Las Vegas Eating Adventure

Eating healthy in Las VegasLast weekend was our weekend mecca to Las Vegas for fantasy football. It’s not typical that a fantasy football draft turns into a full weekend, but our group makes it more than just a draft. That is to be expected with friends of 25+ years getting together, many who haven’t seen each other since last August. This year was different for me, I would be headed to Las Vegas and faced with an eating adventure. Since changing my diet last October I have been plant strong for over 10 months now, consuming fish only on the rare occasion. This weekend in Las Vegas was to be biggest challenge since changing my diet.

With the exception of one friend, no one knew I had changed my lifestyle, making the decision to stop eating meat, dairy and oil. It shouldn’t matter what I choose to eat and thankfully there was a bit of ribbing from my buddies, but that was to be expected. All of them accepted my changes and some even asked questions. I took being called “skinny Minny” as a complement. I was faced with decisions on what to eat. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I made the best decisions I could and didn’t worry about.

Thankfully I have improved my health the past 10 months and was already at my weight goal. While this might not be a big deal, I didn’t really worry about how much or what I ate and alcohol consumed. The only meal that had me worried was dinner on Friday night. As our tradition has it, we eat at The N9NE Steakhouse located in The Palms Hotel. The past years I have let loose my carnivore instincts and ate steak, much like my friends. This year after perusing the menu before heading to Las Vegas I was hoping to order vegetables and a baked potato.

Let’s start with Friday morning, as a habit before leaving the house I had a bowl of Nutty Nuggets (Grape Nuts) with almond milk. I was going to be the first to arrive in Las Vegas and I figured I would not have many options while waiting in the airport. I was hungry some 4 hours later while waiting for my friends to arrive. I settled on a Naked Blue Machine and roasted peanuts, which I planned on being a snack, but ended up being lunch. Someone from McDougall Friends (Facebook group) suggested a potato from the Wendy’s in the airport but looking at their menu I did not see it available.

Once we got checked in to the hotel it was off the bar at the pool area. While I have been very good the past 2 months on consuming alcohol, I knew this weekend would be two steps backwards, but I was willing to accept this. Actually standing at the bar I consumed 3 beers in about 3 hours. Unfortunately I was still hungry and waiting to get a menu, but decided to hold out until dinner.

Dinner was the highlight of the trip, as it usually is. Good friends, good food and good conversation. While every one was considering their order I was sizing up the menu again for what I would order. While not completely “on plan” I decided to start with an assorted sashimi platter. I considered a salad, but realized I would be picking more stuff out of the salad that I would be eating, so I decided against a salad. Soup was another option, but their choices all contained out. So it was either no appetizer or the sashimi platter, which I started with.

The dinner order was actually easy. I told the waiter I didn’t eat meat, dairy and oil and said in his English accent, “No problem mate, we’ll do you a platter of assorted vegetables.” Excellent! I also ordered a plain baked potato and a side of steak sauce. When the veggies arrived it was zucchini, red and green peppers and portabello mushroom, all of which looked as if they had been grilled. Never having a portabello before I was amazed at the meaty texture and the flavor, which was drizzled with a balsamic reduction sauce. Prior to the dinner I had ordered a scotch and water and order two more with dinner. I decided to pass on dessert.

After dinner I found myself satiated and ready to spend the next few hours (now 1000pm) gambling and hanging out with friends. After a few hours of gambling, I found myself getting hungry again. By this time I was done gambling and decided to head to my room. It wasn’t long before I was headed back down to the Mr Lucky’s, 24 hour cafe to order something “light” before bed. I ended up ordering a Thai Tuna Salad. Instead of turning to something fried chose the best option I could based on the menu options. Again, it was fish with fresh mango, cashews, edamame, red pepper, cilantro and I was able to get the mint-lime vinaigrette, on the side.

The following morning I went back down to Mr. Lucky’s to watch early morning soccer from England and have breakfast. This was an easy decision ordering the Steel Cut Oats (served with carmel apple compote, raisins, candied pecans and cinnamon sugar, all on the side) and a mixed berry bowl (with the vanilla bean cream on the side). I was beginning to feel like Meg Ryan with my ordering and everything “on the side.” This was a very good start to the day, as I held off using the cinnamon sugar and limited pecans. Instead I opted to add the mixed berries (blueberry, raspberry and strawberry) to my oats.

Saturday was probably the day I made the worst decisions, but still I tried to eat as good as possible, but it wasn’t realistic. The late morning started out with all sorts of problems as we tried to get our Internet connection online to start our fantasy football draft. After 90 minutes and much swearing, we had resolved the problem, not the best solution, but one that worked. By that time I was hungry and decide to get a Tuna Wrap. There were no vegetarian sandwiches or salads to order. We had ordered a plate of fruit, but that only tied me over for a short period. I would end up ordering another Tuna Wrap later in the day.

After the draft, just hanging out talking about our teams I decided to order the hummus plate, which came with pita bread and vegetables. Oil-free, the hummus was not, but I consumed it anyway. It wouldn’t be the food that did me in on Saturday but the alcohol. I didn’t have any beer, but had three Long Island Iced Teas through out the day. By the time these were in me many of these were water down. It wasn’t long after that I started in on the Johnnie Walker Blue.

I wouldn’t make it dinner that night, as I came up to my room, started to do some work on my laptop and decided to lay down. I recall getting a call from my roommate for the weekend that they were waiting for me for dinner (Nobu, the sushi bar). He even came up, saw me crashed on the bed and didn’t bother me. I ended up having no dinner Saturday night, followed by no breakfast at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas at 6am.

Little did I know I would be flying to San Diego and then onto San Francisco, with a 60 minute delay. While laying over in San Diego, I bought a Naked Green Machine. It wouldn’t be until I got home, about 2pm that I would break into the refrigerator and get back to good, healthy eating.

Looking back it was truly an eating adventure. While the decisions weren’t perfect, I did the best I could with what I had. Never leaving the hotel limited my choices on what I could eat. I probably ate too much fish this weekend, much like drinking too much alcohol. This was one of those “treat” weekends and in only resulted in a 2.3 pound gain over the course of 3 days. Now that I am home and have had a few days I am back on my program like I never left. Potatoes, grains and leafy greens have been on the menu all week long. While the Vegas trip was enjoyable, thanks in part to my friends I do believe I could have made it a “healthier” eating adventure if I would have remember to bring some foods with me. Thankfully this adventure happens only once a year.

29th Year of the TFL

The kick off the the 2012-2013 NFL season will mark the 29th year of the TFL or Toumi Football League. It’s official now that we have set a draft date for Las Vegas and renewed the league software. Surprisingly we have all the same owners returning, of which 4 are original members and 3 others who have been in the league for 25 years. It’s a great group of long time friends, with the addition of 3 newer owners when the league expanded to 10 teams.

As has become tradition, we hold our annual fantasy football draft in Las Vegas. Originally we started out at The Palms, where we had been the previous 10 years, but after one our owners took The Palms for about $25,000 one visit, they no longer welcomed our business they once did. Last year we moved to The Hard Rock Hotel, which is just a nice and more convenient to the Vegas Strip for those wanting see the sights.

The fantasy draft lasts the weekend, owners fly in on Friday and go home on Sunday. Friday afternoon means a poolside cabana, non-stop beer and food, while we lounge around waiting for all the owners to show up. It’s a time to catch up with long time friends, who in my case I saw last year at this time. During this time some might do a little bit of gambling, most prefer blackjack. Yet the don’t like when I sit at the table since I inevitably end up playing wrong and losing them money.

As the sun starts to set we vacate the cabana for our hotel rooms to clean up and get ready for dinner. While we no longer stay at The Palms, our traditional dinner at N9Nes Steakhouse. This restaurant has some of the best steak I had ever tasted, yet this year with my change in diet, I might find dinner a bit challenging. I am hoping for some sashimi for appetizer and a baked potato with steamed vegetables for dinner. No steak, I don’t want to take 2 steps backwards. After a round of drinks, we are seated and the fun begins. After drinks and during appetizers the “Pulling of The Ace” occurs. This is where we take playing cards numbered 2 through 9 and the ace. In reverse finishing order of last year we shuffle the playing cards and draw cards to determine where we will draft.

After dinner owners take up different activities. In years past (at The Palms) we were comped tickets for shows. Usually it’s to casino floor at The Hard Rock for some gambling, depending on your game of choice. I am hoping to play some blackjack this year, but will most likely end up watching the wheel spin at the roulette table. Craps is another game I am learning, but probably won’t play. As the night wears on some owners “hit the town” while others remain at the casino.

Saturday morning is usually a bit of a slow start, with some owners nursing a hangover. Breakfast is the first order of business, talk a little football and review notes and cheat sheets as it relates to the draft. About 10am we make our way poolside and to our cabana. What’s nice about our draft is that a majority of the cabana fees are offset by the fees we collected the previous year from the waiver wire. This year we have over $800 to help offset our cost.

As the commissioner I set up the board and we go over rules and possible changes to the upcoming season. Most of this information has been disseminated in the months leading up to the draft, but it’s common for very little discussion to take place. If we have a majority at the cabana on Friday, we might make change rules then as well. It was done last year to our waiver wire when 5 owners agreed to change the waiver wire and cap it at $200 per owner.

Once the board is set up it’s the responsibility of the Tidy Bowl Award Winner or “Beer Bitch” as the owner who came in last place, last season to man the draft board. Once the last minute details are worked out and any owners wanting to move draft positions (last year we had 4 owners swap) we start the draft.

The draft usually lasts 3-4 hours as we traditionally draft 18 rounds. This year we are decreasing that to 16 rounds, so it might speed things up by 30 minutes. Once the draft is over we start comparing teams and making predictions. This is also something I do on our league site, a complete preview of each team, their strengths, weaknesses and what their projected finish will be. I can’t say I have been all that accurate, but it’s a discussion point.

Unfortunately I have only stayed the weekend when we first adopted this tradition. Since getting married and having a son, I have made it an overnight trip for the last 8 years. Saturday afternoon is much like Friday after the conclusion of the draft, hanging out poolside in the cabana. There is a low key dinner at a local restaurant, followed by more gambling. It’s a great way to kick off our fantasy football season with a wonderful group of long time friends.

TFL Draft Weekend

This weekend was our traditional draft weekend in Las Vegas for our fantasy football league now entering its 28th year. Amazing to think there are many who have been involved for all 28 years. It’s always a great time to get together with good friends, shoot the shit, eat and drink and talk football. This year was no different really. Instead of The Palms being our draft HQ, we moved to The Hard Rock Hotel.

I arrived on Friday morning just before 11am and spent $15 to go 2 miles to the hotel. I checked in at the front desk and then checked into the cabana we had rented for Friday as we waited for the other owners to arrive in Las Vegas. Dinner at The N9NES was scheduled for 8pm, as one owner was a bit late because he had to work late. So it was pretty much drinking, drinking and more drinking on Friday. Guess it’s no wonder I ended up feeling bad and having a raging migraine headache when I made my way back to our suite.

I laid down for 45 minutes, but the headache did not subside and made me just miserable at dinner time. We stopped off at the bar for a round of drinks, well water for me and then were shown our table. We place appetizer orders and then ordered out steaks, which averaged about $55-60 bucks Ala carte! I had a great corn chowder and maybe had 3 bites of my 12 oz steak before I had to put the fork and knife down because of the pounding on my head.

We ended up pulling playing cards for our draft positions on Saturday. I pulled the #5 draft pick, but the best moment came down to the final two owners to draw cards. The #1 and #8 spots were remaining. Unfortunately the returning champion got a bit touchy and grabbed one of the cards, but did not look at it. I placed it back where it was supposed to be. The next pick was #1. If he had not touched the cards he would have been the top spot to draft. Maybe that taught him a lesson. Probably not though.

After dinner I made my way to the room and crashed. I think my roommate came in about 4 am did some work and then went to bed. Saturday came at about 630am for me. I got up, cleaned up and went down to eat some oatmeal and drink coffee. Did check FFS and place a few comments on some posts and returned to the room about an hour later. My roommate was up by then and we discussed the draft, players and strategy we would be putting into play at 11am.

We headed out to the pool and found the cabana and got settled in. It took me a few minutes to setup and configure the online draft room at CBS Sportsline. But once I got it online it worked very well, better than last year. We had 2 owners not in the cabana and they participated online from home. Acting as commissioner I was able to select players for all owners who were in attendance, so those not at the cabana would get a feel for who was remaining and who was drafted. Again it worked very well this year with a few minor glitches on my end.

As for the draft I believe this was one of better teams I have put together. It might have been a questionable move in the 1st round at the #5 pick to selection Mike Vick and not Rashard Mendenhall. If Vick can put up numbers comparable to last season and stay healthy, then it will be a very good pick. Mendenhall was a workhorse and would have been a solid pick as well, a legit #1 RB.

Playing 2 QBs as we can do I bet on Vick and ended up scoring Darren McFadden in round 2. By that time 6 QBs were already off the board so I felt I might as well get a solid RB both rushing and receiving and he was the best on the board in round 2. A fleeting thought was a WR, but then I would be chasing a RB in round 3 and I needed a stud in the stable to anchor my RBs.

Round 3 I came back strong with a Hakeem Nicks at WR. I was very surprised he was passed up and many thought I was crazy to take him in the 3rd round. Larry Fitzgerald was the other WR I was considering, but I have my doubts about the desert dwellers, their offensive line and rushing game. Could make for a long year for the Cardinals but Fitz will get his.

Jahvid Best slide to the 4th round and I was excited to get him. He has very little competition in Detroit with Leshoure done for the year, so hopefully he can stay healthy and contribute to a possible high powered offense. The other option in this slot was Shonne Greene, who I had last year and while I expect him to bounce back I could not bring myself to draft him. I figured Best would be more productive catching the ball as well, which tilted the scales in his favor.

I was targeting a WR in Round 5 and was looking at Wallace and Austin but both went off very quickly and had me scrambling for the next best available. It came down to Mike Williams (TB) and Dwayne Bowe. Personally I don’t believe that Bowe comes back to repeat his career year. While TB is an up and coming team I like what Williams did last year. Another year with Freeman and a rushing game in Blount and I thought Williams was a nice pick up in this round.

Probably grabbed a TE too early in Round 6, but Gates had gone off the board in the 2 rounds earlier and with Witten going two picks prior to me, I figured this was my only chance to grab a top TE in Finley of Green Bay. I think it worked out, as Clark was selected right after my pick.

It even got more interesting in Round 7 as I picked Knowshon Moreno. Hopefully Denver comes strong with a run game this season now that Moreno is healthy. Sure he might see some TDs vultured from McGahee and Tebow (if he gets his shot), but he could break 1000 yards if he remains healthy. My other option this round would have Beanie Wells, but again I don’t believe in the Arizona Cardinals this season.

Getting into the “make or break” draft picks, the middle rounds I Began to round out my starting line up and look for depth. I had passed on Manningham earlier because I had Nicks and did not want to start 2 NYG players. Steve Johnson of Buffalo was the best tiered WR on the board and I quickly secured him. Wasn’t really eying another player this round.

While I drafted Brandon Jacobs in the 9th round, I knew he was going to be in an RBBC with Bradshaw. This now gave me two players from the Giants, at this point I was not planning Jacobs starting, but I do like the big kid who has serious potential. We will see if he can stay out of the dog house and contribute this season. I still believe he will be the goal line back, which could yield 7-9 TDs this season.

At this point I had waited a bit to long to draft a second QB. I should have grabbed my #2 a few rounds earlier while there was some better talent left on the board. I had Stafford and Bradford on my list, even Kevin Kolb, but all 3 were drafted by round 9. That left me McNabb, Garrard, Fitzpatrick, Campbell of Sanchez. I drafted Sanchez since I believe they have the best overall team. Sanchez has improved the last 2 years and Rex Ryan claims they are going to throw more this year. Sanchez also started off very well last year. So I am pleased with my backup. At this point I do not know if I will start 2 QBs or not.

Due to off season knee surgery Colston return in New Orleans has been very slow. That seems to open the door for Robert Meachem. I thought this was very good value in the 11th round. The other option I did consider was Malcolm Floyd, but being the San Diego homer I am I passed on him. Rivers is proven, but so is Brees. I thought Meachem would fair better this season.

Traditionally I have been a big fan of the placekicker. But each year I wait longer and longer to draft one. This year the run on the position started in the 13th round and while I was targeting Gostkowski I ended up draft “Sea Bass” the overweight, bald, Sebastian Janikowski of the silver and black. He can hit some bombs and was one of the best last year.

Using the knowledge gained on FFS I started pulling out those “sleeper” picks. Starting with round 14th I picked up Danny Amendola of STL. While we don’t play PPR, I still think he could he a nice 4th WR or a bye week cover for me. The other player one the board at this time was Lee Evans, but he burned me last year when I drafted him and I like what Amendola did last year with Bradford an up and coming QB.

I drafted my first rookie in round 15, Roy Helu (Nebraska) of the Redskins. Who knows what Shanny is going to do with the RB situation. While Hightower is the current starter, Helu could possibly see some time. Torain is a bit injury prone and Helu has the skills to give Hightower a run. I did consider Delone Carter but everything I was reading said Addai was going to be the full time RB, so I passed on Carter.

Another fantasy sleeper I picked up at FFS was Emmanuel Sanders, who I drafted in the 16th round. I had Steve Breaston tagged, but he was drafted just prior to my selection. Sanders was picked up for the later part of the season. Not sure how much time he will see early on as he is still returning from an injury. I like what he offers and hopefully he contributes at some point.

While not a popular choice, I reserved the final two rounds (17 & 18) for my back up tight end and kicker. I know many do not consider carrying two at each position, opting for additional depth at RB and WR, sometimes QBs. Personally, I don’t want to play a hole at either position, nor do I want to spend a needless $10 to pick up a bye week cover for either position. In the 17th round I took Brandon Pettigrew. Possibly listed as a low #1 TE by some sites and IF Stafford can remain healthy, I like what Pettigrew brings to the Detroit offense. My last selection was Jay Feely of Arizona. Right now I will use him as a bye week cover as well, unless I decide to play 2 kickers. Feely has been known to launch some long field goals, which could yield me big points. If the Arizona offense stalls outside of 20 yards I can see good points from Feely.

This year I did not follow Russ Bliss’s Draft Strategy, as I did last year. Right out of the box with a QB was not really how I wanted to start, but I did remain flexible and had to modify my strategy as I went forward. Overall I feel real good about my team. I do have some question marked players, like Vick, McFadden and Best, all of whom lost time to injury last year. Still with those players I am hoping to have a good run this season and hopefully not throwing the towel in by Week 10 like I did last year.