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The man who loved
sport too much

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There was not much gambling in the Rockies last week, but my own home was swarming with it.

Sean Penn arrived just as the Sheriff was leaving for Las Vegas to endure harsh anti-terrorism training -- and I had a dark feeling, even then, that these two absolutely disconnected events would somehow combine to cause trouble. ... Which was true, although neither one of those things were as traumatic as the bizarre arrival of Princess Omin to my home. That changed things dramatically.

Our gambling situation went all to pieces, as it usually does when you start betting with strangers who have no sense of values and don't mind losing heavily. People who don't speak English and pay their gambling debts by selling relatives into slavery are always loaded bazookas. I could have handled Penn's arrival and the Sheriff's departure with no trouble, under ordinary circumstances, but when Fate added a fine young Arabian woman to the mix, my gears began to grind. I felt my brain wandering. A little confusion can be interesting, in the Oriental sense, but too much of it with no apparent end is demoralizing.

There was a time, not long ago, when I looked forward to the Sunday NFL games with a certain giddy expectation, like a vacation coming up. But no longer -- not after the 49ers failed to cover, and the Raiders blew up right in front of my eyes on Sunday night like swollen sheep. They were beaten and disgraced.

Whoops. Lighten up on the bombast. Stick with the facts. ... OK. The once-mighty Raiders defense was ripped to shreds by a second-year running back from Alabama named Shaun Alexander, who sliced and stomped through the fourth-toughest run defense in the NFL for 266 yards and utterly intimidated the Oakland linebackers. They were shamed like animals who urinate on themselves.

Shaun Alexander
Seattle's Shaun Alexander ran over, around and through the Raiders defense.
The Oakland offense played like a gang of drunkards, moving well-enough at times to run up 338 yards in a baffling display of classic West Coast Offense and butter-fingered sleaziness that made owner Al Davis beg to be taken out of the stadium in a bag at game's end. Hall of Fame receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice dropped enough passes in the fourth quarter to throw the game away. It was a shoddy performance, at best, bordering on criminal fraud and cowardice. To see the proud Raiders disgraced like this caused my heart to fill with hate.

I was brooding on this and other systematic failures when Princess Omin came down from the attic and silently joined us, as we bitched and whined and watched the football games Sunday. I was not sure she even understood the game, if only because of her unrelenting silence, but I couldn't help noticing that she took a decidedly focused interest in Mr. Penn, despite his spastic drunkenness. "Maybe she speaks your language," I said to him. "Try to get her to talk to you."

"Oh, no," he said quickly, "I'm not that drunk. Don't deceive yourself." He had been drinking a foul-smelling liqueur called Fernet-Branca for two days and nights, falling asleep frequently in the middle of conversations and fouling his pants when he got excited -- but I sensed a sly duplicity in him, like a teen-age girl acting drunker than she really is, so I gave him plenty of room.

"Princess Omin seems to like you," I said casually. "Would you like to snuggle up with her and talk openly?"

He gave me the fish-eye and took another snort of that evil booze that he carries. "Is this the girl you got from the terrorist?" he asked. "Why are you keeping her here?"

"Don't act paranoid!" I snapped at him. "I am not Keeping her. She's waiting for her brother to come back and pay his debts."

"That's obscene!" he said. "She has been here for eight days, and she has no intention of leaving! Don't take me for a rubber-head. That smarmy bastard you fleeced on the World Series is never coming back!"

"Nonsense," I said. "He is Omar, a prince of the royal blood."

"You fool!" he barked. "He left her deliberately. She's a human listening-device. One of these days you will wake up with a bomb in your mouth. You should call the police and have her locked up."

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

I stared at him, feeling a shudder in my spine. Ye gods! I thought. What if he's right? Is it possible that I am willfully harboring a Terrorist? Could this woman be making a jackass of me? ... "That's ridiculous," I said to Mr. Penn. "This is Princess Omin -- little sister to Omar, who owes me $40,000."

He sneered at me. "That's rich," he chuckled. "Isn't Omar that creep you've been investigating for war crimes?"

I said nothing, struggling to digest it all. The mere possibility that Omar had run a game down on me was repulsive. "What are you saying?" I demanded -- "that some foreign freak has bamboozled me?"

"Yes," he answered. "He has planted a Mole in your life. This bitch will destroy you!"

Just then the Coroner came into the room and laughed brazenly in my face. "You are too dumb to live," he cackled.

I swung a hockey stick at him, but he dodged away and slapped Princess Omin on the back of her head, which instantly changed her attitude. "Don't touch me, you swine!" she screamed. "You are a dung heap!"

"Well, well," Penn said. "She speaks pretty good English, for a deaf-mute." He reached over and tweaked her throat. "Don't worry, Princess -- you're safe here."

A wealthy man named "Cleverly," known all along the Continental Divide for his outbursts of public lewdness, laughed cruely and hooted at me. "How about that $40,000, Doc? Why don't you boys take this girl down to Hollywood? That's where she belongs."

He was Right. They were all laughing at me. I grabbed some whiskey off my leather-covered icebox and went outside to be alone. My worst fears had come true. I was a public Dupe, soon to be jailed for crimes against the nation. How had it happened? Had I finally loved Sport too much?

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.

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