glaring exception of those whimpering sots from Wake Forest, who failed so horribly against Auburn that I swore to myself, even before that vulgar game had ended, that I was going to drive at once to the sleepy fat village of Winston-Salem, N.C., and release a swarm of 900,000 full-grown Vulture fleas somewhere in the middle of the campus, or maybe in the basement of the team's practice facility).You can get anywhere from 250,000 to a million commercially grown breeding fleas -- or lady bugs, or chiggers or moles or even Black-Widow spiders -- for what might seem like a generous price, but your purchase will definitely Not be the end of it. The last time I experimented with this kind of political action, the controlled release process got away from me and bad things happened.... It was long after midnight when we crept the iron cherry-picker across the backyard and as close as possible to the tall brick chimney pipe that towered over the pompous, colonial mansion on the outskirts of Aspen. Our job, our mission, was to sneak up on the large family home of a crooked politician, not far away, and dump a half-million fully-grown Muscatel Fleas down the huge greek chimney into his plush living room.
Ah, but that is another story, for another time. Now where was I? Yes, war and sports ...
When Syracuse beat Kansas Monday night for the U.S. college championship of the world, it was a wildly exciting game that came down to a failed final shot, but it hardly seemed to matter, compared to the horrible news from Iraq, and basketball faded away. There was bigger entertainment on the screen, primarily in the form of bombs dropping on people -- mainly foreigners, or course -- and news-readers from CNN said we were winning. Is this a great country or what?
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.