Staking out seven great spots for football this fall

mg2708.jpgWell, it’s over. No, I’m not talking about Amy Winehouse (what, too soon?). Rather, I’m referring to America’s greediest pissing match, a.k.a. the NFL lockout, which was lifted July 25 after the owners and players finally figured out how to divvy up a $9 billion pie.

Who won (the owners and players, of course) and who lost (Joe Fan, as usual) is irrelevant. All that matters is the 2011 season will start on time, the only casualty being the Hall of Fame game (an annual showcase of fourth-stringers vs. fourth-stringers that makes the LPGA seem compelling by comparison).

In celebration of our long national nightmare ending—not counting the inevitable Brett Favre saga—and coinciding with Vegas Seven’s second Best of the City issue, I present my list of Seven Best Places to Watch Football this fall (listed in alphabetical order).

Buffalo Wild Wings: If you’re like me and have a teenage son who loves football (and chicken wings) as much as you do, this is the place to go … as long as you go early. Despite nine locations spread across the Valley, most are standing-room-only by the time early games kick off on Sundays. In other words, church is just not an option. Extra points: Leroy’s Sportsbook kiosks are at all local Buffalo Wild Wings. Sign up for an account, and halftime wagers are only a few steps away.

Caesars Palace: Some sports books are bigger, some are more extravagant and most offer more TVs, more seats and better sight lines. But a book’s most important ingredient is one that can’t be manufactured: atmosphere. And if you’ve ever been in Caesars when a game is coming down to the wire, you know the atmosphere is second-to-none. Yes, bad beats blow, but when they happen at Caesars, for some reason, they sting a little less. Extra points: Can’t find an open seat? Here’s a tip: March over to the food court, casually swipe a chair and bring it back to the book (and if you get caught, you didn’t hear it from me!).

Golden Nugget: Maybe it’s because I’m old, uncultured, the antithesis of “hip” (or, more likely, all of the above). But downtown and I have never gotten along. One place where I do fit in? The Golden Nugget sports book, where old-school design (rich, dark woods; leather chairs and booths) meets new-school amenities (easy-to-read odds board, large video wall and TVs at every seat). Like most downtown spots, the Nugget didn’t devote much square footage to its book, but the space is more intimate than cramped. Lefty Rosenthal would dig this joint. Extra points: Hungry? The Grille serves up solid, reasonably priced stadium fare out of a side window.

Green Valley Ranch: If you live on the east side of the tracks and prefer your sports book more classy than trashy, there’s no better venue. GVR’s book is immaculate, the TVs are plentiful (including five huge screens on the main wall) and the bartenders possess incredible recall (by your third visit, they’ll know your drink of choice). The one knock: not enough betting windows open on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Extra points: For the best views from an elevated setting, head to the round tables between the bar and VIP area.

Lagasse’s Stadium: In 41 years, I’ve never flown first-class. But I have spent an afternoon at Lagasse’s Stadium (on the first Saturday of March Madness, no less), and I imagine the experiences are comparable. There’s a reason this posh venue in the Palazzo earned special designation in this issue (see “Best Sports Lounge,”). The place is, more or less, your family room on steroids. Extra points: If that eight-team parlay ever comes in, take some of that coin and rent out a skybox on an NFL Sunday.

Las Vegas Hilton: If you’ve been in town more than a year and haven’t spent at least one autumn Saturday or Sunday at the Hilton’s “SuperBook”—the largest book in the world—well, you don’t like football (and by extension you’re not American). Extra points: For a stadium-like experience check out “Football Central” inside the state-of-the-art, 1,500-seat Hilton Theater on Sundays.

M Resort: Four reasons to love the M’s sports book: 1) It’s as nicely appointed as any already mentioned; 2) It offers extremely aggressive point spreads (it’s not uncommon for NFL lines at the M to be as much as 1½ points different than most other establishments); 3) The book itself, whilesmall, is smoke-free; and 4) a cocktail waitress named Mandy. Extra points: If you’re feeling lucky—and your pockets are deep—give the in-running wagering a try (think betting the game within the game). Just don’t send me the bill.

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