The Vault: Hunter S. Thompson, Part II
Since the 1960s, Hunter S. Thompson made his bones by writing about Fear and Loathing when it comes to politics, motorcycle gangs, guns and Las Vegas. So it's really not fair that he was also a top-rate, mad-dog sports columnist, even in the twilight of his fevered career. Here is a sampling from ESPN.com's Page 2 Vault:
Hunter the Sports Gambler had a love-hate relationship with March Madness. Guess which side of that divide the Wildcat-diehard considered Duke?
"Warning to Gamblers: Beware the Ides of March" (March 12, 2001)
I have scars on my soul from past gambling disasters that will Never heal over. I still suffer hate and pain in my heart every time I see the word "Duke" on a TV screen, and that rotten Thing happened nine years ago when that Swine Christian Laettner hit that impossible last-second shot against Kentucky. I still have a Memory Block about it -- but as I recall it was in the East Regional final that is still known as "the Best basketball game ever played." Geez, it Was and remains the Worst Shock I've experienced in my Life.
March is a month without mercy for rabid basketball fans. There is no such thing as a "gentleman gambler" when the Big Dance rolls around. All sheep will be fleeced, all fools will be punished severely. ... There are no Rules when the deal goes down in the final weeks of March. Even your good friends will turn into monsters. They will watch you intensely for any sign of emotional commitment to your bets, and then jump you like snakes on a toad. Loyalty is a fatal weakness in this business. This is an open invitation to a Beating.
FYI: HST hated it when TV commentators described a 3-pointer as being launched from "downtown." Not just as a curmudgeon who loathed cliches, but as a wordsmith who declared the notion as inaccurate.
"The Curse of the Musburger" (Jan. 2, 2001)
It drove me mad then -- & it still does every time some fool blurts it out. It was quickly picked up and adopted by a whole generation of half-bright TV commentators every night of the bloody season. It has become part of the Lexicon now, & it will not be easy to correct. In gyms & Coliseums all over America (even in Greece or Korea), wherever basketball as we know it is played, there will be some howling Jackass braying, "From way downtown! Another 3-pointer! Is this a great country, or what?" ...
You don't fire a long jump shot from Downtown, you fire it into Downtown. The Real definition of "Taking it downtown" is to suddenly drive to the basket & into a cluster of 7-footers who seem to have you sealed out -- like Iverson launching himself at Robinson & Duncan & dunking it over them. To think Otherwise would be to think like a Baseball Writer.
Thompson loved pro basketball so much, he knew that the NBA could live, thrive and survive even if Moe, Larry and Curly were in charge.
Can the Three Stooges Save the NBA? (April 30, 2001)
There is too much ignorant squawking these days about the Decline and Fall of the NBA Empire. Neilsen ratings are down, the fan base is shrinking, and even the Commissioner's office says radical changes are needed to keep the game healthy. Many alarming statistics are cited to show that the NBA, as we know it, is withering away right in front of our eyes. But none of it is true. It is a landslide of gibberish dutifully parroted by sportswriters. ...
Some things are more impossible than others, however, and the collapse of the NBA is one of these. The only thing wrong with the NBA -- or any other professional sport, for that matter -- is a wild epidemic of Dumbness and overweening Greed. There is no Mystery about it, and no need to change any rules. The NBA's problem is so clear that even children can see it -- especially high school basketball stars and half-bright manchild phenomena who don't need college Professors to teach them the difference between Money and Fun.
If you were saddened and underwhelmed by the sorry spectacle of the 2010 Roy Jones Jr.-Bernard Hopkins fight, travel back to a time when the Good Doctor marveled at the possibilities after Jones destroyed John Ruiz.
"Saturday Night at the Fights" (March 3, 2003)
Roy Jones Jr. has been waiting in the wings of Greatness for what seems like most of my life, like some bridesmaid who never got married, despite her much-admired beauty. But no longer. No. Young Roy got hitched last Saturday night, and if it wasn't quite as classic as some of Muhammad Ali's finest moments, it was still head and shoulders above anything else that we've seen from the sleazy world of boxing since the Champ retired.
That is the good news. Roy Jones Jr. is the real thing, and I take my hat off to him. He is a first-class fighter and a proud champion. ... The bad news is that Jones is so good that nobody within 40 pounds of his fighting weight even deserves to be in a boxing ring with him. He is quite literally in a class by himself.
Greg Hardy is a Page 2 contributor. It's all pop culture all the time at Twitter.com/HardyVision.