A little over six years ago one of the greatest writers in American history ended his life with a gun blast to the face. The title of his suicide note? “Football Season is Over.”
Hunter S. Thompson was not only a gifted wordsmith and storyteller but an avid football fan. I used to wait for his sporadic columns on ESPN’s Page 2 covering the NFL games of the week; not to mention his brilliant turns of phrase—a verbal assassin’s bullet—for anyone degrading his hallowed league.
The realization that he took his life only six years ago actually surprised me; I thought it had been well over ten. The void felt that big.
So when the Indianapolis Colts recently published a letter Thompson wrote to owner Jim Irsay in 1997 and the Good Doctor ranted that the teams Irsay put together were “a gaggle of third-world transients in a holding pen with just enough whiskey and weirdness and talent to be competitive,” I had to smile and laugh.
Irsay had wanted to relocate the hallowed, yet perpetually flailing team. Almost a year, to the day, after Thompson sent his letter Indianapolis would draft a kid from the University of Tennessee named Peyton Manning and never look back. The Good Doctor’s prognosis that Irsay's days would become "spastic episodes full of great crooked cops & wrongful dishonor” never came to pass. The Colts have been one of the finest teams in the league over the last decade.
Yet Thompson’s prescient closing line still haunts:
“Be careful, James – your greed crazed outbursts are beginning to rub off on people.”
No, James Irsay didn’t embroil the NFL in this labor dispute. But if you remember the way Thompson zeroed in on the levers of power and did everything in his pen possible to unhinge them, you’ll know a few more letters with his return address would be circulating these days.
All we have are the echos of his words. So let’s take some of his quotes and see how they’d apply today…