THE COUCH SLOUCH

NFL expansion is too big to fail

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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Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy are out for the season.Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston starters Cristian Javier and José Urquidy are both scheduled to have right elbow surgery, a big blow to an Astros team trying to rebound after a terrible start to the season.

General manager Dana Brown made the announcement Wednesday, saying Urquidy will have surgery Wednesday while Javier's is set for Thursday.

“Right now, they are both having an elbow surgery,” Brown said. “We’re not sure to the extent of it, but Tommy John is certainly a possibility talking with both of them.”

Both players will miss the entire season and would miss part of next season if Tommy John surgery is needed, with the typical recovery from the ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery taking 12-18 months.

Recovery from internal brace, which uses artificial material to make the repair, has allowed pitchers to return to the majors in as little as nine months.

The Astros already were dealing with injuries to their rotation, with starters Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers not pitching yet this season because of injuries and not expected to return until after the All-Star break.

But Brown said he believes the Astros' rotation, which is led by Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, will be just fine despite the injuries because Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Ronel Blanco have filled in nicely.

“Losing Urquidy and Javier is tough, but thank God, we have the young kids stepping up and they’re starting to throw the ball well,” Brown said. “So I think our rotation's pretty good right now. You never want to lose those type of arms, but there’s no panic because our guys are really throwing well.”

Houston, which has reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last seven seasons, entered Wednesday's games in third place in the AL West with a 28-34 record.

Brown said the injuries won't change how he approaches things leading up to the trade deadline on July 30.

“We’re always in the market for pitching because of reasons like this,” he said. “I’ve been in baseball for 34 years and I know how long and how tough the season is. It’s a grind of 162 and so we’re always in the market of claiming pitchers... and we’re always trying to add to the depth. And so it’s business as usual, we don’t wait until things fall apart before we find answers.”

Urquidy hasn’t pitched this season after straining his right forearm in spring training. He appeared close to coming off the injured list before he left a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Sugar Land with right elbow inflammation on May 24.

The 29-year-old had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and made his big league debut two years later. He was 3-3 with a 5.29 ERA in 10 starts and six relief appearances last season.

In five major league seasons, Urquidy is 27-16 with a 3.98 ERA in 70 starts and nine relief appearances.

Javier was 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA in seven starts for Houston this season. He was placed on the injured list with right forearm discomfort on May 24.

The 27-year-old is 33-18 with a 3.59 ERA in 116 career appearances with 82 starts over five MLB seasons.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the elbow surgery Javier and Urquidy are both facing might not be Tommy John surgery.

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