The jangling of the telephone caused me to interrupt my work. I jerked it off the hook, saying nothing to whoever was on the other end, and began flashing the hotel operator. When she finally cut in I spoke very calmly. "Look," I said. "I'm a very friendly person and a minister of the gospel, to boot - but I thought I left instructions down there to put no calls - NO CALLS. GODDAMNIT! - through to this room, and especially not now in the middle of this orgy . . . I've been here eight days and nobody's called me yet. Why in the hell would they start now? . . . What? Well, I simply can't accept that kind of flimsy reasoning, operator. Do you believe in Hell? Are you ready to speak with Saint Peter? . . . Wait a minute now, calm down . . . I want to be sure you understand one thing before I get back to my business; I have some people here who need help . . . But I want you to know God is Holy! He will not allow sin in his presence! The Bible says" 'There is none righteous. No, not one . . . for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.' That's from the book of Romans, young lady . . . "
(Continuing saga of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in Houston, Texas, reporting on the Miami Dolphins and the Minnessota Vikings duking it out in Super Bowl VIII (1974). Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Excerpted from The Great Shark Hunt - Ballantine Books)
Back in the room I filled a glass full of ice and Wild Turkey, then began flipping through the pages of "A Demon's Nightmare" for some kind of spiritual springboard to get the sermon moving. I had already decided - about midway in the ice-run - that I had adequate time to address the sleeping crowd and also crank out a lead before that goddamn blood-sucking slug reached the base of my brain - or even worse, if a sharp dose of Wild Turkey happened to slow the thing down long enough to rob me of my final excuse for missing the game entirely, like last year . . .
What? Did my tongue slip there? My fingers? Or did I just get a fine professional hint from my old buddy, Mr. Natural?
Indeed. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. John Mitchell said that - shortly before he quit his job and left Washington at 90 miles an hour in a chauffeur-driven limousine.
I have never felt close to John Mitchell, but on that rotten morning in Houston I came as close as I ever will: because he was, after all, a pro . . . and so, alas, was I. Or at least I had a fistful of press badges that said I was.
And it was this bedrock sense of professionalism, I think, that quickly solved my problem . . . which, until that moment when I recalled the foul spectre of Mitchell, had seemed to require a frantic decision between either delivering my sermon or writing my lead, in the space of an impossibly short time.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Who said that?
I suspect it was somebody from the Columbia Journalism Review, but I have no proof . . . and it makes no difference anyway. There is a bond, among pros, that needs no definition. Or at least it didn't on that Sunday morning in Houston, for reasons that require no further discussion at this point in time . . . because it suddenly occurred to me that I had already written the lead for this year's Super Bowl game; I wrote it last year in Los Angeles, and a quick rip through my fat manila folder of clips labeled "Football '73" turned it up as if by magic.
I jerked it out of the file, and retyped it on a fresh page slugged: "Super Bowl/Houston '74." The only change necessary was the substitution of "Minnesota Vikings" for "Washington Redskins." Except for that, the lead seemed just as adequate for the game that would begin in about six hours as it was for the one that I missed in Los Angeles in January of '73.
"The precision-jackhammer attack of the Miami Dolphins stomped the balls off of the Minnesota Vikings today by stomping and hammering with one precise jack-thrust after another up the middle, mixed with pinpoint-precision passes into the flat and numerous hammer-jack stops around both ends . . . "
The silence at the other end of the line was beginning to make me nervous. But I could feel the sap rising, so I decided to continue my sermon from the balcony . . . and suddenly I realized that somebody was beating on my door. Jesus god, I thought, it's the manager; they've come for me at last.