Birthday naps in Vegas

by Kristian Ibarra, Sports Editor

Most people wouldn’t complain at the prospect of spending any post-21 birthday in Las Vegas. But I’m not like most people (not in the cool, pretentious way, though). In all honesty, the thought of spending the 23rd anniversary of my birth in Sin City wasn’t necessarily my idea of a “happy” birthday.

And this is coming from a guy who got credentialed to cover Steve Fisher and the San Diego State men’s basketball team during the 2015 Mountain West Tournament while having his room at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino completely covered by the student-run newspaper that is publishing these very words.

Most would color me ridiculous, but hear me out for a second.

I don’t drink alcohol.

I’m broke.

I’m not big on celebrating myself.

While most of my journalism colleagues stowed their reporter hats away for the weekend, I was  working. They would be out and about swimming in an ocean of fanny packs and socks-with-sandals during the day and rubbing elbows with the freaks only Vegas can attract after sundown; I would find myself inside of the Thomas & Mack Center keeping the masses of Aztec faithful informed on the fast-paced madness before the Madness that is conference tournament basketball.

I wasn’t there to have a good time; I was there on business, I told myself.

Inexplicably enough, all of the alcohol-free, thrifty-living birthday hours I spent out in Vegas turned out to be pretty OK.  More than OK, actually.

It was Friday the 13th. I walked into the hotel lobby while a batch of familiar faces welcomed me with a quiet, Kristian-Ibarra-esque “happy birthday.” There were no streamers. There was no music. They even managed to keep themselves from forcing alcohol down my throat. Just a smile from each one of the 15 or so people I’d come to appreciate over the last 10 months. I even managed to fit a nap into my day. It was perfect.

But as I dreamt the dreams only new 23-year-olds can , I heard the hotel-room door open. Through the gates were about a dozen people (who likely had better things to be doing on a Friday afternoon in Las Vegas) stepped into the room while an off-pitch, unsynchronized chorus of “Happy Birthday” filled the air. Lady Boss II walked in with a fire-hazardous cake before reminding me that normal people blow out the candles on their birthday. It was red velvet — my favorite.

The best part? My name was spelled right. Having corrected people all my life (23 years, to be exact), I can only imagine what Lady Boss I and Co. had to go through to make sure the busy folks at Vons got it right.

You have to realize that these people know me. They know that I would have been perfectly content with just being left to myself so I could catch up on reading the latest sports headlines I couldn’t keep up with over the weekend. But they didn’t.

By some strange, unwarranted virtue, these people actually care about that sports guy who can’t seem to closet any of the wise-guy remarks  for more than five minutes at a time. I thank them.