Question #1:Should ex-convicts be forced to answer questions about their criminal backgrounds when seeking employment?
Question #2:Do prospective employers have a right to know about the criminal history of applicants?
These two questions present an obvious contradiction. You either support an applicant’s right to privacy. Or, you support the employer’s right to know who they’re hiring. You can’t be in favor of both.
Legislation which would prohibit asking questions about criminal histories has been proposed in several states, including here in Nevada. What’s known as the “Ban the Box” law means making it illegal to ask questions about criminal history on employment applications. Some of these proposed bans apply only to government-related employment, including states and localities. Other bans are far more comprehensive and would impact employers hiring workers in both the public and private sectors.
Compelling arguments can be made on both sides of this debate. That’s what makes this controversial issue so problematic. There are no easy answers.
See if you agree:
THE CASE FOR “BAN THE BOX”
“Ban the Box” supporters point out that ex-convicts have paid their debts to society. They shouldn’t be stigmatized by prior criminal history, which (when disclosed) makes it far more difficult for them to re-enter society as working citizens.
Fact is, ex-convicts face paralyzing levels of discrimination in virtually all areas of daily life — including housing, finance, child custody, and even in developing personal relationships. This is especially true for employment, as well, which is often the most important single factor in determining what happens to ex-convicts after they’re released.
Consider the following: When two applicants are up for the same job, and one is an ex-convict, the applicant with the clean criminal record is almost certain to get selected. Repeated failure and disappointment at securing steady work means ex-convicts have far fewer options to make a decent living. Hence, some of them return to their old ways and go back to a life of crime. That’s not good for them. It’s also not good for society.
We should all try to empathize with ex-convicts who honestly want to turn their lives around. I think they deserve our support. They face enough obstacles already during various stages of rehabilitation without the added hardship of not being able to get a good job.
The consequences of discrimination against ex-convicts isn’t just personal. Society, at large, is also adversely effected. If employers screen out ex-convicts based on their pasts, this creates a large group of both unemployed and under-employed, especially among younger men. Since the United States imprisons far more of its citizens than any nation in the world (many for abstruse drug offenses), the numbers here are quite significant, even reaching into the millions. It’s also one of many contributing factors towards inner-city squalor and decay, with a devastating impact on minority communities which already suffer disproportional levels of discrimination.
Of course, “Ban the Box” laws will not solve all the problems that ex-convicts face, nor magically the lift the poorest communities out of poverty. However, this law would help quite a large number of people, many with good intentions who desperately want to turn their lives around and become a productive part of society.
Everyone who applies for a job deserves a fair chance.
THE CASE AGAINST “BAN THE BOX”
Employers have rights, too. Employers are entitled to know exactly who they’re hiring, especially for jobs involving trust and public safety. Ex-convicts have already demonstrated some degree of personal failure when it comes to issues of trust and public safety. Prospective employers are entitled to know about those deficiencies.
Opponents of “Ban the Box” laws point out that workplaces are not cross-cultural laboratories for social experimentation. Employers shouldn’t be forced to take all the risks, nor bear the occasional burden of an ex-criminal who continues committing illegal acts after serving time and being released back into society.
Indeed, if the actions of an ex-convict who committed a terrible crime in the past aren’t known to the employer in advance, there’s a chance that person might do bad things that will harm the company and endanger other employees.
“Ban the Box” laws don’t necessarily restrict hiring practices. Some ex-convicts who apply for jobs might make such a positive impression that they get hired anyway, and eventually become outstanding employees and good citizens. However, employers should be able ask questions related to criminal records in advance and conduct background checks to find out this information.
There are already plenty of laws on the books which prohibit many types of discrimination in employment based on age, race, and gender. Most agree that those are rights which should be protected. Government has an obligation to make ensure to the best of its ability that all citizens receive fair employment opportunities.
However, once someone commits a crime and gets convicted in a court of law, the same rights to privacy should not apply equally to everyone. Citizens with clean criminal records are entitled to the presumed advantages of good behavior in future employment over ex-convicts who have made bad decisions in the past.
Employers have a right to know who they may be hiring.
So, what’s your opinion? Should we support “Ban the Box” laws which make it easier for ex-cons to fit back into society? Or, should employers be allowed to ask questions about the past criminal convictions of applicants?
If you were a state legislator, how would you vote?
Permit me to offer the following opinions:
(1) The notion of restricting access to information is very troublesome. Prohibiting what seems to be perfectly normal questions about an applicant’s background contradicts the fundamentals of honesty and transparency. However….
(2) Society would be much better off with “Ban the Box” laws. Many ex-convicts who otherwise would be summarily rejected for employment would enjoy far greater opportunities. Accordingly we would all benefit from ex-convicts returning productively to the workforce, since there’s less a chance for recidivism. That means less crime, less strain on the overworked judicial system, less prisons, and better workers. It also means more opportunities for ex-convicts living in inner cities, resulting in some measure of economic growth and greater family cohesion.
(3) The chances of “Ban the Box” legislation passing in many states is slim to none. Elected officials don’t want look “soft on crime.” Hence, such laws present a political conundrum. Many elected officials who oppose government intrusion on business and who also fear repercussions at the ballot box, might agree in private that the positives of “Ban the Box” laws outweigh the bad. However nowadays, political courage is exceedingly rare.
Writer’s Note: This is PART 4 in my ongoing series, “Gambling For a Living.” What follows is a partial recollection of my sports betting escapades over the course of 2016. For other chapters, please read PART 1, PART 2, and PART 3.
Sunlight sanitizes the dim hue of gambling daily.
All the time wasted and ultimately lost — days, nights, weeks, weekdays, and weekends — prodding often so pointlessly and more often still so profitlessly — crunching ideas, testing theories, reading injury reports on squeaky laptops and cracked smartphone screens — eyes darting back and forth between ball scores — the “previous” button battered on the remote control beyond recognition — my solitary self-made man-cave begins narrowing slowly. Life becomes absorbed within this timeless vacuum, sucking all the life and energy out of everything else that’s happening in the vast beyond, to which one becomes oblivious and indifferent.
Winning or losing has no impact on this dark place.
There’s a reason why convicts shackled up in solitary confinement are given at least an hour of daily sunshine. Twenty-three hours spent locked within an isolation chamber of unbreakable steel walls are at least temporarily forgotten when the warmth of the sun’s rays hit the face and sink into the body. This stimulant along with human contact keeps a prisoner from going mad.
The sun is my salvation.
* * * * *
108 degrees today in Las Vegas. Kick-off in five minutes.
Five months of full-time sports betting has provided me with a modest profit, and much to my surprise, almost narcissistic personal satisfaction. It’s ridiculous, because I could have spent all those hours doing something not just constructive, but likely more financial rewards. But there’s something inherently pleasing, even smug worthy, about doong what few people can and beating something that few people have mastered.
Sure, almost all sports gamblers talk a good game. Ask any sports gambler is he’s a winner and damn near 100 percent will say yes. Indeed, they might look successful. But virtually all heavy sports bettors have reliable sources of outside income that help to cast the illusion of success. Beating the vig in the long run is far more difficult than people realize.
I have no other outside sources of income, and so I was sort of forced into this role. The bills are due. The mortgage needs to be paid. Oh, and one of my cars has 130,000 miles on it and the engine is starting to make funny sounds.
C’mon Los Angeles Rams! Daddy doesn’t need a new pair of shoes! He needs a new timing chain!
My $7,000 wager on this “meaningless” preseason football game promises to set the tone for the entire 2016 NFL season. Worst-case scenario — it’s gonna’ be brutally tough to dig myself out of a $7,000 hole, that is, if I lose this bet. The way things have been going, that’s about two months worth of what I’ve managed to make so far, while doing this full time, and that was mostly on baseball, which will end soon. I’d have to pick fourteen $500 winners per game down the road just to get back to even (actually, more than that, with the vig). To put that into perspective, only 80 or so entrants out of 1,727 — which is less than 5 percent of the field — who entered last year’s NFL Handicapping Contest at the Westgate (what used to be the Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest) finished fourteen games above .500 or greater, for the entire season.
But if I manage to win, that’s a strong head start and a nice financial cushion to invest in the upcoming football season, given my average bet size usually ranges between $300 and $500. The bottom line is — this isn’t merely a $7,000 game for me, which would still be a lot. It’s really a $10,800 game, since that’s the full amounts of the financial swing.
Indeed, this is money that means something. They say you never know the real value of money until you don’t have any. This will sound strange to non-gamblers, but every serious sports bettor will understand it. I’ve wagered $5,000 on ball games dozens of times over the years, even on teams where I couldn’t name a single player. Once, I bet $39,000 on a Super Bowl game [READ THAT STORY HERE]. Still, there’s no correlation between the size of a bet and the pressure to win it. Most of the time when I’ve bet big in the past, I had enough money to cover the loss, and then some. Notice I said, most of the time.
Fact is, this is a bet I really cannot afford to lose. I need the Los Angeles Rams to win the game. That’s it. No point spread. Rams on the money line, laying no points. Just win baby.
This is the first NFL game played in Los Angeles since before the turn of the century. Although it’s just a preseason game, 92,000 fans still pack the L.A. Coliseum to welcome the Rams back to Southern California (just three months later, they’ll be calling for the coach’s head to be fired, and they get their wish). Based on the win-loss records from the previous season, the 7-9 Rams should be able to easily handle the 4-12 Cowboys, especially with the extra motivation of wanting to start off the new era in Los Angeles with a big win for the hometown fans.
Dallas should mail it in. The veteran starter, Tony Romo is out. He’s not even suiting up to play. The second-string quarterback got injured in training camp. Some kid that no one has ever heard of who was drafted in the middle of the fourth round is starting for the Cowboys. His name is Dak Prescott.
The game begins, and meanwhile — I’m outside sunning by the pool doing my best to magically make a fresh bottle of Santa Christina Umbria disappear, preferably before halftime, after which I’ll crack open a bottle of Blac d’ Blanc Champagne from Schramsberg. All this is evidenced by the photo above.
I’m not even going to bother watching this game, I tell myself. Why should I? I refuse to waste a gorgeous Las Vegas afternoon in front of the television. I’ll be doing plenty of that during the rest of the season. My money should win. Let it do the work for me. Let my money make me money. It’s just like stocks, I tell myself. Like a mutual fund. Hmm, should I go cash my ticket that going to be worth $10,800 later tonight, or wait until tomorrow? Such are the difficult decisions of the overconfident.
* * * * *
My laptop is out by the pool. The game kicked off just a few moments ago. I want to make sure I’ve got a good connection, so I hit the refresh button while linked to ESPN. My first look at the scoreboard….
With 14:43 left in the first quarter, it’s Dallas 7, Los Angeles 0.
What the fuck!
How the shit did Dallas score in the first 17 seconds?
Motivated by panic, my curiosity piqued, I slam the refresh button again and see that the Cowboys have run back the opening kickoff 101 yards and scored a touchdown.
I’m about to throw up my last gulp of Santa Christina.
Alright. Calm the fuck down. It’s just one touchdown. Some dude who’s about to be cut from the team blew a tackling assignment. Big deal. It happens. The Rams should still be in control of the game.
Next series, Rams go 4 downs and out. Punt. Dallas ball.
Rookie Dak Prescott takes the field for the first time in a Cowboy uniform. He looks like Roger Staubach winning the Heisman Trophy at Navy and dashes Dallas on a 85-yard drive that looks to be pristine perfection.
Dallas 14, Los Angeles 0.
I’m swimming and cursing at the same time. If the neighbors didn’t already think I’m half crazy, they’ve got plenty of new material to ponder. I refuse to let this gambling abomination ruin my day. No. No. No. No. No. Let the game play out and quit obsessing over every play of every drive, I tell myself.
About 40 more minutes pass. Unable to accept the serenity and remain calm, the laptop opens up again and now it’s Dallas 14, Los Angeles 7.
That’s better. Now, I’ve got a chance. I’m back in the game.
Another 40 minutes or so passes. It must be halftime, by now, I suspect.
ESPN on the screen. Half time score: Dallas 24, Los Angeles 7.
* * * * *
I tend to be pretty good at the things I’m interested in.
If I’m not interested, or worse — bored with it — I’m the laziest motherfucker on the planet. [Consider that one reason it took me a month to get back to writing this story.]
Lots of people don’t know this but my work did have a significant impact on NFL betting about 15 years ago. Allow me to tell you that story. Since it’s halftime, this makes for perfect timing.
Just before I moved to Las Vegas from Washington, DC, I spent that last summer in the nation’s capital outdoors in the sun, reading and calculating and pouring over old box scores of ball games dating back nearly 20 years. Each and every day, my routine was pretty much the same. I went outside, dug into the numbers, made my notes, and eventually came up with gambling fucking gold. It was the equivalent of discovering hidden treasure.
I have to share some of the credit here. A handicapper and researcher named Mike Garbowski (whom I’ve never met) had been the first writer ever to take on the unchartered topic of football halftime betting. Sometime around 1999, he published an obscure data set in a booklet which included all the NFL halftime betting lines and results dating back to the season when they first became available, sometime back in the 1980s. I don’t even think that data is around anymore. If there’s a copy of “NFL Second-Half Betting” around somewhere, I still have not seen it since my old copy became so worn out it is no longer legible. [Note: I think that’s the title of the book. I’m not sure. It’s been many years since I’ve seen a copy.]
Thing was, Garbowski didn’t do much in terms of creating a narrative with all his data. He didn’t market the research, at all. So, I spent the next three months scouring his numbers and then crosschecked them with as many NFL game results as I could find from the Internet. The longer I worked, the more excited I became. After a few weeks of doing this, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next day, go outside, and spend the entire day data mining NFL box scores. I know, that doesn’t sound like much of a life. I guess — it isn’t. But in the faux-laboratory of the mind of an NFL handicapper, this became an obsession.
The work wasn’t easy. For every nugget of gold I found, probably 30 or so theories turned out to be false leads pointing to fool’s gold. That’s the excruciating toil of data mining, the labor that no one sees. It’s spending half a day or longer than that on something that looks very promising dating back a few seasons, and then when you continue to run the numbers with all the crosschecking, eventually the advantages fizzle out and end up at the same random percentages as coin flipping. That’s why it’s called mining. You have to go deep underground, dig through an incalculable amount worthless rock, and if you’re extraordinarily persistent and then lucky, you might just find a few tiny diamonds amidst the coal. Data mining is an exercise in constant frustration and disappointment, not to be attempted by anyone but the most determined and stubborn.
My research finally led to 7 NFL Halftime Betting Angles that were irrefutably successful, and ended up altering the second-half lines of pro football games. Seriously, the actually stared shifting the lines because of this research, I first published my data in 2001 online at MadJack Sports (with proper attribution given to Mr. Garbowski, of course), and afterward everyone pretty much stole our data, re-posted it elsewhere at other sports betting forums, and the gold rush was on like has never been the case in NFL second-half wagering.
Incredibly, those NFL Halftime Betting Angles produced a whopping 65 percent winners during the full 2001 season. My systems produced an average of 3 to 4 plays per week. There was no handicapping involved, whatsoever. You just bet them blind, and won. It was that simple. A monkey could make the plays and win. It was a dream come true.
Making a really long story much shorter than it really deserves to be (note to self — do the detailed write up someone later, especially on the dead-end angles), those angles made me some money, but they didn’t make me rich. I had no full-time job for about a year (similar to my experience now), so I relied on those wagers to keep me going. Thank goodness for offshore sports books, which was my only betting option in those days.
The following season, in 2002, I moved to Las Vegas. The angles performed even better, winning at nearly 67 percent. In 2003, Dave Tuley published my angles in the Daily Racing Form, even though the subject matter of the periodical was horse racing. I published a revised editions of my angles in 2003 in Casino Player magazine. In other words, I updated some angles, and dropped a few based on results. This was before software packages ran the data, and even that wasn’t very good since quarters and halves aren’t usually broken down with numbers and percentages — so all the work had to be done the old fashioned way, by making your eyeballs bleed pouring over the data. By 2005, I was attending sports handicapping seminars in Las Vegas and the “experts” sitting up on the stage were quoting my work (and Garbowski’s work), citing our betting angles, and I pretty much just sat there stewing like a pressure cooker with a thumb up my ass, silent like a bitter victim who watched as everyone else ran away with the prize.
Fuck me. I never should have published those angles. I should have kept them to myself.
I coulda’ been a contender.
Addendum to this story: Two things happened — (1) Lines makers began adjusting lines to the angles, and they became less reliable. (2) The NFL became more of a passing game and rules were changed which helped offenses, negating some of the “under” betting systems I had created. Closing advice — don’t bother with the angles anymore. They’re now totally obsolete.
* * * * *
No, I didn’t tell that last story with any purpose in mind. It just seemed like a good time.
No, I did not make a halftime wager on this game. I’m already down y 17 points. It looks like I’m about to lose more than enough money on this day and the first thing you must when you’re stuck in a hole is to stop digging.
Second half kickoff. Dallas 24, Los Angeles 7.
Under these circumstances, I now have to go back into the house and watch my action.
Fuck the sun.
Fuck the pool.
The champagne is still sitting the fridge.
Marieta senses that something is very wrong.
I’m miserable as all fuck.
The second half of the first preseason opener is usually a romper room of ineptitude. Players who have no shot of ever playing in the NFL are now out on the field, trying desperately to make an impression somewhere on someone just enough to get noticed so he might later get signed to a minimal contract to play on the practice squad. Many preseason second halves are nothing more than scrimmages — training exercises where the coaches just go through the motions, sending in dull plays that would only interest some talent scout from the former XFL.
For this reason, being stuck 17 points in a preseason NFL game is like being down 30 points in a regular season game. It means your double fucked.
My five-figure wager is now riding on the arm of a new quarterback for the Rams named Sean Mannion, who used to play for the Oregon State Beavers. I had to look that up just now, because I could not even remember his name or anything about him. But over the next 90 minutes or so, he’s going to turn into the second coming of Jesus Fucking Christ.
Mannion throws a touchdown pass in the middle of the third quarter, and after three frames, it’s Dallas 24, Los Angeles 14. Still down by 10 points. C’mon, you bastards!
By this time, Dallas has replaced Dak Prescott, who played like an All-Pro in his first-ever NFL start. That stellar display foreshadowed the incredible rookie season he would later enjoy with the Cowboys as he led them to the NFL East title. Done for the day, now a fourth-stringer takes all the snaps, and it’s apparent the Cowboys aren’t really interested much in scoring in more points or risking injuries to anyone who might make the team. They won the half that counted on the scoreboard, from both a coaching and talent perspective.
Fortunately for me, the Rams fourth stringers are treating this game like a Super Bowl. Los Angeles manages to score another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and now it’s Dallas 24, Los Angeles 21.
I’m pacing back and forth in front of the television like a wild mare. Rams players who drop passes get called out as cocksuckers. Cowboy receivers who drop passes get called out as heroes.
Down to the two-minute warning. Rams have the ball, and are driving. 92,000 fans are on their feet, and while most of the television viewers watching wouldn’t normally think this is a big dive, for me this might as well be Elway piercing through the Browns defense in the epic ’87 AFC Championship game.
With about 1:30 left on the clock and the Rams with no time outs, it’s 4th down. Crunch time. Rams ball. They’re on about the Dallas 35. I’m mulling over the possibility of kicking a 52-yard field goal, and ponder if that’s what I went to happen. But Rams’ had coach Jeff Fisher isn’t playing for the tie here. He wants to win. I desperately need a first down. Then, I need another 30 yards in the closing minute.
On fourth down, Mannion takes the snap and goes back to pass, then looks to his right, and nothing is there, so then he looks to his left. A pass rush floods into the backfield and just as Mannion is about eat the ball and go down with a sack, meaning “game over,” he sees a running back trekking out towards the sidelines, fires a missile that hits the receiver high in the shoulder pads, and he collapses with the ball out of bounds, but a half yard across the first-down marker.
First down Rams!
A few plays later, the Rams are down on the Dallas 9-yard line. A few seconds remaining. If I lose this game after storming back against the odds, something’s going to get broken. I don’t like breaking furniture. Marieta really hates it when I do that. Please, o’ please let the Rams score.
Mannion goes back to pass……Aaron Green slants off darting towards the left post in the corner of the end zone…..his arm moves forward……ball is in the air…..Green makes the catch…..
With the extra point, Los Angeles 28, Dallas 24. Final score.
Sean Mannion, my hero. Congratulations, Sir! You made the blog!
Time to cash a $10,800 ticket.
Coming Up: I’ll be writing a lot more about “data mining” in my next chapter of “Gambling for a Living.”
The “Vegas Golden Knights” will join the National Hockey League as an expansion franchise. The first puck drops during the 2017-18 season, about eight months from now.
As a transplanted Las Vegan (15 years here, and counting) and a dedicated sports fan, this is exciting news. Aside from gambling, I’m a big believer in professional sports as a conduit of unity. When managed well and integrated smartly into urban landscapes, sports teams can be a wonderful force to enliven the spirit of communities. Sports brings people together.
Unfortunately, the first major decision made by this new franchise was a colossal mistake. Cringe worthy, even.
New team owner Bill Foley decided to call his franchise the “Vegas Golden Knights.” Not the Las Vegas Golden Knights, mind you — which would have been only half as bad. Just plain old “Vegas,” like the hopelessly dated television show back during the disco era, starring feather-haired Dan Tanna. V-E-G-A-S, baby. That name is about as thrilling as a brown leisure suit with a pair of bell bottoms.
When asked to explain why he insists on calling his new team “Vegas” for short, Foley’s reply was jaw-dropping.
“People that live here call themselves Vegas,” Foley said at a press conference held last November when the official team name was first announced. ” ‘Where you from? Vegas.’ They don’t say ‘Las Vegas.”
Um, yes we do. We say Las Vegas.
Given my own experience, combined with lots of travel over the past ten years, I’ve come into direct contact with as many people who actually live in Las Vegas as anyone who’s engaged in a public role. I also encounter hundreds of visitors from other places who come to Las Vegas. By an overwhelming margin, those of us who live here consistently refer to our city as “LAS VEGAS.”
Want know who refers to us simply as “Vegas?” Here’s your answer: Tourists. Punks who get off discounted flights at McCarran with $1,500 in their pocket along with a can’t-lose craps system. Pretenders. Suckers about to get fleeced. Guys (and girls) who act like they fit into the local scene, but who wouldn’t know the Golden Knights from the Golden Nugget, or even the Golden Coral. Oh, and Bill Foley too, who reportedly lives full-time — not here in Las Vegas — but in that hockey haven Jacksonville, Florida but still insists he knows how we all talk out here.
Look at it this way. No one would dare call an NHL team the York Rangers, or the Jose Sharks, or the Angeles Kings. So, why would we allow our city’s name to be lacerated? Try calling the major league baseball team based in Northern California the “Frisco Giants,” and see the response you’d get from the locals.
As bad as that decision was to downsize our city’s proper name, the team nickname is even worse. Question — what’s the first thing you think of that’s associated with Las Vegas? Obviously, the correct answer is casinos and gambling. We could have been called the “Aces.” In an online poll, 42 percent of those who responded favored the name “Aces” — which was double the popularity of any other nickname. Another option would have been to select an animal native to this region, which is quite common with many sports franchises.
Aside from Aces, the ideal animal team name would have been the Las Vegas Scorpions. That name is perfect. First, the creature is native to our area. Second, the scorpion is an aggressive and masculine predator, quite fitting for a feisty hockey team. And, the tail of the scorpion is an artist’s dream-come-true from a logo and marketing standpoint. Who doesn’t see a hockey stick within the long tail of a scorpion ready to fire off a slap shot? One can see the future dream headline now: “Scorpions Sting Penguins and Win Stanley Cup”
So, what was Foley’s reaction to “Scorpions” when it was proposed?
“A lot of people like Scorpions, but the scorpion is a defensive animal,” Foley said last year. “We’re not going to be defensive. So I didn’t want that.”
Scorpion….a defensive animal?
So please tell us, what in the hell is a golden knight? A guy wearing a face guard standing and guarding a castle surrounded by a moat — sounds like a defensive posture to me. Bobby Orr must be rolling his eyes somewhere.
Call me cynical, but the name that was ultimately selected sounds awfully close to “Black Knight Financial Services,” the private company of which Foley is the proud Chairman and CEO. Gee, isn’t that grand? Dishing out the team name to a corporation based 2,500 miles away that has no connection whatsoever to Las Vegas or its citizens, unless Foley’s company just so happens to be gobbling up properties at a foreclosure. Sorry if I don’t get all excited about a team name that seems so dubiously linked to the owner’s mortgage and real estate company.
Oh, and then there’s the subjugation of Nevada to California. Since they’ll play within the same conference, a natural rivalry is likely to develop between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The trouble is — aren’t knights under the command of kings? Another thing — isn’t Nevada the SILVER state? What’s California? Oh, that’s right — the GOLDEN state.
This team name makes no sense at all.
Of course, no one should be surprised by this. Bonehead owners are to professional sports what peanut butter is to jelly. One naturally attracts the other. Unfortunately in professional sports — stubborn ownership, gross mismanagement, and indifference to fans’ expectations portends both on- and off-the-ice disaster.
Let’s hope this doesn’t happen with the NHL’s new franchise, which will play all of its home games here in LAS Vegas.
Move aside, “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.” When it comes to the worst team name in all of professional sports, you’ve now moved one spot up from the bottom.
Note 1: The NHL team changed their official name to the Anaheim Ducks in 2006.
Note 2: Foley reportedly wanted to name his team the “Black Knights,” after his Alma mater, Army (West Point). However, there were copyright concerns. However, explanation exists that I’ve seen that accounts for Las Vegas usurping the team nickname of the University of Central Florida, which has been Knights and Golden Knights.
In case you didn’t hear the big news earlier this week — the old miser dropped out of the stadium deal. That places the NFL’s Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas move in serious jeopardy.
So, what’s next?
Sheldon Adelson, the cantankerous fat cat who supposedly pledged $650 million from his vast fortune estimated at worth more than $32 billion — for him, what amounts to an old set of golf clubs sitting out in the garage — backed out of an agreement with Raiders’ owner Mark Davis and the City of Las Vegas, the third partner in the complicated business deal. Adelson’s involvement (actually, his money — nobody really cared much if he showed at the meetings) was essential to the construction of a new stadium, expected to be built near The Strip and could have been ready just in time for kickoff for the 2020 NFL regular season. Adelson’s role in the agreement was like the rich family uncle who everyone despises. But you don’t want to piss him off because there might be something in the will, later on. Without a new stadium, which required Uncle Adelson’s money to build, the Raiders deal was, and remains, dead.
Adelson cutting and running when his help (money) was needed most reveals a pettiness not even his most vocal critics would have expected. To be clear, Adelson’s financial contribution could have been a remarkable testament to his appreciation to this city and its people. For many, even his detractors, it might have transformed his spotty reputation from a casino mogul and political reactionary who’s not particularly well-liked by many in this community into something of a local civic hero. Yet, when time came to buy into the game and write out the marker, Adelson scootered away from the table faster than a busted gambler at one of his craps tables.
Now, the partnership is $650 million short. More pressing, the clock on the stadium deal is ticking and could go kaput, as early at March 1st. Somebody needs to step in and reach deep into their pockets — and fast. Reportedly, the MGM-Grand folks were open to stepping in and riding to the rescue as our savior. However, negotiations quickly collapsed. Unless David Copperfield can magically make a half a billion in cash appear, that deal’s not happening. Other powerful casino interests could be interested. But the last time anyone checked, Caesars Entertainment had $17.43 in the bank.
What’s puzzling to me is — why do football stadiums cost so much goddamned money? Does Las Vegas — or any other city where are schools desperately cry out for renovation and roads and bridges need improvement — really need to squander $2 billion on a mega-sports arena that hosts on the average just ten ball games a year? Assuming the Raiders were to remain in Las Vegas for the next 30 years, that would come out to about $6.7 million per game, and that doesn’t even include the cost of upkeep and maintenance.
Inexplicably, stadiums have become the new cathedrals of modern civilization. Sunday worship isn’t much of a church thing anymore. Now, it’s a football thing. What the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame were to the peasantry centuries ago, today the Superdome and Jerry’s World assume that same spiritual and financial ambiance. Indeed, churches have lots in common with the NFL. Both cause brain damage and then demand that taxpayers pay for everything.
Here’s my idea: Screw Adelson. Screw the MGM. Let’s slum it and build the stadium for $1.35 billion. Wouldn’t that work? Wouldn’t that be enough? Must every pro football stadium look like a giant UFO? Can’t we throw down some seeds, water the grass, construct a few grandstands, and enjoy the game? Didn’t natural-grass stadiums filled with real fans minus all the sky boxes and sponsor-driven hoopla work pretty damn well for six decades? Didn’t pro football become America’s true national pastime because games were played in authentic arenas like Lambeau Field, the Orange Bowl, and Yankee Stadium? Sure, no one wants to go back to the olden days of leather helmets. But can’t we forget about retractable roofs, faux rubber grass, and VIP sections?
How about this. Let’s offer to build the Raiders a new stadium for $1.35 billion. Two billion minus $650 million equals $1.35 billion. That’s the budget. We can tell Mark Davis — hey, you wanted a Tesla. We’re offering you a Buick. Take it or leave it. Right now, given that they call the Oakland Coliseum home, the Raiders are driving a shitbox. How to cut down on costs? Easy. Since Trump’s border wall with Mexico isn’t up yet, we can use cheap migrant labor. We’ll cut on the number of stalls in the ladies restrooms. They’re going to bitch they’re aren’t enough stalls, anyway. We can remove the escalators because most sports fans are fat and lazy. They need to exercise more. We can charge $15 for a beer and $30 for a parking spot. Oh wait — stadiums are doing that already.
An NFL stadium doesn’t need to resemble the Johnson Space Center. Yeah, I get that Las Vegas weather is hot as fuck much of the time and perhaps an enclosed facility may be necessary. But, the weather here isn’t any more uncomfortable than the steam baths of Miami or Jacksonville or Houston or the frigid weather in northern cities. If Bills and Bears fans can sit in the freezing cold in subzero temperatures and watch those shit teams, Las Vegas football fans should be able to risk a mild case of sunstroke. 250 miles to our south, the Phoenix Cardinals played in an outdoors stadium for nearly 20 years and there weren’t more than a handful of deaths, and pretty much all of those were from eating the nachos.
According to Forbes’ latest figures, the average NFL franchise is worth about $1.5 billion. For teams who also own their own stadium, the values are considerably higher. Assuming Mark Davis will own half of the new Las Vegas stadium, it follows that the value of the team would probably double and surpass the $2 billion mark. That should be anough money to live on for a while, even in the Bay Area. Besides, he sure as hell isn’t spending much money on haircuts.
If he still short on cash and needs a few bucks, given those figures and that level of collateral, Davis could probably get approved for a bank loan. If he needs a co-signer, then give me a call. Unlike Sheldon Adelson, I won’t back out of the deal. I’ll even throw in my old set of golf clubs.
I woke up this morning to the majesty of contrasts that is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, better known simply as “Red Rock Canyon.” Everything within sight, from the desert cactus to mountain pines, was covered in white snow.
Most Las Vegas visitors, and even many locals, may not know about the natural splendor nestled in the mountains due west of The Strip just a half-hour drive away. Red Rock is an oasis for the mind and a vacation for the soul. It seems light years apart from the fabricated latticework of 1.5 million people, continuing to crawl with an alarming expansion beyond the sustainable resources necessary to ensure a healthy balance between what we build and the natural world around it which cradles our city like a protective glove.
Red Rock is a vast “pause button,” ready to be hit any time, a temporary escape to a quiet place still mostly unspoiled by sprawling urbanization, except for a few roads and the occasional traffic sign. In a city blanketed with casinos, cookie-cutter tract homes, and look-a-like strip malls, Red Rock has become our common escape, even if just for a few fleeting seconds with an affectionate gaze in the westward direction of the snow-capped mountains. Like a seductive temptress, we long for our next encounter with beauty.
Note: Here’s a short article I wrote last year about my hike in the canyon, along with several photos. [CLICK HERE]
Sadly, each time I’ve driven into Red Rock in recent years, commercial development looks to be creeping closer and closer to the park. Now, when driving up Charleston Blvd., which eventually leads directly into the heart of Red Rock Canyon, it’s shocking and sad to see the extent to which homes and shopping centers have stretched to the valley’s outer boundaries and very nearly into the canyon area itself, which is now seriously threatened. Towards the north, specifically the Lone Mountain area, commercial and industrial development has been even more aggressive. Lone Mountain was once on the outer fringes of the west side of Las Vegas. Now, it’s been engulfed by a freeway, thousands of new homes, and a monochrome of dust and blowing debris which seems to swirl around constantly.
South of the Red Rock area, there’s a controversial proposal by developer Jim Rhodes to convert prime land currently occupied by a gypsum mine to construct more than 5,000 additional homes, which is likely to bring in another 10,000 cars and unforeseen disturbances to the area, such as noise and pollution. A city where air quality is marginal at best and often covered in a thick haze on bad days chokes on its own exhaust fumes.
A few nights ago, a meeting was held here in Las Vegas where many critical issues important to our region were discussed. I was stirred into action by the presentation of Justin Jones, who’s a board member of the organization known as Save Red Rock. I learned that this non-profit is fighting to protect one of Las Vega’s last natural resources, not just for us, but for future generations. Jones stated if we don’t take action now, it might be too late in the future. He also noted that big-money developers have filed a lawsuit against Save Red Rock, purely in an effort to silence opposition, thus squashing citizen advocacy and democracy. Fortunately, many people with the local community, Democrats and Republicans alike, are now speaking out and making their voices heard. But that might not be enough given the power of developers who look towards Red Rock as a potential piggy bank.
We aren’t opposed to responsible development. Indeed, there are plenty of attractive neighborhoods in our city where new homes can be built and new businesses can be created. That’s something every community needs to remain vibrant In fact, many established parts of Las Vegas are desperate for investment of this kind, and even offer generous tax incentives. So, why allow unbridled expansion into one of the most gorgeous areas of Southern Nevada, when so many other opportunities exist for local development and revitalization?
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit the website SAVEREDROCK.ORG. There’s also a petition you can sign for an upcoming public hearing with country commissioners (in February), which will show your support for protecting the natural majesty of this critically important and precious public recreation area. Consider signing the PETITION HERE.
Once Red Rock is gone, it’s lost forever. We must act now. Please help and also tell your friends and neighbors. We need your voice, your signature, your support, and most of all your action. Please do it now.