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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J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

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