Every March a group of friends and I go on a trip to Las Vegas. Before I continue there are a few things you need to know about this annual trip:
On this trip we don’t go clubbing or try to hit on girls. We go to gamble, drink, watch March Madness and get into as many heated arguments about how elite pitchers are better draft picks than elite hitters as we can. They aren’t.
You see we take this trip every year to hold our Fantasy Baseball Draft. Yes, it’s an extremely dorky reason and yes we are extremely serious about it. We have a trophy. It’s a real trophy. It’s heavy and you can drink from it. It’s called the Chris Sabo Commerative Cup. When I had it made in 2003 I spelled “Commemorative” wrong on the engraving sheet and literally no one noticed until 2008 nor have we done anything to fix it.
And lastly, it is very important to us that this tradition continues as long as we live.
Which brings us to last year’s trip. Lately, we’ve had a new Vegas tradition where on Saturday night after out draft: we make our way to the Imperial Palace for some two in the morning karaoke. We each order a bucket of beer, sing some songs and watch others be way too serious about performing ‘Black Velvet’ in front of drunks. This lasts until we get bored or one of us throws up and/or gets in a fight.
Now, my “go to” karaoke song is usually “Bust-a-move” by Young M.C. I know what you’re thinking and yes “Principal’s Office” was Young M.C.’s masterpiece, but I’m good at “Bust-A-Move”. Really good. Like awkwardly good. However, this particular evening I chose to stray from my standard and sing a song called “Dammit” by Blink – The 182 part of Blink’s name was added after the Cargo pressing of Dude Ranch, which is the last Blink record I enjoyed so I refuse to recognize it. “Dammit” is essentially a song about a guy and a girl who break up and then the guy starts hearing about and then seeing his ex-girlfriend out with new guys. Something we’ve all been through and will continue to go through because for the most part women are sadists. I broke pattern and sang this song mainly because I knew my friends would think it was funny, but at the same time sing-a-long un-ironically, because you see five of the eight of us grew up in San Diego and we were the right age for this song to matter when it was released. As I sang the song (Or just did an impression of myself singing punk music in 1994, which is actually just an impression of Fat Mike from NOFX.) I started to notice that the chorus of the song took on a whole new meaning. If you remember the chorus of “Dammit” just repeats, “Well, I guess this is growing up.” The lyrics are kind of overshadowed by the somewhat famous line in the second verse, “Did you hear he f*@ked her?” However, it was the chorus that turned my smile to sadness.
This is our ninth trip to Vegas and our twelfth year playing fantasy baseball together; and in recent years this trip is the only time I get to really hang out with a couple of these guys, which makes the trip even more important to me. All of us are now between 30-33 years of age and the last couple of trips it has really started to show. Not only are three guys now married, but two more are engaged, one owns a house and now has two children. BAM! Real life dropped on us in room 2149 of The Venetian before the fifth beer. These life changes prompted some Vegas rule reminders, including one that was introduced in our mid-twenties when it became apparent some women for some unknown reason might actually want to spend their lives with us: No wives or kids will ever be allowed on this trip. I have a feeling that this rule will hold strong although I’m almost certain that it won’t.
While cruising through the second verse I started to realize the situation at hand and I could do nothing about it. When you start your annual Vegas trip at 22 with some of your best friends willing to do anything just to make one person laugh you feel like nothing will ever change. When you find yourself at 30 so hung over after the first night you’re thinking of leaving, you know that everything already has. No more strip clubs for fear of loved ones getting upset, no more all night binging because we now have people who depend on us, and of course no more Fatburger. For lunch that Saturday we headed somewhere in some hotel that I can only remember as being too bright for me to handle. I sat poking at a plate of mush that looked like a hamburger salad, barely able to form sentences and nursing a headache so bad I’m amazed that every time I yawned the four horsemen of the apocalypse didn’t come riding out of my mouth. This meal is known as the “Before Draft Breakfast” that happens at 3pm. It’s usually reserved for proposing rule changes, adding new members or player trades. But, as we all scanned the table we noticed no one was laughing or smiling or even talking. We were all feeling “it”. No one at the table could accurately describe what ‘it’ was but let’s just say whatever it was rhymed with ‘age’. Maybe, just maybe we’re getting too old for this. Years ago we would have been a hip looking group of twenty somethings cruising the strip looking for trouble, but now we find ourselves stumbling through those groups of kids lost, sloppy, looking for the Sportsbook, and talking to our loved ones on the phone trying to convince them that fifty beers in a day is not that much – all things considered. Then like prophecy someone asked the question that was on all our minds we just couldn’t put it into words: What happens if one of us dies? This turned into a pretty spirited debate, which ended an hour later with two solutions: Either that person’s eldest son is offered the position in our league or you must name a successor in your will. This was not a joke and…
…This is why I love these guys and fantasy sports.
With all the thoughts of our own mortality, the conversation never dipped into what will happen to my wife, or will I have a secure retirement. It was purely about one thing and one thing only.
That night onstage nasally yelling the last verse of my Karaoke cover I became lucid. Because, that night a somewhat crappy pop-punk song turned into a Shakespearean tragedy. We were adults now, sitting on the ides of March. We were too old. This was behind us and we did not know exactly how to handle it other than try and kill ourselves with free Coors Light and doubling down on a nine just to piss off the table. Right before the last chorus of a song meant to be a joke it become abundantly clear that I was the real joke. Not my life, mind you but the ridiculous expectations I had had of life. The one thing I learned from that afternoons breakfast filled the room so thick I could taste it: This trip was never about escaping, or baseball, or trying to stay young forever like some balding version of the Lost Boys. No, this trip is our way to lighten the darkness that is growing up.
I walked off stage; high-fived my friends, laughed, then sat in the corner nursing beer number thirty-eight. As my buddy Sean hopped on stage to belt out Third Eye Blind’s ‘How’s It Gonna Be’ the clarity only became more…well…clear: The person you think you’ll always be at 22 is never the person you become. It’s not even the person you’re supposed to become. And what’s worse is that you could never make your younger self understand that this isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just how it is now. Things change and as much as I (Probably most out of the league.) don’t ever want them to, it’s not up to me. It’s the curse of life. If me at 22 saw me today he’d probably cry and ask the simple question, “What the hell happened to you?” I could only reply, “Everything?” And as younger me turned around to walk away he’d stop and say loud enough for me to hear, “Dammit.”
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