Showing posts with label football. Show all posts
Showing posts with label football. Show all posts

24 May 2018

It's Vegas, Baby...


by Eve Fisher

For those of you who haven't heard, Las Vegas has an ice hockey team!  Just simmer in that thought for a minute.  The baking oven of the Nevada desert air, the frosty ice of the skating rink...  Now, on with the story.  The Golden Knights expansion team took to the ice this season...  and is going to the Stanley Cup.  Yes.  Which is a great story, except that it may break the bank in Vegas.

Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup run unlike anything we’ve seen
Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and William Karlsson
celebrate their second-round Game 5 victory over the Sharks.Getty Images
NOTE:  The way it's being hyped, you'd think that this has never happened before, but it has:  In 1967-68, the St. Louis Blues began as an expansion team and made it to the Stanley Cups - where they lost all four games, bing, bang, badda, boom.  
But back to the money.  As the New York Post put it, “When [the Golden Knights were] at 300-1, we wrote a ticket for $400, which pays out 120 grand,” said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations for Westgate Casino. “I can’t give definitive numbers, but every book is going to lose a healthy six figures if the Knights win the Cup. Some places are whispering seven.”  (BTW, if you're thinking of laying a bet down now, the bookies dropped the odds a long time ago.)  On the other hand, they're making a ton of money off the people who are pouring in to see the miracle team.  The Rampart Casino offers merchandise giveaways, food vouchers and opportunities for mid-game wagering each time the Knights play. Westgate shows every Knights game on its 240-foot-wide video screen.  “We want people walking through the door,” Duane Colucci of the Rampart Casino said. “Whether or not they’re betting on the Knights, they’ll play video poker, they’ll grab something to eat.”

BTW, the last time that a game threatened to break the bookies was in 2015-16, when the British football (soccer, for us Americans) team, Leicester City, took everyone by surprise. The team was 132 year old and had never won a title. They were so bad that bookmakers gave them 5,000–1 odds .  But they did.  They won.  And the bookmakers lost up to £25 million.  One lucky bettor placed £20 at the original odds and won over £100,000!  The largest payout was £200,000 to someone who wagered £100 on the team in October when the odds had improved to 2,000–1.
NOTE:  Winning over odds that long, and a record that dismal, led to claims that spiritual forces worked for Leicester, including the club's Thai owners employing Buddhist monks to bless the players, and the reburial of the recently recovered remains of King Richard III (whose remains had been found in a parking lot in Leicester in 2012) in the city's cathedral in March, 2015.  (Wikipedia
Anyway, the Vegas bookies aren't facing odds that bad.  And even if they were, Vegas always figures a way to play the odds.  And to shift their services to a new customer base.

Today, Vegas is all about "Sin City", and "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  In the 1990s, it marketed itself as "Family Friendly", which I still find hilarious.  And in the 60's...

The Rat Pack at the Cal-Neva Casino
Wikimedia
Well, the 60s were the last time I spent much time in Vegas.  I was a kid, and my parents would drive up from Southern California to either Vegas or Lake Tahoe to do some gambling.  That was back in the old days, when the mob ruled Vegas, and the Rat Pack ruled the Strip.  I don't remember the name of the casino my parents liked, I just remember that it was huge.  When I was 7-12 years old, I (and the other children who were idling away the time) would run amok among the slots and blackjack tables, or sit and people watch, or just play.  In some ways, it was a much safer, more innocent "Florida Project".  And it was very safe.

Twenty years ago, a child was lured into a Vegas casino restroom, where she was sexually assaulted and murdered.  I turned to my husband, horrified, and said, "That would never have happened in the 60's."  And it wouldn't.  We might have been running loose, but there was always someone keeping an eye on us, wherever we were.  Those large men in suits standing around everywhere weren't going to let anybody touch us.  And if we got too near a door, they'd stop us and ask, "Hey, where are your parents?"  We'd point somewhere or say, "Keno table" or something, and they'd herd us back there, and / or hand us off to a young woman in tight clothing who'd feed us more ice cream.  It wasn't bad.
NOTE:  I understand that today Nevada law prohibits children 100%, absolutely, no exceptions from being on the casino floor.  Maybe that law was on the books back in the 60's, too, but I sure don't remember them acting on it.  Granted, my parents were day gamblers...
Since then, the only other time I was in Vegas was in 2006, when my husband and I met up with another couple (from New York City) to go on a tour of Canyon Country - Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon.  Vegas was the perfect hub to meet in, rent a car, and drive out.  But we had to spend one night there, because our flights arrived at such different times.  Frank & Theresa had a friend who told them about a cheap hotel off the Strip, and we decided to stay there.  It was cheap, all right.  It didn't have bedbugs or cockroaches, but I wouldn't have sat down on that worn brown carpet for love nor money.  (When bedtime came, I leaped out of my shoes and into the bed, with nary a toe hitting the rug.)  The main center for entertainment in the hotel was its own mini-casino down in the lobby, and an elevator large enough to hold a coffin and pallbearers, reeking of beer and cigarettes from the uncountable number of topless drunks (of both sexes) constantly going to or from the casino.  Loud, proud, and endlessly fascinating.

But we were hungry, and the hotel had no dining privileges.  We went down to the Strip for dinner, and the food had certainly gotten more expensive - and to be fair, better - than the 1960s.  Afterwards, we walked around for about half an hour in the stifling heat (90s in the dark) to see the outside casino shows.  (Near-nudity, lights, flames, and the occasional pole dance.  Not too different from the hotel, actually...)  Then we got in the car and drove around counting Elvis impersonators and checking out wedding chapels.  The next morning we went down to the Denny's within walking distance and hung with the locals.  Not an Elvis impersonator amongst them, and only a reasonable number of sonic boob jobs.

After that, we headed off into the desert, and wondered again, where was all the water coming from?




BTW, as many of you may know, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting. "Immediately after the ruling, the stock price for Caesars Entertainment [Nevada] rose 6%." (CNN)

2nd BTW, in 2019, the Oakland Raiders are moving to Vegas, where they'll be known (of course) as the Las Vegas Raiders.  First official NFL game will be in 2020.  

I think the bookies are going to make their money back. 




17 July 2014

The National Pasttime


by Eve Fisher

It's a golden Sunday afternoon in South Dakota as I write this, and my husband and I are headed off to a minor league baseball game later.  There's a whole bunch of reasons I love baseball.  When I was a kid, I lived in southern California, and we watched the Dodgers every chance we could on TV.  I had a major crush on Sandy Koufax.  My second favorite team, of course, was the San Francisco Giants.  And my mother and I hissed the damn Yankees every chance we got.

Now I have a theory that there is something about baseball that makes it fuel for great novels and great movies, in a way that no other sport seems to do. Granted, every sport has at least one fantastic book and/or movie based on it. And before you start screaming about why I didn't include certain movies, I know that every sport has its dying player movie (Brian's Song v. Bang the Drum Slowly, James Caan v. Robert DeNiro, for example, take your pick), and its unusual and/or unlikable and/or unbeatable coach movie (often ad nauseum, make your own list).  And the occasional one with animal players, often monkeys (Every Which Way But Loose leaps to mind).  SO:

SURFING (my second favorite sport to watch - can you tell I'm a California girl?):  Endless Summer, of course, and Riding Giants.  (And, just for a time capsule and a so-bad-its-good movie, Gidget.)

BASKETBALL:  Hoosiers, Hoop Dreams, and He Got Game.

FOOTBALL:  Friday Night Lights, book, movie and show.  But my personal guilty pleasure is, Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins, sadly made into an incredibly bad movie in the 70's.
(NOTE to Dan Jenkins:  get Kevin Smith to direct a new version of Semi-Tough, PLEASE, because he's the only director I can think of that could do justice to your profanity-laced, sex-sodden, really f---ing hilarious take on football, rivalry, and true love.  You do that, and it might wash the taste of that Michael Ritchie version out of my mind...)

ICE HOCKEY:  Slapshot.

Now these are good, but if you want depth, I think there are only two sports that really bring it out:  baseball and boxing.

TheNaturalFirstEdition.jpgThe Natural by Bernard Malamud.  Forget the movie version, though it's good in its own way.  The novel is raw and angry and sad and an allegory of life from the point of view of all of us who have screwed at least one thing up so badly it will never come right or have had fate step in and snatch everything away just as we had it in our hand:
"Roy, will you be the best there ever was in the game?"  "That's right."  She pulled the trigger...
"We have two lives; the life we learn with and the life we live after that."
Back when I put myself through college teaching ESL, we used The Natural to teach our Puerto Rican baseball scholarship students in order to get them to read - and it worked.  It also broke (some of) their adolescent, ambitious little hearts. Great book.  Good movie.

You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner.  A collection of short stories, all letters from the road, penned by Jack Keefe, the dumbest, greediest, most cluelessly self-absorbed pitcher the Chicago White Sox ever had.  I don't think even Will Farrell could capture Jack Keefe, because he is...  just read it and laugh your head off. (NOTE:  Ring Lardner ranks as one of the greatest short story writers of all time, imho, if nothing else for these and "Haircut" and "The Golden Honeymoon")

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella.  Read it, please.  And, yes, go get the movie.  I hold my breath through half the movie, and then cry shamelessly (usually after the appearance of Burt Lancaster) every time I see the damn thing.  



Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof and Stephen Jay Gould.  A meticulous, well-written, time capsule of the time and events of the worst baseball scandal in history.  The movie isn't any slouch, either, directed by John Sayles with a strong, strong cast, especially D. B. Sweeney as Shoeless Joe Jackson and Studs Terkel as sportswriter Hugh Fullerton.

Speaking of baseball movies, here's a few, in no particular order:
Bull Durham
The Pride of the Yankees
Damn Yankees (whatever Lola wants...)
Ken Burns' Baseball
A League of Their Own
The Rookie
The Babe Ruth Story
Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings

Now I said baseball and boxing, and first of all, here are some great boxing movies:

Raging Bull.  Rocky.  Requiem for a HeavyweightWhen We Were Kings.  The Harder They Fall.

And I think I may have found the connection.  We all know both boxing and baseball from the inside out. Most of us have played baseball, from sandlot on up.  Most of us have either gotten into a fight or watched one, with a lot (of pride, if nothing else) riding on the outcome.  Both sports give the illusion that anybody with enough heart can do it, otherwise we wouldn't be so damned bothered by all the allegations of doping in baseball, at least.  After all, we don't mind what are essentially genetic freaks (most people aren't 7 feet tall, folks!) in basketball; and when is someone going to bring up the size of American football players, especially fullbacks?  Surfers are too cool dude; and you can't even see hockey players...

But baseball players and boxers are right out there, for us all to see.  And both boxing and baseball movies and novels tend to focus on individual heroism and/or failure.  Both sports allow an individual to take center stage, to let us get to know them, and then watch them sink or swim.  We can make emotional connections. And they can be made into allegories that almost everyone can relate to.

Or at least that's my theory.  Meanwhile, I've got to get out to the ballpark!