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dirk digler
02-21-2007, 08:36 PM
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/columnists/jason_whitlock/16730767.htm

Monday Feb 19, 2007

All-star weekend a perfect party

LAS VEGAS | For black men and women below the age of 45, NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas was a calling you felt deep in the pit of your stomach.

You just had to be there, even if you no longer love the NBA the way you did when Magic, Bird, Michael and Isiah ruled the game, even if you had zero interest in the actual game.

All-Star Weekend is the new millennium’s “Freaknik,” a once-popular, now-canceled annual street party. When Atlanta’s Freaknik died of self-inflicted wounds — looting and violence — in 1999, the NBA’s midseason exhibition rose in popularity for black people looking for an annual excuse to party on a large scale.

All-Star Weekend is now The Perfect Storm. Scheduled in mid-February — just about the time people start receiving their income-tax returns — the weekend attracts the biggest stars in rap music and the TV and movie industry’s most high-profile black stars.

All-Star Weekend also has one huge advantage over the Super Bowl, the other sporting event that sparks major partying. This weekend is just as much — if not more — a woman’s event as a man’s. This is probably a byproduct of the basketball game being a complete afterthought. The game is still the main draw at the Super Bowl, so bettors and hardcore football fans sift through the parties, the commercials and the halftime show hoping to see a competitive game.

There is no such pretense at the NBA All-Star Game. David Stern could cancel the game, and the event wouldn’t suffer at all. Women would still show up by the truckload hoping to dance with Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, LeBron James and anyone else taller than 6 feet 4.

A typical Super Bowl party will have 10 men for every woman. All-Star Weekend parties are split pretty much right down the middle. And, quite honestly, all the time NBA players spend recovering from a tough night’s work in strip clubs across America equals a major caravan of strippers descending upon the host city.

Again, we’re talking about The Perfect Storm of ghettofabulousness — booze, babes, gambling, celebrities, a dunk contest and no such thing as last call.

You could feel All-Star Weekend in Vegas calling you in the pit of your stomach and from areas below.

ASWV went from calling to plan when the wife of a college roommate called and asked several of us to take Todd, my old roommate, to ASWV for his 40th birthday. Now everything was legitimate.

Ralph’s wife couldn’t say no because Todd’s wife was promoting the trip. Marty had to go because there was no way he could deny himself the opportunity to rehash the hell he went through his senior year of college sharing an apartment with Ralph and Ralph’s first wife.

There was only one flaw: Caz’s wife is seven months’ pregnant, and Caz totally lacks the verbal finesse it would take to convince a pregnant woman that her husband needed to relive his college days in Vegas during The Perfect Storm.

Caz was out. He would only hear of ASWV through text messages, occasional prank phone calls and this family-friendly, sanitized column.

He missed a great time, but not for all the reasons you’d think.

ASWV was a mixed bag of good and bad.

Las Vegas Boulevard — The Strip — was at a standstill Friday through Sunday. The 4-mile-long Strip was swallowed by youthful loiterers and around-the-clock police foot patrol that stretched from the Stratosphere to the Mandalay Bay.

It felt like occupied territory and the French Quarter. You were overwhelmed by the smell of weed, the use of profanity and the N-word-a.

I’ve been to Vegas probably 20 times. I’ve been for vacation and prizefights. This was far different from even a Mike Tyson fight, which always attracted young hip-hop celebrities and fans and a large urban following.

In the 1990s, Tyson fights were absolutely my favorite event to attend. There’s a pageantry that goes along with boxing. People dress up. It was like going to a Playas Ball.

This felt like a house party in the projects. It wasn’t Vegas. You don’t go to Vegas for house parties. You go to Vegas for the big shows, the women in their sexiest dresses and upscale partying.

We quickly decided to choose our spots.

On Friday night, a friend got us in chef Steve Martorano’s grand opening at the Rio. If you’ve never heard of Café Martorano’s in Fort Lauderdale and Steve, you’re likely to hear big things about his place in Vegas. Steve has made a name for himself along the East Coast because he caters for the cast of “The Sopranos” and because his spot in south Florida is such a unique dining experience.

It’s a mix of a nightclub experience and fine, Italian, family-style dining. Steve cooks while spinning the loudest disco and R&B music you’ll ever hear in a restaurant. He seriously has turntables in the kitchen. He’ll occasionally turn the music down so you can hear the dialogue of the mob movie that’s playing on the flat-screen TVs decorating the walls.

When we arrived at Café Martorano Rio, the place was two hours old and rapper Ludacris, NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and singer Natalie Cole were in the house dancing and eating. People literally stand up and dance at their tables.

It was a two-hour, seven-course, five-Grey Goose meal that was off the hook. You can order off the menu or simply tell your waiter to have Steve cook for you. We chose the latter.

We left Café Martorano’s around midnight and headed over to Kenny Smith’s party at the Empire Ballroom. This was the party of ASWV. Unfortunately, we showed up five hours after it started, and I didn’t have the necessary juice with Kenny’s cousin Cassandra to talk myself and three friends into a party that had 300 people waiting in line.

I did get to rap with Keenan McCardell, who expressed shock at Marty Schottenheimer’s firing. And I also ran into my boy Warren Sapp, who amazingly looks as fit today as he did when he was starring at the University of Miami.

Square business, Sapp looked as if he weighed 285 pounds.

“I’m trying to get to 100,” Sapp said, speaking of number of career sacks.

Getting shut out of Kenny’s party gave us the perfect excuse to head to the Spearmint Rhino, a legendary gentleman’s club. Beyond telling you that middleweight champion Winky Wright was posted up by stage 2, you’ll have to send me an e-mail if you want details from The Rhino.

I promised Ralph and Todd that what happened in Vegas would stay in Vegas. But there are unconfirmed rumors that Ralph’s wife had a GPS system secretly installed under his left armpit. What is a fact is that Ralph, according to Marty, slept with his Bluetooth earpiece in place so as not to miss her calls.

Isn’t love special?

Saturday I dedicated myself to gambling. I was on the craps table four hours after sleeping off the Spearmint Rhino. Saturday night we went to see Jamie Foxx perform at the Aladdin Hotel.

The dude is unbelievable. The show went from 9:15 to midnight. Jamie opened with an hourlong comedy set, took a short break and then rocked the crowd performing songs from his “Unpredictable” CD and a Ray Charles impersonation.

Jamie Foxx might be the most talented performer on the planet. He sings, acts, does impersonation and stand-up comedy. I left the show mad that I’m not Jamie Foxx.

Seeing Foxx’s performance was the (printable) highlight of the weekend.

I have no idea who won the game, or whether it was even played.

All in all, NBA All-Star Weekend did not enhance Vegas, and Vegas did not elevate NBA All-Star Weekend. Vegas is still Vegas. And All-Star Weekend is still a little too ghettofab.

dirk digler
02-21-2007, 08:37 PM
http://sports.aol.com/whitlock/_a/mayhem-main-event-at-nba-all-star/20070220103009990001

Mayhem Main Event at NBA All-Star Weekend
'Police Were Simply Overwhelmed' in Sin City
By JASON WHITLOCK
AOL
Sports Commentary

Posted 2-21-2007

LAS VEGAS -- NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas was an unmitigated failure, and any thoughts of taking the extravaganza to New Orleans in 2008 are total lunacy.

An event planned to showcase what is right about professional basketball has been turned into a 72-hour display of why commissioner David Stern can't sleep at night and spends his days thinking of rules to mask what the NBA has come to represent.

Good luck fixing All-Star Weekend.

The game is a sloppy, boring, half-hearted mess. The dunk contest is contrived and pointless. The celebrity contest is unintended comedy. And, worst of all, All-Star Weekend revelers have transformed the league's midseason exhibition into the new millennium Freaknik, an out-of-control street party that features gunplay, violence, non-stop weed smoke and general mayhem.

Word of all the criminal activity that transpired during All-Star Weekend has been slowly leaking out on Las Vegas radio shows and TV newscasts and on Internet blogs the past 24 hours.

"It was filled with an element of violence," Teresa Frey, general manager for Coco's restaurant, told klastv.com. "They don't want to pay their bills. They don't want to respect us or each other."

Things got so bad that she closed the 24-hour restaurant from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

"I have been spit on. I have had food thrown at me," she said. "I have lost two servers out of fear. I have locked my door out of the fear of violence."

All weekend, people, especially cab drivers, gossiped about brawls and shootings. You didn't know what to believe because the local newspaper was filled with stories about what a raging success All-Star Weekend was. The city is desperately trying to attract an NBA franchise, and, I guess, there was no reason to let a few bloody bodies get in the way of a cozy relationship with Stern.

Plus, the NBA's business partner ESPN didn't have time to dirty its hands and report on the carnage. I'm sure ESPN's reporters were embedded in the rear ends of the troops -- Shaq, Kobe, King James, D-Wade, AI and Melo.

But there were multiple brawls, at least two shootings, more than 350 arrests and a lot of terror in Vegas over the weekend.

And the police might want to talk to NFL player Pacman Jones about a nasty shooting spree at a Vegas strip club. Jones and the rapper Nelly were allegedly at Minxx Gentlemen's Club Monday morning shortly before (or during) the shooting.

Two victims, male employees of the club, were listed in critical condition at the hospital; a third, a female patron, sustained non-life threatening injuries after being grazed by a bullet.

There were so many fights and so many gangbangers and one parking-lot shootout at the MGM Grand that people literally fled the hotel in fear for their safety. I talked with a woman who moved from the MGM to the Luxor because "I couldn't take it. I'll never come back to another All-Star Game."

There are reports of a brawl between rappers and police at the Wynn Hotel.

Vegas police were simply overwhelmed along The Strip. They were there solely for decoration and to discourage major crimes. Beyond that, they minded their own business.

I was there. Walking The Strip this weekend must be what it feels like to walk the yard at a maximum security prison. You couldn't relax. You avoided eye contact. The heavy police presence only reminded you of the danger.

Without a full-scale military occupation, New Orleans will not survive All-Star Weekend 2008.

David Stern seriously needs to consider moving the event out of the country for the next couple of years in hopes that young, hip-hop hoodlums would find another event to terrorize. Taking the game to Canada won't do it. The game needs to be moved overseas, someplace where the Bloods and Crips and hookers and hoes can't get to it without a passport and plane ticket.

I'm serious. Stern has spent the past three years trying to move his league and players past the thug image Ron Artest's fan brawl stamped on the NBA.

After this weekend, I'm convinced he's losing the battle. All-Star Weekend Vegas screamed that the NBA is aligned too closely with thugs. Stern is going to have to take drastic measures to break that perception/reality. All-Star Weekend can no longer remain the Woodstock for parolees, wannabe rap artists and baby's mamas on tax-refund vacations.

This was not a byproduct of the game being held in Vegas. All-Star Weekend has been on this path for the past five or six years. Every year the event becomes more and more a destination for troublemakers.

If something isn't done, next year's All-Star Weekend will surpass the deceased Freaknik, a weekend-long party in Atlanta, in terms of lawlessness. Wide-spread looting and a rape killed the Freaknik in 1999.

The NBA's image cannot survive bedlam in the French Quarter. And I'm not sure it can survive the embarrassment of a New Orleans standoff between its fans and the National Guard, either.

If Stern wants to continue to strengthen the international appeal of his game, he has the perfect excuse to move the All-Star Game to Germany, China, England or anywhere Suge Knight's posse can't find it.

Count Alex's Wins
02-21-2007, 08:38 PM
Wow. What a ****ing two-faced SOB.

dirk digler
02-21-2007, 08:39 PM
Wow. What a ****ing two-faced SOB.

I am glad I am not the only one who thinks this.

greg63
02-21-2007, 08:48 PM
Wow. What a ****ing two-faced SOB.

You expected somthing different fromFatlock

dirk digler
02-21-2007, 08:51 PM
You expected somthing different fromFatlock

yes and no.

Count Alex's Wins
02-21-2007, 09:03 PM
Wait a second. Actually, I owe Whitlock an apology. He's saying the same thing. He just said it in two different ways.

I still hated both columns, but at least he didn't go so far as to plagiarize himself. He put alot of effort into two columns about the same thing. It's not an easy task, and pretty annoying to complete.

BigRock
02-21-2007, 09:41 PM
The only thing that really stands out to me as being contradictory is the headline on the Star column, calling it a "perfect party". And that's usually slapped on by the editor or whoever, I doubt Whitlock wrote that.

Guru
02-21-2007, 10:46 PM
Both articles bored me.

DaneMcCloud
02-22-2007, 01:48 AM
I read it as two different columns. One from the perspective of a person partying in Vegas and the other as a reporter.

He touches on the "tax refund" perspective in both, but he fails to elaborate in the Star. Overall, I thought it was very interesting.

I love the NBA and I love Vegas but for me, never shall the two meet.

siberian khatru
02-22-2007, 11:20 AM
Congratulations, Jason -- the AOL column has now been linked to by Drudge.

Short Leash Hootie
02-22-2007, 11:25 AM
damn it feels good to be a gangsta!

Kerberos
02-22-2007, 12:27 PM
He was looking forward to a good time in the first one.

He found out none of the HO's in Vegas have EVAH heard of "BIG SEXY" and got dys'd in the second one.

:shake:

Sometimes he is RIGHT ON with a column and then there are THESE TWO.

I'm thinking Jason is smoking CRACK :bong:

:shrug:

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jidar
02-22-2007, 01:04 PM
****ing thugs. Wish they'd all just ****ing "gat" each other and get it over with.

FringeNC
02-22-2007, 01:29 PM
Whitlock didn't stay without a national column for long after he quit his ESPN thing.

There is a huge variance in the quality of JW's columns. These two are entertaining reads from different perspectives, and it seems easy to see why he has a national column. Other times, it's complete crap, and you wonder how he has even a job at the Star.