Amid all that boring talk about loaded hockey expansion rules or even chatter of whether Cinderella has relocated to the desert, the incredible current run of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights has taught us a couple of unmissable lessons.
Las Vegas needs more sports. And sports, most definitely, needs more Vegas.
A lot more. As in, any excuse to get Sin City onto the sporting calendar should be seized quicker than a pile of blackjack chips pushed your way when the dealer miscounted.
America’s naughtiest playground already had virtually everything needed to make it the ideal host for athletic events of grand significance. Boxing figured that out long ago. The Ultimate Fighting Championship built an entire brand around it.
The same criteria apply to why it is the most popular spot in America for bachelor and bachelorette parties. Fine weather, constant entertainment, great food, tons of hotel rooms and that special dose of cheekiness that makes you feel like you must be a somewhat interesting person just by being here.
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What it also has that might have been missing previously has been provided by those eminently loveable Golden Knights, the best expansion team in professional sports history.
Thanks to the miracle men of the ice, ultimate proof exists now that Vegas is a sports town. Outside T-Mobile Arena on Monday night, thousands of fans thronged the adjacent public space to celebrate the team ahead of its Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.
Many of them didn’t have tickets, and all were clad in some version of gold and black. When it was all said and done, the party went on long into the night — on a Monday, not that anyone was paying much attention to the specifics of the clock or calendar.
“Sports is part of the fabric of the city now,” local business owner and Golden Knights fan Steve Garland told USA TODAY Sports. “It is part of the Vegas identity, and it’s happened quickly.”
The Oakland Raiders, due to move here within the next two years, must be licking their lips.
The way such things go dictates that it won’t be long before Vegas gets to host a Super Bowl. San Francisco, Minneapolis and Atlanta were all granted staging rights within short order after building new venues. Although the Super Bowl cycle is now set until 2024, expect Vegas to be added after that.
But why stop there, especially with a football-sized stadium now coming into play?
The Final Four is a no-brainer, as well as plenty more creative options. The NBA might even be persuaded to bring back its All-Star Game, with 11 years having passed since an infamous weekend in which NFL player Adam “Pacman” Jones struck a bouncer with shots fired outside a nightclub.
Sports Illustrated put forward a concept last week for the NBA Finals to be staged at a single site to avoid the kind of one-sided home blowouts that have been a theme of recent playoff series, most particularly this year.
Great idea, and an easy choice: Vegas. Nowhere else has the right mix of capacity plus a something-for-everyone activity list.
London newspaper the Daily Mail is leading a swell of British opinion suggesting that the English Premier League should introduce a playoff to decide its final Champions League place — and that the series should take place overseas.
Vegas, put your hand up. A huge chunk of Vegas’ visitors travel from abroad, and the EPL’s global appeal would ensure a mass of fans. Plus, a whole lot of fun.
Vegas puts the show into business and the business into showbiz. Never have the lines between sports and entertainment been more blurred, and Vegas treads that boundary expertly. The pageantry that greeted the start of Game 1 on Monday was a prime example.
Ahead of the puck drop, the pregame extravaganza was lavish, spectacular, over the top and an instant hit. It was a Camelot-style production, complete with knights in full regalia descending from the ceiling, a sword battle, pyrotechnics, and then — because why not? — Michael Buffer’s stirring tones introducing the teams like prizefighters.
Anywhere else it might have seemed gaudy. Here it was utterly appropriate.
Vegas, in truth, is neither fantasy nor reality, it is where people come to find a rose-tinted version of themselves. And that’s what the biggest of occasions are in relation to the sports we love, and why it is time to double down on Sin City