The Couch Slouch

A fun look at what ESPN is doing without sports

A fun look at what ESPN is doing without sports
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ESPN without sports is like NASA without space. But ESPN is smarter than NASA – it can still thrive even if its world explodes into the atmosphere. Here is a look at the new ESPN 24-hour coronavirus programming schedule:

8 a.m. ET: "Don't Get Up!"

10:00: "Stephen A. Smith: Unfettered." The real Stephen A. lets loose – unvarnished, unbridled and uninhibited – at a Brooklyn barbershop.

11:00: "Greatest NFL Coaches' Challenges (Season 1)."

11:30: Stephen A. Smith talks smack to first responders on their coffee break.

12 p.m.: Chris Berman runs down his all-time 250 favorite nicknames, alphabetically.

1:30: 1998 French Open women's bracket draw.

2:00: "Burning Bridges with Keith Olbermann." The once-popular "SportsCenter" anchor documents his seven tours of duty with the worldwide leader in sports.

3:15: "Best NASCAR Pit Stops, Volume 3 (2010)."

3:30: "Kiper and Lunardi: The Art of Coaxing." The two iconic ESPN savants discuss how they persuaded the network to turn one-day events into year-round pursuits.

4:30: Stephen A. Smith yells at gate agents at O'Hare Airport.

5:00: "Around the Shoehorn." Nike, Adidas, Puma and Under Armor reps examine best self-quarantine footwear.

5:30: "Pardon the Interruption, Undercover." A hidden camera documents Tony Kornheiser complaining about Michael Wilbon and every single guest cohost with whom he's ever worked.

6:00: 2001 Mid-American Conference men's basketball tournament third-place game.

6:30: "Backstory with Don Van Natta Jr." An investigative look at Adam Schefter's cellphone log.

7:00: "Outside the Lines: The Sunset." The award-winning OTL team chronicles the sun setting in Bristol, Conn. ITAL Live. END ITAL

7:30: World Series of Poker 2003.

8:30: World Series of Poker 2004.

9:30: "Outside the Lines: The Sunset (Pacific Time Zone)." The award-winning OTL team chronicles the sun setting in Pahrump, Nev. Live.

10:00: Stephen A. Smith moonlights as a tollbooth worker who will not give out change.

10:30: "Cricket Tonight." Adnan Virk returns as host.

11:00: World Series of Poker 2005.

12 a.m.: World Series of Poker 2006.

1:00: "Stephen A. Smith: After Dark." The very eligible sweet talker tries his best hot takes in several New York City singles bars.

2:00: World Series of Poker 2007.

3:00: World Series of Poker 2008.

4:00: "The Sports Reporters 2.0." Veteran correspondents from Bleacher Report, The Big Lead, Deadspin and Barstool Sports debate the hot issues of the day.

4:30: "The Making of 'Cold Pizza' (2003-2004)."

5:00: Jeremy Schaap reads select passages from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."

5:30: Shuttle run highlights from 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

5:45: Charley Steiner ITAL is END ITAL "Macbeth."

6:00: 2014 Pub Darts Challenge (Ireland vs. Wales).

6:30: "BodyShaping" (any year).

7:00: "Kraft Mac & Cheese Presents The Craig Kilborn Show." With sidekick Downtown Julie Brown. Why not?

Meanwhile, Fox Sports 1 has a simpler, adjusted schedule:

9:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET: "Skip and Shannon: Undisputed."

1 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.: "Skip All Night." Skip Bayless at home!

9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Off air for routine maintenance.

Ask The Slouch

Q. After several days of all major sports sidelined, I watched the PBA and saw statistics of MPHs and RPMs on the screen. As a bowler, can you tell me if I am withdrawing from baseball and NASCAR, or is it real and I need some help? (Steve Hintyesz; Spokane, Wash.)

A. It is real – we all need help. I have begged the powers-that-be to wipe the screen clean; alas, they will not listen to a 140 bowler.

Q. Being the wise man you are, can your readers assume that you anticipated this pandemic-related sports hiatus and have a mitigating stockpile of columns to get us through these rough times? (Kim Hemphill; South Riding, Va.)

A. I am currently watching dozens of old Dick Vitale broadcasts that will provide me column content through Labor Day.

Q. Is it true the only reason your marriage to Toni has lasted 12½ years is ever since your wedding night, she has strictly enforced the six-foot social distancing rule? (J.B. Koch; Macomb, Mich.)

A. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt on our wedding night.

Q. After you've written, edited and submitted your column, do you then "take no responsibility" for it? (JC Hodgson; Spokane, Wash.)

A. Many of my columns write themselves; thus, indeed I take no responsibility.

Q. I see Sean Payton has the coronavirus – can't he challenge that? (Kirk Long; Spokane Valley, Wash.)

A. Not reviewable – NFL competition committee will take a look at this during 18-month offseason.

Q.Is it true that Robert Kraft is suing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for entrapment? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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Have the Astros turned the corner? Photo by Jack Gorman/Getty Images.

One presumes the Chicken Littles have stopped clucking about the Astros’ season being a goner, or if not gone, on life support. It wasn’t when they were 7-19. It wasn’t when they were 12-24. It certainly isn’t now that they’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine. Another three or four weeks of inept play could have doomed them, but the worm has turned. A 20-25 record is no cause for celebration, but it has the Astros within four games of first place. Yes, getting to play the A’s four times this week helped. And?

I detailed the schedule issue on our Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast this week. The Astros were flat lousy for the season’s first six weeks. But… Starting the week the Astros had played a whopping 32 of their 40 games against teams with a winning record as of Monday. The Seattle Mariners had played 23 such games, the Texas Rangers only 16. The Philadelphia Phillies have been sensational so far and are fully legit. But… The Phillies entered the weekend having played three games vs. teams now sporting a winning record. Three! Out of 45 games. Going into this weekend's series only the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels had played more games against winning teams than had the Astros. It’s not mere coincidence that the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels are the three last place teams in the American League. The Astros were not up to the challenge of their first quarter schedule, but by no means did it render them dead, particularly in the thus far Mild, Mild, American League West.

A good Brewers team visits Minute Maid Park for three games this weekend. The Astros beat their best starter Friday night. Next the Astros get the pathetic Angels here for three before a three-game series at Oakland. Meanwhile the West leading Mariners start a ten-game road trip this weekend: three at the excellent Orioles, four at the excellent Yankees, three at the respectable Nationals. The Astros stand a good chance of overtaking the M’s by the end of this month if they can win the four-game series they open Memorial Day in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers snapped a five game losing streak Wednesday to eke back over .500 at 23-22. The reigning World Series champs hope to get somewhat well vs. the Angels in Arlington this weekend but dropped the series opener to drop back to .500. For their sake they better because the Rangers then hit the road for Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Naturally, many Astros fans are upset with Ronel Blanco serving a 10 game suspension for illegally using whatever substance on his glove and non-pitching hand. The suspension is basically automatic. The suspension is also not a big problem. Blanco has been fantastic since getting a starting rotation spot only because of Justin Verlander’s delayed start to his season. It’s said that all life owes us is opportunity. Man, did Blanco seize his. With just seven big league starts to his name before entering this season as a 30-year old, Blanco has made eight this season with a sparkling 2.09 earned run average. So, what’s that about the suspension is not a big problem?

Blanco will miss one start and have another pushed back a day or two. That’s just not a big deal. In fact it may be helpful in the bigger picture. With last year being the first time in his professional career that Blanco topped 100 innings pitched (125 1/3), the Astros need to be wary of Blanco’s workload which is on pace to blow past last year’s career-high innings total. J.P. France probably pitched over his head for a while last year, but went well past his prior career-high innings total and faded badly. Cristian Javier was tremendous in 2022 while pitching more than in any previous year, but he pitched even more in 2023 and faded badly.

Alex Bregman lives! After being nearly inconceivably inept through the first quarter of the season, the Alex awakening in the Oakland series was not shocking but most welcomed. Over his first 37 games Bregman had a paltry seven extra base hits. Even with a feeble .201 batting average and .534 OPS, that Bregman had scored just eight runs over those 37 games was hard to believe. Then Monday and Tuesday saw five extra base hits and four runs scored.

In a trade not commanding any headlines, Dana Brown Wednesday sent outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox for 20-year-old low minor league pitcher Luis Rodriguez. There is now no reason to call it a great Astros trade but Brown made a smart deal. Julks had no future here, hence he would have been released if no deal was struck. Taking a flyer on a young arm can’t hurt. Frankly, the White Sox are dumb to trade a young arm of any promise whatsoever for a 28-year-old outfielder with limited value. Julks was a nice story for parts of last season. The Clear Brook High School grad and UH product had a couple windows of production, highlighted by a sizzling nine game 17 for 34 stretch straddling June and July. Alas, not two weeks later Julks began what would become an 0 for 36 nightmare. He was sent to the minors for good in late-August.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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