THE COUCH SLOUCH

NFL, Goodell's stance on betting is a losing proposition

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Before going any further, let's briefly summarize Couch Slouch v. The National Football League on a key, burgeoning issue:

-- I remain pro-gambling (as in it should be legal) while encouraging most people not to gamble.

-- The NFL remains anti-gambling (publicly) while maneuvering (privately) to make truckloads of more cash from gambling.

So with bemusement and a pinch of salt, I watched the NFL recently call out and suspend Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw through at least the 2020 season for betting on multiple NFL games this year.

Naturally, Shaw – who has been on injured reserve all season – had to be disciplined; it is very, very bad for business to have your own players betting on your own product.***

But it was the manner the league ran Shaw up the morality flagpole and occupied its faux high ground that made me roll off my NFL-licensed beanbag chair with snort-filled laughter.

Let's start with the official response of NFL Commissioner Roger "I'm Shocked, Shocked to Find That Gambling Is Going On in Here" Goodell:

"The continued success of the NFL depends directly on each of us doing everything necessary to safeguard the integrity of the game and the reputations of all who participate in the league. At the core of this responsibility is the longstanding principle that betting on NFL games, or on any element of a game, puts at risk the integrity of the game, damages public confidence in the NFL and is forbidden under all circumstances. If you work in the NFL in any capacity, you may not bet on NFL football."

Have you ever noticed that whenever Goodell makes a public statement, he uses "integrity" multiple times? To borrow from Inigo Montoya, "Mr. Goodell, I don't think that word means what you think it means."

(*** I'd love to be more sympathetic to Shaw, but according to ESPN, he was betting a three-team second-half parlay last month and he was betting against his own employer. Parlays are fools' gold – it's hard enough getting one game right; trying to get several games right for a rip-off payoff is professional gambling malfeasance. Plus Shaw's Cardinals might stink, but they're actually quite good against the point spread this year. Don't bite the hand that feeds you if it's a winning hand. Geez.)

Anyway, let me see if I understand this correctly:

All NFL employees are banned from betting on the NFL in any manner, and this prohibition includes fantasy football leagues with a payoff higher than $250. So beyond players, coaches and front-office types, what are the chances that no other NFL wage earners besides Shaw – we're talking team trainers, game officials, personnel at the league offices in New York, nfl.com, NFL Network, et al – are breaking the NFL's gambling statute?

Uh, I would say the chances are ZERO PERCENT.

DraftKings is the league's official daily fantasy sports partner – Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft each has invested in the company – and between DraftKings and its chief competitor FanDuel, the two have sponsorship agreements with nearly every NFL team.

And as gambling becomes more mainstream in the aftermath of the 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing states to authorize sports betting, clearly more money will flow to the leagues and gambling sites and all the losers will be sports bettors. Hypothetically, in fact, if we all live to be 800 years old, everyone gambling eventually will go broke.

So I get tired of hearing Goodell peddle his integrity-of-the-game patter as he reaches deeper and deeper into his fan base's pockets.

Heck, if the NFL truly cared about its gambling customers, it would open its own sports book, offering no vig and the best parlay odds anywhere.

In the meantime, while Josh Shaw is suspended from the league, I'll take his action.

Ask The Slouch

Q. You were labeled a pessimistic and unfaithful alum because you questioned Maryland's wisdom of hiring a 3-31 head coach to rescue its football program. Now that the Terps have finished yet another losing season with regression at nearly all levels, have your detractors issued an apology? (Randy Waesche; Thurmont, Md.)

A. I'm still waiting for an apology for the mediocre higher education I received in College Park while Norman Esiason was given an athletic scholarship.

Q. Golfer Patrick Reed was caught on camera improving his lie in a sand trap, but he says he wasn't cheating. Not guilty or guilty? (Jaclyn Ramirez; Houston)

A. When reached in Ukraine, Rudolph W. Giuliani said Reed had done nothing wrong and will continue to do it.

Q. Aaron Rodgers last week mentioned he can see the 18th hole of his career. Can you see the 19th hole of your career? (J. Jackson, Dunkirk, Md.)

A. I only play miniature golf, so I can see the whole damn course (and the bar).

Q. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently proposed handing Russia a four-year ban from global sports. Should they instead be investigating Joe and Hunter Biden? (Joe Salo; Latham, 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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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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