12:30 PM -- LAS VEGAS -- 2012 International CES -- Maybe you’re here for some of the pre-show programs, or maybe you flew in early to get ready for the formal Tuesday opening of this year’s CES. The problem: It’s BCS championship night, and you are in Vegas, with no idea how to watch the game.
Fear not. Mr. Vegas is here to hold your hand and give you guidance on how to watch the game either while mobile, or while on site here in Sin City. For the most part, finding the game shouldn’t be a problem since it is being broadcast on ESPN (kickoff is tentatively scheduled for 5:30 p.m. local time) and will likely be visible on multiple TV screens in casinos, sports books and bars in all the major hotels. If you want a seat you might want to stake out some ground early since all the obvious places will probably get packed quickly once the game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 LSU starts.
But for many football fans in the computer industry, there is a classic question of conflict since the game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. while the big CES keynote from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes place at 6:30 p.m. Ballmer or 'Bama, what is your choice? You can try to do both, but you may be out of luck unless you are a subscriber of Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks or Verizon FiOS. Why? We’ll explain.
Goin’ mobile: Only WatchESPN customers will get the game on their phones
You might be thinking, "I’ll do both -- I’ll go to the Ballmer keynote and watch the game on my iPad or smartphone." Unfortunately, this trick will only work if you are an existing subscriber of Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks or Verizon FiOS -- and you have downloaded the WatchESPN app to your mobile device. According to ESPN, this is the only way you can watch the game via a mobile device. (For a list of devices and some more FAQ, see the WatchESPN site.) Without the WatchESPN app and the verified access, you won’t be able to watch the game on a mobile device, even though you can (frustratingly!) bring up the WatchESPN page through a phone's or tablet's browser. Don't spend a lot of time waiting for that black screen to show video. It's not going to happen.
Now if you have a laptop and a good wireless connection you might be able to watch the ESPN broadcast while sitting in the back of the Ballmer ballroom by going to the WatchESPN site -- but there is another caveat: You must be an existing subscriber of a high-speed Internet service that has an agreement with ESPN to show its ESPN3 broadcasts. You can check the list here to see if your ISP qualifies. Some advice: Try to connect before kickoff so you know it works. If there are problems try the FAQ above or there is always the ESPN help line: 1-888-549-ESPN.
Be careful if you are on a cellular signal since live video may chew through your monthly data plan faster than you think. Best to find a friendly Wi-Fi signal if you plan on watching the full game in this fashion.
And a final thought on the conflict: There will be a re-broadcast of the Ballmer keynote later in the evening on the CES website, so in theory you can watch the game and then watch the keynote on tape delay.
Other places to watch the game
If you are stuck going to the Ballmer keynote but want to squeeze in some BCS beforehand, we can recommend a decent bar in the Palazzo mall, not too far from the Ballmer keynote in the Venetian ballroom. The place we are thinking of is called FIRST Food and Bar, and it’s located on the second floor of the Shoppes at the Palazzo, in between the Venetian and Palazzo casinos. FIRST has a good bar menu, pizza and burgers, and when Mr. Vegas was in town two years ago it was a lively place to watch the BCS game.
If you are stuck on the other side of town doing booth setup at the LVCC, the obvious choice is to walk to the adjoining Las Vegas Hotel, formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton. Though we haven’t been back since the name changed we are guessing the sports book there is as enormous as ever and should at the very least have stand-up room and good beverage service. (The website mentions something called the Ultimate Fan Cave with numerous 120-inch screens.)
A final option for those with access to a car or a short cab line is going off the strip, to a real sports bar without a casino attached. An easy one to get to that comes with the "Mr. Vegas approved" stamp is the Yard House, located in the Town Square mall that is just south of the strip on Las Vegas Boulevard. Either cab or drive past Mandalay Bay and keep going until you see the turn-in for the mall on the right, with a Whole Foods and a Borders bookstore. Drive around the back of the mall complex to find the Yard House, which has somewhere around 100 different beers on tap and almost as many flat-panel TVs showing sports. The basic pub fare is darn good, making this an easy call for a "real" sports bar experience and not a casino knockoff.
Our guess at the final score? We think it will end up LSU 24, Bama 21. Put your guesses below for fun, fame but no fortune.
— Paul Kapustka, aka "Mr. Vegas," is editor in chief of Mobile Sports Report. Special to Light Reading.