The King, tacos vie for our fleeting attention

Note: This column appears in the 2/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/4 issue of the Peoria Times

My favorite gimmicks occur at sporting events. For whatever reason, many venues and corporations believe that people who attend sporting events need a distraction from a distraction, and do not have the attention span to watch the actual game. They called a timeout? What am I going to do for the next two minutes of my life? Enter the t-shirt canon.

Case in point was our trip to the Coyotes game last weekend. Here is a franchise that endured several years of turmoil and the threat of relocation, and not only survived, but thrived, thanks in large part to the type of loyal fan base for which the sport of hockey is renowned. And hey—you know what would make that fan base’s game experience that much better? Elvis.

As we entered Arena and made our way to our seats, we found ourselves behind an Elvis impersonator along with the emcee for that evening’s crowd-pleasing gimmicks. As we waited for a break in play, I overheard—and by overheard I mean eavesdropped on—a portion of their conversation. The emcee explained to Elvis how the next bit would proceed, and he finished by telling the King, “And then yeah, after that, just do … ya’ know … whatever it is you do.”

I myself was curious as to what Elvis was going to do. The answer, as it turned out, was “not much.” Better yet, it was never once explained why Elvis was there in the first place. What was the connection between Elvis and the Phoenix Coyotes? I guess … who cares? It’s Elvis!

There he was, during every live bit, just standing there to the side. He did the air guitar once. As far as we deduced, he said literally one letter during the whole game. It happened during a fan trivia segment. The fan answered “C” to a multiple-choice Coyotes question, and the emcee then turned to Elvis and asked, “What does Elvis think?” Elvis leaned into the microphone for his one shining moment and said, “C.”

You would think he would have taken that chance to say something like, “I think it’s uh, ‘C.’ Thank you, a thank you very much.” He didn’t even use an Elvis voice to give his one-letter answer, instead opting for, as we later described it, his day-job voice. The whole thing was surreal. Surreally awesome.

We weren’t yet finished laughing about Elvis when they released the giant flying Taco Bell taco over the crowd, which, you may recall, drops down chalupa coupons and not tickets to future games, as I had once falsely assumed. My mom had her camera, which she had only used once during her week-long stay in AZ to take a picture of the moon. Obviously, she took a picture of the flying taco. Then she decided, “What the heck—let me get a picture with my son, too.” She handed her camera to my wife, who noticed that the flying taco had moved closer, and wanted to snap a better picture to save my mom the embarrassment of showing off to friends a distant picture of a flying taco. She snapped the pic, but the flash reflected off the glass boards and ruined it. Right then, the camera’s battery died. My mom returned home after a week in Arizona with a picture of the moon, and two pictures of a giant, flying taco, one of them indistinguishable.

We were foiled and distracted by two gimmicks, but we laughed the entire night. The game was good, too, it seemed.

When in doubt, "C." Now how about some hockey?