Excerpt from “Tales”

An excerpt from my book:

 Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan who’s seen all!

 

Angel in the desert

(77) Wyoming at (78) Nevada-Las Vegas

November 2, 2002

UNLV-WYO

Las Vegas, Nevada – St. Laurie and I had never visited Las Vegas, but we always wanted to. Checking out possible games to see in 2002, I said, “Honey, I’ve got enough frequent flyer miles saved up and can get a good deal on a hotel. My mother can come and watch the kids. Why don’t we plan a long weekend in Vegas?”

“Why, so we can see a football game?” Ah, she knows me so well! But she had always wanted to go to Vegas, so she was willing to tolerate a few hours of my favorite pastime in order to hit “The Strip.” With Wyoming in town to play UNLV, I could kill two teams with one ticket though I didn’t buy any in advance.

My research indicated we wouldn’t need a rental car. We arrived at the Holiday Inn within a short distance of The Strip on Friday night. The hotel offered limo service to and from the airport. UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium wasn’t far from where we stayed—or so I thought. I also found public bus transportation could take us close by the stadium—again, so I thought. On Friday night, we hit The Strip. We went to Caesar’s Palace where I could play a few college tickets using my “expertise.” We felt excited to be here. Game time was 5 p.m. on Saturday, so we did more touring and a little bit of gambling the next morning. In the afternoon, we ate dinner early at a steak place near a bus stop on the way out to Sam Boyd Stadium.

We caught the public transit bus. By my calculations from the Vegas map in my road atlas, I was sure where we could get off to walk a short distance. I pointed out the Thurgood Avenue sign to the bus driver to be sure it led to Sam Boyd. She looked at me and just nodded. Things were going good. We’d have plenty of time to get there to buy tickets, have a few beers, and settle into our seats. We started to walk down Thurgood with housing developments of fairly new concrete homes on both sides surrounded by concrete walls. The road turned. No stadium came into sight, but it couldn’t be that far. It must be behind one of these developments, I thought. Ahead of us lay an expanse of homes and buildings set in a valley. Where the heck was this stadium?

Eventually, a gray-haired resident came through the entrance of one of the concrete complexes and walked toward us. I asked him if he knew where the heck Sam Boyd Stadium was. He turned and pointed out to the distant valley ahead of us.

“You see that bright red building right in the middle there? That’s Sam Boyd Stadium.” He had to be kidding! It had to be five miles away. It didn’t look that far in the atlas. Maybe I got off the bus at the wrong street, or maybe I didn’t realize that the map of Nevada wasn’t the same scale as smallish New Jersey. The scale must have been off! I thought it would be much closer. St. Laurie smirked, sighed, and shook her head. She already complained her feet were starting to hurt. I tried to figure out if I could bend my own rules to be sure this game would count if I didn’t end up there until the second quarter. We tramped on. Not only was I not going to hear the end of this, no way we were going to get there on time for the opening kickoff on foot! I picked up the pace with my saintly wife trailing behind. Time and pride were now on the line. Unexpectedly, a white mini-van, or I should say a white knight, pulled up from behind heading in our direction. A dark-haired, mustachioed guy hollered at us from the shoulder on the opposite side of the street. “Hey, you need tickets for the game?” I couldn’t believe it! This was some kind of positive sign that someone upstairs wanted me to accomplish this Goal. St. Laurie must have said a prayer, and God sent us an angel! On a more worldly level, my professional, negotiating skills kicked in right away.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” I said. “You give us a ride to the stadium and I’ll buy your tickets at face value.”

“Get in!” We climbed in. St. Laurie sat in the back next to the baby in the seat. He said, “My wife couldn’t make it! Only five miles away, but I have to watch the kids so I can’t go to the game. They’re good seats in the end zone right behind the goal post. It’s a good stadium to watch a game in.” If this wasn’t divine intervention, I didn’t know what was. I couldn’t thank this guy enough. We bought the tickets, and he dropped us off at the main gate. We walked through the parking lot and to our seats. The teams ran onto the field as we sat. St. Laurie’s feet didn’t hurt anymore. I saved some face, got good seats, had a great story to tell, and the two teams could officially count toward The Goal. It couldn’t get any better than this. Of course, it could turn out to be a great ball game, but that would be asking for too much. At this point, who cared? I was saved!

As for the game, it was an offensive showcase. UNLV led 35-21 . . . at the half. In the third, Wyoming put up the only seven on the board to trail 35-28 heading into the final period. UNLV scored again to go up by fourteen. Wyoming made it closer in the fourth quarter (and it was getting downright cold . . . isn’t this the desert?) retaliating with a TD, but missed the extra point. With 2:27 left in the game from their fourteen, Wyoming took over again.  During the drive, QB Corey Bramlett converted a pass on fourth and five from his own 33 into a first down with a 14-yard completion to Dustin Pleasant.  With no time left on the clock, Bramlett connected with Scottie Vines in the end zone below us to close the score, 42-40. And yes, with a little Vegas luck, Bramlett ran it in for the two-point conversion. Overtime! Jackpot!

Even St. Laurie commented, “This is really a great game! It was worth the trip!” Two miracles in one night were just totally beyond my comprehension. On top of this, I was cold. I couldn’t imagine how she tolerated the declining temperatures.

Wyoming got the ball first in OT and chose to play on our end of Sam Boyd. They scored on a run on the fourth play. This could have been the ultimate game if not for the next play. Freshman Scott Parker missed the extra point – wide left! On the Rebel’s first offensive play, Jason Thompson passed to FB Steve Costa for a 25-yard TD. Dillon Pieffer did not miss the extra point for UNLV. The Rebels triumphed in a game that even thrilled St. Laurie, 49-48!

Extra Point: We saw two teams with losing records (UNLV 4-5, Wyoming 2-7) each play in their most exciting game of the season. Of course after the game, it was now dark and cold. We had no idea how we were going to get back to our hotel. No buses could be found. Walking was out of the question. A limo driver approached us. For $75, he would take us back. Seventy-five bucks? I hesitated and thought to check other options, but with St. Laurie’s immediate blessing, it was a good deal. After the ordeal to get to the game, we couldn’t believe how quickly he got us back. It was the best $75 we spent all weekend. However, I’ll never forget the time the Angel in the Desert rescued me from several fatal blows—missing a game and lifelong humiliation! Moreover, I knew now that someone watching over me wanted me to get this done even more than St. Laurie did!

 

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