Some people called me a fool for betting the 49ers to beat Oakland last week, but they were wrong. It is true that I bleed 49er scarlet-and-gold on some days, but I am no longer ashamed of it like I was in the good old days when I was trapped in the nasty habit of betting on San Francisco every week like some kind of helpless junkie.
That addiction is still with me, to some extent, but it is no longer quite as painful as it was back then, when I lived three blocks up the hill from Kezar Stadium.
Freelance writers almost never make enough money to live on, much less ride exotic motorcycles and buy season tickets to 49er games. But I am here to tell you that it can be done — and done without ever resorting to shadowy gigs like pimping or selling drugs. There were times when I was sorely tempted, due to overweening poverty, but I have always believed that anybody with a personal lifestyle as flagrant as mine should have a spotless criminal record, if only for reasons of karma.
I still believe that, and it has served me well and honorably over the years — knock knock — and I still try to live by it.
But it was not just karma that quasi-justified my spending habits in those wild and elegant years of the middle ’60s. No, there were good reasons. … My brand new silver-and-red 650 BSA Lightning (the “fastest motorcycle ever tested by Hot Rod Magazine”) — was absolutely necessary to my work. Nobody will argue with that. It was the best investment I ever made.The 49er tickets, however, were a touch more difficult to explain. I was a professional sportswriter, even then, and I have been hopelessly addicted to NFL football ever since I watched the legendary Giants-Colts championship game in 1958 — but that was not enough, at the time, to justify spending our rent money on my football habit.
Perhaps there was no justification, but I did it anyway, because I had to. It was necessary to my mental health. … My comfortable apartment on Parnassus Hill looked out on the Bay and the Park and the Golden Gate Bridge — and, thusly, straight down on the wretched hulk of Kezar.
Indeed, who could ask for anything more? … Ho ho. But we could only see half of the playing field. John Brodie would fade back and throw long to Dave Parks or Gene Washington — and the damn ball would disappear in midflight behind the roof of a building. We could hear the roar of the crowd and the howls of despair that usually followed, but we never saw the end of the west-bound play. Never. And that was too painful to live with, too hard on my nerves. So I borrowed enough money from my lawyer to pay for a season ticket (and thank you again, John Clancy, for the loan). It was another good investment.
But it took about 20 years to “mature,” as they say. It was not until Bill Walsh and Joe Montana came along that the worm turned, and after that came Steve Young and Jerry Rice, along with five Super Bowls, many victory celebrations,and the delicious habit of winning, which I highly recommend.
And that — to make a long story short — is why I bet heavily on San Francisco to beat Oakland last week. The three points helped, but in truth I honestly believed, in the pit of my gambler’s heart, that the 49ers would Win, and that is why I bet on them.
It was a vicious game, and by the time it was over, I was ready to sic the Hells Angels on that flaky punk of a kicker. That swine. If the Raiders had won in OT, Al Davis would be ordering a new Mercedes 500SL to send Jose Cortez for Christmas. … The game was that important for Oakland, especially with the hated Denver Broncos coming up next.
The spread should be about six for that one. And the Broncos are riding high. … But what the hell? I’ll take Oakland and six anyway. It will be life or death for the Raiders — and, if it’s not snowing in Denver on Monday night, I suspect they will win.
Probably not, but those six points are what this business is all about. … And so long for now, folks. I have to get to bed so I can go into town tomorrow and vote. That is another habit I recommend. It ain’t much, but it’s the only weapon we have against the Greed-heads. Mahalo.
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 regularly on Page 2.