There's only one better way to watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament than comfortably seated in a Las Vegas sports book with a Bloody Mary in one hand and a betting slip in the other: That would be in Elvis' TV room at Graceland, eating fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches and tuning in to the games with the King himself. Starting Thursday, millions of normally hardworking Americans will take a break from their breadwinning in order to view a few hours of college basketball. From cubicles and corner offices alike, obsessed hoop fans will excuse themselves for a few minutes, or in some cases hours, to gather at the nearest sports bar or conference room to check on their alma mater's performance -- or maybe just to update their office pool, all of which reportedly costs corporate America billions in lost productivity. But all these manic hoop fans -- and their employers -- would be much better off if they just dropped the charade and hopped a plane to Las Vegas, where you will find the four necessities for serious March Madness enjoyment: comfortable chairs, multiple big-screen TVs, Bloody Marys and, of course, sports betting.
Why dress like a mummy in the middle of the Nevada desert? Not because of the heavy air conditioning in the casino, but to save seats for buddies as they straggle in from the breakfast buffet. Remember, a noon tipoff on the East Coast means 9 a.m. in Las Vegas. Yes, such practices occasionally lead to scuffles when a person leaves a seat for too long because he gets hot at blackjack and fails to return. But seat-saving is generally respected in Vegas as a time-honored rule among law-abiding men.
Bunkering InIn case you ever wondered, there was a reason why Archie Bunker continually kicked Meathead out of his favorite chair on "All In The Family." Quite simply, a man's home is his castle and his chair is his throne. Las Vegas hotels were designed by brilliant folks who understand the bond between a man and his chair -- which is why the best sports books come complete with a throne away from home. That means leather, padding, cupholders, a little table for writing down bets and an ashtray. Yes, an ashtray! No need to shiver outside while desperately trying to catch the score through the window. It's Vegas, so if your secondhand smoke gets in your neighbor's eyes, then he's in the wrong place, not you. Not even Captain Kirk's swiveling La-Z-Boy on the Starship Enterprise could compete with one of those leather beauties at the Bellagio or Treasure Island facing all those wonderfully oversized screens. Procuring a decent chair is paramount when the goal is to watch college basketball for 12 hours straight. There's limited seating in most sports books, so if you don't get a spot you may be forced to sit on a distant barstool or stand near the slots. The key is to have a member of your party arrive early on game day wearing three or four extra jackets.
Bloody Marys and a Few Good TVsIt's not easy recovering from 23 hours of blackjack at the Mandalay Bay, even if you are up a few hundy and still feel lucky. It's brutal on your lower back, and all those Coors Lights you were downing like Evian eventually catch up with you. Now you could go to the hotel spa for a schvitz and a massage to reduce your elevated toxin levels. Most Las Vegas spas come complete with a TV so you can view the games as you lounge in your robe between treatments. Nevertheless, watching the games on a single TV defeats the entire point of trekking to Vegas in the first place. CBS has a troubled history of airing Duke or Kentucky blowouts instead of switching to coverage of a more exciting game between two lower-profile teams. If your idea was to succumb to the will of CBS's programmers, then you probably should have just called in sick to work and stayed at home. No, you need multiple TVs for maximum enjoyment. And if it's rapid resuscitation you seek, there is only one tried-and-true elixir strong enough to do the job: the Bloody Mary. The classic Bloody Mary contains all the essential food groups -- vodka, Tabasco, tomato juice, salt and pepper, lemon and Worcestershire sauce -- and melds them into a powerful libation with great restorative powers. Furthermore, they can be ordered on demand from the ever-present waitresses roaming the aisles of the sports book, and are free in some if you hold a betting slip.
That's the kind of service you just can't get watching the games in the conference room at your office, and probably not even in the privacy of your own home. And even more importantly, unlike in your home, you will never hear a Las Vegas waitress say: "If you're going to drink a Bloody Mary for breakfast, then at least eat the celery."