Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Las Vegas is the kind of city where you feel like brushing your teeth more often than usual. The casinos leave a film over you like the tar on a cigarette, and by the time your trip is done you're moving and thinking slower because of it. When I returned Monday night, I couldn't wash it off me. Only today have I begun to smell less and less like Her alleyways and more like myself.
I returned and the first person I saw was my roommate Michael Whitaker, coach of CU's Kali, and a favorite to win the tournament and the national title. He asked me how my weekend had gone and how I'd liked Vegas. I lurched towards him hollow eyed, grabbed him by the collar and gurgled at him, "Don't take them Whit! Don't do it! They will die!"
I had stared at the belly of the beast, felt its stomach acid and returned to warn the world. Las Vegas, college edition, is going to end in ruin and woe.
As I conversed with Whit and other players from teams around the country, one thing became clear: no one has any fucking clue how crazy it's going to get. They are all in denial. Most of those players are on teams looking to win the tournament outright, but they're fighting a losing battle. Trying not to party is like walking around all day with a midget around your neck, easy at first but before midday, the weight will pull you down.
And those are the teams trying to win. There are 64 men's teams in attendance. Of those, at most 20 really believe they can win. By Sunday, only 8 will still believe. That means there are at least 44 other men's teams, milling around after games, with only one thing on their mind: the rabid submittal to their vices and passions.
Skip! As I type this right now I am awestruck by your sheer arrogance! You are sending dozens of college kids to their deaths and you know it!
I tried to talk Whit out of it, but was met with mild amusement and a raised brow. "Don't worry Hector. I'm going to keep my girls nice and safe all weekend."
Fool. His feelings of smug assurance bordering on hubris are probably echoed by other coaches and captains on attending teams. Their desire to win a national title at all costs will make them zealot Ahabs willing to risk the lives of their players in their quest for their white whale. Don't go!
Vegas is a drug, overpowering, arrogant and seductive. It's human to succumb, to falter, to sway a measure in the city's rhythm and get lost. These are college kids, players with tickets for the day after, or the luxury of having a team that doesn't give a shit about results. This is pawned textbooks, made-up college expenses for daddy, sold iBook for another chance at greatness in the Roulette wheel. This is underage drinking and walks down casino hallways and street sidewalks where you're offered anything from opium to sex to religious salvation. These are kids who last partied hard the night of Prom. This is Trouble.
I came away with a nicked dignity, a lighter frame, and twenty in cash. On my team I was one of the lucky ones. As much as the memories will never be forgotten we all walked away as if we'd lost something, the city had pick-pocketed and fondled us as we were looking. The college kids will come back from their three day affair and it'll be, "show me on the doll where She touched you."
Between visits to the Bellagio water show and their hotel rooms it will happen. The air will get in their lungs and they will taste some of the city's offerings, becoming modern-day Persephones amidst the barren decadence the city offers. From there the tumble is mercifully swift, and a few short hours later they feel strangely calm despite the two grand they just dropped in craps. Western Union standing by to serve you.
Don't go! As Admiral Ackbar famously said, "It's a trap!" We all as elder ultimate players bear a burden to protect the younger ones when we can. Those players in attendance at Club Trouble have no excuses. We know what will happen. We witnessed. Having survived the weekend and kissed my front lawn because of it, I ask those in charge of college teams not to go. You will be implicit in their deaths! Felony records don't stay in Vegas. Neither do VD's. I doubt everyone that needs to will stash the body in a place where it's unlikely to be found.
To the first and probably last Trouble in Vegas College, to the death of Ultimate's innocence, akin to the Stone's Altamont concert, akin to the Kent State shootings, akin to the Catholics' retaking of Moorish Spain - to the end of an era - I toast.
There's trouble brewing.