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April 18, 2009

World Cup in Vegas Is A Hoot

Well, it’s Day 4 and I’ve not yet tripped on anything and fallen head over high heels with $8,000 worth of camera equipment (as I was certain I would have done many times over by now). Knock on wood! Actually there isn’t much wood to knock on here in the concrete-and-metal monstrosity that is the Thomas & Mack Center, but lucky for us, our hotel room at Hooters is almost entirely paneled in it.

Yeah, so Hooters is actually a hoot. We have a whole gaggle of journalists and photographers staying there, and it’s clean and comfortable and kitschy, in a good way. Plus, the room service staff makes a mean grilled cheese at 1:00 a.m., and the fleeting moments Molly and I spent reading by the pool yesterday were infinitely restorative.

This job is fantastic, but not nearly as glamorous as one might think. Sleep is a rare luxury, and food is scarfed down as soon as it appears on the table in the pressroom. Equipment malfunctions, scoring confusions arise, and the clock is always ticking. In today’s instant-news era, there’s more pressure than ever to be the fastest and the best. Sometimes we step back and feel that our stress is a bit frivolous and self-indulgent, because it’s not like we’re covering the genocide in Darfur or the global economic crisis, but the pressure exists nonetheless.

Molly, Sara and I were definitely feeling the tension by yesterday afternoon, as three days of nitpicking and tweaking news coverage, photo galleries, Twitter and our blog began to catch up with us. So we took advantage of a two-hour window to go back to the hotel for some quiet time. (Actually this turned into about a one-hour window, because we keep getting lost on the way back to Hooters, despite the fact that the establishment is plainly visible from the Thomas & Mack parking lot. We always end up sitting in gridlocked traffic on The Strip, staring longingly at the fancy fountains of The Bellagio and the faux Eiffel Tower at Paris).

In any case, the 45 minutes I spent with my Charles Dickens novel on the pseudo-beach at Hooters was pretty fantastic. Molly dove into a juicy Vanity Fair article about the Sulzberger dynasty of New York Times fame, and Sara chilled in the room to recoup from her rabies vaccine earlier in the morning.

I can’t believe we’ve made it this far without telling you about Sara’s rabies, or lack thereof. The Chronicle’s editorial staffers are all lifelong riders, and we have an inherent love for almost all animals. In Sara’s case, that included the feral cat her two dogs chased under the flatbed trailer at her farm two weeks ago. In a moment of overwhelming kindheartedness or sheer stupidity, depending on how you look at it (she’ll tell you herself that it was the latter), she reached under the wheel well to try to catch the cat, thinking she’d magically feed and care for and re-home it.

I don’t have to tell you the frisky feline had other ideas. It bit into her like a sirloin steak and then ran for the hills, and it hasn’t been seen since. Two weeks later, Sara’s had seven rabies treatment shots, including one yesterday afternoon. Turns out, the vaccinations are huge (the initial treatment was five shots at once all over her body) and have to be timed very specifically, and Sara’s schedule meant she had to have one here in Vegas and another next Friday in Kentucky, where she’ll be covering the Rolex CCI****.

Unfortunately, the city of Vegas seems remarkably ill-equipped to handle rabies cases. They just don’t exist here. I mean, this town sees a lot of craziness, but a girl from rural Virginia managed to stump them. After countless calls across the country that began with “Hi, my name is Sara, and this is going to be a strange request…,” she finally found a private doctor who could administer the shot during her stay here (the local health departments and emergency rooms had nothing to offer her), and we have much higher hopes for Kentucky next weekend. Because rabies is just run-of-the mill in Lexington, you know…

But, back to the present, this afternoon is the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and Molly is out shooting it as I type. And I’ve just discovered that there’s CHAMPAGNE here in the pressroom, so I’m going to sign off and indulge in of one of the few semblances of glamour available. If my photos from the dressage freestyles tonight are a bit wonky, you’ll know the hospitality boys and their bubbly are to blame.

We hear we’ll have a sold-out crowd tonight!

Kat Netzler