THE COUCH SLOUCH

NFL expansion is too big to fail

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In a clandestine meeting at a Doubletree by Hilton conference room in Grand Rapids, Mich., in late March 1987, Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell secretly hatched a plan for worldwide, around-the-clock NFL expansion, according to multiple sources at or near the gathering who are unauthorized to speak publicly about the undertaking because they might not even know what they're talking about.

And, from all indications, this covert NFL manifesto is now in its final stages.

Here is what the NFL is considering for as early as the 2021 season, according to a report from cbssports.com's Jason La Canfora:

-- Add a 17th game to the regular season and a second bye week.

-- Additional game for each team would be played out-of-market.

-- Out-of-market games every week internationally or in U.S. cities without an NFL team.

-- Add a wild-card playoff game in each conference.

-- Move the Super Bowl to end of February.

Impressively, the NFL is considering doing all of this in the face of growing science about neurological damage to its players and growing resistance from parents to allow their kids to play football.

Then again, the NFL still retains a pervasive hold on much of the sporting public. Heck, the NFL could've sold DirecTV Sunday ticket packages to passengers on the Titanic.

Although the NFL has not added a team since the Houston Texans became its 32nd franchise in 2002, the league has continued to expand in other ways, including scheduling games as many as four days a week and playing multiple games annually in England and Mexico.

Frankly, I believe the NFL should stop its tippy-toe crawl toward global domination and rather stomp its feet en route to replicating the early-20th-century British Empire.

My NFL plan is bolder, brasher and more in line with Jerry Jones' wildest, non-Jason Garrett hopes:

-- A 32-game regular-season schedule.

-- Expand to 48 teams.

-- Back legislation to literally change the calendar to better oblige NFL scheduling needs.

Let's start with this 17th game the league is pondering. One more game? What's that? Reminds me of the U.S. Postal Service upping postage two or three cents at a time. JUST GO FOR IT; double the length of the season, for goodness sakes. More replays! More comebacks! More records! More injuries!

I mean, if they had already done this, Matthew Stafford could've made it to 100,000 passing yards by now without ever winning a playoff game.

By growing to 48 franchises, the NFL can put teams in London, Mexico City, Moscow, Hong Kong, Montreal, Pyongyang, San Antonio, Anchorage, San Diego, Kenosha, Wis., Tunica, Miss., Trinidad and Tobago, Paris (France), Paris (Texas) and Monowi, Neb.

I'd also contemplate taking the Jaguars out of Jacksonville, because nobody ever goes to Jacksonville unless they are already in Jacksonville.

To accommodate this bloated enterprise – and allow the NFL to better command the nation's TV programming – the key would be to replace the seven-day, 52-week year with a six-day, 60-week year.*

(* If you give Donald Trump a team while he is still in the White House – Eric can run it – he will back this calendar change with or without congressional approval.)

Just get rid of Tuesdays – Tuesdays are for losers – and then the NFL could broadcast games on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; this would leave Wednesdays for ESPN to run an all-day NFL studio bonanza blowout in which 24 of its talking heads debate Stephen A. Smith one hour at a time on various league topics.

Sure, some snowflakes likely will whine about player safety concerns over a nearly year-round season. Not a problem. Through a unique fan promotion that will ensure sellouts every week, if the last available player on the home-team roster gets hurt, one eligible season ticket holder's name will be pulled from a hat and play the rest of the game!

And with in-game betting apps on the horizon, this means you'll be able to watch, gamble on and even play in an NFL game all for the price of a ticket. Wow.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Can you explain to a 78-year-old man the rationale of a player celebrating a touchdown by impersonating a dog peeing? (Joseph Dreyer; La Porte, Tex.)

A. What, you'd prefer he impersonate a dog pooping?

Q. Do NFL players really pin their ears back? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)

A. Not since Odell Beckham Jr. was fined by the NFL for nonstandard pins.

Q. Using your rapier-like wit, could you discuss the Washington R*dsk*ns? (William Case; Sterling, Va.)

A. They stink.

Q. Why is revenge a dish best served cold? (Bob Lipman; Spokane, Wash.)

A. Search me – I microwave everything.

Q. If Russia is banned from the 2020 Summer Olympics, do you think President Trump will pardon them? (John Oetting; Columbia, Md.)

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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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