The Couch Slouch

There is only one way to stop the cheating Patriots

Patriots/Facebook

A popular sentiment these days – and one that most of Sports Nation wants to embrace – is that the New England Patriots finally will be kaput in the postseason and cannot possibly win Super Bowl 54.

What America are these people living in?

Tom Brady could start the game strapped to a gurney, and they could win.

Julian Edelman could play the first half barefoot and the second half in flip-flops, and they could win.

Bill Belichick, at this very moment, is sitting at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Mansfield, Mass., reviewing the latest Patriots surveillance tape of the Kansas City Chiefs' training table.

Still, most of us are hoping that, much like President Trump's three-year win streak ending with impeachment, the Patriots' 18-year NFL dynasty will cease with an implosion.

The Patriots' demise has been prematurely predicted countless times before. Heck, I bought a Patriots piñata at TJ Maxx in 2015 that I have yet to take a baseball bat to.

Is it finally time?

They are old – their quarterback is 42, their coach is 67 and their owner is 78. Then again, the quarterback might be the greatest of all-time, the coach might be the greatest of all-time and the owner is still savvy enough to seemingly dodge prostitution solicitation charges in Florida in which he was allegedly caught on videotape.

Speaking of videotape – before we deep-dive into the team's supposed free fall – let's briefly address the Patriots' latest cinematic venture, "Bengals in Autumn," which should screen at next year's Cannes Film Festival.

(NFL Films should hire Belichick. He gets footage no one else has access to.)

So a video crew working for the Patriots filmed the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline during a recent game. At this point, I don't care if it was an "accident;" if a Wells Fargo branch is robbed and John Dillinger is standing in front of the bank, would you give him the benefit of the doubt?

This occurrence echoes the team's 2007 Spygate scandal, in which the Patriots videotaped New York Jets defensive coaching signals, prompting NFL fines for Belichick and the team, plus the loss of a first-round draft pick.

But my barber George – yes, I got another haircut last week and he told me I do not have to come in again until April 2021 – has a better idea this time, disciplinary-wise. A fine? Pfft. Draft picks? Pfft. Oh, no. George says…

BAN THEM FROM THE POSTSEASON FOR ONE YEAR.

Like this year. And why not?

Because if we don't, as Roger Goodell is my witless witness, these swindling, cheating, scamming, preening Patriots are going to win another Super Bowl.

Sure, they've had lousy offensive-line play, they've had no running attack and no deep threat and they've been unable to replace Gronk. They had no offensive player selected to the initial Pro Bowl roster for the first time since 2003. And the mighty Brady has been reduced to shuffling around the pocket, throwing six-yard checkdown passes.

Uh, you realize the Patriots are 12-3 and we're talking about them struggling.

How good have the Patriots been?

The Patriots will finish at least 12-4 this year for the 13th time in 17 seasons. In that span, the NFL's other 31 teams have finished at least 12-4 a total of 66 times; seven teams have zero 12-4 seasons since 2003. The Patriots make 12-4 look as easy as the Cleveland Browns make 4-12 look simple.

Woe are the Patriots? I think not.

The Patriots are like POTUS – write 'em off at your own risk. They have endless tricks in their shoplifted bag; for crying out loud, Edelman apparently faked a head injury against the Buffalo Bills Saturday.

Between Brady, Belichick and borderline officiating – I believe the last time the Patriots lost a replay challenge was at the Boston Tea Party, late 1773 – I cannot bury these knaves.

What I can do is beg beg beg Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes or Jimmy Garoppolo or Aaron Rodgers to put the kibosh on this unspeakable national nightmare.

Ask the Slouch

Q. Since President Trump has been going to more sporting events lately, do you think he will take in the Georgetown-vs.-Deep State basketball game next month in D.C.? (Gary Duncan; Washington, D.C.)

A. If I were the Hoyas, I wouldn't play Deep State – those games have got to be fixed.

Q. Do we have you to thank for increasing the exposure of our fair city of Spokane when listing it as the residence of another successful contributor to "Ask the Slouch," or is it just because of Gonzaga basketball? (Steve Owings; Spokane, Wash.)

A. I don't even know where Spokane is.

Q. If R*dsk*ns owner Daniel Snyder were impeached for malpractice, who do you think he would call as character witnesses? (John Myers; Harrisonburg, Va.)

A. Even if he were impeached, I suspect he would be acquitted in a Senate trial.

Q. Have Duke basketball fans seen more flops than Amarillo Slim? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

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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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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