Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The view from Vegas

A five-day romp through Las Vegas typically provides enough insanity, surrealism and psychotic episodes.

But, upon my return to New York civilization Monday morning, I learned that Las Vegas may have just been the most down-to-earth, expect-the-expected place in America last week.

Scanning the newspapers from the past week, I saw that Vince Carter became a New Jersey Net, Randy Johnson is on the precipice of pinstripes, Eli Manning played very well against the Steelers, St. John's men's basketball won a game and Chad Pennington now hates the media.

What the f-bomb is going on? Maybe the more than 1,000 hands of blackjack among more accents than 1908 Ellis Island fried my brain more than I thought. Or maybe the spate of Long Island Iced Teas ("Hey, I drink regionally," I told the cocktail waitress at The Mirage) at the Baccarat Bar inside the Bellagio with Artist in Italy but not tonight friend Jenny warped more brain cells than the surgeon general's warning cared to let on.

Did I really read the headlines properly? Pennington, after his best game of the season, in a must-win situation, shunned the media. Then Monday afternoon, he went off again. (Note: I planned to watch the news conference on ESPN's Monday Quarterback but passed out on my couch shortly before 2 p.m. after a sleepless red-eye flight.)

What is going on in New York? Such madness should be reserved for sitting in the sports book and watching Detroit shank the extra point, shank the tie and shank your chance at a hefty payout on your four-team parlay. Such madness should be reserved for watching dealers routinely pull nine-card 21s against a pair of kings. Of course, these are just hypothetical samples.

Pennington has always been painted as the nice guy in town, the guy that represents what sports used to be. A family man who speaks of the team more than himself and answers every question in a respectful manner and never gets arrested for drugs, public urination or solicitation of whores.

That's why this all seemed so strange to read Monday morning. I put the papers away and went to bed. I was afraid to pick up the entertainment section for fear I'd read something that said rap music is becoming a talented genre like we haven't seen since 1992. The main news section could have said Iraqi elections will go smoothly and the Bernard Kerik scandal was all an elaborate ruse. I simply couldn't handle such a Bizarro World in my weakened condition.

Guess it's time to check flights, job openings and real estate deals in Vegas. Seems that's the calmest, sanest place.