Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Las Vegas Raiders: Get Used to It

By Anthony Brancato

"We're growin' up, little by little," bellowed the theme song to "Almost Summer," the 1978 film widely regarded as kicking off the Generation X youth movie genre — a genre that continued through 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to the great grand-daddy of them all, "The Breakfast Club," three years after that.

When it comes to sports, Las Vegas is growin' up little by little, too. Betfred bookmaker is one of many sportsbooks in Vegas.

In an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer trumpeting analyzing speed dynamically — that is, by using the fastest speed that a player achieves at any point during a run — rather than statically; that is, by using the time for an entire 40 yards, E.J. Smith, who wrote the article, makes mention of "Las Vegas Raiders GM Mike Mayock," at first a skeptic of the new system (which uses miles per hour as its measuring rod: When Eagles running back Miles Sanders reeled off a 65-yard touchdown run in a game at Buffalo last year, he was clocked at a top "cruising speed" of 20.9 miles per hour), but now an ardent believer in it.

Las Vegas Raiders? Pete Rozelle must be turning over in his grave.

Both when Rozelle stepped down as NFL commissioner in 1989 and when he died in 1996, in only one state — naturally, Nevada — was betting on NFL games (or any games involving team sports, for that matter) legal. Since then, 12 other states have joined the party (Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) with laws passed but sports betting not yet implemented in six other states (Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee) and the District of Columbia. And the country's most populous state, California, could follow soon.

Of course the Raiders aren't the first pro sports team in Las Vegas. The NHL's Vegas Golden Knights beat them to it — and they went to the Stanley Cup finals as a first-year expansion team in 2017-18, fittingly celebrating the semi-centennial of the St. Louis Blues accomplishing the same feat, in the year the NHL doubled its number of teams and placed all six of the expansion teams in the same division. The Knights, on the other hand, got to the Stanley Cup finals the old-fashioned way, as John Houseman said in those iconic Smith Barney commercials: they earned it.

So that leaves baseball and basketball as Vegas-bereft.

Since Allegiant Stadium, where the Raiders will play, is going to have a dome, the searing summer Vegas heat will not rule out a major-league baseball team playing there. As for the NBA, the Thomas & Mack Center, the home court of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, has already hosted 13 Utah Jazz home games between November 23, 1983 and December 9, 1984, a May 3, 1992 Lakers/Trail Blazers game that was moved from Los Angeles due to the "Rodney King" riots, and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, the only such time the game was held in a city without an NBA franchise — and the UNLV football team will also share Allegiant Stadium with the Raiders.

Having a larger population than 13 cities with Major League Baseball teams and 10 cities with National Basketball Association teams, the best is yet to come for Las Vegas.

Bet on it.

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