By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

Gambling is a dangerous vice, but millions are hooked on it and many will suffer grievously before this holiday season is over. The traditional "Christmas spirit" runs completely against the grain of the natural laws of Gambling, which have nothing to do with silly human weaknesses like Generosity or Kindness or Carelessness.

If Santa Claus had a gambling habit, he would have been dead a long time ago. There are a lot of Criminal Psychos between here & the North Pole, and they would show no mercy on a goofy old man who gets loaded one night a year and drives around through strange neighborhoods with a truckload of jewelry & furs & gold Rolexes. What if the Hell's Angels got their hands on him? They would set him on fire & stuff him head-first down a smoking chimney.

Which is not much different from how Professional gamblers treat their victims at Xmas time, which also happens to be the end of the football season & the start of Playoff frenzy that will build & grow & throb like a Shark's heart for 33 more days until Super Bowl Sunday.

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Yes sir, this is Harvest time for Bookies, and Fleecing time for Rubes. When a gambler looks down on a hotel lobby crowded with whooping football Fans, he sees a flock of bleating Sheep -- dumb beasts, ready for fleecing & slaughtering. It makes him crazy with hunger. He throws back his head & howls like a Jackal in heat.

There were thousands of wild whores on the streets of Nashville last night, and not all of them were women. Many were politicians working the crowd out of habit -- or pan-sexual pimps in high drag. A huge football crowd had swarmed into town for the Tennessee-Dallas game & the downtown hotels were booked wall-to-wall with gamblers, wild rubes and whores who dearly love Football -- Especially the hometown Titans, who may soon be the champions of the World.

They are on their way to the Super Bowl & so are the gamblers & the whores & the mass of foul scum they bring with them. A Winning Team on the road to the Super Bowl is like a traveling circus that picks up more & more fleas at every stop along the way & finally deposits the whole load on an innocent city like Tampa.

Hell, what's a few million diseased fleas, compared to the Billion dollars that will pour into the local economy along with the Big Game? Any big city in America would cough up many millions to get the NFL to even consider putting the Super Bowl in their town, and never mind the fleas.

Al Gore is not from Nashville, & he is probably not a real Football Fan either. Gore probably watched the game at home last night, in Carthage, while he jabbered to his wife about Santa Claus & Whiskey & why his own damn state voted heavily against him for President. Hell, Adelphia Coliseum held far, far more people last night than Gore would have needed to win Florida. There are high school games on the outskirts of Nashville that draw 10,000 fans.

Yeah, suck on that for a while, bubba. If yr. Family Dog got loose last night, it would have drawn a bigger crowd than you pulled in Palm Beach. Shame on you, Al. They chopped you up like a worm.

At least, the Tennessee Titans beat the jabbering slime out of the Dallas Cowboys. They whipped them like baby mules & embarrassed the whole state of Texas. But not enough to make George Bush cry. Which one, you ask? Hell, it hardly matters, does it? They all spring from the same root, and they all have the same greedy instincts. The only time they cry is when they lose money.

The Cowboys were 14-point underdogs, but the spread should have been more like 33. It is not sane to give away 33 points in the playoffs, or even in the Super Bowl -- although I did once, and I won. It was my finest day in the gambling business. The Broncos were playing the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV & the closing spread was11, which I gave without hesitation in a crowded Aspen bar. It is always a huge advantage, when fleecing people in public, to bet against rabid fans on their own turf. You want to do it in a loud mocking voice that grates on the nerves of everybody within hearing range, so even yr. Friends will be infuriated & start betting rashly.

On this day, the 49ers scored twice before the Broncos even got the ball. The crowd went into a funk, and bettors among them were happy to take 22 points, at only 2-1 odds. Nobody wants to Quit & slink away this early in the Big Game.

By the middle of the second quarter the score was something like 30-3. And the homeboys were getting desperate. The stakes had long since gone from hundreds of dollars into thousands, so when I offered to give 33 points at 5-1 odds, they eagerly gobbled it up. Hell, they were six points ahead & the Broncos were bound to score soon. Ho ho. The final score was 55-10.

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.