What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. If that were true, I certainly wouldn’t be writing this blog—would I? I’m here in Sin City primarily to report on the CBS Sports Classic UK versus UNC basketball showdown, but I hope to get in a little pre-Christmas rest and relaxation along the way too. Accompanying me on this adventure are my brother Michael, the renowned sports photographer, his wife Michelle and friend Natalie. We’re all part of the blue mist enveloping this city of “lost wages,” just a foursome of Kentucky country bumpkins mesmerized by the lure of our basketball Wildcats in the bright neon lights of the Nevada desert.
I’ve always been fascinated by the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, but I’m just not quite sure why. I don’t enjoy gambling away my hard-earned money and wouldn’t know how to go about it if I wanted. I’ve never played blackjack, shot craps or spun a roulette wheel. The closest I’ve gotten to playing cards are Go Fish or Old Maid. In my entire lifetime, I’ve put in less than a dozen quarters in the one arm bandits.
Big name shows, concert performances and hot shot celebrities aren’t my cup of tea either. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and the rest of the Rat Pack? They were before my time. Tark the Shark? Sorry, he coached the wrong team, and he’s dead. Wayne Newton? I think he’s still alive, but I’ve never seen him perform.
I’m not much into the party or club scene either. Perhaps I’ll have a sip of red wine with a good steak or down a cold beer every decade or so, but I’m certainly no liquor connoisseur. I wouldn’t know the difference between Dom Perignon or Pabst Blue Ribbon. I may have a few dance moves left in me, but they’re as old as my polyester disco outfits. You might say that at my stage in life, I’m the most uninteresting guy on the face of the earth. No Dos Equis for me.
I don’t like crowds of people either, although I do enjoy people watching—and Vegas affords plenty of opportunities for that. It’s amusing to observe others in a totally relaxed environment–away from the rigors and stresses of their dead-end jobs, unburdened and unencumbered by life’s worries–making total fools of themselves in front of people they don’t care about and probably won’t ever see again.
I do also like gaudy hotels and hokey amusements, and Vegas provides plenty of each. The Strip is like a Disneyland of deluxe accommodations. Being in The Venetian is just like going to Venice—only closer and cleaner. You don’t have to speak Italian either and most of the people there take showers regularly. Why fork out a boatload of cash to visit the Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt when the Hotel Luxor is just down the street? You don’t even need a passport and chances of encountering Jihad are slim. Of course, we’re staying at the luxurious establishment with the very best attraction of all. It’s the Aria—the team hotel to our very own University of Kentucky Wildcats. I love waking up to the smell of De’Aaron Fox’s sneakers in the morning.
I also like to eat, and Vegas is a virtual smorgasbord of both fine dining and bargain buffets. Back in my younger days, I could out eat most people twice my size. I remember camping out at the buffet at the Bellagio for two or three hours endlessly sampling the ethnic fare from all the different food stations. It was heavenly and disgusting at the same time, but those days are behind me. Now both my palate and wallet have matriculated to cuisine from chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Scott Conant, and Bobby Flay—my food network heroes turned Vegas superstars. Ironically, now that I supposedly have the means, I’ll pay more to eat less. It’s the quality, not the quantity, right? I hate to say it, but sometimes it’s still the quantity and there’s plenty of quantity in Vegas.
I guess Vegas is just special because it’s so unique. We all want what we can’t have and a lot of what we can’t have in our humdrum lives can be found in Las Vegas—at least for a day or two. There’s a distinct energy, a unique buzz, a certain palpable pulse radiating from its inner core like a wayward heartbeat in search of the human soul. I’ve seen it before in places like New York, or Bangkok, or Hong Kong, or Sydney. It’s no surprise that I’m enamored with all those cities too. I’m still not quite sure what the allure is, but I know it when I feel it and I’m beginning to feel it now. I’ll try to describe it to you the best way I can. Stay tuned.