Pacific-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott’s stunning rehabilitation project soon will turn toward an annual basketball event that has the national profile of a driveway H-O-R-S-E game.
Nothing is official, but according to the San Jose Mercury News, the league next week will announce Las Vegas as the new home of the Pac-12 tournament. Scott might be a progressive whose professional- sports marketing and media background has taken the conference out of Sleepy Hallow – he even used the term “globalization” the other day – but seeing this move didn’t require keen vision.
As Los Angeles marriages go, the Staples Center and the Pac-12 Tournament has been as doomed a pairing as Drew Barrymore and, well, anybody. Crowds in 2011 were down to an average of 11,210 per session, as in 11,210 tickets distributed. More people attended Lee Harvey Oswald’s funeral than were present for the first-round thriller between Washington and Washington State.
Scott considered alternating the tournament around some Pac-12 cities with NBA arenas – a rational idea, now that Denver and Salt Lake City are in the mix – but Las Vegas trumped whatever competition there was.
And let’s face it: If you’re a fan from the Pacific Northwest who’s looking to get away for a few days, The Strip sounds more inviting than Temple Square.
Once upon a time, college sports administrators frowned upon using Las Vegas as a neutral site – with all that gambling going on, what would the neighbors say? – but attitudes have loosened up. Flights are both plentiful and inexpensive, and while the cost of carousing in Sin City has exploded (oh, for those days of the $3.99 roast-beef buffet), there’s much to offer tourists who might not be inclined to sit through the entirety of, say, Colorado versus Utah.
(The Buffs and Utes, by the way, are scheduled to play at 8:30 tonight, in front of a crowd that could fit into a Smart Car.)
Three conferences – the Western Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West – already regard Las Vegas as their postseason home. But the Pac-12, consistent with Scott’s affinity for making splashes, will be the first league to play at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Still, I doubt reports of the Pac-12’s expected announcement to relocate its basketball tournament from Los Angeles is conversation topic in Las Vegas. For one, we’re talking about a league whose schools have faced 30 nonconference opponents ranked in the Top 50 this season, and lost to 29 of them.
For another, we’re talking about Las Vegas, international capital of weird entertainment. For instance, the big news from the MGM Grand on Tuesday was the comeback of former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.
No, Tyson isn’t coming back to boxing. He’s merely coming back to Las Vegas, where he had 16 of his 50 professional fights. Next month, Tyson will launch a new career at the MGM Grand as, OK, this is sort of difficult to describe. He won’t be doing comedy, exactly, and he won’t be singing or dancing or performing magic tricks or impersonating Elvis or paying tribute to the Rat Pack or doing anything else associated with a Las Vegas show.
Nevertheless, it will be a show, and it will be called “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth – Live on Stage.” Which beats “Mike Tyson: He’ll Talk Your Ear Off!”
“You’ll see some interesting stuff,” Tyson assured the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll have photos that go along with what I’m talking about.”
Tickets for “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” range from $91 to $499 for a VIP seat, which includes a meet-and-greet. I’m not sure I’d pay $91 to listen to Mike Tyson, or $499 to meet and greet him. On the other hand, I know I wouldn’t pay $91 to watch Colorado play Utah.
Tyson apparently will be following a script co-written by his wife, Kiki, and Randy Johnson. I doubt it’s the same one – this Randy Johnson is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles – although given the venue (Las Vegas) and the subject matter (Mike Tyson), nothing would surprise me.
“Film of me going to prison will be screened behind me,” Tyson told the Daily Mail, “and I will get naked there in front of people.”
He’ll get what?
“That’s what I call it, being naked with my clothes on,” Tyson continued. “Just telling the truth.”
The show is scheduled for a six-day run between April 13 and 18, and then Tyson will mull possible changes.
“We’ll review what happened, look at the next steps and move forward,” Tyson said to the L.A. Times. “The hopes for this are to tour the world. The fan base is staggering.”
Before he tours the world, Tyson first will be challenged to fill the 740-seat Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand. Maybe critics are kind, and audiences create a favorable buzz, and Tyson returns next year to the hotel-casino complex that will be the new home of a tournament desperate for attention.
Can you imagine how that marquee might look? “Pac-12 Hoops!” blaring in neon on one side, and “Mike Tyson: Naked With His Clothes On” on the other.
Whatever the fate of Tyson’s show, he’s got something that is envy of the commissioner of America’s 11th-best basketball conference.
A fan base that is staggering.