overthinking the idiot box

October 17, 2005

Everything you ever wanted to know about sports on TV.

At The Buzzer
The Correct Way to Watch College Football:
At A Sportsbook in Vegas

by Alan Bloom

There is a magical place of sight and sound where each Saturday in autumn, college football is all over a bazillion mega-big screens: Vegas, baby. A high-end sportsbook on the strip, baby! And the action is fast and furious. Baby.
Friends, Trojans, Irishmen, and college football nuts in general, lend me your eyes and football-loving-hearts for a few minutes while I share with you the minutes of my Saturday afternoon. Sure, Saturday means college football is all over the TV. But! There is a magical place of sight and sound where each Saturday in autumn, college football is all over a bazillion mega-big screens: Vegas, baby. A high-end sportsbook on the strip, baby! And the action is fast and furious. Baby. It's a life-altering experience.

Before I continue with, you know, anything, I just want to let you, the discerning, intelligent, and no doubt incredibly beautiful reader, know that I just arrived in my Los Angeles abode about an hour ago. I'm completely fried, running on precious little sleep and the drive from Las Vegas — a brisk four hours — is a fairly uneventful one. Also, I don't drink coffee, so just be aware that the synapses charging my brain right now are the fumes of several dozen red bull and vodkas. Why am I telling you this? Well, there's bound to be some scatter-brained recollection herein and, of course, the weekend was euphoric to say the least. It's the comedown that's a killer. Trojans and Irishmen? Are you still there? Here we go.

It's 12:30 on Saturday afternoon and some friends and I have just finished off some much needed lunch (food of any sort would've sufficed) from a Canter's Deli located in the hotel Treasure Island. Why Treasure Island? Well, that's where we were staying. You'll find that during daylight hours in Vegas, convenience will rule the day.

Regardless, our eatery was located right next to the hotel's sportsbook. We're all familiar with that term, yes? C'mon. A sports gambler's paradise, the sportsbook displays odds and lines on all the sporting events of the day. Football season is when Vegas is considered "in season," and the betting taking place on the games is a big reason why. Gamblers love to watch their investments and so the sportsbook invariably will provide television coverage of their game or horse race (closed circuit television) if available. Anyway, after there is some food in our bellies, we very nearly literally roll into the book at TI to watch a promising afternoon of college football, anchored by what ultimately turned into an instant classic: USC vs. Notre Dame.

The big board has USC listed as an eleven and a half point favorite. Far too generous. I would've taken action on the Irish in a second, but alas, we stumbled in just as the game was kicking off. Betting window: closed. Still, this is the must-see game of the year and we're going to watch it with so many fellow degenerates in an almost stadium-like atmosphere. Now, the choicest sportsbooks, for my money, reside at the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace. But again, as it is so easy to just stumble downstairs and plop yourself in a chair, we're at Treasure Island, whose facility is not too shabby at all. I'd even go so far as to call it, "solid."

You've arrived, College Football Fan. This is where you were meant to watch the games.
As it is just after lunchtime, seating is not ample, so I find myself in the very front row, which puts a crick in your neck worse than any movie theater could. But eventually, as seats freed up behind us due to comers and goers placing their bets or being distracted by slot machines, my friends and I find ourselves situated perfectly in the third row. Above us are six super-gionormous screens showing six different games. Below those six screens are three smaller screens airing three additional games. I say thank you, Football Gods, thank you College Gameday Pay Per View package, and thank you Las Vegas. This is what the male Vegas party-monster does with his Saturday afternoon. All around us there are hoots and hollers from chronic gamblers, eccentric fans, and hoarse patrons dealing with hangovers and everyone is cheering for a different team. You've arrived, College Football Fan. This is where you were meant to watch the games. Among our posse were fans of USC and Michigan who was battling unbeaten Penn State. Along with those two, we were provided with feeds from Colorado vs. Texas, Louisville vs. West Virginia, Florida vs. LSU, and the game three of the baseball National League Championship Series between St. Louis and Houston. But the game taking precedence was USC/Notre Dame and, thusly, it was the game that featured audio.

Fast forward to the second half and we've already seen some improbable finishes and surprising comebacks from the morning set of games. Wisconsin capitalizing on Minnesota's mistakes, Boston College charging back late to beat Wake Forest, and the SC/Irish clash is a good one to say the least. Notre Dame actually leads by a touchdown and all the gamblers who put money on them to at least lose by less than twelve are wringing their hands with delight. I'm incredibly jealous of them. Everyone is looking up at the big board of odds, their appetites tickled by the 21-14 halftime score, to speculate on what would make for a good three team parlay during the late afternoon games. There is a fever spreading over this crowd and the only cure is more football. What's remarkable about the viewing is that despite people's attention being split nine different ways, everybody is able to key in the big plays in each game. For example, one right after the other, I saw LSU throw an interception, Notre Dame return a kick for a touchdown, and Penn State score a two-point conversion on a botched extra point attempt. Madness! Sensory overload!

We press on. The woman next to me pouts as time runs out on Florida against, while the guy right behind me (Who had to be a 28 pack-a-day smoker. I overheard him talking about his staff infection while he was violently hacking up his lungs) jumps up and down like a madman and sprints around the sportsbook when an LSU player intercepts a pass and returns it for a touchdown. The score would've meant that LSU covered their six point spread. Sadly for Mr. 28-Pack, the score was disallowed. He loses. There's a loud cheer in the back as some Astros fans celebrate taking a 2-1 lead in the NLCS. West Virginia was getting blown out by Louisville, but suddenly, they forced the game into overtime (WV won). Shame that it didn't seem like anybody was following that one. Inexplicably, a couple Colorado fans erupted into cheers when their team scored. They must not have been aware that their team was losing 42-10 late in the fourth quarter. As these sets of games are winding down, another — UCLA vs. Washington State — is just starting. Some of my buddies took UCLA as one third of their parlays and were cursing an early 21-0 deficit. But here's where the day gets really fun and when this rambling garble of words rounds the bend in search of a conclusion.

Allegiances are split four different ways in two tight games. It appears as though Penn State, due to a late game surge will remain undefeated, but Michigan, down 25-21, rallies. It's down to the last play of the game. Michigan has to score a touchdown or they lose. The snap... the pass... crowd explodes! Touchdown! My friends and I lose our heads and the celebration is tentatively on. I say tentative because USC is in serious danger of being knocked off their lofty perch as #1 team in the country. Notre Dame is moving the ball at will and have taken a 31-28 lead with roughly a minute to play. USC has the ball, but they're deep in their own territory and it's 4th down and long. But thanks to a miraculous turn of events which you can read about here, my buddies and I were jumping around, arm-in-arm, screaming, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" Of course, the 1951 baseball season had nothing to do with the game, but it is an inkling as to how happy we were. You won't ever find another place where a giddy USC fan will gladly cash in on Notre Dame's victory against the spread.

Then came the evening and much debauchery.

The end.

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