By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

The start of a new year is always a good time to watch football and settle old scores, so let's get to it.

I have some serious grudges to grind at the end of a Foul year like 2000. It was not so much a Bad year as a deeply Wrong one -- but to make a list of reasons why it was Wrong would torture us all & only double the suffering.

I have old scores to even with all manner of people: Brent Musburger, Lyle Lovett, lawyers, foreigners, pit bulls, Russian pimps, and the whole Los Angeles police department. There are annoying people everywhere.

My grudge against Brent Musburger has been smoking on a personal back burner for many years -- since the early 1980s in fact, when Brent was covering the NBA Finals for CBS-TV, and it involves the word "downtown."

That is when Musburger changed the language of sports forever when he kept repeating this ignorant notion that any basketball player firing off a long 3-point shot is shooting from "downtown." (Celtics announcer Johnny Most might have coined the "downtown" trademark in the 1960s, but it was Musburger who beat it to death.)

I still hear in my dreams his wild gibberish every time Michael Cooper or Dennis Johnson drilled one of those long flat-line 3-pointers.

"From way downtown!" Brent would scream. "Another one from Downtown!"

It drove me mad then -- & it still does every time some fool blurts it out. It was quickly picked up and adopted by a whole generation of half-bright TV commentators every night of the bloody season. It has become part of the Lexicon now, & it will not be easy to correct. In gyms & Coliseums all over America (even in Greece or Korea), wherever basketball as we know it is played, there will be some howling Jackass braying, "From way downtown! Another 3-pointer! Is this a great country, or what?"

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It is the Curse of Musburger.

"Going downtown" has more than one meaning -- from going to work at 66 Wall St. in New York to rape in Alcatraz -- but it always means a busy place, for good or ill. The Random House Historical dictionary of American Slang, says it's "where the action is" -- a noisy, crowded place with many intersections & tall buildings & freaky-looking strangers.

Indeed we all know those places. We see them every night on ESPN & on the hardwood at the Fleet Center. They call it "Rebounding," that violent little place just under the glass on a big-time Basketball court where tall brutes slam each other around like crazed fish.

Downtown is where you score -- not somewhere out in the wilderness, where people are far apart & not much happens. You don't fire a long jump shot from Downtown, you fire it into Downtown. The Real definition of "Taking it downtown" is to suddenly drive to the basket & into a cluster of 7-footers who seem to have you sealed out -- like Iverson launching himself at Robinson & Duncan & dunking it over them. To think Otherwise would be to think like a Baseball Writer, or like Brent Musburger.

The last time I saw Brent socially was in the dinner lounge at Caesar's Palace in Vegas. I was dining with my old friend Jimmy the Greek & some women who said they were traveling with the famous fight promoter Bob Arum, when Musburger staggered up to our table & started abusing the Greek in a loud voice about something Jimmy had said on the air about him. We had a very prominent table, as the Greek always did, so when Musburger knocked it over, I had him thrown out.

"What's wrong with that bum?" Jimmy asked as he wiped red wine off his pants. "He acts this way every time he gets around the Champ."

The real definition of "downtown," back then, was wherever Muhammad Ali was at the time -- which is still true: I saw him with the Mayor in Times Square on New Year's Eve. The Champ always draws a crowd.

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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