By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

Ed Podolak had just been strip-searched for the second time in 40 minutes by foreigners at the Denver airport when I met him in the Smoking Lounge, and his temper was rubbed raw. Podolak, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, is known all over the west as "the last white running back" -- which is not true, but that is his story and he stuck to it for 30 years, for good or ill, and on this day he was looking sick.

"This country is turning rotten, Doc," he said as he cleared a place at the bar for me. "I don't know why they are picking on me, but they grab me every time I come near an airport. Last week in Dallas I was subjected to a cavity search."

I have known Ed for many years, and I had never seen him so helpless and demoralized. "Are they doing it to everybody? Or is it just me? Pretty soon I won't be able to travel at all."

"Get a grip on yourself, Eddie," I told him. "Don't you know there's a War on?"

"So what?" he snapped. "I'm not a terrorist. I'm not carrying any bombs. I am a stand-up all-American patriot."

"That's what they all say," I said. "Let's face it, Ed. You are swarthy and you have black, bushy hair. Are you carrying any hashish?"

"Don't say that word!" he hissed. "You'll get us both locked up -- and the answer is No, so get off my back."

"Where were you going?" I asked him.

"New Orleans," he replied. "But I don't dare go anywhere now -- not if this ugliness keeps up. What the hell, I may as well just stay here and watch the games on TV."

"Good thinking," I said. "They'll never find us here in the Smoking Lounge. Let's hammer a few."

***** ***** *****

Ray Lewis
Baltimore's Ray Lewis pounces on Travis Minor during Miami's slow death Sunday.

Watching the Baltimore Ravens play football is like watching scum freeze on the eyeballs of a jackass, or being stuck for six hours in an elevator with Dick Cheney on speed. The Ravens will pounce on you and gnaw you to death, which can take eight or nine days.

The Raven is a queer and dangerous bird, far worse than the Crow. A pack of crows can destroy an owl or an eagle, but a single boss Raven will attack a whole gang of crows and rip the lungs out of its leaders. Most crows would rather commit suicide than go head-to-head with a boss raven.

You bet. So what does this tell us about this week's playoff games?

Almost nothing, now that I mention it -- except that Pittsburgh beat the snot out of the Ravens (at home) about a month ago. The score was 26-21, but the beating was far worse, so we can only hope that the Steelers can do it again, and knock this horrible salt-water Tarbaby out of the playoffs as soon as possible, so they can't dull out the rest of the season. Betting on a Baltimore game is like betting on a three-hour sumo-wrestling bout. It is wrong for the Game.

There is talk of Jerome Bettis playing for the Steelers this week -- and if that happens, Pittsburgh should win by seven. I will bet on this, but not heavily. The Ravens are evil and I fear them.

In the other AFC game, I have a nasty feeling that New England might knock off Oakland and derail our chance of seeing another one of those classic Raiders-Steelers showdowns in Pittsburgh next week. The Patriots have been on a roll ever since Tom Brady replaced the extremely high-priced Drew Bledsoe early in the year. They are a spooky team to have to fly all the way to Boston to face in a blizzard. I don't know what the point spread will be, but I will not bet heavily on that one either. It would be horrible for the TV ratings and everything else if the AFC Championship Game featured New England and Baltimore. I wouldn't go near Foxboro for a freakish bomb like that -- especially if the X-games are on TV that week.

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

Hot damn! There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, eh? Maybe a scoreless tie, after 14 overtimes. Ed Podolak would like that. He could make a comeback with Baltimore and juice up his stats.

And that's it for now, folks. I am running out of steam. This football season is taking longer than I thought it would. Mahalo.

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.