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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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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