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Football in the
Kingdom of Fear

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The Washington Redskins lost again on Sunday, but they are not the worst team in the NFL. The Detroit Lions earned that label when they went belly-up against St. Louis on Monday night, losing 35-0 in a monumental display of failure in all its forms that made the Lions' new General Manager visibly ill. Matt Millen tried to hide from the ABC cameras. Toward the end of the nightmare, they showed Millen sitting alone in a desolate box, as the dazzling St. Louis offense sprinted up and down the field like water running downhill. I gave 31 points and still won my bets. On some days, even victory can be too bleak to celebrate.

When the game was over, I drank some Persimmon juice and called John Wilbur in Hawaii. "Cheer up," I said. "Think about the war news. We are winning handily, and the British are still with us." Wilbur was a famous pulling guard for the Redskins, in better days. And I feared he was wallowing in suicidal gloom out there on the western edge of America.

But I was wrong. "Never mind the war," he chirped. "The worm has finally turned! Washington covered! They finally beat the spread. I won big!"

It was true: Washington had been a 14½-point underdog, and they had only lost by 14. It was one of those technical victories that only gamblers can enjoy. Just 10 days ago, Wilbur had been selling Honolulu real estate at a frightening discount -- but now he was giggling like a fat young boy and talking about his new Mercedes convertible. "It's beautiful," he babbled, "maroon and gold with Spanish-leather seats."

"Good for you," I said. "You are a hero of consumer confidence. When will you take delivery?"

"Who knows?" he said. "I got it for $8,000 -- maybe it's a stolen car."

"Don't worry," I said. "We will all be driving stolen cars before this thing is over. Think of it this way: A stolen Mercedes is a hell of a lot better than no car at all -- especially in Hawaii."

"That's what the salesman said. He said I should shrug it off and feel proud to be a patriot. Hell, I already feel a lot more optimistic about everything -- the war, the market, even the filthy Redskins."

Ron Dayne, Fred Smoot
Fred Smoot and the Redskins couldn't handle Ron Dayne, right, but they did manage to beat the spread.
"You bet," I said. "Washington is a powerhouse, compared to the Detroit Lions. Things are definitely looking up. I can hardly wait to get out there for the Marathon."

"Have you gone into training yet?" he asked. "Are you ready to race 26 miles?"

"Don't worry," I told him. "The war news freaked me out for a while, but I'm back in training now. Do you have my official number yet?"

"No," he replied. "They won't give out the numbers until Pearl Harbor day. You're sure to get a low one. Just keep on training and don't worry about things you can't control."

"Thank you for saying that," I said. "All I want is for things to get back to normal. The war will be over soon."

"Sure it will," he said. "How about some action on the Dallas game next week? It should be a hell of a game! I'll take Washington even. How's that? I feel confident about this one."

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

"Nonsense," I said. "I want Dallas and 10."

I could hear him thinking, but I knew he had a weakness when it came to Dallas. He hated the whole franchise. The Dallas Cowboys had given him a lot of pain when he went against them in the glory days. Wilbur originated the famous Redskins death dance. "Rot, Rot, Rot in Hell," he would screech from the sidelines -- and then his teammates would join him, screaming, "Die, you yellow dogs! Die!" He was a Redskin to his core.

But that was in the old days. Things are different now: Both teams are winless this year. But not for long. One of them will almost certainly win this game on Monday. A scoreless tie is possible, but the odds against it are 500- or 600-to-one. This is a good game to bet Dallas and the low side of the over-under. Dallas almost beat the Raiders last week, while Washington has scored exactly one touchdown in four games. They are both extremely bad teams, but Dallas can at least penetrate the end zone now and then -- and they will also be playing in front of a pumped-up home crowd.

The biggest game, this week, is the Colts-Raiders clash in Indianapolis. I am a serious Colts fan, but I have a queasy feeling about this one, and I don't see them winning against the Raiders -- not after taking that horrible beating by New England. Oakland will double up on whatever the Patriots did, and they have enough ex-49ers to win by 10.

I will not bet that way, however, if only because I won't have to. The Colts are favored at home, but Peyton Manning will have to stop throwing interceptions if he wants to stay even with Miami in the AFC East.

St. Louis looks like the class of the league, right now -- almost too good to be true, in fact -- but that's what they looked like last year after four games, and in the end they couldn't even beat New Orleans. The N.Y. Giants are not like the Detroit Lions, and their hot-rod defense will give St. Louis the fear. This game will be decided by turnovers, and Jason Sehorn -- so why not have some fun and go with the Giants? We could use a little fun, right now, with all these unverified rumors of war and anthrax going around. All war and no football makes Johnny a dull boy.

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.

hey, rube! 

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