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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After splitting the first two games of the series, including the extra-inning affair on Saturday, the Astros looked to defeat the Angels on Saturday to secure the series win and leave Los Angeles with a winning record. On the mound were two pitchers looking to shrug off bad debuts to the season. Here is how the game went on Sunday afternoon:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 6, Angels 5.

Record: 5-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jacob Barnes (0-2, 3.86 ERA).

James walks his way into trouble

After a disastrous start to his pitching season where he was unable to record an out, Shohei Ohtani was able to sit down the Astros 1-2-3 on just eight pitches in the top of the first. However, Houston would take advantage of his struggling command in the top of the second, working three straight walks to load the bases with no outs. They then would get two more walks with two outs to grab an early 2-0 lead and end Ohtani's day early yet again.

Meanwhile, on the mound for Houston was Josh James. He, too, allowed some walks but was able to work around them in the first two innings, erasing two in the bottom of the first and one in the second for two scoreless innings.

That changed in the third when he would walk the bases loaded with two outs before Albert Pujols continued his nearly twenty-year reign of being a thorn in Houston's side, hitting a grand slam, Los Angeles' first hit of the day, to put the Angels up 4-2. James would get the final out of the third, but that would conclude his day, making it two straight starts he would be unable to reach the fourth inning. His final line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4K, 1 HR.

Valdez impresses as Bregman makes it a one-run game in the seventh

Framber Valdez was first out of Houston' bullpen, likely to try and eat up several innings. He would accomplish that mission, getting through the next three innings scoreless, holding the 4-2 score. It remained locked on that score despite Houston getting runners on base in each of those innings, as they would struggle to turn players on base into runs yet again in this series.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros a spark in the top of the seventh, leading off the inning with a solo home run to straightaway center to make it a one-run game. Valdez returned for yet another inning, another scoreless frame to keep it 4-3 going to the eighth.

Reddick ties it in the ninth, Astros win in extras

Houston would threaten to tie in the top of the eighth, getting a pinch-hitting Carlos Correa to third base after a single to leadoff the inning, but would be unable to score him, leaving it at 4-3. Valdez would record another scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Astros one more chance to tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double and was pinch-run by Myles Straw, who would score the tying run on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick, but the Angels would hold the Astros there. Valdez remained in the game trying to push extra innings and would do so, erasing a leadoff walk.

Kyle Tucker started the top of the tenth on second base and moved to third on a sac fly by Carlos Correa to start the inning before scoring on another sac fly, this time from pinch-hitting Garrett Stubbs to give Houston a 5-4 lead. Valdez, well above his comfortable pitch count, was still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth, and allowed his first run, though unearned, on a leadoff RBI-single to tie the game again at 5-5. He would get one more out before Houston moved to another reliever, bringing in Andre Scrubb.

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Scrubb would walk the bases loaded before getting a popout, then Houston would turn to Blake Taylor. Taylor would come through, getting a big strikeout to send the game to the eleventh. Springer started on second in the top of the inning and would score and put the Astros back in front on a one-out RBI-single by Alex Bregman. In the bottom half, Taylor would get through the inning, giving Houston the win and series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will have a day off tomorrow before picking up a three-game set with the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Tuesday. The opening game of that series will be at 8:10 PM Central. While Arizona is expected to start Madison Bumgarner, the Astros will have to pivot as they had Framber Valdez slated for that start, who made a lengthy appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday.

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