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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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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