Fair, 79°
Weather sponsored by:

Boys Week: Celebrating a half century of friendship in Vegas


 LAS VEGAS – Ours is a brotherhood of more than 55 years in the making. We gathered again last week in Las Vegas like we’ve done for decades, to watch basketball, drink, gamble and reminisce. It’s a routine that we vow will last until we go to our graves.

We sat through a 12-hour session of the NCAA basketball playoffs, then met for dinner. We got up the following day and did it all over again.

Talk about a perfect day.

Las Vegas has it all, but Boys Week has never been about flashing neon lights, clanging slot machines, clicking of poker chips and indulgence.

It’s rare when you still have one friend from junior high. We have several.

We’ve watched each other get jobs, get married, have children, then grandchildren and turn gray. We tell stories and, more often than not, have to repeat them because somebody couldn’t hear them. When we talk about classmates, the conversation usually starts with, “Do you know if they’re alive?”

The past seemed so fresh and innocent when memories of Panning Lumber, Gabriel’s Sub, Maryland Fried Chicken and TG&Y were brought up. They’re all gone now, and those neighborhoods aren’t so neighborly anymore.

Unlike Vegas, we’ve aged, but we haven’t changed. The town is so much different than when we first came here in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Gone are the days of 99-cent shrimp cocktails and $1.99 steak dinners, replaced by a $14 hot dog at the deli. A $500 bet at the sportsbook will no longer get you a free drink coupon.

The pandemic changed how Vegas does business, and the freebies aren't returning. The big casinos did away with many of their perks during the slowdowns, and they learned there was still a demand. As they gradually re-opened, they didn’t need to dazzle frequent gamblers to return. They were coming anyway.

One of our favorite stories came from the late 1970s or early 1980s when a casino offered free rooms and food, and you gambled a preset amount of time. The casino issued a punch card where you had to play for at least $10 a hand, and they punched out a square every 15 minutes. Once all of the squares were punched, your stay was free.

There were three in one room that year – Gerry, Dan and Ned. Gerry and Dan met their requirements, and when they asked Ned, he said he only brought $20. So Gerry and Dan angrily took his card, returned to the tables, and got all his squares punched.

Soon afterward, Ned was called on the hotel intercom to come to the front desk. They were impressed with his gambling and wanted to upgrade him to a suite. Rest in peace, Ned.

I can remember going there with the boys, checking my suitcase at the Bell Desk, and getting it out four days later at check-out without going to the room.

Now, I unpack, hang my shirts and pants in the closet, and put my underwear and socks in drawers. I also skip afternoon blackjack tournaments for naps and conference calls.

Thirty years ago, we talked about buying beer when we were underage. Now, we talk about the tax ramifications of social security benefits.

We avoid The Strip, where crazed young revelers need shoulder straps for their purple drink flasks. We chose to stay off the beaten path and pay $5 for drinks in rinse and spit-size cups.

There is no downtime in Las Vegas. In addition to the basketball tournament, the U.S. Bowling Congress tournament was in town for a five-month tournament. The event will attract as many as 70,000 bowlers. And the Friday night concert by Bruce Springsteen was almost unnoticed in the T-Moblie Arena.

I’ve learned in the past 30-plus years, the secret to surviving Vegas, and being part of the next Boys Week is pacing myself. Here’s to the best friends anyone could want.