The Couch Slouch

Upon even further review, NFL replay isn't solving anything

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In an adult lifetime of myriad miscalculation, I have been absolutely right about only three things – the delight of Popeyes chicken, the danger of the Internet and the disaster of replay as an officiating tool.

This must be at least the seventh time I have written about replay after pledging to never write about replay again.

Since the first version of replay was used by the NFL in 1986, I have argued that this is a long road to ruin. For those of you just joining us in America, let's review the basics again:

Replay shatters the flow of the game.

Replay reduces the spontaneous joy of the game.

Replay changes how we watch the game.

All of this in the name of the mantra of replay ruffians: We've got to get it right.

Actually, we don't have to get it right – a missed call here and there has yet to tumble any republic – and, actually, despite all the time they take, they sometimes still don't get it right.

For a moment, let's give the yahoos the benefit of the doubt and assume that, with replay, they now get it right all of the time.

So what?

Are we better off?

If replay were used during, say, a honeymoon, I guess that might ensure that eventually you would get it right, but it really takes all the romance out of it, no?

In certain areas of life, getting it is right is simply not that critical.

Yes, with education, health care and climate change, you want to get it right.

But pass interference?

A nation turns its lonely eyes to the side judge?

During the Chiefs-Raiders game on CBS Sept. 15, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were talking about how the standard for the challenge to overturn a call or a non-call on pass interference is "egregious," not just that it is "clear and obvious." Huh? It either is or isn't – why is it a matter of degree? Isn't the replay done to take out the subjective element and this just adds a subjective element to it?

Heck, my Twitter account filed a workers comp suit against me for the overload caused by all the pass-interference contretemps in last Thursday night's Eagles-Packers game.

Pass interference is this season's holy grail of replay; it was inevitable. Slowly but surely, we will reach the point in which every play of every game is reviewed.

For replay as an officiating tool, my friends, is a slippery slope, which causes "slippery slope syndrome" – from the Latin slopus slipperitis syndromus – first identified by Eratosthenes on a Carnivalus Cruise to Crete in 223 B.C.

Are some of you still baffled by the perils of a slippery slope?

Basically, it is a slope that is slippery. Why is this important? Because when you are on a slope, it is hard to get solid footing because you are on a slope. And if it's real slippery, boy oh boy, every time you try to get traction, you slip a little and then you slip a little more and, sooner or later, in your attempt to climb the slope or even just maintain your position on the slope, you discover you've slipped to the bottom of the slope.

And do you know what is at the bottom of the slope?

A lot of people who have made their bed and now everybody – players, coaches, fans, on-field officials, replay officials, NFL officiating center honchos in New York, yammering talking heads on TV and radio – has to lie in it. That is one crowded bed; it's no wonder somebody falls off of it from time to time.

Anyway, I have been told repeatedly that once we began this replay routine, we could never return to the old ways. Uh, guess what? You can put the genie back in the bottle, and if you bought the bottle at Costco, they will even refund your money, no questions asked.

Incidentally, did you see what happened to the Saints last season against the Rams in the NFC championship game? That had to be pass interference – how come that wasn't a big deal?

Ask the slouch

Q. WAR (Wins Above Replacement) seems to be the rage with MLB stat freaks. If WAR could be calculated for sportswriters, any idea what yours might be? (Joel Miller; Pittsburgh)

A. In sportswriting, we have EAR (Expenses Above Replacement); as someone who only consumes yogurt and Yuengling on business trips, I believe my numbers would be the envy of the industry.

Q. If I take your advice and stop actually bowling to watch bowling, can I get paid for it like Eli Manning is getting paid to watch football? (Tom Logan; Sterling, Va.)

A. Uh, I didn't tell anybody to stop bowling so they could watch bowling. YOU CAN DO BOTH. Geez. You bowl during business hours and you watch DVR'd bowling after business hours. How hard is that?

Q. Maryland football this season has won, 79-0, and lost, 59-0. Does a Maryland education prepare its student-athletes for such emotional swings? (Lisa Epstein; Lansing, Mich.)

A. A Maryland education generally prepares its student-athletes for the night shift at Jiffy Lube.

Q. Is it true that the NFL is suing SeaWorld for exclusive use of the term "Dolphin Tank"? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

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 dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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