|White death in the Rockies|
By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist
The Colts close in on the playoffs
That's what every man, woman and child in the capacity home crowd of 75,075 was thinking anyway, as their Boys took the field (about 15 minutes before the blizzard started) -- for what turned out to be a long and wretched night against the underdog Indianapolis Colts. By game time, you could wander into any warm bar near the stadium and get the Colts with 10 or 11 points, with little haggling. I sent a woman into what we will have to call the downtown Meathook Lounge on Broadway to gently work the boozed-up crowd for purely journalistic reasons, and she came away with $2,400 in cash and checks, just for acting innocent and flashing a few $100 bills.... Is this a great country, or what?
Denver is a good town for getting into low-rent trouble with strangers, and it is not always the harmless kind of trouble that you had in mind. Just ask Warren Zevon about what happens to people who get locked up in Denver. He got tangled up with a unisex woman in Denver and almost went crazy.
(What? Where are we going with this story? And Who mentioned jails?)
Not me, buster -- I was telling you about how Peyton Manning and some king-bitch stud of a kicker named Vanderjagt stunned the whooping, cheering hometown crowd into a deathlike silence by beating the Broncos 23-20 in what had long since become a howling white-out blizzard. You could barely see the football as it sailed through the storm toward the goalposts. Most of the second-half action was barely visible to whatever was left of the crowd, many of whom had gone utterly snow-blind and had to be led to their cars afterward. Nobody left early.
I was watching the game with my neighbor, Bob Beattie, the famous ski bum and maniacal Broncos fan, who had just returned from covering a World Cup slalom event in Utah. He was in a pretty good mood for most of the game, but toward the end he got a little bitchy when it became painfully clear that Denver would be lucky to even win the game, much less cover the prevailing six-point spread.
The Colts' impressive last minute(s) touchdown took the joy out of his gambling situation -- but that last-second 54-yard field goal to force overtime made him go all to pieces. He paced around the room and muttered darkly about killing Jason Elam, the celebrated Denver kicker who had been perfect on 371 consecutive extra-point-tries -- until about halfway through the Indianapolis game, when he somehow failed and whacked the left goal post on a routine shot that eventually cost Denver the ballgame. If not for Elam's failure, the Broncos would have won 21-20 and avoided the fatal overtime.
When the Colts won the OT coin toss, we all understood that Beattie's boys should abandon all hope of victory. He whined for a while about the dumbness of Paul Tagliabue, but he still seemed to think that Denver was going to win. Losing to Indianapolis was out of the question. It was only a matter of time.
Ho ho ho. He was right, of course: Everything is only a matter of time. In this case, it was nine and a half minutes before magic Mike, the kicking fool out of Canada, found himself squinting calmly through a fog of wind-whipped snow at yet another seemingly impossible kick, only 51 yards this time -- with the game on the line and his reputation up for grabs. If he missed this one, maybe 13 people in the whole world would remember the "lucky" miracle he had performed only 10 minutes earlier, and he would probably be waived before Christmas and sent back to the Canadian league. Beattie was sure he would miss, and so was I.
The rest is history. Magic Mike drilled the bastard straight through the uprights like a guided missile. Beattie wept, I lost, and Anita collected big money. Beware, O ye of little faith.
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 regularly on Page 2.