By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

It was raining in the "City of 10,000 Whores" on Sunday night -- a heavy drenching rain that only added to the pain of the 69,000 Tennessee Titans fans who packed themselves into the immense Adelphia Coliseum to watch the hometown Titans be embarrassed by Miami in a game that was deeply scarred by human dumbness. It was also deeply painful to local gamblers who were forced to give Miami six (6) points, which added insult to injury.

By halftime, many of them had the look of people who had just been hit in the kidneys by Lightning.

Nashville is a river town with a long and sleazy history. It was a capital of commerce before the Civil War, when it became a vicious war zone and a swollen mecca for gamblers and prostitutes. The population doubled during The War, and most of the newcomers had Syphilis. ... But that was before Football was invented, and Nashville today is a thriving city of 520,000 relatively healthy sports fans who don't mind admitting that they gamble a lot of money on many football games.

That is what happens in sweltering cities with no team in the NFL -- like Los Angeles, where high-dollar gambling is by far the most popular sport in town. Millions of dollars go up for grabs every weekend.

"Real football fans were happy when the Rams and the Raiders left town," Jack Nicholson told me. "Now we can watch the damn games on TV, instead of driving all the way out to Anaheim, or down to that monstrous Coliseum. Nobody wants an NFL team in L.A., except maybe the TV networks."

Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson would enjoy the atmosphere for a football game in Nashville.

That is because of the "mandatory TV blackouts" that the league imposes on any Market where the local team fails to sell all the seats in its "home stadium." The L.A. Coliseum, for instance, seats slightly more than 100,000, and neither the Raiders nor the Rams ever had a sellout crowd. "It was a hateful situation to put yourself in," Jack said. "Sitting out there in the smog with a mob of criminal swine full of warm beer. At a Raiders game, you could get beaten and robbed without ever leaving your seat. It was like an outdoor jail."

Jack is famous for spending most of his winter nights in the glitzy Indoor jail where the Lakers play, but I didn't want to complicate our conversation by introducing perverse elements, so I didn't bring it up. He is a serious basketball fan, and he gets a whole different perspective by sitting in his profoundly expensive courtside seats, which he has maintained for almost 30 years in three different venues. The difference between sitting on the court for a game and sitting in row 99 is the difference between living in the Hollywood hills and renting on the outskirts of Nashville.

"You should move to Tennessee for football season," I told him. "You'd like the games a lot better if you knew you were surrounded on all sides by thousands of whores and gamblers."

He smiled wanly and scratched at his groin. "Who the hell do you think I sit with now?" he muttered. "A crowd of innocent children?"

Steve McNair
Sunday evening was a wretched experience for Steve McNair and the rain-soaked Titans.

Indeed. I have attended football games in both towns, and I have to admit that I do prefer Nashville. You can get a lot closer to the action there, and on most days you will lose a lot less money. The whores and gamblers will rub up against you, down south, and they have a nicer way of speaking.

The closest seats in the L.A. Coliseum are about 40 yards from the field, far across an Olympic-sized track and field pavilion, and you can't even see the players' numbers without powerful binoculars. Even the occasional roar of the crowd seems distant and vaguely impersonal. It is like sitting in a traffic jam on the San Diego freeway with your windows rolled up and Portuguese music booming out of the surround-sound speakers, while animals gnaw on your neck and diseased bill-collectors hammer on your doors with golf clubs.

O.J. Simpson doesn't live in L.A. anymore, but that doesn't mean the city is not full of extremely dangerous freaks. You are far more likely to be randomly killed on your way to a football game in Los Angeles than you are in Nashville -- but there are potential killers in Any crowd larger than two, these days, and even Two can be dangerous after midnight.

In any case, I have watched football games from every angle from the sideline in Oakland and the huddle in Frankfort, Ky., to the top row of the Superdome in New Orleans and the press box in Washington -- I have watched them in Kezar Stadium and from the deck of a big sailing yacht 500 miles south of Bermuda with naked women lolling around -- and I can tell you for sure that the best seat in any house is right in front of a high-end TV set with a few good friends who know football and like to see green money moving around the room. That is how it should be done. Selah.

And thank you. It feels good to be back in the Fast lane, for good or ill -- and I did, incidentally, Lose big on the Miami-Tennessee game, along with Carolina-Minnesota and Cincinnati-New England. I won with the Raiders, 49ers and the Colts. ... But what the hell? It is a far, far better thing to lose Now than in December, when the humor goes out of the gambling business. That is when I plan to spring the final ambush on gloating screwheads like John Walsh. He thinks he's Ahead now, but in truth I am just baiting him into the trap. He will learn soon enough. Don't worry. I know exactly what I'm doing.

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.