Lights, Screaming, Action
The Las Vegas Lights are the most ridiculous team in American sports, and I mean that in a good way. From their pregame pictures with llamas, to players getting paid in casino chips for scoring, and even their jerseys, everything about this team is fun and bizarre. So, it only makes sense that the marijuana sponsored club has a flamboyant, unpredictable, and passionate coach in José Luis Sánchez Solá. (better known simply as Chelís). And when the marketing team tweeted about viewing a Las Vegas Light’s game while only hearing Chelís’ commentary, I was all in.
A former coach in LigaMX for many years, Chelís set his reputation for the club early when he was ejected in a preseason match against the Vancouver Whitecaps and decided to coach the rest of the game from the supporters section while smoking a cigarette.
Already promoted as the team’s Technical Director in their first season, Chelís’ passion for the game is unquestioned and he has the history to show it. While managing Puebla in 2006, Chelís was credited for saving the club from relegation and leading them to the Clausura 2009 semifinals. When Puebla wanted to move on from Chelís, the players loved him so much, they brought him back.
Fast forward to last week when I saw this tweet from the Las Vegas Lights.
I’ve always thought hearing players and coaches mic’d up was a fun segment of games but I never imagined would it be like for a whole game, yet alone from the loudest & most passionate person in the whole stadium. There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity though. Chelís is insane and I’d listen to his perspective about anything in life. Maybe I’d hear a story he tells an assistant coach about a time in Mexico he was held at gun point and told the robber “I can smell the fear in you”, as the robber ran away in tears. I thankfully got selected as one of fifty to experience the gameplay and was ready for a late night of Chelís
Opening ESPN+ to watch the game on mute while listening to the commentary from Chelís on a website that Las Vegas Lights had sent over, the first thing you hear from Chelís is laugher as he speaks to an assistant “Do you hear them? They’re saying Chelís, puto! Chelís, puto!” There was a part of me that wondered if maybe I was hyping up Chelís to be more ridiculous than he actually is, sure wasn’t! For the next 90 minutes I heard Chelís scream at everyone imaginable, tell his assistant how horrible certain players were, and encourage those same players as if they were his own children. It was great! With the audio feed being about 10 seconds earlier than my video feed (this was the first time they tried this, so it was expected) it was very entertaining to hear Chelís give instructions and watch the results of his words a few seconds later. It gave me an outlook on the game that’s different from my standard viewing.
Chelís would speak English, Spanish, and his native language of yelling. He would have another coach translate the more in-depth discussions during halftime and hydration breaks to the team. Thankfully remembering those four years of Spanish in high school, it was great to hear Chelís discuss with his staff whether or not the team should start pressing after going down a goal. You start to see that as ostentatious as he may be, Chelís cares about what his staff thinks and takes their thoughts into consideration. He’s also extremely involved with his players and spoke about their personal tendencies, for example, “He likes to drift right too much so tell *insert name* he needs to come up to cover the middle and tell the left to shift in.” Chelís is not only involved on a high level, he is involved with every single player.
The next morning, Las Vegas sent me a quick survey to talk about the experience. After talking about how Chelís reminded me of my drunk Uncle yelling “VAMOS!” at the TV on a Friday night, it was a great insight in the mind of a man who no one will ever really quite understand. The survey asked a few basic questions and towards the end asked if this was something that I’d be willing to pay for. While it’s not clear what Las Vegas wants to do moving forward, I credit them for being a club to take chances. It’s easy to get lost in their shenanigans but the Lights have done an incredible job with creativity and marketing. CEO Brett Lashbrook said, “We have a blank sheet of paper. In other countries, you don’t start new teams. For better or worse, you’re handcuffed by 100 years of history. It’s taking advantage of what we have over so many other teams around the world.” While it’s definitely not following suit of most sports teams, Las Vegas is building their own unique culture in their own way and this game experience for the fans is a testimonial to that.