“It was Sunday, and Sunday is a good day for revenge. That was all I cared about, nothing more. Football was in my blood. I am a slave to it.”
It’s no secret that the works of Hunter S. Thompson have been an inspiration to me pretty much my entire life, and the fact that his books are categorized in most libraries in the social sciences section speaks of the reverence that people smarter than me have for his razor sharp insights of the social condition, if not for his style.
He wrote of this condition - from mainstream America to the hippie scene in the Bay area, and just about everything in between. He hung out with people like Ken Kesey, Allister Crowley and the Hells Angels – and for one brief span in the summer of 1973, with the Oakland Raiders.
An insatiable football fan, Thompson wrote of the culture of the game. The win-loss records and scores of the games rarely found their way into his columns - his primary focus on the human element, and he told stories of the experience, the atmosphere, the faces in the crowd, the sights and smells, the grace, the power - because he figured that there were enough hired geeks and beat writers to recite numbers….
…and he didn’t write about football often – but he did enough of it that I’m certain he would be humored by the media spectacle that is Tim Tebow – particularly now that Tebow is a member of the New England Patriots – and that he would focus on the culture and the experience and bring a bit of responsibility to the media, whose main purpose for living in the offseason seems to be to stir the fan population with a big stick.
So when news of the signing of Tebow by New England broke on Monday and polarized fans and media alike, mouth pieces from every media outlet in the civilized world and Maine had an opinion, to the point that even normally friendly social media chats became contentious as Patriots’ fans armed with the opinions of these hired geeks battled with supporters of the signing like circa early 70′s anti-war protesters and riot cops.
It’s a Renaissance of the dark and dirty days of Thompson’s prime, when he would hang out on the Oakland Raiders’ practice field and jabbered incessantly at John Madden and drew the ire of Al Davis on more than a few occasions. Davis was a polarizing presence himself, and there was no middle ground – either you loved him or you hated him.
Except Thompson, who thought he was human scum, but got a kick out of the way he would pace the sidelines during practice and get in the players’ faces and make Ken Stabler and his receivers work on patterns for hours after practice had ended, which is what caused Thompson to develop a love/hate relationship with Davis.
Thompson was clearly comfortable hanging out with the Raiders but Davis was not comfortable with him, so the Doctor’s experiment with the Raiders lasted about two and half weeks – plenty of time for a football mind like Thompson’s to learn everything he needed to know. Davis was the boss of the Raiders, and he didn’t spend one second of his life worrying about what people thought of him or his decisions.
Would Thompson think of Belichick as human scum? For certain Belichick would loathe the good doctor simply because he was a reporter – Belichick is a lot like Davis in many respects - and also because he has an intense desire to control his environment, and if he wanted to bring in Tim Tebow and take a look, by God he’s going to do it – because he’s the Boss of the Patriots.
But maybe we can take the words of the dead scribe, from lessons that he learned from being around the Raiders, being around professional football and being around the scene in Berkeley and Altamont and dealing with more street freaks and genuinely dangerous people in one day than any of us will in a year to understand the mind-set of this situation.
Trying to report on the culture of Oakland and it’s suburbs was hard dollar, but he was the kind of writer that, by nature of his self-proclaimed style of “Gonzo Journalism”, absolutely had to be right in the middle of it. He got arrested, tossed out of Raiders’ headquarters and nearly stomped to death by the Angels, but he kept going back.
Why? He was fascinated by the people. He didn’t care about their politics, per se, he cared more about their methods – and this is where we are mired now, in this rainy late spring in New England and at each other’s throats – but if we take the time to let his words soak into our brainwashed minds, perhaps we can learn a 40 year old lesson as it relates to Tim Tebow and Bill Belichick – because he had seen enough of these personalities to know.
“I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright” Dr. Thompson begins, ”Or maybe “stupid” is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don’t bother me.”
This story is much about the base for Tebow’s charisma and enormous aura, his outspoken nature and deep faith either alienating or edifying sections of the masses, rarely unifying – there seems to be no middle ground, and as Thompson continues, he presents a pretty strong case for fans trying to find a happy median:
“In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone.” he concludes, ”They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I… And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there’s a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots.”
High spots for the New England Patriots are otherwise known as Super Bowl championships, but even those don’t bring personal peace and happiness to anyone because once they are won, the euphoria eventually dulls to pleasant memory, and then it’s on to the task of winning another.
It hasn’t happened in these parts for nearly a decade now, even though the Patriots consistently have one of the best teams in the NFL year in and year out, and it always seems like they’re one play or player short of nirvana – and who’s to say who that player could be, that one guy that could make that play to get to the next high spot?
Bill Belichick, that’s who.
He’s the Boss of the Patriots, and if he chooses to bring in Tim Tebow and pay him many dollars, that’s his choice but he, as well as Tebow, will have to learn to live with the idea that they may never find peace and happiness until Belichick wins another trophy and Tebow realizes that what he covets may not be possible, which will make the tabloidal journalism go away…
…but together, they are going to give it a shot – and if it works, great. If not, well, that’s ok, too. The Patriots are still an elite team and Tebow was looking for a job when he found this one, so nothing would have changed except the fans at each other’s throats will continue to divide Patriots’ Nation, until it’s too late to pretend that it never happened.
Because, after all, football is in our blood, and we are slaves to it – but if we let this episode in Patriots history define us as a fan base, we will have become slaves to something more sinister than football could ever be: Hired geeks.