Vintage Vegas, Part II
If you missed Part 1, click here. Here's Part 2.
9 a.m.: There's nothing quite like the feeling of waking up in Vegas and having absolutely no idea what time it is. Is it 1:00 in the afternoon? Is it 5:30 in the morning? Is it Tuesday? Did I just sleep through the winter? Between heavy curtains, oxygen, alcohol fumes and the comedown of adrenaline, it's really like hibernating. I wake up, fumble for my glasses, check my cell phone and yes! Nine o'clock. That means seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. I'm already chalking up this day in the "W" column even though my lungs feel as if they were just dragged through the Lincoln Tunnel at rush hour.
My roommate, Grady? He's less excited. He's the color of cookie dough right now. Somehow, we successfully pull off back-to-back showers, dress ourselves and make it downstairs for a Coffee Bean run by 9:45, leading to this exchange:
Me: "I can't wait for coffee. I might climb over the counter and just drink from the giant Starbucks pot. I've always wanted to do that. Remind me to do that."
Grady: "Too early for coffee for me. I'm getting a Coke."
Me: "A Coke? Why not coffee?"
Grady: "I have a hangover system. I need the sugar and the fix from the Coke first. Coffee comes later. That's Part 2."
Me: "Wait, isn't puking the night before Part 1, Coke Part 2, then coffee Part 3?"
Grady: "Yeah, you're right."
(These are the conversations you have in Vegas.)
10:00: After Coffee Bean, Grady orders a Sausage McMuffin from McDonald's and I mean can anyone NOT have a Sausage McMuffin if someone else is planning on eating one? Let's play two!
10:05: So happy. So delicious. I almost feel human. Hey, did you ever wonder why McDonald's doesn't just start lying about how many customers they've had? Currently, it's "billions and billions served." Couldn't they go with "trillions?" Or even "kajillions?" What's the highest they could say where you'd believe what they claimed? For me it's "kajillion." I would absolutely believe "kajillion." I throw this at Grady. A beat passes.
"Don't ask me to think right now," he finally mumbles.
(Did I mention that we're having a fantasy draft within the hour? I wish I could short the odds of his winning our league this season.)
10:10: We meet everyone else in the lobby. Mahady and I tell the "walking with Grady and wondering if he might puke" story (see Part 1) and capture 85 percent of the drama. "I could see it coming during our last shoe," Mahady tells me. "Suddenly, you and Jim looked like Apollo and Rocky in Round 15. [Sounding like an announcer.] There's SIMMONS with another cigarette. And there's GRADY ordering another drink! I don't know what was keeping you two up."
"The greats can take it to another gear," I explain. "Sometimes it's not about talent, it's about human will."
"And there IS gonna be a rematch," Grady adds.
(Note: I might die tonight. There's like a 42.7 percent chance.)
10:15: We're headed to Caesars to meet the CEO of Las Vegas Fantasy Superdraft, a fledgling enterprise that's aiming to become the World Series of Poker for fantasy draft weekends: a once-a-year destination/excuse for buddies to get together, gamble, carouse and pick a fake football team. Apparently the CEO's goal in life is to get everyone in America divorced. Through a connection, he hooked us up with a Caesars suite for our draft. Instead of our cramming into three cabs, Mahady negotiates a stretch limo for $50. Add this to the "great things about Vegas" list -- where else can you take a limo with 11 friends for 10 minutes?
10:22: Underrated part of any limo ride: Making jokes like, "Put the cocaine away until we get there!" and "It's too bumpy, I can't light this crack pipe" as the driver keeps nervously glancing into his rearview mirror. I love Vegas.
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10:35: CEO Eric meets us in the lobby, cracks one of those, "Wow, you guys look HORRIBLE" smiles and brings us to our suite. There's a big table with 10 chairs, along with a wireless signal, notebooks, danishes, muffins, coffee and even a bathroom that has a TV in the mirror. Well, thank you! After CEO Eric leaves, we sit down for our first "Everyone's here!" draft in nine years and hash out our crappy rules.
A little history: Our league started in 1990, back in the pre-Internet era, when Commissioner Camp used Monday's USA Today to calculate scores by hand, then mailed updates every Tuesday (always my most exciting piece of mail every week, and by the way, writing that sentence made me feel 60 years old). Although we made somewhat of an effort to modernize things (adding a successful playoff system that rolls into the actual NFL playoffs), we remain the only league on the planet that still starts TWO quarterbacks. That's right, two. It's indefensible.
This wrinkle skews the value of QBs too high, I argue. Others chime in. The two traditionalists (Russ and Stoner) make their arguments. This is turning into Roe v. Wade. At one point, I belittle Russ' "Look, it's the way we've always done it" line by hissing, "Yeah, that's what newspapers said." It's getting heated. We need to have a vote before someone throws a chair. The vote for one QB: 7 yes, 2 no and one abstention. That's right, an abstention. Mahady wouldn't vote. We can't get over this. How do you abstain in a fantasy football draft vote? "I have my reasons," he says cryptically. What? What the hell is happening right now?
11:35: Bad start. People are hung over and hungry. Stoner and Russ are sulking. Mahady won't explain his inexplicable abstention. Bitterness galore. Our first five picks: Peterson, Brady (more valuable because of our playoff wrinkle), Forte, Jones-Drew, D. Williams. I go with Tomlinson (playoff wrinkle again) and somehow steal Calvin Johnson and Frank Gore in the next two rounds. But it's still pretty grim in the room. A struggling Grady takes Ryan Grant 30th (oof) and Joe Addai 31st (yikes), then goes to the bathroom. Next two picks: Portis and Barber. Grady returns, leading to this exchange
--Grady: "Hold on, who got picked while I was gone?"
--Me: "The two guys you should have taken."
--Wyman & Russ: "Bammo!"
(That got the comedy blood flowing in the room again. Of all the things women don't understand about men, where does "legitimate tension in the room after a debate about the rules in which you pick a fake team of random football players and compete against one another in a fake league for money" rank? I'd say top five.)
12:12 p.m.: I wanted to emerge from this draft with one of these QBs: Brady, Brees, Manning, Romo, Rodgers, Rivers and (gulp) Kurt Warner. After 35 picks, six of seven are gone. And I'm on the clock. Which means I have to say the words (gulp) "Kurt Warner."
12:12: Yup, they're lobbing jokes about Warner's age at me like grenades. I have no comeback other than "He dyed his hair this year." Dammit. Time to lash out at someone. Given that Camp took Tony Romo too early (second round), and he's on the clock again, I slap this one together: "Camp, you should take Romo again since this is the round you should have taken him." Mild chuckles followed by this exchange:
--Wyman (appreciative): "I don't think you've ever used that one before!"
--Mahady: "Bill wrote new material for the draft."
(Wait, am I getting insulted again?)
12:20: The doorbell rings. It's CEO Eric! He's accompanied by two scantily clad Pizza Girls, five pizzas and a case of Bud Light. I'm not kidding -- this almost caused a riot. One girl is dressed like a cheerleader; the other is wearing Tom Brady's jersey and underwear (only if both had been shrunk to one-fourth the size). Later, CEO Eric described our reaction as "2-year-olds at a birthday party as Barney walks in." By the way, we're old.
12:40: Pizza, beer and awkward conversation with the girls is highlighted by a hungover Grady (wearing Tevas) struggling to keep things moving by asking the girl in the Brady jersey, "So, where are you based out of?" My favorite moment of the weekend so far. Slayed me. I want to see this scene re-enacted online with Zach Galifianakis playing Grady. In Tevas.
12:45: All the visitors leave, and we get back to the draft as the pizza wreaks havoc on everyone's picks. Somehow, I land Dwayne Bowe, Eddie Royal and Detroit's Kevin Smith in Rounds 5-7. If Kurt Warner comes through, I am winning the league. Period.
(Key part of that prediction: "If Kurt Warner comes through " That's like saying, "If Obama can figure out this health plan, his first four-year term will be a success." Crap. Dammit. I'm screwed. You know, UNLESS Kurt Warner comes through )
12:54: In a brilliant move to rattle the other married guys, Stoner starts playing online porn on his laptop. High comedy. He just took out half the room. We have guys breaking down the first scene Mark Schlereth style and wondering whether the loud actress involved has a safe word. Camp decides it's "apple sauce" and starts screaming "APPLE SAUCE! APPLE SAUCE!" This brings down the house. Porn jokes, beer, fantasy football, pizza have we hit every cliché of a fantasy draft with married guys yet? Are we close?
12:58: Just stole Darren McFadden in the eighth round as everyone was discussing why, on most porn sites, you will see categories like "BLACK" "ASIAN" and LATINO" but not "JEWISH." Russ (who's Jewish) laments that the Jews have been overlooked yet again, adding, "It would be fun to see a clip like 'Melissa Schwartzstein has a threesome.'" Round of laughs. Yep, it took online porn to shed the rules bitterness from earlier. Who knew porn had healing powers?
1:04: Just had a three-minute group debate about whether there's any way to write on ESPN.com about what just happened during my Chris Cooley pick. Here's what we settle on: "Right as I made the pick, let's just say it was met by immediate approval by the actress on Stoner's laptop." There you go.
1:30: I land the Pats D, Cotchery, Ward (TB), Crosby and Steve Smith (NYG) with my last five picks. No backup QB. I'm not spending a draft pick on the likes of Joe Flacco. Sorry. Either Warner is taking me to the promised land or we're going down in flames. So be it. The highlight of the last five rounds: Camp unable to make his 13th-round pick as we started ripping him for taking too long; Camp panicking and taking Kevin Boss; Camp hearing us laugh about Boss; then Camp screaming at the top of his lungs, "Apple sauce! Apple sauce!" Fun draft.
2:30: Sharing another $50 limo, we notice a giant billboard outside the Palms for DJ AM's weekly Friday show. He had just overdosed early that same morning. A deadly "too soon for a joke" silence settles over the limo. Always respect the dead in Vegas. Meanwhile, I just tweeted my monster team and am now reading the responses to taunt everyone -- stuff like, "Eric6789 says, 'Well done, did you pick with a bunch of 10th graders?'" -- as Stoner gets madder and madder and finally goes on an anti-Twitter rant that ends with him saying, "Who are these losers who would send a stranger messages in the middle of the day?"
It's pointed out to Stoner that he's the loser sitting in a limo full of losers who just argued for 30 minutes about the rules in a league where we pick fake football players.
"Yeah, but at least I'm sitting in a limo! Woo-hoo! YEAHHHHHHHH!"
(You gotta love Vegas.)
2:35: Upon reaching the Palms, two more high school buddies are waiting for us: Bish and Hopper, staples of every Vegas column I have ever written. They're drinking John Dalys (Arnold Palmers with a shot of Absolut Citron, as described in last week's mailbag). "These are going down like water," Bish says. Uh-oh. Again, it's 2:30.
3:00: Treading water at a $10 blackjack table and ordering John Dalys two at a time. (You know he's more excited about having a drink named after him than owning a Claret Jug. I'd bet anything.) Camp and Russ come over with some stunning news: They're headed over to the Palms movie theater to see "Inglourious Basterds." We react like some sort of crime is being committed. A Saturday afternoon movie? In Sin City? Is this legal?
3:30: You know, every Vegas weekend has one song that every casino beats into the ground to the point that people groan when it comes on. The song is always peppy, but in a nonthreatening way. It's designed to appeal to people of all ages. It has some sort of signature hook. And by the 10th time you hear it in 20 hours, you are ready to break a beer bottle against the blackjack table and start stabbing people with it.
This year's song? "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon. Heading into this weekend, I wasn't for or against these guys. I had no opinion. Within 25 hours in Vegas? I hate them with every fiber in my body. We get it, Kings of Leon: You could use sum-BAH-dayyyyyy. Heard you loud and clear. And I understand you're hoping it's someone like you, someone like you, someone like you believe me, I hope you find this person. Because if you don't, I'm going to kill everyone in a 25-foot vicinity. Now go away.
3:45: I present my "why it should be OK to split 10s against a 6" theory to Hopper (detailed in Part 1), sending Hopper (an aggressively good blackjack player who hates when anyone at the table does anything out of the ordinary) into somewhat of a frenzy.
"Just talking about this is making Agro Hopper come out," he says threateningly before dragging on a Marlboro Light. "You don't want bad-energy Agro Hopper. We need to stop talking about this. I'm not kidding."
(Question: Do anyone else's friends refer to themselves with third-person situational nicknames? Or is it just mine?)
4:15: Our first friendly/gregarious dealer of the weekend (Morris) shows up. We know this because Hopper saw his name tag and sang, "Oh e oh e OH" as I quickly added, "Where's Jerome and his mirror?" and Morris laughed. A good sign. We immediately go on a gigantic run as Morris tells us "Here are the best celebs I've ever had at my table" stories.
This gives me an idea: Why doesn't Vegas allow a group of friends to pick a blackjack dealer for the night? I see it operating like the Bunny Ranch. You walk into a lobby, and there are a bunch of dealers sitting there next to each other. You settle on one, then you walk off with him as though he's a Bunny Ranch hooker only in this case, he or she leads you to a blackjack table and stays with you for $100 an hour for as long as you want. Split between five guys, that's $20 an hour for a good karma dealer. That's not worth the money? I tell my idea to everyone.
Bish: "Wait, you've been to the Bunny Ranch?"
Me: "No!!!! I just remember from the HBO show "
Everyone at table (laughing): "Sure "
4:45: Morris leaves. The shellacking begins. We should get up. We should get up.
5:00: No, really, we should get up.
5:15: "Throw the damned towel! THROW THE DAMNED TOWEL!"
5:30: Our three-hour session ends. Abruptly. Everyone lost. Whatever. The Bish-Hopper-Simmons-Grady group hasn't played blackjack together in years. We're all winners. The bad news: I am officially constipated. Food I've eaten since Friday morning: Arby's roast beef and curly fries, pizza, Sausage McMuffin, blueberry muffin, more pizza. Call it the Vegas Diet. I think my body would reject fruits and vegetables like a bad kidney match at this point.
6:25: Back to the room for second showers, shaves and a dress change, highlighted by Grady's phone call to his wife in which he adopts the Vegas Husband Voice. This is one of my favorites. So, whenever guys talk to their wives or girlfriends, their voices naturally soften and go up a little. It's a reflexive thing, and I don't know why this is. We all do it. Because this is Grady's comeback Vegas trip, he's out of practice, and what I'm trying to tell you is this: He might have just broken the record for "highest octave change." He is Michael Jackson "She's Out of My Life"-level high right now. I'm cracking up. This should be an Olympic event: Biggest Unintentional Octave Change While Talking to a Significant Other.
7:15: We meet at the Palms Place bar for a pre-dinner drink, then head over to Lavo (at the Palazzo) for a group dinner. I am a big fan of the group dinner under the following conditions. First, you have to split everything X ways and that's it (no haggling). Second, you can't do Friday night because the combo of jet lag and heavy food will make you more sluggish than Charlie Manuel. Third, no wine under any circumstances. (Much like women weaken legs, wine weakens late-night gamblers.) Fourth, you can't overeat or you'll hate yourself for the rest of the night. Fifth, you have to plow through dinner in two hours or less. (You're in Vegas, for god sakes.) Sixth, you can't forget that most restaurants will stick an 18 percent gratuity on the check, only some scumbag waiters are too greedy to tell you (hoping for a double tip). If you remember too late, you'll get mad that you double-tipped and it's bad for group karma. Seventh, don't play Credit Card Roulette for the check. There's already enough stuff to gamble on, and it's not worth the possible karma shift if the loser takes it personally. Just don't do it. Promise me. Stick by my seven group dinner rules and you'll be fine.
(The bigger question: Why aren't there any Credit Card Roulette videos on YouTube? You're telling me I can watch dozens of videos of guys opening baseball card boxes, but I can't watch one game of Credit Card Roulette for a $1,900 dinner?)
10:30: Highlights from the past three hours: A phenomenal male bonding dinner (even better, Lavo didn't pull the double-tip trick) seeing Treasure Island (the place where I lost my Vegas cherry in 1996) through the window the entire time a 100-degree walk to Caesars that allowed me to make the Siegfried and Roy memorial joke to Bish (see any other Vegas column I've ever written for details) Hopper and I wagering on Tottenham Hotspur at 40-1 to win the Premier League (you're damned right I made a soccer bet) and everyone searching in vain for an open blackjack table (and failing). Wait, that's not a highlight. That sucks.
Out of nowhere, Mahady comes up with one of the three greatest Vegas ideas I have ever witnessed: Everyone throws in $100, we head to the slots and play as many Wheel of Fortune machines as possible at the same time. (Hmmmmmm why not?) According to Mahady, if you luck out and hit "SPIN," you get to spin the wheel and it's (allegedly) exciting. We trust him because he's Italian and Italians have good gambling instincts (like me -- I'm half). Still, can you calculate the comedy of a group of washed-up married guys playing slots on a Saturday night? No. You can't.
10:50: Slow start. Sloooooooooow start. I will confess: Up to this point in my life, I found slots to be perplexing. So, you sit in a chair and sadly press a button over and over and over again? And this is fun why?
"Great idea, Mahades," I heckle. "I can't think of anything more fun than watching somebody else hit a button a whole bunch of times."
"Just wait," he says. "Just wait."
10:55: I can't even describe how fast I just flipped on slots. Working six of the eight machines, we just hit $400 (Hopper) and, astonishingly, the big $1,000 (Bish). Each time it happened? Chaos. We went crazy. Now every time someone gets to spin, five other guys race over to cheer them on. Even if you rarely end up hitting a big number on the wheel, every "Come on, come on, WHOAAAAAAAA-ohhhhhhhhhhhhh" moments is worth it. This is gasp fun?
11:10: All hell has broken loose. We have all eight machines, we're up two grand as a group, and we're making so much noise that a crowd of people is now cheering us on. I'm not kidding -- our group might have been the Jackie Robinson of Fun Slots Experiences. I don't think anyone ever considered the concept before. Wait, you can have fun playing slots as a group? Really? Now Bish is hitting every "SPIN" with his elbow. Hopper is hitting every "SPIN" with his forehead. Even the formerly cheap Stoner has turned into the Mark Madsen of gambling. Who knew? Slots! Slots? Slots!
11:30: In less than an hour, we just turned $1,100 into $2,850. We're all stunned. That was way too much fun. We can't believe it. Quite possibly the best gambling experience I've had in years. Hopper summed up why in a classic e-mail Monday:
"The WOF slots were fantastic. Bish and I were talking on the flight out how we were kind of tired of Vegas, we'd done everything we could do, etc. Now I think we just need a new Vegas theory which I'm gonna call it the 'Vegas Shocker' theory. Just like a relationship, you have to work at Vegas. Go to the same casino and play the same game, eventually, you're gonna get bored even if you win. So, just like with your wife or longtime girlfriend, you gotta spice it up once in a while and keep Vegas on its toes. It might cause a scene, but it will be fun and unpredictable. Plus, she'll eye you nervously for months afterwards which, as we all know, is a good thing for women. We have to pull a 'Vegas Shocker' every couple of years: play group slots, pool your cash on bizarre bets, stay downtown, shake up the usual group, etc. We want Vegas to be eyeing us nervously afterwards."
(And if that e-mail didn't make any sense to you well, you've never been to Vegas.)
11:45: Thanks to a connection, I drag everyone to Pure (the famous nightclub in Caesars) for 30 minutes just so they can enter the alternate universe that doubles as a Vegas nightclub. People are waiting two hours to get in. (This shatters my One-Hour Rule, which goes like this: If you're waiting in line for an hour or more for ANYTHING, there'd better be free sex or free money at the end of that line.) Our connection leads us to the upstairs/outdoor patio, where we have a little booth and quickly realize that, hey, we're too old and have nothing in common with anyone here. Like we didn't know that already.
"Would anyone like to see some baby pictures?" Stoner shouts out to the rest of the patio. That about summed it up.
Here's why I know I am now old: The current nightclub scene eludes me. As far as I can tell, our goal (if we were single) would be to somehow get a booth, then order $500 bottles with mixers, then see whether we can lure girls over to the booth to talk to us, drink from our $500 bottles and possibly give/get an STD. For the females (if single), their goal is to find a booth of unsuspecting marks, flirt with the guys, drink from their $500 bottles, make it seem as though something might happen and then either flee the premises or give/get an STD. And everyone is fine with this arrangement. It's apparently fun.
My three issues: First, the current system prices out nearly everyone who relies on casual sex (guys between 22 and 32). Second, I'm surprised Pure hasn't printed enough money by now to buy the Grizzlies. What a racket. And third, whatever happened to just going to a crowded bar and buying people shots and beers? Am I that old? Is this how parents in the late '60s felt when pot and Woodstock and acid and mushrooms started taking off? I don't get your tattoos! I don't get your $500 bottle nightclubs! I'm old. I'm old. Did I mention I'm old?
Midnight: My cell phone dies. Another weird new wrinkle for Vegas -- back in the day, there was no possible way to keep in touch with your friends. Everything had to be carefully planned. We will see you HERE at THIS TIME. Now it's a genuine crisis to lose your cell phone. On the other hand, "My cell phone ran out" is the greatest why-I-didn't-call-my-significant-other excuse maybe ever. I'd say it's a wash. Forget I brought it up.
12:30 a.m.: We flee Pure on grounds of "We're too freaking old to be here." It's that simple. Hopper secures a $100 price for a limo from a Caesars bellhop, leading to the classic (and so typical) moment when we get in and Hopper says, "$100, right?" followed by the driver saying, "No, $120" and Agro Hopper quickly and angrily showing him a $100 bill and hissing, "Take it or leave it." Don't pull the Limo Price Bump move on old Vegas veterans like us, Driver With 17 Letters In Your First Name.
1:00: Everyone splits up to gamble or sleep. Mahady takes our excess Wheel of Fortune winnings ($650, after everyone took $200 back) to play high-stakes blackjack. Grady volunteers to be his wingman. Bish, Hopper and I settle at a $15 table. Time for another veteran Vegas move: My contact lenses are dry and killing me, so I order a spicy Bloody Mary with extra horseradish. Why? Because it will make my eyes water and refresh the contacts naturally.
(Note: I should really teach a "What To Do In Vegas" class in college. UCLA, call me.)
1:25: You know that I could use sum-BAH-dayyyyyyyyyyyyyy! It only took 33 hours in Vegas for me to work up a hatred for Kings of Leon that rivals only the way I feel about cancer.
1:45: Spent the past 45 minutes getting our butts kicked. Not even the reappearance of Hef Chip can save me. Everything changes when an X'ed up lady wearing a skimpy cocktail dress sits down. She looks like a much happier Regina King and immediately starts referring to our pit boss as "My future baby daddy!!!!!"
This is all good. There is no way this isn't good. Even when she splits 6s against a 9 (wins all three hands) and hits a soft 18 against a 7 -- telling us simply, "I'm getting a 3" and does -- we know it's all good. She has singlehandedly swung our table, won $200 to boot and even pulled off a dead-on impression of me screaming "BIG ONE!" when I want the dealer to bust on his next card. An amazing performance. When she cashes in 25 minutes later, we beg her to stay.
"I can't, sweetie," she says. "I need to find me a baby daddy tonight!"
(Three follow-up thoughts. First, it's a shame Travis Henry wasn't there. Second, watching someone like Baby Mama win at blackjack by doing crazy things makes you wonder, "Why did we collectively decide that there's an effective way to play blackjack?" Because apparently there isn't. And third, my team name in 2009 will be The Baby Daddies. So there you go.)
2:15: During a shuffle, I wander over to Mahady's table. He has a stack of black and green chips, and there's a whiff of "Bammo!" in the air. Wow. Grady sees me and says simply, "G-G-go away." And I do. These are the rules of Vegas.
(Note: Imagine if Joe Buck had been me in that spot. "And look at what we have here -- through one hour, a LEGENDARY gambling performance by Mahady. Look at all those chips. From here, that looks like about $3,500 in chips. Again, Mahady is WAY UP right now.")
2:45: Remember in Part 1, when I talked about those "big swing hands" that make or break a night? We have another one. I'm riding a potential run and playing three $125 hands after a successful split of 8s (20, 20, 19). Hopper has a double (18) riding for $400. Bish has a double (20) riding on his biggest bet of the night. Dealer has a 5. We're feeling good. She flips over the 6. (Nooooooooo!) Flips over the 3. (Yessssssssssssssssss!) Flips over the 7. (Nooooooooooo! Noooooooooooooo! Noooooooooooo!) 21. Translation: it's not our night. And we know it. You know what that means
Did it turn out as well as the last time? No. But we played for nearly two hours and threw down so many John Dalys that his ears must have been ringing. We were up $1,500 as a group at one point before giving it all back. (I'd give you more details, but quite frankly, they're a little blurry.) No regrets. I lost another $120, putting me down a little over $450 for the weekend. Including my soccer bet, that's exactly the amount of money I would have paid on Friday's speeding ticket that I never got. See, it always evens out in Vegas. Regardless, we will remember it as the Wheel of Fortune Weekend. Sometimes, you have to keep Vegas on its toes. You just do.
10 a.m.: One of the mysteries of Vegas -- waking up that second morning and feeling fine. Like, your body has opened some sort of reserve gas tank that you didn't even know existed. Then you look in the mirror and wow. My God. Holy Schmoly.
"There should be a Web site that has before/after Vegas pictures," I say to Grady. "One when you arrive, then one in the same spot on Sunday morning. That would be riveting."
"I need food," Grady says simply. Well, then.
10:30: You know that I could use sum-BAH-dayyyyyyyyyyyyyy! I don't even have the energy to get mad anymore. Whatever. I hope you find sum-BAH-dayyyyyyyy, Kings of Leon.
10:40: We stop at the sports book to make a Super Bowl bet on Green Bay at 25-1 (my favorite of the long shots). Just for fun, Grady places a $20 on his Jets and their over (seven wins). For some reason, this causes the guy at the register to call his boss over. Apparently, Grady was the first person to make this bet. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 New York Jets!!!
11:00: The obligatory hungover Vegas breakfast with Bish, Hopper and Grady. We made it. It's been 13 years since our first monster Vegas trip together. Nothing has changed. We are the same guys. The truth is, you have your oldest friends in life, and then you have everyone else. Nothing will trump your oldest friends. Any amount of time can pass without your feeling as if you've grown apart because, really, you can't. It's like a plant. You just have to water it every so often and you're good.
Now we're eating omelets and talking about our big night of slots. Is this what happens when you get old? Almost on cue, Barry Bonds and his family emerge from a back room. He strides defiantly right by us; it's impossible not to be captivated by his gravity-defying head. That thing is like Sputnik. Of course, we grasp the significance of the moment immediately: We're just four washed-up Vegas sluggers watching a washed-up baseball slugger walk with his family. The only thing missing was one of Barry's kids saying, "Wiggles? Wiggles? Wiggles?"
"Come on," I say to Grady, "where else does stuff like that happen? We can get one trip a year from you again, right?"
Grady doesn't confirm or deny. He doesn't have to.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos and more, check out Sports Guy's World.
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