My three favorite places in America are, in no particular order: Las Vegas, the bowling alley and Ben & Jerry's. None of those locales has -- or needs -- a Major League Baseball team on the premises.
Yet once again, Las Vegas, which has all the critical elements for the Great American Vacation -- sunshine, slot machines and showgirls -- is being talked up as a potential home for a professional sports franchise.
The latest suitor is Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who appears ready to leave the Miami area because he cannot secure public financing for a new ballpark.
(Pity poor Loria. When he was in Montreal, things got so bad with the Expos, he had to cut payroll and flee Canada -- and leave the team in MLB's hands. Ergo, your Washington Nationals! Now, in South Florida, he has a hand out again, but nobody is handing him anything, so once again he must cut payroll and leave town.)
(Actually, if I were Loria, I would drop a dime on my former home town, Washington, D.C. The genial folks in the nation's capital put up a record amount of tax dollars to build a stadium for a baseball team there; why wouldn't they do it again? D.C. could be the first city ever with two tax-funded baseball stadiums side by side! One team would play by day, the other by night. For P.R. purposes, Loria might insist they attach a public library to the new facility.)
Alas, Sin City needs another leisure outlet like Sodom and Gomorrah needed another bathhouse.
Las Vegas already offers the following entertainment options:
Sports and race betting, blackjack, craps, video poker, roulette, pai gow, baccarat, Wheel of Fortune, swimming pools, health spas, saunas, roller coasters, lavish dining, unlimited liquor, singles bars, golf, shopping, championship boxing, in-room massages, bachelor parties, wedding chapels, Celine Dion, Elvis impersonators and hookers.
And that's just Caesars on a Saturday night!
Like this town needs a Marlins-Braves game on a 106-degree evening in July? It has every team in America available every night of the week in each of its sports books.
Five thousand people move to Las Vegas every month. Some go there to stake their claim, others go there to lose their stake. Nobody goes there in search of Hideki Matsui.
And tell me Bud Selig isn't the cooler.
Not to mention, I'm as pro-gambling as the next guy, but you're going to toss a team full of players earning an average of $2.6 million annually into Las Vegas and you don't expect a casino-related player problem to develop? Plus, you'll have visiting teams coming into town two or three nights at a time -- what, the Rockies' middle relievers are going to have their hearts set on Cirque du Soleil and nothing else?
(In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I seem to recall seven or eight members of the 1919 White Sox spending two nights at the Mirage just prior to the World Series that year. Hmm.)
Frankly, I always thought the casinos would muscle up and block any professional sports franchise looking to come into Las Vegas. Why would they want to see thousands of hotel guests leaving their cash palaces 81 nights each summer to spend several hours at a ballpark? Casinos reward their patrons with comped buffets and 75-minute shows; the last thing they want is anyone walking out that front door with a wad of bills in the wallet.
Besides, Don Rickles gives you more bang for your buck than Dave Roberts.
But now I'm thinking of late -- these are smart business people. After all, if they can establish a shrine to gambling in the middle of a desert, then they certainly can figure out a way to turn the seventh-inning stretch into a sure thing for the house.
So maybe Major League Baseball is more than a long shot to land in Las Vegas.
Which means only one thing:
Keno runners in the bleachers!
Ask The Slouch
Q. Just the other day, while driving through a northwest-side viaduct in the Chicago area, I spotted what appeared to be an image on the wall of one of your ex-wives holding an alimony check. Then, a few days later at a different viaduct, I spotted a similar image, this time of another one of your ex-wives holding an alimony check. All I can say is, it's a good thing Chicago has so many viaducts. (Dave Kalsch; Chicago)
A. Shirley, please take Dave Kalsch off our holiday gift list.
Q. How did Chad Johnson's sideline wedding proposal compare to any of yours? (Joe Keyes; Wauwatosa, Wis.)
A. Each time I proposed, I kept my helmet on.
Q. I see that kicker Jose Cortez is now playing for the San Francisco 49ers, which makes it his third NFL team this season. Isn't he approaching your number for marriages in one year? (Bobby Cantwell; Orlando)
A. What, suddenly I'm the human pinata?
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