THE COUCH SLOUCH

Fair pay to play act for college athletes might be the right thing, but at what cost?

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In the rush to celebrate California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing the Fair Pay to Play Act into law – allowing college athletes in the state to finally get compensated for endorsements and the like, starting in 2023 – most pundits are failing to realize this is not as wonderful as it seems.

Everybody is treating this broadside against the hypocritical, dictatorial NCAA as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

(To be honest, I never understood why sliced bread was considered that big of a breakthrough. What's so hard about buying a loaf of bread and then slicing it at home? Heck, the knife was a big deal, and, frankly, the spork – half spoon, half fork – was ingenius.)*

(* It's amazing how often I get off track, among the many reasons I am not ever taken seriously for Pulitzer, Peabody or Nobel award consideration.)

Sure, it's always a good day when the big, bad NCAA is leveled. What do we know about the NCAA? It acts as if it's the fourth branch of government, accountable to no one except its accountants, and it has really, really nice offices in Indianapolis near Interstate 70.

The NCAA, naturally, strongly opposed this new law; it was also opposed to indoor plumbing and freeway exits.

The NCAA position on this California development – college athletes will be able to endorse products, host sports camps, sign memorabilia or autographs for money, attach their names to video games, et al – is best reflected by the response of the Pac-12 conference: "This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports."

Oh, please. Everything about Division 1 football and men's basketball is professional, with the sole exception that its labor force is unpaid and Dick Vitale never stops shouting.

Indeed, I would sum up the NCAA's modus operandi as the following:

The rich get richer and everyone else eats ramen.

Technically, the Fair Pay to Play Act is progress. In the old days, a school might sell a prospect on the quality of its football program, the quality of its education, the quality of the region, etc. Now, a school might woo a prospect with all of that plus the possibility of, say, a local Chevy dealer who is willing to pay a lot for a business relationship with the starting quarterback.

Yes, this is the free market at work. But it's not as free-and-simple as that.

California often is a punch line and often is a pacesetter. In this case, it's both.

Is it possible to take a step in the right direction and the wrong direction at the same time?

(Note: I ask myself that every time I walk down the matrimonial aisle.)

We are casting an erroneous wide net in seeking to solve our college athletics problem.

By the way – and I promise this is the last tangential interruption – why are Newsom and the California state legislature even treading in these waters? I can think of 400, maybe 405 more pressing issues at the moment in the sometimes not-so-Golden State in which I live.

So, why wouldn't colleges align themselves with companies and local retailers who can assure large payments for the best athletes? Why wouldn't third parties – boosters – engage in licit and illicit behavior to pave the yellow brick road for the home team? Wouldn't some high schools start down this path to bring in better athletic talent?

A student-athlete certainly should have the right to assess his or her best deal financially, but I again return to a basic premise:

Why are institutions of higher education trafficking in these areas?

As always, I lean on former University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins for wisdom: "A student can win twelve letters at a university without learning to write one."

Besides the fact that we are creating another level of potential impropriety and corruption, where exactly in the mission statement for most universities is the part about running sporting events for profit?

This entire unholy business stands as a complete incongruity to a university's raison d'être. What, you don't comprehend raison d'être? That's because you went to a school that prioritized basketball over books and you've spent every autumn Saturday since 1993 watching "College GameDay."

Let me wrap it up this week with my favorite antiquated, oldie-but-goodie sentiment:

Build more libraries, not stadiums.

Ask The Slouch

Q. When somebody tells somebody else "you can't hold my jockstrap," what does that mean? (Nathan Margolis; Albany, N.Y.)

A. I guess you've never tried to hold somebody else's jockstrap.

Q. New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis wears a "Man of God" headband. What would your headband read? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg, Md.)

A. "Best by 12-17-96."

Q. I do not understand the crux of this NBA-China dustup. Do you? (Scott Ayres; Houston)

A. I don't either, but I love the word "crux."

Q. Is Dan Snyder the Peter Angelos of the NFL or is Peter Angelos the Dan Snyder of MLB? (Mary Lafsky; Great Falls, Va.)

A. Pay the lady, 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!



Ask The Slouch

Q. When somebody tells somebody else "you can't hold my jockstrap," what does that mean? (Nathan Margolis; Albany, N.Y.)

A. I guess you've never tried to hold somebody else's jockstrap.

Q. New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis wears a "Man of God" headband. What would your headband read? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg, Md.)

A. "Best by 12-17-96."

Q. I do not understand the crux of this NBA-China dustup. Do you? (Scott Ayres; Houston)

A. I don't either, but I love the word "crux."

Q. Is Dan Snyder the Peter Angelos of the NFL or is Peter Angelos the Dan Snyder of MLB? (Mary Lafsky; Great Falls, Va.)

A. Pay the lady, 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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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