December 2006
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Ball Games

Because for once we arrive in Vegas on a Saturday (T minus 5, by the way) we’ll be able to spend Sunday camped out in a sportsbook watching ten NFL games simultaneously.  I’ve also somehow managed to convince Claire that this is a great way to spend Christmas Eve.  The obvious choice of venue is the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook.  It’s huge, self-proclaimed World’s Largest, of course, and more impressively boasts the "largest sports ticker in Nevada".  I’m quite fond of scrolling LED signs.  It’s also enclosed by several banks of video poker machines that have pretty good paytables (or at least did the last time we were there) in case having multiple giant screens just isn’t enough to make up for not being able to spin through the commercials on Sky+.

It’s several years since we sat in a Vegas sportsbook to watch anything of note.  In 2002, we were on a two week romp along the West Coast.  Las Vegas was the last stop and, in retrospect, it would have made a better place to start.  Two jetlagged English folk didn’t find a whole lot to do, waknig up at 4am in San Francisco.  The venue we’d chosen for Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs between the LA Lakers and Sacramento Kings was Monte Carlo.  We’d arrived early enough to grab a good seat and brought a huge pizza for sustinence, which impressed those sitting next to us, although you could tell they wish they’d thought of it too.  The atmosphere was amazing and the game was pretty damn good too.  19 changes of lead, 16 ties (obviously I had to look this up, nobody’s going to believe I remembered it) and an eventual overtime win for the Lakers.

My memories of exactly where we went on that holiday are sketchy, I think there were 8 hotels in 15 nights.  However, in a "do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot" kind of way, I do remember quite clearly a dingy motel room in Torrence, California which we’d chosen because of it’s proximity to the Del Amo Fashion Center – the mall where the money swap goes down from several different points of view in Jackie Brown.  That Days Inn was, oddly, also home to the first Indian restaurant we’d seen in the USA.  I’d turned on the TV to catch the last quarter of a previous Lakers/Kings game in that series, which featured possibly the single coolest moment in sports I ever saw.

OK, I know you didn’t click the link, so here goes.  The Lakers are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and by two points in the game.  Seconds to go.  Superstar Kobe drives in to try to take the game to overtime… no good.  Superstar Shaq has a crack… denied.  The ball falls into the hands of Robert Horry standing behind the 3-point arc who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of the word pressure.  He launches and nails it as the buzzer sounds, and the Lakers win 100-99.

Since then, we’ve always seemed to be in Vegas at the wrong time to catch any sport worth watching on TV (yeah, it’s usually baseball season) or flown on two Sundays when there’s football to be missed.  Now we’re going to be in town for Week 16, when almost all the games are going to matter.

I’m ready for some parlay card action, and probably another large pizza.