Jul 8, 2009


-FUPPETS- last visited the Good Doctor as he recounted the reactionary tales of the media as they related to professional athletes and drugs. Currently, Hunter S. Thompson is still in Houston, awaiting Super Bowl VIII.

There is some kind of back-door connection in my head between Super Bowls and the Allman Brothers -- a strange kind of theme-sound that haunts these goddamn stories no matter where I'm finally forced into a corner to write them. The Allman sound, and rain. There was heavy rain, last year, on the balcony of my dim-lit hotel room just down from the Sunset Strip in Hollywood . . . and more rain through the windows of the San Francisco office building where I finally typed out "the story."
And now, almost exactly a year later, my main memory of Super Bowl VIII in Houston is rain and grey mist outside another hotel window, with the same strung-out sound of the Allman Brothers booming out of the same portable speakers that I had, last year, in Los Angeles.
There was not much else worth remembering from either game -- or at least not much that needs writing about, and the clock on the wall reminds me, once again, that a final deadline looms and there hungry space to fill out there in San Francisco . . . Which means no more thinking about rain and music, but a quick and nasty regression to "professionalism."
Which is what it's all about.
Indeed, I tend, more and more, to forget these things. Or maybe just to ignore them.
But what the hell? Retirement is just around the corner, so why not wander a bit?
"You grow up fast in Texas
and you got to lay it down
Or you'll be working for somebody
way cross town."
--Doug Sahn

The floor of the Hyatt Regency men's room was always covered, about three-inches deep, with discarded newspapers -- all apparently complete and unread, except on closer examination you realized that every one of them was missing it's sports section. This bathroom was right next to the hotel newsstand and just across the mezzanine from the crowded NFL "press lounge," a big room full of telephones and free booze. where most of the 1600 or so sportswriters assigned to cover The Big Game seemed to spend about 16 hours of each day, during Super Week.
After the first day or so, when it became balefully clear that there was no point in anybody except the local reporters going out on the press-bus each day for the carefully staged "player interviews," that Dolphin tackle Manny Fernandez described as "like going to the dentist every day to have the same tooth filled," the out of town writers began using the local types as a sort of involuntary "pool" . . . which was more like an old British Navy press gang, in fact, because the locals had no choice. They would go out, each morning, to the Miami and Minnesota team hotels, and dutifully conduct the daily interviews . . . and about two hours later this mass of useless gibberish would appear, word for word, in the early editions of either the Post or the Chronicle.
You could see the front door of the hotel from the balcony of the press lounge, and whenever the newsboy would come in with his stack of fresh papers, the national writers would make the long 48-yard walk across to the newsstand and cough up 15 cents each for their copies. Then, on the way back to the press lounge, they would stop for a piss and dump the whole paper - except for the crucial sports section - on the floor of the men's room. The place was so deep, all week, in fresh newsprint, that it was sometimes hard to push the door open.
Forty yards away, on comfortable couches surrounding the free bar, the national gents would spend about two hours each day scanning the local sports sections - along with a never-ending mass of almost psychotically detailed information churned out by the NFL publicity office - on the dim chance of finding something worth writing about that day.
There never was, of course. But nobody seemed really disturbed about it. The only thing most of the sportswriters in Houston seemed to care about was having something to write about . . . anything at all, boss: a peg, an angle, a quote, even a goddamn rumor.
I remember being shocked at the sloth and moral degeneracy of the Nixon press corps during the 1972 presidential campaign - but they were like a pack of wolverines on speed compared to the relatively elite sportswriters who showed up in Houston to cover the Super Bowl.

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