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Lights FC, minus the llamas, return team sports to Las Vegas

Updated August 1, 2020 - 9:47 pm

First, the (really) important stuff: Studies have determined that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against COVID-19.

To heck with the Raiders and Golden Knights.

Lights FC is about to save the fricking world.

I always knew there was some serious depth under that scarf of owner Brett Lashbrook. Come on. I’ve been this guy’s biggest champion all along …

The Lights on Saturday night became the first local professional sports team to compete in Las Vegas since the onset of a global pandemic.

They hosted and lost to Reno 1868 by a 1-0 final at an empty Cashman Field, a somewhat eerie scene without food trucks and bouncy houses outside and the sounds of beating drums amid smoke-filled chants of 8,000-plus fans inside.

Cash the Soccer Rocker, however, did take a knee during the national anthem while wearing a mask the size of Henderson. So, you know … There’s that.

Missing were the unofficial mascots, those domesticated South American camelids. There were inflatable llamas floating in small inflatable pools. It’s just not the same.

I mean, when was the last time you saw a fake llama relieve itself in the middle of a pitch during warmups?

“The llamas are resting peacefully at an undisclosed location in the outer banks of Clark County,” Lashbrook said. “I want the llamas to be here because of the antibody. The problem is, the llama mama is not a covered person, so the llamas don’t have anyone to drive them here.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, the United Soccer League.

Las Vegas Lights FC's Rashawn Dally (81) chases after the ball while jumping over Reno 1868 FC' ...
Las Vegas Lights FC's Rashawn Dally (81) chases after the ball while jumping over Reno 1868 FC's Tony Alfaro (5) during the first half of a USL soccer game against Reno 1868 FC at Cashman Field in Las Vegas on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @csstevensphoto

More testing numbers

Nobody can be certain if this a correct path to travel. Pro leagues that have returned to play void of a bubble or hub have experienced mixed results when it comes to coronavirus testing.

The Lights haven’t yet had a player show positive.

Eleven from LA Galaxy II did just this week.

Before that, of 1,367 tests administered to players and club staff between July 13-20, four individuals from different clubs were positive.

One was reportedly a player from Reno 1868, which led to its game against Tacoma being postponed. Other matches across the league have also been re-scheduled as more positive results are learned. It’s no different than Major League Baseball. You take the test and hold your breath.

“It seems like forever since we last played (at home),” Lashbrook said. “We’re not trying to rush anything. We understand the rationale of Governor (Steve) Sisolak not to (have fans in attendance) right now.

“We’re ready to get back to normal but this is an important step in that. How many steps in the process it will be, I don’t know. But there is a process and we need to make sure it’s done safely and is sustainable and makes sense in the end.”

Thirty-five teams across the country are now split into eight divisions for a shortened season. It means 16 total matches for the Lights with all road games being a drivable distance.

It means a brand built on affordability and family entertainment and whatever wacky and creative strategies flow from Lashbrook’s mind have been put on hold for Saturday nights at Cashman.

And yet I wouldn’t have held it against anyone had the team offered one of those Helicopter Cash Drops at halftime of the Reno match. It’s much better odds to grab some loot when you’re only competing against 10 or so others.

Lights Cashman

Llama ‘water’

“I love Cashman and have said that many times,” Lashbrook said. “But when the old stadium has gone to sleep for 10 months, it’s hard to wake her up.”

Maybe because it was missing the most important of symbols.

Jim Lambright is vice president for marketing and communications for Lights FC. In discussing via text those safety protocols that would be implemented Saturday, he stated media would have their temperature checked upon entrance.

If it was too high, another reading would be taken.

I wondered if Lashbrook would be pouring cold water over the heads of those awaiting a second check.

(Hey, it’s not a ridiculous thought).

“We will have llama ‘water’ if the temp is too high!” Lambright jokingly texted.

Listen, if those things actually hold the answer to eliminating COVID-19, you can bathe me in the stuff.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.