By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

March is an ugly month for gamblers. It is a time of deep mud, foul treachery and guaranteed personal failures. I have always hated March, for personal reasons, but as a Gambler, I Really hate it.

Nothing good has Ever happened in March. It has Never failed to bring horrible Fear, Grief and extremely tangible Loss down on me -- and I know in my heart that this year will be no different. I get the creeps every time I look at the calendar. ... Big trouble, soon come.

Even Astrologers will tell you that March is a time to lay low and beware of taking Risks. Disaster is Certain because March is ruled by Mars. The sun is in Pisces, which is the worst time of Any year for making Decisions. They are sure to be made for reasons of Emotional disturbance, rather than Logic or rational thought. That is the Law of the Universe.

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And that brings Us, as Gambling people, to the terrible truth that March is also the month of the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- and we know what That means for Gamblers, don't we? Yes, sir. It is Extremely Dangerous territory for even the coolest and calmest Professional risk-takers -- much less for emotionally berserk Amateurs with "Home Team Fever." Those people are Doomed. That is a Mathematical Certainty, like a game of Musical Chairs with only One chair.

Indeed. I have scars on my soul from past gambling disasters that will Never heal over. I still suffer hate and pain in my heart every time I see the word "Duke" on a TV screen, and that rotten Thing happened nine years ago when that Swine Christian Laettner hit that impossible last-second shot against Kentucky. I still have a Memory Block about it -- but as I recall it was in the East Regional final that is still known as "the Best basketball game ever played." Geez, it Was and remains the Worst Shock I've experienced in my Life.

March is a month without mercy for rabid basketball fans. There is no such thing as a "gentleman gambler" when the Big Dance rolls around. All sheep will be fleeced, all fools will be punished severely. ... There are no Rules when the deal goes down in the final weeks of March. Even your good friends will turn into monsters. They will watch you intensely for any sign of emotional commitment to your bets, and then jump you like snakes on a toad. Loyalty is a fatal weakness in this business. This is an open invitation to a Beating.

I have been keenly aware of this problem for many years, and I am quick to take advantage when I see it in others. Any jackass who will bet his Heart instead of his Head on NCAA Tournament games is either a brain-dead Sucker or temporarily Insane. And all Suckers are fair game, especially when they're crazy.

And that's about it for my Wisdom. I have preached it forever, yet for some sick reason I have never been able to cure myself of it, even when I know it brings pain.

Only two years ago, my good friend Ed Bradley walked into this house and beat me like a gong out of $4,000 on a Kentucky-Arizona game that suddenly went Wrong and bit me in the face. I was completely Humiliated, in front of my friends and family. They laughed like a gang of Hyenas.

I will never forget it -- at least not until my people go up against Duke in two weeks. Hot damn! I can hardly wait. We will beat them like stinking animals. Selah.

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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