Looking to pull off the greatest fantasy football draft ever? Two words:
In July, I set off to Sin City with 11 buddies for a mission that was both thrilling and potentially dangerous: stage my bachelor party, and in the process, execute the preeminent draft in the history of fantasy football. What could possibly go wrong?
The destination: Hard Rock Hotel. Why Hard Rock? (Or as the hip, edgy property refers to itself, the HRH.) The hotel has the requisite modern casino floor and comfortable sports book, an energized crowd, great bars and several killer restaurants. In fact, before you hit the bars and tables, I highly recommend the steak at 35 Steak + Martinis, because, let me put it this way: if you ever find yourself in restaurant that offers a 35-ounce slab of meat that's called the "Tomahawk," they aren't messing around.
Then there's the site of our fantasy draft -- the world-famous pool scene, which comprises 200,000 square feet of pools, 50 Tahitian-style cabanas, 25 daybeds and -- according to the HRH website -- six banquettes. I'm still not sure what a banquette is, but we saw nothing at the pool that detracted from our good time. More on that shortly.
The first order of business was setting the draft order. As we kicked off the bachelor party with a round of golf 30 minutes off the strip at a course called Angel Park, a great spot for golfers of all abilities -- or in my group's case, lack of abilities -- we hatched a plan.
After shuttling from the course to the HRH, our sun-baked group wandered into Hard Rock's sports book and searched for an off-track horse race with 12 entries, which was the same number of participants we have in our league. As luck would have it, Race No. 3 at a track called Evangeline Downs in Lafayette, Louisiana, had 12 entries and would be broadcast live in the HRH sports book. An open betting window was just a few paces away. Post time was in 10 minutes. It was perfect.
While this race probably made little-to-no news outside Lafayette, it was absolutely pivotal in our league. Each of us pulled a number 1-12 out of a hat, then placed a $5 bet to win on the horse we'd drawn. We agreed that the order our in which our horses finished would subsequently become the order of our draft. Not bad, right? I pulled horse No. 3, which turned out to be an chestnut colt named Beautiful Puck. I knew nothing about this horse, but I noticed that he kicked and snarled a bit while being loaded into the starting gate. He was ornery. I liked that. He went off at 5-1 odds.
Unfortunately, the race started, and the Puck stopped there for my hopes of a $25 payout and the No. 1 pick in our draft. B.P. faded early and never contended. Maybe he was ornery because he didn't feel like actually running. I know that feeling. Anyway, with the 12 of us gaping at the big screen above us, horse No. 4, a jet-black, rocket-fueled beast named She's The Shot broke away from the pack early in the homestretch and coasted to an easy W. That clinched the first pick for my buddy Jay, who quickly cashed his winning ticket ($12.50). Beautiful Puck, my horse, ambled home in eighth place. I told myself that eighth is a fine spot to pick in a fantasy draft, jotted down our draft order, and then hit the blackjack tables.
The next afternoon, we descended on Hard Rock's famous pool. The best way I can describe The Scene (note capitalization) is that it's the closest thing we'd ever come to living inside an episode of Entourage. We were assigned a cabana next to the Paradise Beach North pool. A few paces in one direction: the water. A few paces in the other: the bar. An event called the "Nectar Music Festival" was happening, which meant there would be tunes and dancing co-eds all day long. The cabana itself was equipped with two couches, a fridge, a high-def TV, and one of those posh overhead misting fans that come in handy on a 105-degree day. The first round of drinks was waiting for us upon arrival. Game on.
When Jay took a slug of rum-and-Coke and slapped an "Arian Foster" sticker up on the first spot on our draft board, it kicked off an afternoon of drinks, sun, cigars, smack talk, and -- one more time -- drinks.
Speaking of drinks, our spunky waitress, Whitney From Kentucky, kept the beverages flowing, the good times rolling, and subconsciously -- or maybe it was consciously -- spurred our group into running up a bar tab that would make Vinnie Chase proud. A sample conversation, edited for this family-friendly website:
Whitney: "You guys have only drank three [chocolate milkshakes]? Man, you guys are [upstanding gentlemen]!
Us: We're [upstanding gentlemen]? We'll show you, Whitney From Kentucky! Bring us another round of [chocolate milkshakes] and throw in some [small glasses of apple juice]!
Needless to say, things became pretty [spirited] from there. If you're curious, my first four picks were Ray Rice (unsigned at the time of our draft), Matthew Stafford, Darren Sproles and Brandon Marshall. My first four drinks were vodka-Sprite, vodka-cranberry, Bud Light and shot of tequila. An aggressive start all around.
Somewhere in the flurry of cocktails and dips in the pool, there was a mid-draft trade as my buddies Marty and Steve swapped QBs after Marty experienced severe post-pick remorse moments after selecting Michael Vick in Round 4. Marty, a three-time league champion, ended up shipping the injury-prone Eagle to Steve for Philip Rivers, who he'd selected in Round 5. "I hate Michael Vick," Marty said, both before and after the trade. If you've read this far hoping for fantasy analysis, that was it.
We ended up making it through 10-and-a-half rounds, and the rest of the rosters will be filled through the waiver wire. No one in the league is complaining about the way the afternoon unfolded -- there were no actions that resulted in injury, humiliation or divorce. There were, however, a couple of hilariously terrible teams drafted. It's going to be a fun season.
The rest of that afternoon becomes one blissful, boozy blur. I remember bikini-clad fem-bots dancing all around the rim of the pool. I remember rocketing down a water slide between picks. I remember the pool's sandy bottom, and thinking that was pretty cool. I remember one of my friends falling asleep on our cabana couch, and all of us taking photos. I remember alcohol. Lots of alcohol. I remember being a part of a scene unlike anything any of us had ever experienced.
I remember the best fantasy football draft ever.