The Couch Slouch

If an XFL tree falls in the forest...

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The XFL is back. Ask not why but why NOW?

The reboot of the XFL just debuted – the weekend after the Super Bowl. That's like having a sewerage commission election the Tuesday after the presidential election.

They start playing XFL games on the heels of the NFL's grandest game?

That's like going to Paris, Texas right after going to Paris, France.

That's like ordering a New York strip at Sizzler right after ordering the porterhouse at Peter Luger.

That's like visiting the border wall right after visiting the Great Wall of China.

That's like watching 17 years of Jimmy Kimmel right after watching 17 years of Johnny Carson.

(I'll stop now because I think you all get the point and, frankly, I'm even starting to annoy myself.)

How badly do you need to see more football six or seven days after the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54?

And when I say "more football," I mean the XFL, where the 'X' stands for Xtraneous, Xcessive, Xasperating, Xpendable and inXplicable.

We don't need more football.

We certainly don't need year-round football; we don't need year-round anything.

I mean, I'm a big fan of food detox, but there is a big difference between a 14-day cleanse and, say, a 365-day cleanse. Trust me, you'd be cleansed out before the 365-day mark.

The XFL, which fabulously failed during its one-season incarnation in 2001, has returned to prove again that few people want to watch more pro football after the NFL signs off for six months.

The expression is "March showers bring April flowers," not "XFL passes bring spring masses."

Nobody is thinking about RPOs in March and April. It would be as if pro hockey – training camp to Stanley Cup finals – decided to consume 10 months of the calendar.

(Editor's Note: Actually, the NHL already does this. We would have deleted the previous paragraph, but Mr. Chad is contractually obligated to provide us 800 words per week.)

The new XFL consists of eight teams – in seven NFL cities, plus St. Louis -- playing a 10-game schedule.

Out of professional responsibility to Sports Nation, I decided to take in the XFL's opening day. On ABC, it was the Seattle Dragons at the DC Defenders; on Fox, it was my Los Angeles Wildcats – I'm thinking about season tickets, but I figure I can find cheap seats on the secondary market – at the Houston Roughnecks.

This is what I saw and heard:

-- ABC's excitable Steve Levy: "The first carry – everything's a first!"

-- Analyst Greg McElroy: "If you look at Ja'Quan Gardner…probably not a name you recognize." Uh, you think?

-- McElroy was intent on emphasizing that these players were THIS CLOSE to being in the NFL, much as I am THIS CLOSE to writing for the New York Times.

-- With 11:25 left in the first quarter, the crowd chanted, "MVP! MVP!" for Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones. Now, that's funny.

-- Defenders fans, thinking they were at a R*dsk*ns game, started booing the home team early in the second quarter.

-- Fox analyst Joel Klatt never stopped talking. He's still talking right now as you read this.

-- We got to hear the coach or offensive coordinator calling the plays from the sideline, which captivated me almost as much as hearing the pimply kid shout out my order at Wienerschnitzel.

(Memo to the Houston Astros: In the XFL, you don't need to steal signs, you can just listen to the other coach telling you the next play on live TV.)

Anyway, the football was entertaining and many XFL rules changes will be keepers. But for all the bells and whistles, it doesn't alter the inescapable fact that we are not pining for more football the next 75 days.

The XFL is the proverbial tree falling in the forest that no one hears, so does it make a sound?

In this respect, it resembles most Couch Slouch columns – exquisitely written, extraordinarily unread.

Ask the Slouch

Q. Did someone forget to tell Joel Embiid that the Philadelphia 76ers aren't tanking anymore? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Speaking of which, I guess The Process is complete – the 76ers are now trading away draft picks.

Q. With Bob Knight ending his 20-year split with Indiana, did that give you any thoughts about your first marriage? (Ken Ryan; Huntsville, Ala.)

A. I would have to violate a court order.

Q. Shouldn't fellow Vienna, Va., resident Terry Golden get a bonus – say, an extra 50 cents – for having the most questions answered in your column? (Jan-Peter Ozga, Vienna, Va.)

A. Listen, pal, Mr. Golden has built an addition to his home off of Ask The Slouch winnings.

You want me to INCREASE his windfall? You send him the extra half-buck and I'll sign the card.

Q. Is it true that the NFL will be using the Iowa caucus app to speed up the replay process? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

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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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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