By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

"(This is) not the work of a wise man, but only a player and a scribe with a dangerous gambling habit. ... That is a risky mix that will sooner or later lead you to cross the wrong wires and get shocked, or even burned to a cinder. On some days you will be lucky and only break your fingers and make a fool of yourself. But luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.

I have never believed much in luck, and my sense of humor has tended to walk on the dark side. Muhammad Ali, one of my very few heroes, once took the time to explain to me that "there are no jokes. The truth is the funniest joke of all."

Ho ho. It takes a special kind of mindset to believe that and still have smart people call you Funny. I have never quite understood it. -- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in America

This eerie Presidential election has been a painful experience for Gamblers. Almost everybody Lost. Even if you were crazy or dumb enough to bet on a dead-even Tie, you Lost, because it was 537 votes short of it. The many Losers don't feel the pain yet, because they are still in Shock & Denial. There are rumors in Washington that Gore's most trusted advisors have sealed him off so completely that he still firmly believes he Won. ... Which is True, on some scorecards, but so what? Those cards don't count. ... George W. Bush is our President now, and you better start getting used to it. He didn't actually steal the White House from Al Gore, he just brutally wrestled it away from him in the darkness of one swampy Florida night. He got mugged, and the local Cops don't give a damn.

Where did Gore think he was -- in some friendly Civics class? Hell no, he was in Florida, arguably the most Vicious & Corrupt state in the Union. ... Not only that, but he was brazenly invading Florida, trying to steal it from right under the noses of the whole Bush family. It was a bold move & brilliantly done, in some ways -- but then so was Lee's decision to invade the North & attack Gettysburg.

Gore was Doomed in Florida, and he knew it about halfway through Election night. The TV wizards had already given the state & its 25 precious Electoral Votes to Gore, which gave him an early lead and caused wild rejoicing in Democratic headquarters all over the country.

My own immediate reaction was bafflement & surprise, and I think I almost believed it. ... But not really. The more I brooded on it, the more I was troubled by waves of Queasiness & shudders of Gnawing Doubt. I felt nervous & vaguely confused, as if I had just heard a dog speak perfect English for 30 or 40 seconds. That will get your attention, for sure. ... Some people get permanently de-stabilized by it: Nothing they see with their own eyes will ever look quite the same to them again. As in "I know that the object I'm looking at is an Egg -- but I also know that if it talks to me like a person, it is not an Egg."

There was one exact moment, in fact, when I knew for sure that Al Gore would Never be President of the United States, no matter what the experts were saying -- and that was when the whole Bush family suddenly appeared on TV and openly scoffed at the idea of Gore winning Florida. It was Nonsense, said the Candidate, Utter nonsense. ... Anybody who believed Bush had lost Florida was a Fool. The Media, all of them, were Liars & Dunces or treacherous whores trying to sabotage his victory.

I knew better. Of course Bush would win Florida. Losing was out of the question. Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV.

They were strong words and people said he was Bluffing. But I knew better. Of course Bush would win Florida. Losing was out of the question. Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV.

The old man was the real tip-off. The leer on his face was almost frightening. It was like looking into the eyes of a tall hyena with a living sheep in its mouth. The sheep's fate was sealed, and so was Al Gore's. ... Everything since then has been political flotsam & Gibberish.

The whole Presidential election, in fact, was rigged and fixed from the start. It was a gigantic Media Event, scripted & staged for TV. It happens every four years, at an ever-increasing cost & 90 percent of the money always goes for TV commercials.

Of course, nobody would give a damn except politics is beginning to smell like professional football, Dank & Nasty. And that's a problem that could haunt America a lot longer than four years, folks.

I am watching more NFL football this year, but enjoying it less and less. There is something wrong with the game, something vital is missing, but I can't quite say what it is. No weekend goes by without at least one wild & exciting game, plus one or two shocking upsets -- but somehow they all seem vaguely meaningless, like watered down wine or weak whiskey.

I thought I had solved all my problems when I found a way to watch every game, every Sunday, all at once or separately. I had everything, right at my fingertips. I missed nothing. My friends called me "toggle-boy," because of my expertise with the channel switcher. They dropped by every Sunday to drink & mooch & gamble. It was like an impossible dream come true. Fred Exley would have loved it.

But still there was something wrong. Even reading the Sports section began to give me a Queasy feeling. I came to secretly dread the coming of Sunday, although I never admitted that to anybody. It was too weird.

Only after long brooding & extended medical analysis did I discover the obvious answer. It is the dangerous thinning of the NFL talent pool, a problem not totally unknown to the world of presidential politics. There are too many teams and not enough quality players. The League is destroying quarterbacks faster than the colleges can churn them out. Every pro team must have two quarterbacks, because one of them is certain to get crippled or mashed by some steroid-crazed monster who weighs 388 pounds and runs faster than Deion Sanders and is desperate to hurt people. He will lose his job if he doesn't, and his obvious target is the Quarterback.

Isn't there one patriotic football coach out there brave enough to point him in the direction of Dubya? That might be enough to restore my faith in luck, if not pro football.

There may be Parity in the NFL these days, but it is the same kind of parity that you find at bush-league Racetracks and Arena Football League games. The next MVP of the Super Bowl is just as likely to have been a full-time grocery store bagger last year as a Heisman Trophy winner. The teams change names & locations every year. Even winning coaches go crazy with angst or get fired on the whim of a new owner. Players come & go like substitute teachers or half-bright fashion models. They took to beating their wives in public & and getting arrested for Murder. But the games go on like clockwork and the money keeps pouring in. ... Most stadiums are sold out every Sunday. But only rich people can afford to attend the games in person. It's not much different from getting involved in National Politics.

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," will appear each Monday on Page 2.



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