THE COUCH SLOUCH

If you bet on Roger Goodell completely changing his stance on gambling, cash your ticket

Las Vegas betting
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Money never sleeps, correct? Well, the sun never sets on the sports-betting empire either. What, there are no games right now? Recently, Bovada started allowing action junkies to place bets on the weather – that's right, over/under wagers on the high temperature of, say, Philadelphia.***

Gambling never sleeps.

Which immediately brings us to Roger Goodell, the man who pimps for the National Football League at $40 million-plus per annum and a man who probably sleeps in his Armani suit to remind himself that there is moolah to be made every day and twice on Sundays.

While America snoozed during the early days of the coronavirus crisis in mid-March, NFL players approved the new collective bargaining agreement with league owners through 2030. And in that CBA, the NFL – that beacon of morality fighting against the point spread since the days before Pete Rozelle turned 21 – reached an accord with its players to share gambling revenue.

Before we get back to that betting blockbuster, let's briefly review the current NFL commissioner's public-stance history vis-à-vis gambling.

Ooh, this is going to be fun!

In 2003, Goodell and the NFL would not allow the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau to run a 30-second commercial promoting the city's tourism during the Super Bowl.

In 2009, Goodell wrote a letter to then-Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in protest of his state's effort to renew its NFL betting lottery, saying, "By legalizing sports betting it will be in Delaware's interest to create ever larger numbers of new gamblers as the state attempts to maximize any revenue found in this promotion. The negative social impact of additional gambling cannot be minimized in a community."

In 2012, as the NFL challenged efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports gambling, Goodell said, "It's a very strongly held view in the NFL, it has been for decades, that the threat that gambling could occur in the NFL or fixing of games or that any outcome could be influenced by the outside could be very damaging to the NFL and very difficult to ever recover from."

In 2017, after league owners voted approval of the Raiders' move from Oakland to Las Vegas, Goodell said, "Society in general has a little bit of a change with respect to gambling in general. We've seen that. I think we still strongly oppose legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that."

And now, in 2020, Goodell, on a visit to Las Vegas, said, "We think that sports gambling in many ways creates a lot more engagement for our fans. It gives them another opportunity to engage with the game."

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, Roger Goodell is a BORN-AGAIN GAMBLER!

How did this happen? Well, a Supreme Court ruling nearly two years ago opened the door for states to allow sports betting and the Raiders begin play in Las Vegas this fall, so, suddenly, the NFL stance is: Let's roll the dice and join the party!!!

Which brings us back to the new CBA. David Purdum of espn.com reported last week that the agreement refers to revenue from "gambling on any aspect of NFL games, any performance of NFL players in NFL games or in any other NFL/Club-related activity." Owners and players will share revenues, the CBA states, generated "by the operation of gambling-related businesses located in or physically attached to an NFL Stadium."

It even mentions potential profits from slot machines "located in or physically attached to an NFL Stadium."

I'll let you all absorb that for a moment or two.

After generations of stonewalling and bad-mouthing sports betting, the NFL now embraces gambling as long as the league gets its cut. Seventeen states, including seven that are home to NFL teams, already operate legal sports books.

Sooner or later, fans will be placing bets on NFL games while in NFL stadiums.

P.S. The NFL reportedly also is looking to hire a "vice president of sports betting."

I am available, but I do not work weekends.

(*** Pro tip: It's always going to be hotter than you think in Philly in the summer and colder than you think in the winter.)

Ask The Slouch

Q.With strip clubs closed, strippers in Portland, Ore., are making food deliveries topless. Did you think nothing positive could come out of this pandemic? (Jim O'Brien; Racine, Wis.)

A. You have inspired me – I am writing next week's column bottomless.

Q.If I told you that President Trump reached out to Alex Rodriguez last week for coronavirus advice, what would you say? (Julian Kaplan; Chicago)

A. I did not realize that human growth hormone was a possible vaccine for covid-19.

Q. So everyone now is sitting around watching TV all day. Why are you getting paid for it? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)

A. You have uncovered my adult-lifelong professional scam to financial independence.

Q. Since this was supposed to be the start of the baseball season, are the Orioles already mathematically out of it? (Mike Kupiec; Green Island, N.Y.)

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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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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