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 leads the series 1-0

Astros get a late rally to take ALWC Game 1 from Twins

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With a fresh slate in front of them, the Astros entered Target Field on Tuesday needing thirteen wins to get their second World Series win in franchise history. First, they needed to take two of three in the ALWC (American League Wild Card) round against the Twins. As with most playoff series openers, it shaped up to be a fierce pitching matchup. Here is a rundown of the game:

Final Score: Astros 4, Twins 1.

Series: HOU leads 1-0.

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez.

Losing Pitcher: Sergio Romo.

Greinke allows a run then gets the early hook

After stranding Michael Brantley on second base after a double in the top of the inning, the Twins put early pressure on Zack Greinke in the bottom of the first. They took advantage of Greinke struggling to find the zone, getting a one-out single, then back-to-back walks to load the bases. With some stellar defense behind him, though, he would escape unscathed.

After loading the bases in the first, Greinke retired the next seven in a row, not allowing a baserunner until two outs into the third when he would walk Max Kepler. That proved costly, as Nelson Cruz would drive him in on a long RBI-double, putting the Twins ahead 1-0. He would get the next batter out, then tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but would get the early hook with his pitch count rising and the top of Minnesota's order coming back around in the fifth. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 0 HR, 79 P.

Valdez takes over then the Astros tie it up

One reason they were quick to take Greinke out early is that they were willing to use Framber Valdez, who took over in the bottom of the fifth. He would struggle against his first two batters, walking both before sitting down the next three to keep it a one-run game heading to the sixth.

The Twins also dipped into their bullpen starting in the top of the sixth, with another scoreless inning by Houston's bats. The Astros would tie the game and get on the board in the top of the seventh, getting back-to-back two-out singles by Josh Reddick and Martin Maldonado to set up an RBI-single by George Springer, before Maldonado would run into the third out trying to advance to third.

Astros blow it open in the ninth and take Game 1

The game remained tied 1-1 into the ninth with Minnesota going inning-by-inning with relievers while Valdez was dealing for Houston. In the top of the ninth, the Astros started the inning with back-to-back singles to threaten to go ahead. After outs in the air by the next two batters, an error by the Twins loaded the bases instead of recording the third out, keeping Houston alive and bringing Jose Altuve to the plate.

Altuve would get the go-ahead RBI, working a walk to put the Astros in front 2-1 for their first lead of the game. That brought Michael Brantley to the plate, still with the bases loaded, and would drive in two of them with a two-RBI single to push the lead to 4-1.

Houston would ride the hot hand into the bottom of the ninth, sticking with Framber Valdez to bring it home. He would maintain the lead and get the win, erasing two one-out singles to finish the Houston victory, putting them a win away from advancing to the ALDS.

Up Next: Game two of this best-of-three will start an hour earlier on Wednesday, with a 12:08 PM Central start. With Framber Valdez being used in Game 1, the Astros are expected to start Jose Urquidy in Game 2, while the Twins will send Jose Berrios to the mound.

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