THE COUCH SLOUCH

A playful look at sports media and dealing with Twitter mobs

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I made a typographical error in my column last week: I meant to say that we need more sports, not less. In my defense, I'd been washing and folding my American flag and wasn't focused on my Samsung Galaxy Book S keyboard.

Ugh. So I woke up midday to find 37 texts telling me I was trending No. 1 on Twitter. How could this be? I briefly thought I must've slept-walk and robbed a string of minimarts up and down the West Coast.

No.

I was just a victim of Fox Sports' buffoonish enfant terrible, Clay Travis.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with Travis, the white-hot attention seeker, a failed-lawyer failed-thinker babbler of contrarian nonsense who now rides down the middle of the street on a unicycle shouting, "Look, Ma, no hands!"

Travis tweeted out The Washington Post headline on my column, "The pandemic has reminded us: we don't need more sports – we need less," to his 670,000 Twitter followers, while addressing how stupid I am and how much sportswriters like me disdain sports.

This triggered his ready-to-rumble base, igniting the usual Twitter online mob. Thankfully, I slept through most of it, dreaming of athenaeums and student-nonathletes.

In the column – as I have done countless times in the last 20 years – I satirically questioned the oversized role of sports in our culture. Ooh…revolutionary stuff!

Travis's premise is that I am rooting against the return of sports and hate them. Hmm. How much could I possibly hate sports if I have NBA League Pass? Heck, if you're watching a New York Knicks-Sacramento Kings game at 10 o'clock on a Tuesday night, you might hate yourself more than you hate sports.

Anyway, after awakening, I decided to engage my attacker on Twitter; this seldom ends well.

Following an opening tweet in which I mentioned that Travis was "the smartest man in the room" because I had heard him say that on his radio show, this was our exchange:

Travis: Norman, thanks for listening. But listen better. I didn't say I was the smartest guy in the room. I said compared to people like you, I'm a genius. Which I am.

Me: My bad, Clay, I misheard this on your March 25 show: "I'm a pretty smart dude…pretty much every test I've ever measured, I'm in the 99.9 percentile….If I had wanted to be, I would've been a doctor." Uh, 99.9% sounds pretty high.

Travis: Thanks for the additional podcast listen, bud, but just step away from the keyboard. You're making yourself look even (more) ridiculous.

Travis was pulling a page straight out of the POTUS 45 playbook: Say something preposterous, get asked about it, say you didn't say it, then after somebody reads back the exact thing you said that you claim you never said, deride or ignore them and change the subject.

One of Travis's favorite longtime targets is ESPN, supposedly a liberal hotbed with an on-air political agenda.

Gosh, I hate when people make me defend ESPN.

Sure, Clay, it's an ACLU incubator over there – Chris Berman canvassed for Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and I know for a fact that Linda Cohn has a Friedrich Engels bobble head on her desk.

During the pandemic, Travis has railed on Fox Sports Radio about the coronavirus hoax with his "data-centric rational thinking." He constantly misleads his audience, and after being proven incorrect, simply gives a new set of unimpeachable, flawed data. He loves moving the goalposts, and he's darn good at it – as an SEC diehard, he knows how to cheat.

Travis operates similarly to the forward-thinking neo-Neanderthals at Barstool Sports, a.k.a. Barstool Sample. My column riled them, too; you don't mess with the stoolies' sandbox. Over time, I have been variously attacked there by monstrously talented PFT Commenter, monstrously untalented Barstool Nate and the monster himself, Barstool Sample president and lead predator Dave Portnoy.

You can't fight these guys – never sling mud against people who roll in it. Their M.O.: When you go high, we'll go low; when you go low, we'll go lower. Battling these feral bedlamites, and their mindless minions, is like bringing a butter knife to a shotgun fight.

Besides, I don't have time for this, even in our sports-less here and now. I'm midway binge-reading the Bible – I'm up to the part about the guy with the tablets. Good stuff.

Ask The Slouch

Q. If only essential employees are toiling under these pandemic conditions, why would MLB players be working? And if college campuses are closed to students, why would some students be there to play football? (David Allen; Chicago)

A. Are these rhetorical questions?

Q. What does it say about the current coronavirus-state of sports journalism when I actually look forward to reading your column every week? (Philip R. Hochberg; Chevy Chase, Md.)

A. Good to know my work only thrives during once-in-a-century pandemic conditions.

Q. Did NFL cornerbacks DeAndre Baker and Quinton Dunbar at least keep their masks on and practice social distancing while allegedly robbing guests at that Florida cookout? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, N.Y.)

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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J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

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