By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

There is no shortage of gold-plated Gibberish in the schools of our nation these days, but there is nothing new about it & Progress keeps marching on. We are still "Number One," as Richard Nixon liked to say, and we have plenty of leverage to prove it.

Things are no different for the fools who get sloppy in the harsh school of Gambling, which dealt me another quick beating last week for making blind bets on Kentucky. It is a lesson I learn every year when March rolls around, despite all the pain it has caused me & all the advice I preach to others about how not to gamble on high-dollar basketball games. Every March I get whipped like an egg-sucking dog, and always for the same stupid reason.

And that, dear reader is about all I have to say on that subject, for now, and nevermind what I said about the value of a Good Education. It is utterly worthless to a fool with a gambling addiction. Blind spots are fatal in this business. They will punish you every time.

In truth I felt a sense of relief at the end of the USC game. At least we would not have to play Duke again. The beating was far worse than the final score indicated. The first half was so ugly that I called professional friends in Vegas and the backrooms of Lexington to inquire if the Fix was in. I was embarrassed, but it has happened before & we all know it can happen again. There is no such thing as Paranoia in this world. Anything you suspect will turn out to be true if you pursue it long enough. Paranoia is just another word for Ignorance.

Part Two

The Fix has been in for NCAA games in the past -- and it might still be a factor in games with big spreads or unranked teams in the Outback -- but for blue-chip players in big-time games on TV, the cash they might earn for point-shaving is cheap chickenfeed compared to the huge money rewards of a career in the NBA. ... Even a certified Moron can see the difference between $10,000 for one night's work and $9,000,000 for working 99 nights a year and a movie-star lifestyle.

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

Things were very different in the years after WWII, when even famous All-Americans had little to look forward to when their college careers ended, except the struggling, low-dollar life of the half-bright, once-famous athlete. ... That is a serious loss of Status and nobody needs it. I remember the shock I felt when I drove into the tree-shaded parking lot behind the Louisville Boat Club on a warm afternoon in the '60s and almost ran over a man who was hauling cases of beer off a Budweiser truck and thru the back door of the kitchen.... I stepped quickly out of my car to apologize to him -- it was Kenny Bibb, my old high school quarterback and All-State hero in every sport he played. He signed with the Cleveland Indians, as I recall, and then fell out of sight forever. People would ask, now and then, "Whatever happened to Kenny," but none of us knew -- until then, when I saw him driving a beer truck on a Sunday afternoon at the Boat Club. It gave me a whole new perspective.

Indeed, but let's get back to the Final Four bouts this weekend: Duke is a five-point choice to beat Maryland, but I will probably take the points. Duke won two out of three against Md. this year, both times by two gnarly points, but so what? They could easily win by 13 this time, but I will bet against them anyway. It is fun to bet against Duke.

The best bet of the day -- except for Yes or No picks on every shot -- looks like Arizona even against defending Champ Michigan State. That will be Speed vs. Power -- and, in the famous words of James Carville, "Speed kills." So that would mean Arizona over the bonecrushers from MSU, and Maryland (plus-5) over Duke. Neither bet is a Lock, so Beware of getting drunk and cranked into the Double or Nothing zone where nothing matters anymore except One More Chance to get back to Even. That way lies Hysteria and crippling debt.

An Arizona-Maryland final on Monday would be a white-knuckle ballbuster. I figure with both teams running on empty, but Maryland with too many Fouls down the stretch to prevail against tall people, that will mean Arizona by 3 or 4, which would salvage my long-running debts and make me look Smart again.

If not, I will look like a Fool with not enough sense to pour piss out of a boot. We will see.

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.