A New Vegas Dilemma: Could a Person Survive 11 Straight Days in Sin City?

vegas line

At the supple age of 23 I started making an annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas every March with a group of close friends. When we planned that first trip, we were just kind of taking a shot in the dark.

“The first weekend of March Madness seems to have the most—and usually the craziest—games, let’s try that.”

And for the next seven years, we assumed we had nailed it from the very beginning. Who wouldn’t want to be in Vegas—in a sportsbook full of giant TVs, free drinks and other degenerate gamblers diehard sports fans—while the most mind-blowing playoffs in all of sports was going on.

Forty-eight do-or-die games in four days. Simultaneously bouncing back and forth between your bets and your bracket. Waking up at 8:30am (games start at 9:15am on Vegas Standard Time) even though you didn’t go to sleep until 5am. It was the perfect weekend.

And then, because of a wedding that several of us in the group had to attend last year on that very weekend (a wedding that damn well better last a lifetime), we changed the tradition and visited the Mecca of bad decisions on Conference Championship Weekend instead.

And…it…was………AWESOME.

Do you know how many games there are over the four-day period on Championship Weekend?

167.

That’s not a typo.

Do you know how many fewer people descend on Vegas for Championship Weekend compared to that first weekend of March Madness?

67% fewer. (rough estimate)

From a crowd standpoint, you’re pretty much never waiting for anything during Championship Weekend, but during March Madness, your waits look like this:

  • At least 20 minutes for the cab line when you first arrive at the airport
  • Another 20 minutes to check into your hotel room. Nothing is more frustrating than standing in that concierge line while getting a constant whiff of that sweet gambling smell from across the hall
  • Showing up at the sports book at the ungodly hour of 7am just to secure seats for the 9am tip-offs
  • Up to a 30-minute line every time you want to place a new bet or cash in a winning ticket
  • Getting laughed at by the host when you show up at a restaurant with 10 guys and without a reservation at 9pm on a weekend night
  • And yes, another 20 minutes or so for the cab line to finally escape your hotel on that Sunday morning

When you consider the amount of games and the emptiness of the city, Championship Weekend becomes a no-brainer, right?

We all agreed. So we returned this year for that same weekend. And though most of us walked away losers from a betting standpoint, we were basically stroking each other’s hard-ons the entire time over how smart we were to have finally figured out the right weekend.

This group has progressed in nine years from “the single, immature college guys who party way too hard all weekend” to “the slightly more mature (and less single) guys who party way too hard but are also dangerously addicted to sports gambling” to “the old married men who look strikingly like those people addicted to horse race betting.”

Part of me wonders if it’s just that progression into grumpy old man status that’s got us wanting the less crazy weekend.

Fast forward to this past Thursday and instantly my smugness over choosing the right weekend disappeared quicker than you can say “buzzer beater.” I was one of the many chumps stuck at his desk while the first set of Tourney games was under way. Sure, thanks to the beauty of technology I could watch all the games on my computer, but it just wasn’t the same.

First Dayton and Harvard pulled off incredible upsets, then Uconn, St. Louis and North Dakota State all won crazy overtime games in the span of forty minutes, and finally Texas escaped Arizona State’s upset bid with a ludicrous buzzer-beating layup.

Yep, there aren’t nearly as many games over the whole day as Championship Weekend, but these games mean more. There’s no question of whether or not the teams that are NCAA Tournament locks are taking it easy and resting guys. Every close game is ratcheted up 10 notches in intensity because someone’s season (and possibly many players’ careers) will come to an abrupt end.

When last night ended with the ultimate tease in Manhattan’s near upset of Louisville followed by New Mexico State’s jaw-dropped heroics to take San Diego State to overtime, I started chain smoking cigars, googling “underground blackjack tables Los Angeles” and walking around in public double-fisting 24oz light beers. It just felt right.

Several of my Vegas cohorts wouldn’t dare go back to the original March Madness weekend for our trip, and that’s fine. I love everything about basketball in Vegas so much that I’m perfectly OK with going back for Conference Championship Weekend ever year. The only decision left for me? Do I move the planned date of asking my girlfriend to marry me from “as soon as a 16 seed beats a one seed” to “immediately” so I can use the bachelor party next year as an excuse to be in Vegas for the 11 days spanning both these incredible basketball weekends?

I doubt there’s enough medicine in the world to get me back to normal after a trip like that.

The nostalgia will be even sadder on Friday, as I root for Duke to lose from my office…a group of 300 strangers cheering like crazy for whichever underdog is facing Duke was always my favorite part of March Madness weekend.

That settles it. Next year, I rent out a place in Vegas for the entire month of March.

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Of All The Claims She’s Made, This is My Girlfriend’s Most Preposterous One Yet

So six weeks ago I’m minding my own business watching a basketball game when Julie notices a player missing several free throws. Out of nowhere, she proclaims in a completely serious way that she could hit 70% of her foul shots if given the chance.

I’ll give you a moment to process that statement before I proceed.

 

 

All set?

And it wasn’t even one of those situations where it’s like “Oh would ya look at that? This cute little sports-ignorant woman just threw a random number out there while trying to sound intelligent. She doesn’t even know what she just said.”

She knew exactly what she was saying. She was calculated with her statement, and she even went so far as to add “I might be underestimating my own abilities with 70%.”

Let me put her outrageous claim into context:

  • The average free throw percentage in women’s division 1 college basketball is around 69% (or 1% less than Julie can knock down in her sleep, apparently)
  • Julie’s 70% mark would put her at about the 60th-best free throw percentage this year in women’s division 1 hoops
  • There are almost 4,000 women playing division 1 basketball
  • Hitting seven of every 10 foul shots would rank Julie as the 108th best free throw shooter in the NBA, just one slot behind Carlos Boozer
  • Julie hasn’t shot a basketball in at least nine years

Now before you get mad at me for throwing Julie under the bus in such a public setting, you should know that I gave her plenty of opportunities to back out of these comments. Just yesterday I brought it up hoping she would laugh it off and say she clearly wasn’t serious. Instead she just dug a deeper hole. When I told her about how good she would be compared to those college players, she replied, “Yeah, but that’s because they focus on being well-rounded in every phase of the game, not great at one thing. I’m just really good at this one thing.”

Maybe you think this isn’t blog worthy. But I’ve been thinking about her comments for nearly two months, and I just can’t get over it. This is the woman who once claimed she could tell with 100% certainty whether a TV was on or off in someone’s house just by walking past the house and “sensing it.” Not because she can see in the window or hear the noise from the TV. Just that when she’s walking along a sidewalk, she can pass any house and know for sure if there’s a TV on. And yet I still think the 70% free throw shooting is the most absurd claim she’s ever made.

I feel like everyone makes one of these obscure statements thinking that they’ll never get called out or challenged to prove it. My probably-can’t-back-it-up claim is that I have better eyesight than almost anyone on the planet. Not sure how to prove it, but I’m willing to go up against anyone in a…seeing contest? vision competition?

Rather than call Julie a lunatic without having the evidence to back it up, I’m planning to get her on a basketball court sometime soon to test this out. She’s already told me it doesn’t matter if she uses a men’s ball or women’s ball (Of course it doesn’t matter! We’re talking about the Ray Allen of white women for Christ’s sake!). She wants 100 shots, and she promises to hit at least 70 of them. I promise that I will be videotaping the entire debacle.

I asked one unbiased person who knows Julie pretty well, and his estimate was that she could hit about 30% of her shots. I personally believe I can shoot a better free throw percentage than her, and I wouldn’t expect more than 20% from me (I also haven’t picked up a basketball in a very long time).

I was going to put up a poll on this blog for you to vote on how I should have handled this comment from Julie (let it be, make her prove it on the court, etc). But you people don’t really like voting on polls on this website apparently. So let’s just call this blog post a precursor to the post I’ll eventually put up about Julie’s attempt (and probable failure) at making 70% from the foul line.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure my couch is in good enough shape to handle someone sleeping on it for the next 30 days.

Read My Vegas Memories While I Go Create Some More

Today is the start of my 8th annual March Madness Las Vegas trip. Since I haven’t been able to focus on anything else all week (aside from rainbows), why not run through some random thoughts, stories and tidbits about the past seven Vegas experiences. If you’ve ever made the trek out there with friends, chances are you’ve also seen some of this stuff first hand. Let’s see if we can organize them into categories:

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Anyone who’s been paying attention to my yearly Vegas trips will note that this week is not the start of the NCAA “March Madness” Tournament. For seven years, we’ve descended on Vegas for that opening weekend of basketball games. Sadly, it’s the end of that streak, at least temporarily. Due to scheduling circumstances and a few people’s desire to “check out conference tournament weekend,” we’re going a week early this year. 
  • My friends who are on the upper end of the basketball nerdery spectrum (BNS) assure me that this year could be even more fun because there are a lot more games being played each day compared to the first weekend of March Madness. They need to remember I don’t really care about the basketball. I care about the experience. As long as it’s not a drastically different atmosphere, I’m in.
  • Someone in our group pointed out earlier this week that the weather in Vegas right now is in the upper 80s. This led someone else to question if it’s ever been that warm for any of our seven previous trips. Our email thread died out when no one could even remember ever being outside during any Vegas trip.
  • If you’re new to the blog or you just didn’t have the patience to read the 3,000 words I wrote on The Vegas Experience last year, now’s your chance. I especially recommend that the guys who are joining me this weekend give these posts another read. It’ll get you psyched for the trip. Here’s PART ONE of the Vegas Blueprint. And here’s PART TWO.

THE MOST DANGEROUS THING IN VEGAS IS YOUR OWN HOTEL ROOM

  • In Part Two, I quickly mentioned that you should shower every morning in Vegas because you don’t want to return to the room in the afternoon or evening if you can avoid it. I wanted to expand on that thought some more. I actually think the most dangerous thing you can do in Vegas is go back to your hotel room alone…specifically for that mid-afternoon or early evening visit. You’re there to take a shower, or change, or most likely to sit on the toilet in peace and quiet. But then the bed starts calling out to you. A nap sounds good, and you start to question how much longer you can put up with all the bullshit down at the casino: breathing pure cigarette smoke, losing your vacation fund in a three-minute debacle at the Craps table, stuffing yourself with free drink after free drink just because it’s there. When these thoughts creep in to your head, your only option is to run out of the hotel room, even if you’re in the middle of showering. Obviously a nap during a long weekend in Vegas actually sounds fantastic, but I’ll warn you that the funniest, most outrageous thing that will happen all weekend will happen while you’re up in the room. Don’t succumb to the midday nap. It’s powerful, but with the right amount of Vodka & Red Bull drinks, you can avoid it.

FLYING

  • Speaking of napping…in a long list of ridiculous stuff that I’ve done in Vegas, here’s the one that gets the most laughs. In year one of this annual trip, me and my two brothers flew back to San Francisco from Vegas together. For some reason we booked a flight with a layover in Los Angeles (not the point of the story, but a pretty terrible logistical move when all you want to do is get home as quickly as possible on a Sunday leaving Vegas). On the flight from LA to San Francisco, I was sitting in the middle seat between my happily-sleeping brothers. I started feeling nauseous and sweat immediately began to soak through my shirt. I woke one of the brothers up and asked him what I should do if I feel like I have to puke. He handed me one of those paper bags that’s in the back pocket of each seat. I told him it wouldn’t be nearly big enough to hold what I had brewing. He fell back asleep. I continued to panic. Finally I decided to get up and walk to the bathroom, if only to get some circulation going and distract myself. I went into the bathroom, sat on the toilet and the next thing I knew the plane is landing in San Francisco. I passed out for roughly 40 minutes on the airplane toilet, only waking up because of the normal turbulence that comes with landing. I have no idea how many people might have knocked on the door during that time. Even though every return flight from Vegas is miserable, none has ever approached that year one level.
  • Another quick flight story from two years ago. It’s Sunday morning at 5AM. My brother and I have a 7AM flight out of Vegas. We weren’t staying in the same hotel room. I’m in the lobby when I realize it’s well past the time we agreed to meet. I call his phone 30 times and get his voicemail 30 times. I call the cell phones of the guys who he was staying with. I call other people in our group just to see if they know where he is. No one answers. I go to the airport alone. The whole time I’m laughing to myself at what an idiot my brother is for falling asleep and missing his flight. I sit down next to my gate in the airport with about 30 minutes until boarding begins. I wake up some time later thinking only a few minutes had passed. After all, there were still a ton of people sitting nearby waiting for the flight to board. Then I hear over the PA system “Final boarding call for Southwest flight 1461 nonstop to San Francisco. Paging Ross Gariepy. Ross Gariepy please report to gate C7 immediately?” I quickly realize that the people sitting next to me aren’t on my flight; they’re on the next flight leaving that same gate. I got to experience walking down the aisle of the plane with 180 pairs of pissed off eyes staring at me. Apparently they had been waiting for me for quite a while. If only they knew I was sitting 15 feet away from the gate the entire time (How much better would this story have been if my brother had shown up for the next available flight a couple hours later and found me passed out near the gate of the original flight?).
  • OK, one more thing about the airport in Vegas. In our seven years of doing this trip, we’ve had two instances of someone going to the airport more than 10 hours before their scheduled flight home. In both situations, the person basically said to themselves “I’m done with Vegas for a long time. I need to get the fuck out of here now. Not tomorrow morning, right now.” I bet Vegas gets more people who show up and try to get on an earlier flight than any airport in the world. If you have bad luck long enough in Vegas, you get to that moment where you have to decide between removing yourself from the situation or taking out a cash advance on your credit card.

CLUBBING

  • Have you ever dreamed of being in a dance club and having strangers crowd around you while screaming “he’s on fire”? Me too. I always thought that moment would come because I was tearing up a dance floor and all the people would stop to watch me. What actually happened a few years ago was this: I was smoking a cigar at the club while waiting in line at the ATM. A woman standing in front of me turned around abruptly and her elbow hit the tip of my cigar. The cherry of the cigar flew into the air and landed inside my polo shirt (I swear this all happened in slow motion). My shirt and chest caught on fire. I started shaking my shirt out. Smoke started billowing out of my shirt. A bunch of girls screamed “He’s on fire!” Not the way that moment happens in my dreams.

“THAT’S GAMBLING”

  • You only understand what I’m saying here if you play Craps. For some of us that go on this trip, our first impression of our buddy’s best friend from the east coast was seeing him play the Don’t Pass Line on a Craps table while six of us in his group were playing “normal style” at the other end of the table.
  • This same guy once threatened to “take his money elsewhere” when a pit boss wouldn’t let him jump into a Craps game at a reduced rate. He was arguing to be allowed to make $10 bets instead of $25. You can imagine how nervous the casino was to lose him as a customer.
  • We’ve spent about 28 nights in Vegas over the seven years and only one time did an “everything we touch turns to gold” night happen. I don’t remember the year, the night or the exact people who were there, but for a three-hour stint at the Mandalay Bay, our group couldn’t lose. You probably think I’m getting ready to say that we walked away with a combined ten grand that night, but no. What happened was we were all split up so by the time we got back together and realized it was one of those nights for the group, it was too late. If you’re ever in one of those situations and don’t know if the hot streak is over, go throw $100 on black or red in Roulette. As soon as you lose, it’s over. It’s worth the hundo just to see what might be.

But seriously, take a few minutes and re-read my blogs from last year’s Vegas trip. It’s the only way to get a full tour of the four-day March Madness experience.