Viva-ing Las Vegas

Remixed, bass-grooved elevator music, complete with an oohing-aahing background choir, is pulsing through the PA system as people of all sorts pack onto Delta's flight 1485 from Salt Lake to Las Vegas.

Business suits and bandannas. Flowered shirts and flower-power hangers-on. Casual, cautious, and cranky. The old, the young, the not so old, the not so young, and the not so sure.

All heading for a place where nothing's sure - and people like it like that.

I like that I am along for the ride, getting out of the Midwest for a few days. Of course, I was sure that - by now (somewhere over Nevada) - I'd have my weekly Ace assignment aced.

But things started bottlenecking last Thursday, as Sweet 16 basketball appeared on the scene... and I was unexpectedly caught up in and tied down by television. This was rare. This wasn't supposed to happen.

But then, the same things could be said about USC's victory over UK in Philadelphia on that Thursday.

I didn't plan on watching the game because I didn't think it would be much of one (and because I had to start this column).

Turns out I was right... but wrong in my predicting (UK to be) the dominant team. I sat alone in my living room amazed.

For those few of you who didn't see the game (be glad), it wasn't much of a game for a half. The Trojans galloped past, jumped over, and plowed through Kentucky throughout the entire first 20 minutes. That the Wildcats were greatly out-athleted by USC was obvious, but that they were greatly out-hustled was inexplicable. And thus, being down 21 points at the break was something inexcusable.

Surely it was a surly Coach Smith that "greeted" the Wildcats at halftime. I'll bet my whole billfold that Tubby berated the boys badly enough to make Bob Knight proud.

After witnessing - mouth agape - UK's inept display of effort in the first half, I didn't plan on watching the second half ... again, because I didn't think it would be much of one and because I had work to do.

But, rocketed by Tubby's locker room remarks, the Cats, left for road kill, came scampering back right out of the box and within minutes into half two pulled nearly even with the Trojans. And a game so interesting in the first half because it was an unbelievable blowout suddenly became equally as engrossing in the second half because it wasn't.

And though the Cats would take much of the momentum in the latter 20 minutes, they would never take the lead. Their stretch run was stalled because they couldn't make free throws. And although not inexplicable, this was another something inexcusable.

And, as a result, many Kentucky fans were not sad but mad after last Thursday's loss. The kind of mad that gets your bad-kind-of juices flowin'.

My juices were definitely loose... the USC-UK game had given me a hoop hunger that I hadn't known in the tournament's first two rounds. I was in no position to begin writing this column; rather, my position was fully-reclined on my plaid (brown, tan, orange) La-Z-Boy - trying to wait out the adrenaline as I waited for the next set of games to come on the tube.

CBS teased me with Duke-UCLA for a while before feeding me Cincinnati-Stanford.

"Why," I asked, "was the network airing the UC game - as the Bearcats would certainly be blasted by Stanford - when it could show a tightly contested Duke-UCLA game?" Then I remembered that I lived in Cincy (funny how emotion can temporarily suspend your thinking).

Pleasantly, the UC-Stanford game didn't live up to it's billing. In fact, the Bearcats led the Cardinals for much of the game. But in the end, the Cardinal's height was too much for Cincinnati, and disappointed, I crashed soon after midnight - without seeing either of the area teams win or without penning a word of the column.

I awoke Friday refreshed. I thought that I'd have time to start writing over lunch and maybe take off early in the afternoon to finish the thing. But then I got word that my boss, a big UK booster, was back early from Philly, on account of the Cats losing. And he wanted to meet with me to polish his presentation for a conference in Las Vegas (which is the reason I'm heading there now).

That meant no lunch break. No going home early. And, in fact, no going home until 7:00 that night.

By the time I got home Friday evening and had dinner (a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal), basketball was in full swing. Kansas-Illinois, Ole Miss-Arizona. Michigan St.-Gonzaga, Penn St.-Temple. With those games to watch, how could I - or anyone - be expected to work on a sports column?

Of course I wasn't, and I didn't.

And I awoke Saturday only to head back to the office for several more hours. Then I headed home to watch several more hours of important basketball. Sunday was the same deal, except church took the place of office.

Deadline past, but nothing done.

And now it's Monday, and I'm sitting here in seat 26F full of excuses in an airplane full of people who are itching to get out into Las Vegas. We've just touched down, and I'm burned out wondering what to write about the Final Four - Arizona, Duke, Maryland, and Michigan St. - and when I'll have a chance to do so.

The flight attendant is saying, "...blah, blah, blah. Local time is 12:05 p.m.... blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah blah-blah... and we thank you for choosing Delta, and good luck in Las Vegas."

And I'm thinking that I'll need lots of that luck to get my column done on time.


Lextran outta gas?

It seems vaguely ironic that with the announcement that Lexington is Kentucky's most populous city (from a certain point of view, that involves cheating), that Lextran, the city's public transportation system, is having such problems. With Mayor Miller's planned budget for Transit Authority, LexTran reports that it will have a $640,000 deficit, and will have to cut services. Not that Lexington has ever been that big on the more environmentally sound, less wasteful wonder of mass transportation, but use of LexTran has been steadily increasing. In fact, they enjoyed their greatest ridership ever in 2000, clocking in at over 4 million, from 1.2 million in 1994. So a savage budget cut for LexTran seems a bit off. Especially given that Lexington has so many people, being so damn populous, who'll need rides and may not want to spend the energy of driving down Nicholasville Road by their lonesome. Meetings haven't been set up yet, but to stay informed call Sue Bach at 255-7756 x201.

Hey now, Hey now,
A Boy Band's Back

For those still grieving over the loss of the 98 Degrees concert canceled a few weeks ago, it's time to dry your tears - the other big boy band, the Back Street Boys, is coming to Rupp Arena. Hot on the heels of their artistically bankrupt megahit album Black & Blue, the Boys, with former Lexingtonian Brian Littrell, will sing such hits as "Quit Playin'Games (With My Heart)" for Lexington's females, aged 8-16. No, there's sadly no plans for them to be accompanied by Dream, however, they are surely planning on gadding about with their little headsets and grabbing their crotches. Tickets go on sale on March 31, call 281-6644.