I’ve been in Las Vegas for four days. It feels like a lot more. It’s freezing in Sam Boyd Stadium. Like everybody else, I spend the entire game shivering, trying futilely to warm my hands with a cup of hot chocolate. I’m wearing two layers, completely unprepared for the 30-degree weather. We’re sitting in the first row behind the UCLA sidelines; the crowd half empty – perhaps unwilling to brave the elements, perhaps struck by apathy with this UCLA – Wyoming matchup. I don’t blame them. The Bruins lose the game, and the Cowboy fans rush onto the field. Dejected, we head back to the car, and I call it a night as soon as we get back to the hotel. I’m beat.
There’s under a minute left to go in the fourth. The good guys, on the short end of the 17-16 score, spend their second time-out. With the stoppage, my friends and I shift from our perch next to the VIP box seats (notice “next to,” not “in”) and make the long trek down the bleachers. I get a glimpse of a big catch and run by the tight end. We’re definitely in field goal position. Chip shot, really. We’re in the second row now. 3 ticks left, and the final timeout is taken. The UCLA kicker – who had innocuously drilled 52 and 50-yard kicks earlier – trots out for the win. Packed to the brim, the crowd is electric. I’m ready to storm the field. I feel my hands getting a bit cold (anticipation? anxiety? weather?); I stick them back in my pockets. I’m wearing five layers, two pairs of pants and socks, and a beanie. Other than my toes, I’m pretty comfy.
The kick is up, but something looks off. It’s incredibly wobbly. Short and to the left. Later, the announcer will tell us it was blocked. For now, it’s just deflating. Our half of the crowd is absolutely stunned. I kind of just stand there, staring… and it doesn’t really hit me until I see people start to vault the bleachers and get onto the field. It’s the worst case scenario, naturally. BYU wins, but they don’t cover the spread. I guess I deserve it for betting against my own alma mater, but my reservoir of school pride runs about as deep as my love of college football. I’m just here for the atmosphere, for something to do, for the hell of it. And so, even though I hesitate for a moment (and it takes Maany, who’s actually genuinely-dejected, being a good sport about it), I climb over the barrier and rush the field as well. I pat a downtrodden Bruin as he walks off the field, then mug for a local station as they interview another. I’m doing everything short of chanting “B-Y-U!” I should probably be embarrassed, but it’s pretty awesome.
We end up spending all of 20 total hours in Vegas, two or three of which are in the car going from the Strip to the stadium and vice versa. I break even, playing roulette for the first time in my life. I have the biggest portion of Chicken Parmesan ever served in the history of mankind. I stay up until 3 am pulling slots. I strain my neck checking out the plethora of low-cut dresses and cleaned-up females that flood the Venetian. And once again, I fail to win any of my sports bets.* Some things never change. Vegas, baby.
*Even with my affinity for 3-team parlays taken into account, I still think it’s ridiculous that I’m now 0 for 10 lifetime in sports bets.