Since we are only 12 days away from stepping onto the pitch for the first time in 2010, this past weekend was one of the last opportunities for the players to enjoy the waning moments of the off-season and to take a few days away from our final training preparations for the new year.
Just so happens that the second-longest tenured Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Jon Oosterhuis, was also getting married in Las Vegas last Friday, so it was the ideal respite before the marathon season begins in earnest.
The cast of this wedding vacation in Sin City included former Blue Bomber Dave Mudge, current Edmonton Eskimo and former Blue Bomber Graeme Bell, Bomber trainer Alain Couture, auxiliary therapist Richard Burr, radio personality Dave Wheeler, yours truly, and of course many notables from Jon's favourite bar in Winnipeg, the Silver Heights.
Since I've been playing professional football I've been going to Vegas on an almost annual basis so you would think after 10 visits or so I would be the go-to guy on the trip.
Turns out, however, that since I gamble about as much as the Pope, I was the least comped, the least hooked up, and the least relevant member of the group for a successful weekend by a long shot.
When I arrived, I took a cab from the airport to the MGM Grand. Jon and his bride-to-be Tonia Stasi took a limo that the MGM provided for them free of charge. I paid through the nose for a room on the fourth floor of the hotel that was so small as soon as you opened the door you were practically in the shower.
Jon had a suite on the 18th floor with a bathroom bigger than my entire room that, once again, the MGM provided free of charge. And the only gambling he ever does in Vegas is on the slot machines!
Before the wedding I went out for dinner with Mudge, who hasn't even played football in two seasons, and yet he had our meal comped by the hotel for his gaming prowess and time spent at the tables.
This trip, I was having a hard enough time getting into the hotel pool for free, but enough of my complaining and back to the wedding.
Though most of the party stayed at the MGM, the wedding was held at Mandalay Bay. It was a picturesque setting including a minister that looked and sounded like a cross between Tom Jones and Wayne Newton.
Everything went down flawlessly, save for the unco-operative weather. Had someone told me we were in a wind tunnel testing the aerodynamic properties of wedding petals, I would have understood. But regardless of the elements, the bride was a vision of beauty and Oosterhuis was looking suave himself in his black on black tuxedo.
Afterwards, the reception was held at an Italian restaurant called Lupo, and the gorging that transpired reminded me of watching migrating wildebeests cross the Nile River while the crocodiles go to town.
Without a word of a lie we had bruschetta, pizza, calamari, antipasto, rigatoni with veal bolognese, your choice of chicken or filet mignon, lemon semifredo, wedding cake and an open bar for four hours.
As you may have discerned by this point, Jon married a full-blooded Italian woman who understands the importance of food and drink to her husband.
Once the tap ran dry and we were ushered out of the restaurant, a large number of the 57 wedding guests made their way to Studio 54 in the MGM, including JonÀôs parents, who may have actually been at the original Studio 54 in New York City.
The problem with going to a club in Las Vegas with a large group is gaining entry to the facility en masse.
We had to buy a table in the bar, which of course required a minimum purchase of two bottles of alcohol. They must have a special distillery somewhere in Nevada that reformats all the drinks, because a regular $40 bottle of vodka magically costs $350 when you buy it in a Las Vegas club.
As far as weddings go, it was quick, painless and absolutely delicious. As for the brideÀôs selection of CFL players to seal her nuptials with, she could not have picked a better one.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.