THE COUCH SLOUCH

A playful look at sports media and dealing with Twitter mobs

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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Astros beat the Nationals, 5-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Justin Verlander allowed two runs and four hits over six innings to win his season debut for the Houston Astros, 5-3 over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.

The 41-year-old right-hander, who began the season on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation, struck out four and walked none, throwing 50 of 78 pitches for strikes in his 258th win.

“He looked really good," Astros manager Joe Espada said. "Efficient, threw a ton of strikes.”

Verlander (1-0) averaged 94.3 mph with 35 four-seam fastballs and induced five groundouts. The nine-time All-Star retired the side in order four times and improved to 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five regular-season starts against the Nationals.

Ildemaro Vargas hit an RBI single in the third and Riley Adams homered in the fourth, cutting Washington’s deficit to 4-2.

Verlander had made a pair of minor league injury rehabilitation starts.

He retired his first eight batters before Adams doubled off the base of the wall in right-center field.

“Yeah, pleasantly surprised, honestly," Verlander said. “I kind of tried to cram spring training into three starts and control wasn’t quite what I would have liked. The rehab starts and then just look at mechanics and try to find something to make it click. I think what I worked on between last start and this start, just being a little more directional.”

Verlander was 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA last year for the New York Mets and Houston, who acquired him ahead of the trade deadline. Espada was hopeful Verlander could key an early season turnaround.

“It’s very important," Espada said. "Despite how we started, it’s a long journey. we need him to lead us through this season. We have been in this before. We just got to be patient, continue to fight and once this rotation gets healthy and we start hitting our stride it’s going to be fun.”

Josh Hader allowed Jesse Winker's sacrifice fly in the ninth and got his second save, striking out his final two batters.

Houston (7-14) stole five bases and stopped a three-game losing streak. Jeremy Peña and Mauricio Dubón had three hits each, Yainer Diaz doubled twice, and Kyle Tucker doubled, singled, walked twice and stole two bases.

Washington manager Dave Martinez was ejected by plate umpire Cory Blaser for arguing a caught stealing call against Vargas that ended the eighth. The Nationals are celebrating the fifth anniversary of their 2019 World Series win over Houston in seven games.

MacKenzie Gore (2-1) allowed three runs and seven hits in four innings.

“Frustrating," Gore said. "But it was kind of one of those things where it wasn’t bad. We had a chance. I thought the bullpen was really good again. I just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t terrible. I just need to be a little better.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Espada says LHP Framber Valdez played catch Friday and felt well. Espada expects Valdez to throw a bullpen session of 30-40 pitches this weekend.

UP NEXT

RHP Ronel Blanco (2-0, 0.86) starts Saturday for Houston against RHP Trevor Williams (2-0, 3.45).

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