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.

The Las Vegas Stink

So I spent about 36 hours this past weekend in Vegas. You know the sleazy city, whose slogan is, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” I left Friday morning before sunrise from Oakland and arrived about 8am for our 25th anniversary fantasy football draft. Yes, we draft poolside in Vegas! Owners arrive on Friday, the draft is Saturday and most leave Sunday morning.

This year, we returned after a year off from Vegas due to other family commitments. I know my wife was not really thrilled at the prospect of my return to Vegas, even if it was just for a single night. But being the truthful and honest husband I am, I told her what some of the guys do (read strip clubs). Most of the time is spent gambling and hanging out poolside with an alcoholic beverage in your hand. Although this year was a bit different.

Friday morning was quite uneventful, which I spent most of the time by myself, as the two other guys there were getting full body massages fro two hours. Did I mention we stayed at The Palms? So I spent much of the morning by myself, I did hit the roulette table and win a small bit of money, nothing to write home about.

Many of the guys started rolling in about 1pm or 2pm. After the massages we went to the pool, but ended up at a $15 minimum blackjack table (single deck). I don’t play the game and not too fond of it. But I ended up costing my buddy a few hundred. Hey blame him for throwing $100-$300 a hand out there. Guess I should learn more about the game and know when to hit and when to stay.

By 3pm all of the owners were at the blackjack table and five of us were playing. I finally backed out and let one of the other guys play since I was not making any money. That even we spent at N9NE Steakhouse with a bill of $1300! The steak, sides and appetizers ARE worth the money! Great food, great fun and great friends.

I was trying to figure it out, but I think I have known most all of these guys 25+ years. We started fantasy football before many even knew what it was. I guess if we smart we would have started our own fantasy football service, one in which others came to us for information. Why we never thought of this years ago is beyond me.

Saturday night is pretty much a blur. I know I had a few too many scotch and waters, lost my ass at roulette and I think I wandered the casino aimlessly watching others hits their numbers. I did not sit back down after I got up. I did find the rest of the group playing blackjack and not fairing much better.

Saturday was the draft, poolside in two cabanas that overlooked the back section of the pool. While it did not look as crowded as it was Friday, it was still well over 100. I came home red, which I knew I would. But we spent the better part of 4 hours and 20 rounds to finish off the 2008-2009 TFL Draft. There were some nice surprises and some downright dumb picks. Yet that is part of the fun of the entire season, getting together for the draft.

While I wanted to stay the full 3 days, I was ready to leave. There seems to be a stink that follows you out of Sin City. Spending hours in a smoke filled casino with people drinking continuously and throwing all sorts of money on the table for a chance at much more. So while it was hard to leave and say goodbye for another year, I don’t think I would have had much fun Saturday night. I was bored with gambling since my numbers were not doing me much of a favor I did not want to piss away what money I won. We had already done the N9NE Steakhouse, so I guess it was a smart move to come home.

As for next year, I am thinking about bringing my wife. She is not that fond of my going without her. Understandable. I would like her to meet them, not that it would change anything, but I do think we would have more fun together for a night or two in Vegas. I am sure the entire football would laugh at me, but hey they do now so nothing would really change.

What Happens in Vegas…

As mentioned I was headed to Vegas this past weekend for our fantasy football draft that is held at The Palms. Usually it is poolside in our cabana, but this year the start of the draft was pushed back until 5pm due to one owner who had to do pictures with his kid’s sports teams on Saturday and was not able to get in on Friday, like myself. As mentioned, it is usually a 3-day weekend, arriving Friday and departing Sunday morning or early afternoon. This year was the first time I actually stayed the night. Honestly, I had no choice as there were no flights departing at time we would be done.

I was planning on taking an 1045am trip from San Francisco, with a 2 hour layover in Fresno and then on to Vegas, arriving about 415pm. I got lucky when I arrived at the airport and made my way around security [more on that in another post] and to my office. There was a trip leaving in like 15 minutes and there was one seat remaining, which I was given, so I quickly made my way up to the gate and seat my ass down, ready to go. This was cool, because after out minor mechanical delay I got there about 1230pm and was poolside by 115pm.

I took at $25 cab ride to The Palms and called up to the suites where we were staying. No answer, so I headed poolside. As I walk out the door I see my group waiting for their cabana to be made up. I had not even said hello to all the guys and a drink was pushed into my hand. This is sort of how the weekend went. Since I was not really planning on staying, I did not bring a change of clothes or bathing suit. But not to worry, my buddies picked me up with shoes, a shirt and a suit. As mentioned, I was poolside by 115pm at the cabana ordering a Long Island Iced Tea.

for the next 3 hours we lounged around and hung out in the pool. As I told my wife, this is the only time during the year I really get to hang out with guys I grew up with and talk about the past and growing up, along with bullshitting about football and life, in general. The drink flowed through out the early afternoon hours from sweet drinks to Coors Light. This for starters.

A couple of the guys went to check out the blackjack tables, I headed inside for a bit to see if Roulette was worth playing. I guess when no one is at the wheel, not much good is bound to happen. I blew $40 on the slots and quit, went back outside for more sun, pool and beer as we waited for the last owner to arrive.

To be honest, the pool scene is not me. Never has been. But I tell you what, compared to my buddies, I look good! Most of these guys are into their mid-30s like myself, but all have developed a beer belly over the years. Even those [which is most of them] who were athletes! Thankfully my gut was nowhere as “developed” as theirs. So I felt right at home with a bunch of pale white guys with a beer in my hand.

Once the last owner arrived, he was a few drinks behind, so a round of Patron Silver tequila was delivered to the cabana and shots passed out. While he now had one drink in him, it was not long before he had caught up with us and we were ready to draft.

The draft is the main reason we are there. It does make for a great weekend event, but there are more of us with kids and families these days. I think we only have two bachelors in our group at this point. We pulled playing cards to see who would get the top draft and what the remaining order would be. I pulled the 3 card, not bad as it was one of the higher choices I have had recently. The draft itself lasted about 3.5 hours, so we pushed back dinner reservations from 9pm to 930pm at The N9NES Steakhouse.

Now I had heard about “The N9NES” but never did experience it or eat at it. I must say their steak was some of the best I have ever had. I chose a 16 ounce fillet, rare. OMFG! It was tender, juice, the best! No other way to describe it. At that point of the night, I started in on scotch and water after countless drinks and only a half of a cold steak sandwich while poolside. So any food that was put in front of the table was devoured. Unlike those other upscale restaurants, The N9NES was jumping with activity and loud. Too loud for my taste actually. It was mainly the music, but it was bearable. After appetizers, and our meal, which was ala carte and numerous rounds of drink, dinner was over. The damage was close to $900!

It was now time to gamble, hopefully not all the money you brought, away. I am nowhere the high roller these guys are. Hell, I am the same guy who said, “damn a $5 roulette table, thats too much for me.” Haha…so I find it rather funny I took a seat with two buddies at a $15 blackjack table. I find it even funnier that I told my wife I won some money, but then went back and dropped a $50 bet and hit blackjack! That is when I called it a night, about $375 up on Las Vegas. It’s nice to go home, but even nicer when you win money and not loose it to the house.

So that was the trip, all in all a great time being in Vegas, hanging with my buddies, talking shit, drinking, eating and drafting football. Not sure 3 days is in my future when this rolls around next August, the last weekend in the month, but rest assured we will all be looking forward to it. Oh, by the way most of the weekend was comped. I don’t ask questions and don’t want details, but it has something to do with how much money some of the guys spend playing in the casino.