Swings And Misses

Fear And Softball In Las Vegas.

By Tom Danehy

LAST WEEK I went to Las Vegas, the Other City That Doesn't Sleep. And the reason it doesn't is that the entire place is under construction. Heck, I was walking around, stopped to rest for a moment and they built a casino around me. My friend Ray says that even the hookers are under renovation.

I was in Vegas on parental bidness, trying to keep up with my pledge to see every game my kids play. It's only been broken once, when the two of them had games in different cities. This time it was Darlene's high-school softball team in Vegas for a spring-break tournament.

Danehy The drive to Vegas is an unnerving mix of long stretches where you can go 75, and a bunch of places between Wickenberg and Kingmam where you have to come to a complete halt because of construction. There's even a place where they have a sign warning dickhead yuppie scum to turn off their cell phones lest they prematurely detonate the dynamite the blasting crew is using.

What a hardship! They might actually have to put two hands on the wheel while driving over twisting mountain roads at excessive speeds. That could damage the phone, which apparently has been surgically attached to their left hand.

During the trip, RVs moved ahead of mean people and Danielle Steel novels on my Top 10 List of Things I Hate. Those things are a blight on modern society. The drive to Vegas takes seven hours, three of which involve following RVs through Hoover Dam.

Hey, I know Bob Beaudry uses some of the profits from selling those monstrosities to fight the good fight on CAP water, but that's still doesn't explain their existance. They're slow, wind-blown, and they take up a lot of space on the road. If my Baby Boom generation starts buying those things, we'll achieve total nationwide gridlock by the year 2007.

Yo, Old Folks, if you wanna go someplace, rent a Chevy and stay at Motel 6 like the rest of us. We'll leave the light on for ya.

Mark Twain once said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Apparently, he never spent spring in Las Vegas. The weather was brutal. Temperatures in the 40s, freezing rain in the face, wind in the 50s, wind chill in the 20s, and dust in...every exposed pore and orifice.

By the time the second game of the doubleheader was over, the six of us who remained stuck to the bleachers looked like that scene from Dumb and Dumber where they rode that moped into Aspen with frozen snot trails on their faces. When we finally made it to the car, it wouldn't start because I had been using the key to scrape the dirt off my teeth. So in order to get it to fit into the ignition, I had to use my teeth to scrape the dirt off the key.

The tournament included about a dozen teams from Vegas, another dozen from California, and Amphi. In one game, Amphi led 1-0 the whole way, then gave up the tying run with two outs in the seventh. But instead of going extra innings, the game ended in a tie and, for seeding purposes, the other team was declared the winner because they'd scored last. Great criteria. Why not go by the color of the jerseys or astrological signs?

But of all the surreal moments (and there were many) in the Great Frozen North Softball Invitational, one stands out: Amphi had the bases loaded and the Panther hitter ripped the ball up the middle for what should have been an inside-the-park home run. But the Eldorado High shortstop dove full out, parallel to the ground, and knocked the ball down. She then scrambled to her feet and threw home. It was one of the greatest plays I've ever seen.

Unfortunately for her, the catcher couldn't hold onto the throw as the Amphi runner slid safely into home. The Eldorado fans along the first-base line couldn't see that the throw had been dropped, so they all started booing. Meanwhile, the Amphi fans and players were all cheering the shortstop's play. Very strange.

After the games were played, we were all able to walk around town for a while. I don't gamble, mostly because I have an understanding of mathematics. It's like this friend I have who's a bouncer at a peep-show place. He says he has to quit because he's afraid what effect seeing all those naked women all the time will have on him. Sometimes he sees a naked woman and thinks, "Wow, she'd probably look great in a sweater."

There weren't as many Japanese tourists in Vegas this year. I guess that economic downturn over there must be really severe. Either that or they were all still at the Grand Canyon. I went around taking pictures of my kids with Japanese tourists in the background; that way we could prove we were really in Las Vegas.

Having been in most of the major cities in the U.S., I can state clearly that the taxi drivers in Las Vegas are far and away the worst in the country. Palestinians on a suicide mission probably drive more carefully. Plus, Nevada apparently has a law which says that at least one car (and most often 10 or so) must run each and every red light. And boy, do those people obey that particular law.

What's really surprising is the population growth. Reports say that Vegas will be home to more than a million people in just a few years. Except for the garish Strip, it looks like every other Western boomtown with leapfrogging subdivisions everywhere. But they have a problem. Part of the city abuts an Indian reservation (sound familiar?), and growth in the other directions is going to bump into government land. Land speculators are having a field day.

They're thinking of asking the government to free up some of its land for homes to be built. Yeah, I can see it now. Area 51 Acres. Or maybe they could build on the bomb-test sites. Forty-Thousand Year Half-Life Estates.

Amphi might play in the same tourney next April. I'm saving up for a hooded parka. And we might fly there. But with our luck, by then they'll probably have flying RVs, like in Spaceballs. TW

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