The Couch Slouch

Reviewing an old problem: NFL replay remains a joke

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Note to Readers: The bad news? This will be my 38th column on replay since 1986. The good news? When I get to my 40th, I will retire to an elder care facility in suburban Monte Carlo that has eight bowling lanes, two air hockey tables and a vending machine that sells Bugles.

To be fair, replay as an officiating tool remains only the fifth-worst global problem, behind climate change, world hunger, the decline of American exceptionalism and the inability to find anything you like when clothes shopping.

It is an endless procession of did-he-or-didn't-he moments to examine:

Did he cross the goal line? Are his feet in or out on the sideline? Did he maintain possession through the process of the catch? Did his knee hit the ground before he fumbled? Did the ball hit the ground after he caught it? Was the quarterback's arm going forward?

My goodness, President Trump won't even release his tax returns – how can we be reviewing THIS RUBBISH?

This remains a rabbit hole from which we can never dig out.

Life is always better when you just let it happen. We shouldn't take photos of our food when it's served, we shouldn't analyze sunsets and waterfalls, we shouldn't review where the official spots the ball on a third-and-six completion that goes for 5¾ yards.

The NFL put in a replay rule change this season to deal with exactly what transpired in New Orleans a weekend ago – the last play of a postseason game, on a decisive touchdown in which an apparent offensive pass interference went uncalled, and they did not even review it.

That's like installing a metal detector at a nightclub and letting "Wild Bill" Hickock walk through the front door without turning it on.

It was such an obvious push-off by Kyle Rudolph, it shoved me off my own sofa.

By the way, if they had overturned it, what a mess. You have this dramatic, overtime-ending touchdown pass. You have half the Minnesota Vikings streaming across the field with helmets off to celebrate with Rudolph, and the other half sprinting into the locker room. And then, several minutes later, you have The Eye in the Sky bellowing:

"Offensive pass interference. No touchdown. Players, please return to the huddle. Fans, please return to your seats."

And who would determine this? NFL officiating czar Al Riveron.

Al Riveron? Who is this guy? He has more power than a Supreme Court justice and is more mysterious than The Man in the Iron Mask. Remember in "The Wizard of Oz," the Wizard was just some small chap behind a curtain? Well, Riveron is just some middle-aged fella on a Park Avenue BarcaLounger watching a bank of screens while guzzling Bud Light with clicker in hand.

He decides the fate of all NFL games?

This is insanity.

Just play the game, make the calls, move on.

You're cooking a three-egg omelette. You drop one of the eggs. You just get another egg out of the fridge and call Daisy in to lick the yolk off the kitchen floor. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

You're bowling. Your buddy may or may not be going over the foul line when releasing the ball. So what? You buy him another Yuengling and a corn dog. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

You have a fender bender on the 405. You yell for a bit, argue briefly with the other motorist, then exchange insurance information and get back into the car. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

You are married. Then you go to family court, and you are no longer married. Do you make a big stink about it? Negative. You go home, you lick your wounds, you get back on the Tinder horse. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

I am constantly told: The genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. Really? Why not? This genie is unsightly, unworthy and unneeded. Costco lets you return any merchandise for any reason – what, we can't stuff this demonic spirit back into the decanter and send it out to sea?

I'd watch that replay again and again.

Ask the Slouch

Q. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed pitcher Jimmy Nelson to a one-year $1.25 million contract, with as much as $13 million (!) in incentives if he lasts two years. What incentives did you offer Toni for your marriage to last this long? (Jim Tise; Bethesda, Md.)

A. Every time Toni makes it six months, I promised her she would not have to speak to me for the next six months.

Q. I learned that "Bachelor" star Jade Roper Tolbert "won" $1 million on DraftKings' Millionaire Maker daily fantasy contest, and "may" have "colluded" with her husband Tanner on their 300 combined entries. I really don't have a question. (Mitchell Shapiro; Rockville, Md.)

A. I really don't have an answer then. P.S. No question, no 10 bits.

Q. Is it true that Queen Elizabeth plans to use the franchise tag to keep Prince Harry? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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