Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. [Proprietor note: First Monday post won't come until the afternoon].
When I stepped off the plane in Las Vegas, I heard other people saying, "Vegas, Baby, Vegas!" They had been programmed to say this by movies and television, where Las Vegas is portrayed as the world center of excitement and debauchery of all stripes, as a place where people come to ride dinosaurs while discharging rifles and drinking from open chalices of molten lava. Or whatever.
I can't say that I had a clear picture in my head of what Vegas would be like, a confusion that was doubled by the fact that the Las Vegas airport is completely anonymous, like the Denver airport with a few rows of slot machines.
There are things that are allowed in Las Vegas that are not allowed anywhere else, like smoking lavishly indoors, or carrying a drink wherever you go. (In this way, it's a little like being at a convention of alcoholics in about 1989.) Vegas also has sports betting, something that is banned across the United States, and is the worldwide leader in "enormous hotels that look like other places, as long as you have a very bad imagination about what other places look like." But other than those slight differences, it looks surpassingly like Tucson - same desert climate, same acres of abandoned lots and disused asphalt, same general gripping fear of being stabbed no matter where you go.
The truth is that Vegas - like everywhere else - is defined by how you act while you're there, not by the place itself. And it's true that more than most cities, it's designed for you to act like an idiot; it may be the best place in the world to get drunk and lose a lot of money, with the possible exception of western Minnesota farm auctions in the summertime, and then you at least usually have an inoperable decades-old combine or two to show for your big day out. It's exciting because people are conditioned to do exciting things while they're there, not because the town demands that you re-enact things from "The Hangover."
So let me tell you about my first-ever trip to Vegas. I won three dollars fifty-five cents from a Star Wars slot machine that I couldn't begin to understand; I saw one of my friends win over two thousand dollars at blackjack; I won thirty-five dollars betting on a NASCAR race; and I got a big cut on my shin from diving into a moving limousine at an In-N-Out Burger. Some of these things I could have done in Minneapolis, and some of them I couldn't. But I probably wouldn't have done any of them here, and I suppose that this is the magic that Las Vegas provides.
On with the links:
*I really enjoyed Matt Kallman's story of his grandfather's career in the early days of pro basketball, which is a great look into how things were back in the old days.
*Spencer Hall may be the only writer in the world that could imagine Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning in the year 2028 and come up with this: the latter fighting with an A/V system and the former living in the woods and named The Pancake Man.
*Military terms are used far too often in football, but SB Nation's Matt Ufford - a former Marine - knows that in Junior Seau's case, at least one comparison may be an apt one.
*I really enjoyed Amy K. Nelson's featurette on former Royals star, current Royals coach, and convicted drug abuser Willie Mays Aikens. It's over ten minutes long - that's 37 hours, translated into internet terms - but I recommend it anyway.
*And finally: Bulls fans have have figured out exactly how to feel.