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!

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After splitting the first two games of the series, including the extra-inning affair on Saturday, the Astros looked to defeat the Angels on Saturday to secure the series win and leave Los Angeles with a winning record. On the mound were two pitchers looking to shrug off bad debuts to the season. Here is how the game went on Sunday afternoon:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 6, Angels 5.

Record: 5-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jacob Barnes (0-2, 3.86 ERA).

James walks his way into trouble

After a disastrous start to his pitching season where he was unable to record an out, Shohei Ohtani was able to sit down the Astros 1-2-3 on just eight pitches in the top of the first. However, Houston would take advantage of his struggling command in the top of the second, working three straight walks to load the bases with no outs. They then would get two more walks with two outs to grab an early 2-0 lead and end Ohtani's day early yet again.

Meanwhile, on the mound for Houston was Josh James. He, too, allowed some walks but was able to work around them in the first two innings, erasing two in the bottom of the first and one in the second for two scoreless innings.

That changed in the third when he would walk the bases loaded with two outs before Albert Pujols continued his nearly twenty-year reign of being a thorn in Houston's side, hitting a grand slam, Los Angeles' first hit of the day, to put the Angels up 4-2. James would get the final out of the third, but that would conclude his day, making it two straight starts he would be unable to reach the fourth inning. His final line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4K, 1 HR.

Valdez impresses as Bregman makes it a one-run game in the seventh

Framber Valdez was first out of Houston' bullpen, likely to try and eat up several innings. He would accomplish that mission, getting through the next three innings scoreless, holding the 4-2 score. It remained locked on that score despite Houston getting runners on base in each of those innings, as they would struggle to turn players on base into runs yet again in this series.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros a spark in the top of the seventh, leading off the inning with a solo home run to straightaway center to make it a one-run game. Valdez returned for yet another inning, another scoreless frame to keep it 4-3 going to the eighth.

Reddick ties it in the ninth, Astros win in extras

Houston would threaten to tie in the top of the eighth, getting a pinch-hitting Carlos Correa to third base after a single to leadoff the inning, but would be unable to score him, leaving it at 4-3. Valdez would record another scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Astros one more chance to tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double and was pinch-run by Myles Straw, who would score the tying run on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick, but the Angels would hold the Astros there. Valdez remained in the game trying to push extra innings and would do so, erasing a leadoff walk.

Kyle Tucker started the top of the tenth on second base and moved to third on a sac fly by Carlos Correa to start the inning before scoring on another sac fly, this time from pinch-hitting Garrett Stubbs to give Houston a 5-4 lead. Valdez, well above his comfortable pitch count, was still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth, and allowed his first run, though unearned, on a leadoff RBI-single to tie the game again at 5-5. He would get one more out before Houston moved to another reliever, bringing in Andre Scrubb.

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Scrubb would walk the bases loaded before getting a popout, then Houston would turn to Blake Taylor. Taylor would come through, getting a big strikeout to send the game to the eleventh. Springer started on second in the top of the inning and would score and put the Astros back in front on a one-out RBI-single by Alex Bregman. In the bottom half, Taylor would get through the inning, giving Houston the win and series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will have a day off tomorrow before picking up a three-game set with the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Tuesday. The opening game of that series will be at 8:10 PM Central. While Arizona is expected to start Madison Bumgarner, the Astros will have to pivot as they had Framber Valdez slated for that start, who made a lengthy appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday.

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