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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Houston's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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