Mon., Dec. 11
NCAA FOOTBALL: HEISMAN TROPHY AWARD CEREMONY
Hilton New York, New York
And the best college football player of the year is... Ohio State QB Troy Smith? Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn? (The Fighting Irish have seven past winners, tied for the most with USC.) Arkansas RB Darren McFadden? West Virginia RB Steve Slaton? The announcement comes Sat., Dec. 9, at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. You can dine with the winner Mon., Dec. 11 for a cool $500, at the 72nd annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Presentation Dinner, at the Hilton New York (1335 Avenue of the Americas). Among those also being honored are Paul Hornung (50th anniversary of his Heisman), Marcus Allen (25th anniversary) and Danny Wuerffel (10th anniversary). This is a black-tie event.
Web site: http://www.heisman.com/
Do: Want a laugh? Attend a taping of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (733 11th Ave., Tickets). Believe it or not, Stewart's fake news program is for "mature" audiences only. You must be 18 to attend.
Stay: To paraphrase Sinatra, if you can afford to stay here, you can afford to stay anywhere. Stay on the Upper West Side, at the 2-star WooGo Lincoln Center Apartments (244 W. 64th St.), where rooms start at $328, or the 2-star Hotel 307 (307 W. 79th St.), with rooms from $324.
Eat: Take a cab to Peter Luger Steak House (178 Broadway, Web site), a Brooklyn institution since 1887, and hands down, the city's finest beef palace. Go for the porterhouse. You'll thank us.
Sun., Dec. 10
NFL FOOTBALL: BRONCOS AT CHARGERS
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
This may be Denver's last chance, if they hope to pass the Chargers and win the AFC West. One thing's for sure -- it won't be easy. Not after what San Diego did to the Broncos three weeks ago in Denver. Down 24-7 in the third quarter, the Chargers charged back, behind the remarkable RB LaDainian Tomlinson, to beat the Broncos 35-27. Tomlinson, the fastest player in the history of the NFL to reach 100 career TDs, has scored 21 TDs in his last seven games. Can Denver QB Jake Plummer and WR Javon Walker team up to top him? Head to Qualcomm Stadium (9449 Friars Rd.) and see.
Web site: http://www.chargers.com/
Do: San Diego hosts one of the nation's best holiday traditions -- the annual Holiday of Lights. Head to the Del Mar Fairgrounds (2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar; Tickets) home to the largest animated drive-through light show on the West Coast. More than 400 displays line the 1.5-mile route that circles Del Mar Racetrack, including a lighted, animated Toyland and Santa's elves at work.
Stay: Stay downtown at the 3-star Holiday Inn San Diego-Downtown (1617 1st Ave.), where rooms start at $119, or at the 3-star Wyndham Emerald Plaza Hotel (400 W. Broadway), with rooms from $180.
Eat: Dine at Donovan's Steak & Chop House (4340 La Jolla Village Dr., Web site), home of San Diego's finest steaks. Order the 14-ounce prime filet mignon or the 20-ounce prime porterhouse.
Sat., Dec. 9
BOXING: JERMAIN TAYLOR VS. KASSIM OUMA
UNDISPUTED MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE
Alltel Arena, North Little Rock, Ark.
Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor is the undisputed middleweight champ. The 28-year-old, who won the bronze in the 2000 Olympics and took the title from Bernard Hopkins last year, is 25-0-1, with 17 KOs. His opponent, Kassim "The Dream" Ouma, is 25-2-1 with 15 KOs, often throws more than 100 punches per round, and is a former middleweight champ. Alltel Arena (1 Alltel Arena Way) is located in Taylor's hometown. This one should be fun.
Web site: http://jermaintaylor.com/
Do: The centerpiece of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center (1200 President Clinton Ave., Tickets), located in Little Rock's popular Red Market District, is the Clinton Library. It houses the largest collection of presidential papers and artifacts of any of the 12 presidential libraries. Best of all is the full-scale re-creation of the Oval Office, located on the second floor.
Stay: You'll love the prices. Stay near downtown at the 3-star Value Place Little Rock (21 Remington Dr.), where rooms start at $98. Or try the 3-star Hilton Little Rock Metro Center (925 S. University Ave.), with rooms from $99.
Eat: Capers (Web site), Little Rock's best restaurant, also serves its finest steaks. Order the filet mignon or the 13-ounce rib-eye.
Sat., Dec. 9
RODEO: NATIONAL FINALS RODEO
Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas
One of the most popular annual events in Vegas, the 10-day National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas and Mack Center (4505 S. Maryland Pkwy.) comes down to this: The crowning of the sport's All-Around World Champion, as well as the World Bull-Riding Champion. Last year the winner of the all-around title was Ryan Jarrett, 22, of Summerville, Ga. The champion bull rider was Matt Austin, 24, of Wills Point, Tex. Will one or both repeat?
Web site: http://www.nfrexperience.com/
Do: Get some sleep. We recommend 'til late morning. Have a hearty brunch. Then head to the Caesars Palace sports book (3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Web site), where you'll be spending the rest of the day -- and night. There are 250 seats, and by kickoff time of the first game, all will be taken. There are seven big screens, including one huge 20-feet-by-30-feet screen. If, at 10 p.m., you remember you're hungry, celebrity chef Bobby Flay's Southwestern-style Mesa Grill (Web site) is next door. Don't worry. You can see the screen from your table.
Stay: Stay on the Strip at the 4-star Monte Carlo Resort and Casino (3700 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), where rooms start at $177, or the 4-star Luxor Hotel (3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), with rooms from $213.
Eat: Reserve a table at Craftsteak (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., at the MGM Grand Hotel, Web site), the city's best steakhouse. Order celebrity chef Tom Colicchio's grilled Kobe skirt steak.
United is offering flight deals to San Antonio. Tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz: After-Thanksgiving Deals
It's not too early to take the temperature of NBA teams off to a fast start. Take advantage of cheap airfare to visit San Antonio's AT&T Center (1 AT&T Center Pkwy., Tickets) Fri., Dec. 8, to see Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs host Elton Brand, Sam Cassell and the Clippers. Before the game, amble along San Antonio's River Walk (a.k.a. Paseo Del Rio, Web site), a 2 ½-mile stretch of connecting paths along either bank of the meandering San Antonio River. You'll find clubs, museums, galleries, shops, hotels, restaurants -- in other words, everything you'll need to enjoy the city.
United is also offering flight deals to Oakland. Tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz: After-Thanksgiving Deals
Two other teams off to strong starts: New Orleans and Golden State. Head to Oakland's Oracle Arena (7000 Coliseum Way, Tickets) Sat., Dec. 9, to see G Baron Davis, G Monta Ellis and the Warriors host G/F Peja Stojakovic, G Chris Paul and the Hornets. Before the game head to Jack London Square (Web site), named for the author of Call of the Wild. London spent considerable time in Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon (48 Webster St., Web site), staring into the harbor and imagining the adventurous travel that would define his writing and his life. Heinold's still stands, and today it is a part of a vibrant dining and entertainment district.
Sat.-Sun., Dec. 9-10
It's a big weekend for early-season matchups between Top 20 NCAA basketball teams. Visit Anaheim's Honda Center (2685 E. Katella Ave., Tickets) Sat., Dec. 9, to see G Arron Afflalo, G Darren Collison and No. 1 UCLA host G Acie Law and No. 9 Texas A&M in the 2006 John R. Wooden Classic. Or travel to Milwaukee's Bradley Center (1001 N. 4th St.) to see G Dominic James and No. 8 Marquette face G Kammron Taylor, F Alando Tucker and interstate rival No. 12 Wisconsin. Or trek to Houston's Toyota Center (1510 Polk St., Tickets) to see Texas take on F Glen Davis, F Tasmin Mitchell and No. 10 LSU. The two faced off in an Elite 8 matchup in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, with LSU upsetting then-No. 2 seed Texas.
Sat., Dec. 9
CHRISTMAS AT GRACELAND
Elvis loved Christmas. Each holiday season, he decorated the grounds of his Graceland estate (3734 Elvis Presley Blvd., Tickets) with an over-the-top extravaganza of lights and displays worthy of Liberace. Twenty-nine Christmases after his 1977 death, Graceland's curators continue to decorate the lawns exactly as Elvis did -- including a life-size Nativity scene, an enormous Santa and a reindeer-drawn sleigh. Even the mansion's standard blue drapes have been exchanged for red ones. Don't just drive past. Take the tour. See how the King lived and played.
Following the tour, head to the FedEx Forum (191 Beale St., Tickets) Sat., Dec. 9, to see G Chucky Atkins, F Mike Miller and the Memphis Grizzlies host Elton Brand, Sam Cassell and the Clippers.
Thu.-Sun., Dec. 7-10
GOLF: WORLD GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS
BARBADOS WORLD CUP
Sandy Lane Resort and Country Club, St. James, Barbados
Twenty-four two-man national teams, composed of the world's premier golfers, competing for country, for honor -- and yes, for lots of money. That's the setting for the 72nd Barbados World Cup. 2005 champion Wales (Bradley Dredge, Stephen Dodd) will defend its title against the U.S. (J.J. Henry, Stewart Cink) and England (Luke Donald, David Howell), among others. The 7,060-yard course (Hwy. 1, Paynes Bay, St. James, Tickets) overlooks the Caribbean, and is home not just to fairways, sand traps and greens, but to Barbados's native Bajan green monkeys.
Between rounds, tour this most British of Caribbean islands (Web site). You have your choice of beach settings: the crashing surf and rocky cliffs of the Atlantic on the East Coast, or the tranquil waters and breathtaking coves of the West coast, where the Sandy Lane Resort is located. All feature fine, China-white sand.