The 2022 Pro Bowl is the first part of Las Vegas’ NFL showcase parlay

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LAS VEGAS – Micah Parsons rules the neon-lit Strip, almost mocking drivers and pedestrians trying to catch a glimpse of the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker before his big-screen image near the Fashion Show Mall flickers out. .

A sea of ​​NFL jerseys, with occasional cheese heads, waves as fans cross a volcano, dancing water fountains, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and a pyramid complete with a Raiders-inspired, standing guard wearing eye patches.

It’s Pro Bowl week at the NFL’s newest market, which is doing a kind of audition to host the league’s biggest events. It was not so long ago that the NFL did not allow Las Vegas to buy commercial airtime during the Super Bowl. And now the league’s all-star match is being held here (15:00 ET, Sunday, ESPN), followed by the NFL draft in April, and in two years, Super Bowl LVIII. In fact, Las Vegas is queuing up to become the first city to host all three NFL events, thanks to the Raiders, who have established store here in 2020.

This desert oasis used to be the sports domain for Jerry Tarkanian’s band of Runnin ‘Rebels from UNLV, rock stars in their own right who probably could not have imagined the NFL rolling into town even though Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson rocked the Los Angeles Raiders’ caps for a photo shoot in the 1990-91 season.

So there was some symmetry in Raiders tight-end Darren Waller, Las Vegas ‘Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, who took the Rebels’ victory over rival Nevada Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. Waller was chased for photos and autographs and forced before grabbing the rim on his way from Tarkanian Court. And remember, it was “Sweetness” himself – Hall of Fame runner Walter Payton – who gave the Rebels a pre-match disguise before going out and beating Duke 103-73 in the 1990 title game.

Even Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler, who had no real connection to Las Vegas before being hired on Monday, was fascinated by the old rebel teams. He showed his knowledge by rattling the names of the starters from 1990-91 champs, starting with the least known of them: center George Ackles.

Las Vegas has always been a city of sports betting, with Super Bowl Sunday and March Madness particularly busy times in the books. But it’s now an NFL city where the Raiders follow in the footsteps of the NHL’s Golden Knights, an expansion pack that began playing in 2017 and went to the Stanley Cup final in its first season. Interestingly, the NHL All-Star Game is also this weekend at the nearby T-Mobile Arena.

But on a cold and windy Wednesday night in a ball field used by Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate in nearby Summerlin (yes, even the A’s flirt with the idea of ​​following the Raiders from East Bay to southern Nevada). it was a Parsons without a torso who stole the show at the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown in the fastest man’s 40-yard dash.

Or maybe it was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who went into the precision-fitting competition. Then again, Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs won the best catch contest – yes, a defensive back claimed the trophy – with an acrobatic somersault number that would have impressed fans at any NBA dunk contest, raised some eyebrows. It also hit a trampoline-jumping, middle-legged catch of Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson, who recalled memories of another guy with both Oakland and UNLV ties – Raiders fan Isaiah Rider and his East Bay Funk Dunk.

“It’s great to have the Pro Bowl here, because now the NFL has it in the entertainment capital of the world and at the Allegiant Stadium,” said Raiders season ticket holder Rick Cruz. SoFi Stadium [where Super Bowl LVI is being held]? It’s Hollywood. “Vegas is more groundbreaking, and it’s being delivered to a fan base that has been starving for the fame they deserve.”

Las Vegas has long been the fighting capital of the world, from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson to Oscar De La Hoya to Floyd Mayweather Jr. to the UFC, and the city knows how to host an event … and an afterparty.

Raiders Pro Bowl defensive back Maxx Crosby has hosted his AFC West brothers.

“I told [Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis] Kelce and [quarterback Patrick] Mahomes, they ever need anything, they need some land, they have my number, “Crosby said.” Yeah, I’m that guy today.

“It’s perfect. I’m staying in the house. I just woke up and drove right here. Yeah, it’s incredible to be here in Vegas, the best city in the world, so we’re having fun.”

Officials expect close to a sold-out for the Pro Bowl, which moved from Hawaii to Orlando, Florida, in 2016, before arriving in Vegas, at least this year. It was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Just do not lean on Raiders linebacker Denzel Perryman, a first-time Pro Bowler, for useful hints or Sin City do’s and don’ts.

“They asked me, ‘Man, you have to show us where we’re going,’ he said. ‘I say,’ Good luck with that. You want to be on Yelp because I do not know. I’m not going out like that, man. I’m a homemaker. ‘ After Sunday, I want to be out in Vegas and venture out, and I want all the lists of things to do for everyone.

“After Sunday, you might see me somewhere. Somewhere. Eat though. Eat. I’m not playing or anything like that. You’re not going to see me in a casino. Just go through.”

However, the NFL is in Las Vegas to stay.


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