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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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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