Be like George -- bet on Kentucky
By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

Animals! Animals! I have always hated Animals, especially at this time of year. They wander in and out of the house, babbling and drooling on each other, and the snow keeps piling up, up, up, then flooding with filth when it melts. ... Yes sir, haven't I been telling you all along that March is a horrible month? It sucks in nine-thousand ways.

But not all ways, as it turns out. No. George Plimpton was born in March, along with my son and his son, and the bastard child of Charles Manson.

Hot damn! I could go on and on about this, but that would drive us all mad. Shaquille O'Neal was spawned in March, along with Jack Kerouac, Queen Latifah, Albert Einstein and Osama bin Laden.

So let's get back to George Plimpton's birthday party and the looming Kentucky-Maryland game. Even the president is worried about it.

We live in downhill times, in basketball and everywhere else. By this time next year, we will all be arrested for something, whether we're guilty or not. "Terrorism" has many, many faces. Frankly, I will not be shocked to see the NCAA basketball tournament being played in a titanium cage at Guantanamo Bay, with defrocked priests as Referees.

But the Plimpton situation haunts me more than the others, right now, if only because I am missing his splendid birthday party in New York City this week. My heart is heavy, my mood is glum. George Plimpton's 75th birthday is a horrible gig to miss. It is sort of like missing Muhammad Ali's 75th birthday, if the Champ had stopped aging at 29.

Yeah. Suck on that one for a minute.

Tayshaun Prince
In Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans, the Wildcats have the shooters to stay with Maryland ... but not the muscle.
As for my quasi-flaky Wildcats, professional circumstance has already spared me the agony of deciding where to put my money on the big game this week. Right, no more of this s***-eating grief. I have finally grown up, I have matured -- the Office Pool bracket sheet says I have already picked Maryland.

Indeed. I did it last week, when I was still thinking clearly. You bet: The Terps are a No. 1 seed. And Kentucky is the No. 4.

It was easy: Just bet the higher-seeded team in every game, and forget that amateur crap about "Personal Loyalties" and Home Team hunches that reveal themselves to you just before dawn on game day. You are probably an Alcoholic, anyway, and you are prone to Doubling Up/down, so what? Pay no attention to any yo-yo who tells you that Kentucky is going to win. That is nonsense, that is impossible, nobody in basketball would bet Kentucky over Maryland. It would be 33-1 or 44-1, if you thought about monetizing it.

And some people will, at any odds. What the hell? I would bet heavily on my people at 22-1, and a bit less heavily at 15-1, or even 11-1. Why not? Big Risk is what this ball-busting March Madness is all about, eh? Go long, get weird, kick ass -- and if we Lose, get really Weird.

Yes sir, that is exactly what we do around here in March, folks. We load up on everything we can get our hands on, then crawl into a huge vat of ice water and bet gigantic money with faceless bookies on both coasts.

It is not much different from that giggly, blind-dumb limbo that a gambler will get into when he knows in his heart that he finally has a Sure Thing, a sleeping dog who can't lose, etc. etc.

But let me tell you for sure, people, that Kentucky can lose, and the 'Cats probably will. It is actually about a 77-1 shot, which is not for your everyday hometown beer drunk. ... Maryland is simply Bigger, Faster, Smarter, Tougher and on most days just a little more adventurous that this 2002 Kentucky team, which is not even as good as the one that lost to USC in the Final Eight last year. They have the shooters, like Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans, but they don't have the muscle or the depth to play 40 minutes with the Terrapins.

The final spread will be at least two digits. Try 11, as in 82-71. I have already predicted this with my blind (numbers only) bracket-sheet, which was strictly Impersonal.

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

Or almost impersonal, anyway: In a fit of stupid loyalty or love or maybe just a pimp's lust for melodrama, I fell for crowd-pleasing Cinderella-teams like Miami, Gonzaga and Pepperdine, which all got busted early. Screw them. Three of my Final Four picks are still alive, and that is more than some people can say.

George Plimpton will almost certainly live to be 122 years old, when he will still be the amazing all-time champion of sports and literature that he is today, and has been for the past 50 years. Whatever it is that George eats after midnight, we should all eat more of it. Take it from me, folks: I know how it feels to run at top speed for 50 years and still believe in Santa Claus.

Whoops, maybe not Santa, but definitely Valentine's Day and the Fourth of July. It was George, in fact, who told me to bet Kentucky even, with no points at all, at 13-1 odds to win it all. Got it? That means Maryland, Kansas and Duke, too.

So I will, and nevermind what I really think -- which is that Pittsburgh will knock off Duke and Southern Illinois will somehow beat Kansas. Right, and that's about it for now. I hear the gong, and I must have whiskey.


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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