I love the show "Family Guy" and I'm guessing a lot of you do too, and if you do, well, there's a great bit they once did called "Mexico!"
You can watch the video here, but basically the whole thing centers around a couple of girls planning a trip to Mexico. Every conversation they have before, during or after the trip ends with them screaming "Mexico" at the top of their lungs.
Guys do the same thing whenever we're planning a trip to Vegas. Every sentence we say, every thought we have in the weeks leading up to the trip all centers around one thing, and that's "Vegas!" There's no emotion quite like it, because ultimately what better place on the planet is there for a group of guys to take a vacation, then a spot where gambling is legal, bars are open 24 hours a day, and the "entertainment" options are endless (and in case my girlfriend is reading, when I say "entertainment," I am of course talking about "attending a David Copperfield show." That guy really is spectacular!).
As great as Vegas is, it's even better the week of a big boxing match. It's something I've always wanted to do, and when the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight was announced a few months back, I knew it was something I had to go to. Vegas this past weekend was where I had to be. Even when horror stories came out last week about hotel prices surging, traffic congestion mounting, and a slew of slightly questionable people set to descend on the city, it only made me want to go more.
Vegas! And boxing! And danger! Where the heck else would I want to be? And now that I'm back alive, I figured I'd tell you a little bit about it.
This isn't the story of a reporter going to Vegas to cover the fight, someone with a press pass or even some easy hook-up to tickets to the fight. Again, this weekend I was just one of the guys, on vacation with my buddy. And what I can tell you is that fight night in Vegas is something every guy should experience with his friends.
Here's everything you need to know about the Pacquaio-Mayweather weekend.
How bad was getting into town?
Vegas is normally a short, four-hour drive from where I live in California, but all week long, all anyone talked about was how bad traffic would be. A normal commute would take 8-10 hours, they said. Pedestrians were getting stranded on the side of the road, they said. Cops were everywhere, and pulling people over like it was the Fourth of July weekend they said.
That's what they said, anyway. Fortunately, my buddy and I experienced none of that.
In life you make your own luck, and rather than risk hitting insufferable traffic, we decided to leave California right around five o'clock in the morning. Sure it was an early wake-up call, but we didn't mind, because, well...Vegas!
Furthermore, it just added to the ultimate guy's experience, a road trip, where we were able to quiz each other with some of life's most important, philosophical questions like, "Which casino are we going to make our first wager at?" "Think we'll be able to sneak into a pool party?" and "what's the name of that horse that everyone likes to win the Kentucky Derby again? American Idol?" The trip also allowed us to catch up, and learn all sorts of fun things about each other, like when my buddy broke the news to me: "Dude, I'm on a wild hot streak betting baseball this spring."
Normally I'd judge him because honestly, who bets baseball? But at the same time.... Vegas! I even showed him a little bit of support once we got there, by throwing down money on the Astros at 80-1 to win the World Series.
That's just what friends do for each other, after all.
What was the scene once you got into town?
After we got into town, our attention immediately turned to quickly showering, throwing on comfortable clothes, and hitting the strip for the morning and early afternoon. I tossed on a nice orange t-shirt and some board shorts, in anticipation that we were going to find a way into a pool at some point, while my buddy threw on a bright yellow Hawaiian shirt... which I immediately made him change. After all, we were on vacation in Vegas, not at Marcus Mariota's NFL Draft party. And besides, we had to figure out a way to get tickets to the fight. And who the heck gives away tickets to the "Fight of the Century" to some dude in a lame ass Hawaiian shirt?
No one does. That's who.
Either way, we eventually made our way to the MGM, deciding that's where the action was. After all, if we were going to try and figure out a way to score tickets to the fight, passes to a cool party or something like that, we might as well go to the place where all the high rollers were, right?
It was probably right around noon by then, I can't remember (we may have had a drink or six to loosen up before leaving the hotel), but either way, once we got to the MGM, there was definitely a buzz to the building. Honestly, the place felt like the waiting room at a hospital, only with way more alcohol and beautiful women. It wasn't as morose, but it still did have the same feel. Everyone was pacing around, anxious, knowing something big was about to happen, unable to harness in all their pent up energy.
It really was a surreal experience, and also led to a pretty cool conversation between my friend and me, when I mentioned that we were sitting in a building that was literally the most important place in the world that day. There was nowhere else on the planet that most people would rather be that evening.
Ok dude, enough of the mushy stuff. Did you see any celebrities?
The short answer was yes, and that was one of the cooler things about the entire experience: You just never knew who you might run into.
Look, the simple truth is that working in sports, I'm around athletes --- and famous ones --- quite a bit. That's not bragging, that's just part of my job, and at this point in life, it doesn't really faze me to see famous people.
At least until I was in Vegas, turned the corner and, all of a sudden... oh my God, is that Allen Iverson playing roulette?!?!?
Yes, it is Allen Iverson playing roulette! How cool is that?
Besides Iverson, the only other "celebrity" that I saw walking around was a pretty prominent college football coach who I won't name here, because I know he didn't want it to be public knowledge that he was in town for the fight.
How do I know that for sure? Because for a brief moment I made eye contact with him, and considered going up and introducing myself (although I've interviewed a lot of folks in college football for work, I've never spoken with this particular coach). However, as soon as I began to make the move, he gave me one of those looks that only a football coach can give, that basically said to me: "Look, I know you know who I am. But if you even think about taking one step over here, I'll have you doing up-downs so fast, your head will spin."
College football coaches really are the best, aren't they? And in the end, I did decide to respect the coach's wishes. After all, he was just like me: A random guy in Vegas, on a getaway with his buddies in Vegas for a big fight.
I can respect that.
And besides, it would've been awkward to be forced to do up-downs in the middle of a casino lobby.
One more thought on celebrities:
This really doesn't have much to do with anything, but I found it so interesting, I figured I'd share it here.
As I mentioned, I've spent a fair amount of time around celebrities (I'm not bragging, it's just part of my job) but what I'd never taken the time to consider is that there are different levels of "celebrity," almost like a caste system amongst famous people. Before Saturday I kind of lumped them all together; you were either famous or not, you were either recognizable at first glance or you weren't.
Yeah, that's not true at all.
Take Allen Iverson for example.
Sure he was in the open playing roulette, but at the same time, that poor guy drew a crowd everywhere he went. When me and my buddy turned the corner and saw him, there were people lined up 10 deep to take pictures of him. When we walked back a half hour later, some of the same people were still there... again, to watch him play roulette.
To quote, well...Allen Iverson, "We're talking about roulette here. Not a (basketball) game. We're talking roulette." Yet the way people were acting, you'd think they were watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Now contrast that with the coach, who went virtually unrecognized amongst the crowd of people. Sure he was a little bit more low-key, but I promise you that in the college football world, this guy is a big deal. BIG deal. I'm talking "I make millions of dollars a year, coach in a prominent conference, and do all my recruiting from a private plane" kind of big deal. Yet he barely stood out in the crowd.
And that's when I realized in my foggy haze of Coronas and store bought rum, "Wow, this guy may be famous in my world, but in the bigger picture, he's really not that big of a deal at all."
Ok, enough celebrity stuff. Did you actually score tickets to the fight?
The short answer is no, which also leads to my single biggest regret of the entire weekend. Possibly of my entire life.
So again, the whole point of going to the MGM in the first place was to get into the proximity of potential tickets to the fight. After all, it's more likely something good is going to happen if you spend the afternoon at the site of the fight, rather than at Senor Frogs off the strip.
Either way, we ended up at the MGM and sat down at a bar, where I immediately hit it off with this guy next to me (I have a girlfriend now, but even in my younger days, I always had much better success getting middle aged men to talk to me at the bar than women my age. It really is a gift).
Anyway, we're sitting there talking, BS'ing like any two guys would, when all of a sudden he drops a random bomb on me: Oh, by the way, he is related to Floyd Mayweather's personal attorney. Not only is he going to the fight, but he got a ticket for free.
Yeah, you can imagine my reaction.You know how people call things "jaw dropping moments?" Well my jaw literally dropped when I heard that.
After I was finished wiping up my drool, I immediately fanned myself and turned up the charm like 200 percent. This guy was my meal ticket, my way into the fight, and I was basically asking him any question I could think of to get him to like me. "No, tell me more about your kids," I said. "You did what on your bachelor party back in 1978? No way! And you didn't end up jail? You're the man!" At this point, I'm really schmoozing this guy, and as best I can tell, he really likes me. Within a few minutes he even offers to buy me a beer.
"I'm in!" I said to myself.
No, no I wasn't.
That's because just when the conversation hit its peak, when he's loving me, and offering to name his first born grandchild after me, he just gets up and says, "Ok, I gotta run. Nice meeting you." No further good bye. No awkward, ass-out, man hug. No chance for me to get his number and sit ringside along with him, then party with Floyd after the fight. Nothing other than sheer and utter sadness.
Just like that, in the blink of an eye, my best chance to get into the fight was gone. And nearly 72 hours later, I still haven't recovered from it. I'm not sure if I ever will.
So we know you didn't get into the fight? Where did you watch?
After the devastation of the early afternoon, I recovered just in time to make an unsuccessful Kentucky Derby bet (my uncle convinced me "Dortmund" was the choice) before my buddy and I headed back to the room to recover before the fight. Sometimes you've just got to quit while you're behind, right?
Eventually we did make it back out, and caught the fight in one of those overpriced, closed circuit viewing parties. I won't waste your time talking about the fight itself since most of you saw it and had the same reaction that I did. I thought Floyd would win, but I did think Manny would be a bit more competitive. That shoulder injury he was hiding probably does help explain some things.
Anyway what was most interesting to me wasn't the viewing party itself, but instead, what was going on in the casinos during the fight. Right before the opening bell I decided to quickly venture out to see what the mood was like outside the viewing party, and what I saw stunned me....Vegas...was...completely....dead. The whole city had turned into a ghost town; casino employees didn't know what to do with themselves, bartenders were sitting there twittling their thumbs, full bachelorette parties wandered around aimlessly, wondering where the guys were, and why they weren't talking to them.
I've been to Vegas now about seven or eight times in my life and have seen a lot of things in my time there.
I've never seen anything quite like that though.
What about the scene after the fight?
If it was dead during the fight, it was pure pandemonium after. In the same way that it was completely still and silent just moments before, once the fight was done, people flooded out of the closed circuit viewing room, like children sprinting out of school on the last day of the spring. The second the fight was done, everyone had somewhere to be: alcohol to drink, clubs to stand in line for, money to lose at the tables. Everybody was in a hurry to be....somewhere.
Eventually we made our way back to the MGM, since again that's where the action was. And because cab lines were insanely long --- we heard one to two hours minimum --- we decided to walk.
We were watching the fight at Mandalay Bay, and do you have any idea where Mandalay Bay is on the strip? I'd describe its location as "somewhere between Caesar's Palace and Detroit," a spot that might as well have been on the other side of the moon.
No sane human would've decided to walk anywhere from there. Even Bear Grylls would've waited in line for a cab.
Well not us!
Fueled by nothing short of sheer stupidity, we made the walk, which actually allowed us to take in the city --- and strip --- post-fight, and people were everywhere. Again I've been to Vegas a bunch, and never seen the strip anywhere close to that busy. Everywhere you went, everywhere you turned, there were people. It was elbow-to-elbow, shoulder-to-shoulder pretty much the entire night. The place was so packed, that at one point I stopped at a store and tried to buy a bottle of water. After standing in line for 15 minutes, I discovered that they were completely sold out. And that was at like 10 p.m.
From there, the rest of the night is a little bit of a blur, with two pretty big exceptions:
1. One, when we eventually did make it to a bar at the MGM it was insanely packed. Like "I can't even move," packed. Like so packed that my buddy and I waited for 20 minutes for a drink, and when we didn't get one, the girls in front of us felt bad and tried to help. And even they couldn't get a drink. When beautiful women in short skirts can't get alcohol, you know things are crazy.
2. Speaking of the short skirts, the fashion decisions that night were interesting to say the least. I'd say that my buddy and I were by no means "under dressed" but at the same time, the evening's dress code was mostly comprised of guys wearing sunglasses indoors and jewelry that cost more than the Gross Domestic Product of Kenya and women wearing skirts that would have given their grandmothers a heart attack.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the next time I go to Vegas, I've got to step my apparel game up. And I definitely need to buy a nicer pair of sunglasses.
Speaking of apparel...
If there was one thing that shocked me, it was the disparity between the number of Mayweather and Pacquiao fans who were in town for the fight. I've heard for years that Pacquiao's fans travel in droves, that he's seen as somewhat of a God in his homeland of the Philippines, but this weekend, I'm guessing that Vegas was filled with 90 percent Mayweather fans.
How do I know this? Well, Mayweather has his own "The Money Team" line of clothing, and that stuff was everywhere. They sold it at virtually every store on the strip, and everyone --- men, women, young, old, black and white --- was wearing it.
It was like Floyd Mayweather's own little army, and led me to one of the cooler realizations I had all weekend: No matter what you think of Mayweather --- and those opinions have already been well-documented --- it was pretty surreal to think that the whole city of Las Vegas basically centered around him at that exact moment, that everyone was there, and that the city was basically shut down because of one person. And not only were they there to see him, not only had they spent hundreds of dollars to come out, buy a hotel, get food and booze, buy tickets to watch the fight, but now they were buying his gear too.
And really, I've got to ask: Is there anything quite like that in sports? Maybe Tiger Woods back in the day at the Masters, but that's about it. I've been to big sporting events before, but never one that centered almost entirely around one person. This wasn't like Alabama fans wearing Crimson gear to a big bowl game, or Patriots fans rocking jerseys at the Super Bowl. Those are teams, or institutions, you're attending the event for the name on the front of the shirt, not the back.
But this? This was about one man. And whether you loved Floyd Mayweather or you hated him, you were in fact here to see him.
Three quick final anecdotes from the weekend:
1. My friends tell me I have a gift for gab, and as I said, I have a knack for striking up conversations with random dudes.
I'm sitting at a bar, when I start talking to this dude and I mention, "Yeah, I work in sports." His response? "I love sports, man. I actually served jail time with Michael Vick."
Wait, what? Who says that? Even if it's true --- which it had to be, why would you lie about that? --- that's not something you'd necessarily share with someone, especially someone you've just met, at a random bar, when cops are literally stationed like five feet away.
After briefly considering running for my life, I decided to stay and chat with him a little. Turned out he was a really good guy. Unfortunately, I didn't get any interesting Michael Vick stories.
2. The sad thing is, that wasn't even the best sports conversation I had this weekend. Instead that came on Sunday night, after another long night, when I was at a bar, and me and this guy got into an argument....about whether or not Diana Taurasi is the best women's basketball player of all-time.
Yes, that actually happened, and yes, I'm the first guy in the history of the world to ever get into an argument with another guy over women's basketball.
Despite the sheer insanity of that conversation, I will defend myself for two reasons: For starters, I went to UConn, meaning that I've seen pretty much every relevant women's basketball player of the last 20 years. I know a good basketball player when I see one.
And two, I'm right. Taurasi is the best ever. It's not even close.
3. As I wrap up this article, all I can say is that I absolutely, positively cannot recommend going to Vegas for a fight weekend enough. As I mentioned at the top, it's the perfect guys' trip, the perfect chance to get away, blow off some steam, and have some fun, with sports and Vegas as the backdrop to do it.
In my life, I've been to Final Fours, BCS National Championship games, other big bowl games, NASCAR races, basically all the major "event" sports. And I can honestly say that there is nothing quite like Vegas for a big boxing match.