The Couch Slouch

Social distancing with online gambling? It's the end of the world as we know it

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I lost my regular poker game at Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles when the world shut down. Degenerates gotta degenerate, though, so most of us now find ourselves on the World Wide Web to get our gamble on.

Thus, I am playing online poker for the first time – not loving it, but I'll get back to that – on an unregulated site while breaking the law by participating from the state of California.

That's right, it's illegal, which doesn't much bother me considering what the big banks have been doing to us for years. Oh, their conduct might be legal, thanks to their feckless friends in big government, but it ain't right. Plus you and I can't run a numbers game but state governments can, so, good people….

DON'T GET ME STARTED.

Anyway, watching cards fly through the virtual air reminded me of a conversation I had with my Brooklyn pal William, at the dawn of Internet gaming, when he told me he was playing online blackjack.

Me: Online blackjack? Why? Why? Why?

William: I like blackjack.

Me: Are you winning?

William: No.

Me: Do you expect to win?

William: I don't know.

Me: Where do you think the cards are coming from?

William: The Internet dealer, I guess.

Me: William, if you and I decided to start a blackjack site, would we create a software program that would allow the players to beat us in the long run?

William: I don't know.

Me: Think about it: Why would we develop a gambling enterprise online that is set up so we don't make money?

William: I guess most folks wouldn't do that.

Me: So why do you keep playing online against the house? You can't even see the house.

William: I like blackjack and I don't have to go nowhere. I hate driving to Atlantic City.

Me: Then take the bus.

Yet now – like William – I am at home, gambling. We still don't know where the cards are coming from – maybe Al Gore shuffles them – and there is little joy sitting on my couch in my bathrobe, clicking call, raise or fold buttons. It feels lonely and sterile.

My only pleasure is the "chat box," at the bottom of the screen, where I can text playful messages to the others. But sometimes they tell me to cease; apparently, my voice bothers them even when they cannot hear it.

The game also goes much faster than live poker. You can play multiple games on multiple screens, the main reason that online young'uns hate coming into a card room and suffering through the slow pace of play. And they've had to do that increasingly since online poker effectively was banned in the United States nine years ago.

This, of course, is ridiculous – online poker should be legalized. But I still fear for the fate of civilization if we retreat inward for all of our needs and recreation: groceries delivered, restaurant takeout, teleworking via Zoom, online gambling, Amazon shipments, Netflix and HBO 'round the clock.

Poker, for one, should be social. We should get out, mingling for hours and smelling the flowers.

What quarantining and locking down tells us more than ever is: We need human contact to maintain the human race.

Last I checked, you still cannot procreate online; we will cease as living beings unless someone is having a roll in the hay somewhere.

Heck, dinosaurs probably went extinct 65 million years ago because they stopped fraternizing – and wandering the Yucatán Peninsula – after radio was invented. Come to think of it, transistor radios might've saved them.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Could Joe Burrow legally change his name right before the Cincinnati Bengals select him with the first NFL draft pick and then be eligible for other teams to select him under his pseudonym? (Bill Rote; Springfield, Va.)

A. I believe your fantastical suggestion might have a practical application in other walks of life, such as nuptials.

Q. If the PGA decides to broadcast tournaments with no fans on site, will current technology allow us to hear drunk guys from home screaming "get in the hole!" whenever Tiger or Phil attempts a long putt? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

A. Actually, I'd prefer if they played the tournaments without broadcasting them, but that's just me.

Q. Is it okay if I say hi to Shirley? Hi Shirley! (Beverly Gibb; Spokane, Wash.)

A. I hope this is not some cheap, desperate ploy to score the buck-and-a-quarter, because Shirley has feelings and should not be used as a prop to prize winnings.

Q. Does Shirley sign your $1.25 checks, or do you insist that your name is on them? (Rick Slavkin; Columbia, Md.)

A. WE PAY IN CASH. Geez.

Q. Now that the NFL is studying games without fans, are they in close consultation with Daniel Snyder so they can excel at it? (Pete Eltringham; Warrenton, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

To enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway, just email asktheslouch@aol.com. The Couch Slouch podcast is available on your favorite podcasting app.


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College football needs to call a timeout on the 2020 season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to announce, maybe today, perhaps in a few weeks, whether they will play football this fall.

Already the Ivy League, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have canceled their fall football season for health and safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – should get onboard and put their football seasons on hold, too.

While some elected officials without medical degrees say that coronavirus amounts to little more than sniffles for young people, healthcare experts argue that college-age people, while they do recover quickly and may not exhibit symptoms, do contract and spread the virus.

There has been a 90 percent increase of young people testing positive for the virus in the past four weeks. More important, health experts say they can't measure the long-term effects of the virus, which may include brain damage, heart disease and reduced lung capacity.

There is a simple solution to play or not play college football this fall – postpone the season to next spring, when health experts will know more about the disease. There possibly could be a vaccine by then, which would allow fans back in stadiums.

Many high-profile college players and coaches weighed in on the debate Monday, almost unanimously saying that the 2020 football schedule should be played on schedule, starting in a few weeks.

Players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, adopted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. In a tweet, Lawrence said that players would be more at risk for coronavirus if the fall season doesn't move forward. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."

Lawrence added that, if the football season is canceled or postponed, players "will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely."

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, "Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Two points: University presidents should listen to only one group of people – healthcare professionals – when they decide whether to cancel or postpone the fall football season. Yes, players want to play during this pandemic. But players also want to play when they are injured or their brain was just scrambled by a vicious tackle. We applaud athletes who play with a broken leg. We see players with concussions plead with their coaches to put them back in the game.

As for the argument that players are more likely to catch the virus if they're sent home – who's sending them home? These are student-athletes. Students. Most college campuses will be open with students attending classes this fall. Major college programs like Clemson have 85 full scholarships designated for football. Colleges won't take away players' scholarships if the football season is canceled. Clemson's campus will open Sept. 21 for in-person classes.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy also said the season should be played as scheduled: "If they're (players) OK, then I'm OK." Texas governor Greg Abbott chimed in on the players' side. He said, "It's their careers, it's their health."

What "careers" is he talking about? There are about 775 colleges that play football. Only 1.7 percent of all those players will play in the NFL or another professional league. On Sept. 3, Rice University will play Army. It is unlikely that any of those players will have a career in football. However, given the excellence of academics at those colleges, players will have career opportunities in something other than football. The average NFL career is 2-1/2 years. Rice and Army grads can top that.

The NBA is completing its season in a bubble in Orlando, with players confined to their hotels between games. Only 22 teams are in Orlando for the lockdown. The Rockets organization sent about 35 people, including coaches, players and essential personnel to Orlando.

Baseball is playing its season outside a bubble. So many players are testing positive for coronavirus that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week threatened to end the season if teams don't do a better job of enforcing the league's health protocol. What's left is an unbalanced season. For example, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have played 18 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games. The ironically first-place Miami Marlins, which had 18 players test positive, have played only 10 games.

College football can't be played in a bubble. There are too many teams, with some having more than 100 players and 20 coaches. And no sport thrives on fans' excitement and marching bands like college football. Several colleges, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M, have stadiums that hold more than 100,000 fans. Even if college football could be played in a bubble, it would require isolating players from August to January, when they're supposed to be in class. I know … supposed.

This one is easy. For the health and safety of players, play the fall 2020 season in spring 2021.

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