THE COUCH SLOUCH

Do you miss the sports world? Here are some futures wagers to keep you entertained

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Bye bye all American sports/

Drove my Chevy to the ballgame but it was out of sorts/

And those 'First Take' boys were talking madness in March/

Singing no Duke-Kansas say it's a lie/

That'll be the day that sports die

-- Don McLean's "American Pie II"

What do we do now?

Sports fans have put all their eggs in one basket for so long, they've tossed out every other basket in the house. So now, many of them, in the face of a deadly worldwide covid-19 pandemic, can only think, "Why does it all feel so empty?"

There's nothing left. I pride myself on keeping sports in perspective, yet on many nights I mindlessly graze from ESPN to FS1 to NBA TV to ESPN2 to NBCSN to Fox Sports West.

But this week?

I just saw Joe Lunardi on an L.A. exit ramp with a sign, "Will Bracketology for Food."

NBA, gone. NHL, gone. MLB, gone. Final Four, gone.

The one time I was going to turn to Major League Soccer? MLS, gone.

I always complain that sports occupy too big a presence in our lives, that our values are skewed and our priorities fouled up with the overemphasis on athletic glory. Yet I understand it is a companion for many, a constant entertainment-and-distraction option. It is an emotional crutch for millions, often the only beacon of light on an otherwise dark horizon.

I kind of miss it, too.

I clicked on the TV the other night and all I saw was a "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" marathon.

So I clicked off the TV, closed my eyes and saw my entire adult life flash before me – wasted hours, lost promise, salsa stains on the couch.

Toni, a.k.a. She Is The One (and Then Some), looked at me and said, "Let's talk."

Let's talk? What is she, nuts? We've only survived 12½ of years of marriage by not talking. Every time I open my mouth, it's an oral apocalypse; I haven't said the right thing since stammering out, "I do." The less I speak, the better – this is a family consensus.

In silence, I realized that all of Sports Nation is in dire straits.

I feel particularly bad for many wagering acquaintances – they wake up each day expecting to make a sports bet.

I once had the same affliction: Years ago, I played in a Washington, D.C., underground poker game in which a couple of players were cheating as partners, the dealer was in cahoots with another regular and I would lose virtually every week. Why did I keep going back? It was the only game in town. And, like my current-day gambling buddies, I needed the action.

Anyway, sports books and bookies are not going to curl up and close shop; they have BMWs to pay for. So while you cannot get down on Lakers-Jazz tonight – all of 2020 is gone, my friends – you can still make "futures" wagers, and even though I generally discourage sports betting, I am here to pick up our spirits and hand out a few smart, wet-your-whistle selections:

* 2021 NFL season. Take Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to make the playoffs. You can get 14-to-1 on that right now; it's a bargain.

* 2024 Summer Olympics. Japanese men's gymnast Takeru Kitazono is a marvel – a stone-cold immortal lock to take the gold in the parallel bars. In fact, he's such a gifted athlete, I'd bet on Kitazono on any event he enters in the 2026 Winter Olympics.

* 2028 NBA championship. The Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers. They will ask you to Trust The Process ITAL again, END ITAL and this time The Process will work.

* 2032 presidential election. Donald Trump Jr. as the Republican nominee, at 12-1, is like FREE MONEY.

And, finally, let me leave you with a three-team teaser parlay:

I am betting there will be NO horse racing, NO cash transactions and NO Starbucks anywhere in America in 2050.

When I cash that ticket, I will drive my electric car to Sizzler!

Ask the Slouch

Q. With MLB on hiatus, Cincinnati Reds pitchers Trevor Bauer and David Carpenter are trying to organize a sandlot baseball game in Arizona. Doesn't this still go against the notion of proper social distancing? (John Hadler; Portland, Ore.)

A. Bases are 90 feet apart, no?

Q. If Iona is under quarantine for the coronavirus, how can Rick Pitino bring in escorts for his basketball recruits? (Mark Nelson; Vienna, Va.)

A. With all of intercollegiate athletics shut down, somehow it seems like the perfect time for Pitino to return to coaching.

Q. If Wrestlemania 36 is finally canceled, would that be the definition of "fake news"? (Alan Klein; Potomac, Md.)

A. I think the more polite term here is "scripted news."

Q. In a world that suddenly isn't funny, are you about to become king? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)

A. As a lifelong pauper, I'd be pleased enough to become prince.

Q. Is it true that Daniel Snyder and James Dolan are leading the U.S. government efforts to reduce large public gatherings at sports stadiums? (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!



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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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