THE COUCH SLOUCH

A playful look at sports media and dealing with Twitter mobs

Photo by Getty Images

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!

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome