The Couch Slouch

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!


Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It's the job of sports media to provide content that draws readers to their site. Traffic generates marketing opportunities, marketing opportunities draw advertisements, and so on and so forth.

Until now, there have only been thought projects on what sports media would look like without sports. And it isn't until probably this past week or so that we've really begun to see how the sports media market reacts when sports are ripped off of the menu.

Until recently there has been at least a little meat on the bone to pick at. There was the "Ok this is happening" article wave. Then there was the "Here's an interesting way to start the season back up," wave. There were articles about how athletes are spending their time, what teams this benefits, etc. Then NFL free agency kicked off and there was a small injection of content.

As someone who writes exclusively about sports, I can tell you firsthand that it is difficult. One tactic I use when I'm struggling to come up with something to write about is that I don't allow myself to listen to music or anything while driving. It gives me a moment to focus, which is something I'm terrible at. That said, these past few weeks have been pretty quiet on the way to work.

Now, outside of the NFL draft, we're starting to see the bottom of the well. Without new content sports media is searching for anything they can to put on a front page. Here are a few examples:

"Ray Allen challenges LeBron James, Shaq and other ex-NBA players to show off their hairlines in quarantine."

Why? Just do what everyone else is doing and just stop grooming your facial hair. There's solidarity in a country of unkempt beards. There's no need to prove what we already know.

"Sources: CP3, Young, LaVine plan on H-O-R-S-E"

This is front page material on ESPN.com. The best part is that not only are there are people out there that will watch this, it's also a virtual lock to be in the SportsCenter Top 10.

"Alabama coach Nick Saban adopts email while adapting to recruiting during extended dead period"

Wait. What? Will this make him even more unstoppable?

It's been interesting at least to watch the coverage pivot. Luckily here in Houston we have Bill O'Brien, which is the editorial gift that keeps on giving.

So what happens next? What happens after the NFL draft, and the 2K Tournaments and the H-O-R-S-E games transpire? The NBA draft will probably get a level of exposure it has never seen before.

It looks like we're on the cusp of the next wave of articles though. The "should we even have a season?" wave. Personally, I'm on the fence. But of that were to in fact happen, it's an almost guarantee that sports coverage would look more like tabloid coverage if the above mentioned headlines are any indication. That, and a ton of Top 5 lists.

So that's it. Next week I'll be doing my Top 5…

Yeah right.

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