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 email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.
Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.
“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”
Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”
L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.
Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.
Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.
“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”
Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.
Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.
The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.
Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.
“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”
Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.
Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.
Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.
Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.