THE COUCH SLOUCH

Examining the need for more sports in our lives

Photo by Getty Images.

A while ago – the exact year escapes me – I determined that someway somewhere in some manner or some fashion most of us in America had somehow lost our minds.

Of late, the nation is on tilt because we must stay home for a long, long time due to the coronavirus pandemic, also known to Alabamians and Georgians as the Don't Even Think Of Messing With The SEC Football Schedule pandemic.

Anyway, apparently everyone – and when I say "everyone," I mean anyone within shouting distance of Skip Bayless or Stephen. A Smith – wants sports back ASAP.*

*Incidentally, speaking of shouting distance, does Shannon Sharpe ever whisper?

Last week the ESPN Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study – that is its actual title, I swear on Chris Berman's bible of nicknames – surveyed 1,004 adult sports fans, and 76 percent were in favor of sports returning even if spectators cannot be in the stands.

My buddy, Houston sports media bon vivant Fred Faour, wrote that the 24 percent against sports without fans "are what we respectfully call 'dumbs.'" Faour wants any action back, like, yesterday and said, "I truly miss being in the stands for Roughneck games." **

**He is referring to the Houston Roughnecks, an almost professional football team that played a total of five games in the late, unlamented second iteration of the XFL.

Meanwhile, former president Barack Obama, during a recent chat with former aides, said that the lack of sports is "driving me nuts."

Now, Faour and Obama are two sharp guys – well, at least Obama is – but I am disappointed by their simplistic and shortsighted apocalyptic vision of a sports-free Sports Nation.

Believe it or not – and saying this might get me fired by the end of this sentence – we don't need more sports in our lives, we need less.

Granted, I speak as someone less affected by the safer-at-home order than most; I went from self-isolation to self-isolation, so it's no big deal.

(Column Intermission: The late comedian George Carlin was born on May 12, 1937; how is his birthday not a national holiday? Who spoke truth to power longer and funnier? His sports riffs were delightful. "Swimming is not a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning…Sailing is not a sport. Sailing is a way to get somewhere. Riding the bus isn't a sport, why the [expletive] should sailing be a sport?" George Carlin Day, my friends. Otherwise, I'll settle for Don Rickles Day.)

Actually, eating at home with family or friends is an uncomplicated, forgotten pleasure. In most of Europe for hundreds of years, entire evenings centered on the meal; food and conversation were entertainment enough. This worked quite well, spoiled only by World War I, World War II and Piers Morgan.

Here in America, we have drifted. I saw a photo the other day of a fella in Raleigh, N.C., walking into Subway strapped with a M136 AT4 launcher. ***

*** What were the chances he ordered a veggie wrap?

What have we become?

Naturally, we have become ESPN. But, honestly, though I try to blame ESPN for everything excessive and execrable, the boys in Bristol don't shape our culture as much as they reflect it.

Alas, during this sports-dry pandemic, ESPN ranked the top 74 basketball sneakers ever worn by NBA players. I repeat – they ranked the top 74 sneakers ever. FYI: The Nike Foamposite Max, worn by Tim Duncan, was No. 47.

Coming in June: The top 50 NFL pylons in history.

Elsewhere in ESPNdom, "The Last Dance" Michael Jordan documentary has been a smash. Great TV, but it's been treated as a cross between "Hoop Dreams" and "The Last Waltz," with various clips parsed endlessly like the Zapruder film.

Which brings us to binge-watching. I constantly get texts touting Netflix or Hulu shows. So I took in "Ozark." "You like it?" a friend asked. "Looks pretty good," I responded. "How many seasons did you watch?" he inquired. When I told him I had only watched the first episode, I half-expected him to schedule an intervention because I had not binge-watched an entire season in just a night or two.

Here's an interesting thought: How 'bout binge-READING?

Ask The Slouch

Q. Ink-stained wretches don't usually make the best-seller list but I like the title of your book, "Hold On Honey, I'll Take You to the Hospital at Halftime." I'll wear a mask when I start checking yard sales for your tome. (Ray Starman; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Trust me, it will be easy to social distance in this situation; no one will be hovering anywhere near that book.

Q. You know those ubiquitous magazine questions about selecting any person, living or dead, with whom to have a meal? I would pick you over Tom Brady every time, and I'm not kidding. (Diane Cohen; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Give me a moment…Uh, Toni, can I talk to you for a second?

Q. Have you tried comparing your wife's income to that of Tom Brady's wife? Maybe you'll have an edge there! (Paul Whittemore; Spotsylvania, Va.)

A. I don't think so.

Q. Just checked out "Hold On, Honey…" on Amazon. Someone thinks it's worth $87.78 – maybe it was signed by Tom Brady. (Bob Doyle, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.)

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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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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