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Sunday, March 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Couch Slouch: Beware of anything for sale from higher ed

Today, Couch Slouch presents two columns in one – an unmatched bargain in these demanding economic times – both involving our ever-tattered institutions of higher learning.

First we will bring you the remarkable link between chocolate milk and concussions.

Then we will bring you the regrettable growth of “storming the court.”

We start with my forever misguided and beleaguered alma mater, the University of Maryland – Motto: “Big Ten Or Bust, And If We Go Bust, Maybe We Can Ask Football Coaches We’ve Fired For Some Money Back” – which released a study that found that chocolate milk appeared to improve high school athletes’ test scores and reduce concussion-related symptoms.

(Actually, I have always found Yoo-hoo to be the cure for most earthly ills.)

The findings might be accurate, but here’s the problem – according to the website Vox, the study only tested a single brand of chocolate milk, and the maker of that brand, Fifth Quarter Fresh of Hagerstown, Md., funded 10 percent of the research. The study was part of a collaboration between the university and local businesses to boost Maryland’s economy.

So when my Terrapin publicists trumpet the findings with these words, “Fifth Quarter Fresh…helped high school football players improve their cognitive and motor function over the course of a season, even after experiencing concussions,” wary consumers should think twice before running out to buy Fifth Quarter Fresh cows to milk in their backyard for that magic elixir.

When business interests encroach on college campuses, whose interests are served? Hint: The answer is not academia. If an ivory tower has a Bud Light banner hanging from it, I would not only question those scholars’ choice of beer but also their intellectual judgment.

Yes, there’s been a nationwide push to commercialize university research, but – people, people, people – university research should not be for sale; it should be one of the last incorruptible areas of everyday life, like church bingo and Sadie Hawkins dances.

(Maybe the University of Maryland can next partner with DraftKings and ESPN to study the potential subconscious benefits of fantasy sports.)

Let’s move on to the mind-numbing, increasing occurrence of “storming the court” in college basketball after a big win. While college is a splendid time to engage in inexplicably dumb stuff, court-storming is dumb and dangerous.

(Full disclosure: I did some ridiculous things in college that I still cannot mention because I believe the statute of limitations never runs out on stupidity.)

Just this month alone, we’ve witnessed frightening final-buzzer stampedes when Auburn beat Kentucky and West Virginia beat Kansas. And last month Des Moines Register columnist Randy Peterson – yeah, I know, we’re only talking about a sportswriter here – broke a leg when he was trampled after Iowa State beat Iowa.

Common sense should tell anyone that, in terms of fan and player safety, storming the court is an indefensible tradition. It’s like the Running of the Bulls, without the bulls.

(The most comparable thing in American life, I suppose, would be trying to board a train at Penn Station in New York – passengers mill around the main concourse and, when a track number is announced, there is a mad charge to the gate.)

I learned my lesson in 1971. As a 13-year-old, I attended Maryland’s 31-30 upset of No. 2-ranked South Carolina. Just before overtime began, I decided to sneak down from my cheap seat to floor level, behind one of the baskets. When it ended, I got caught in an incredible, scary fan surge toward the court. Heck, I could’ve been killed, which at least would’ve saved me from having to write this column.

(By the way, I would storm a castle before I’d storm a court. When you storm the castle, you’re on your own schedule and, frankly, it’s for a better cause. On a related note, to this day my great-great-great Uncle Antoine still counts storming the Bastille on July 14, 1789 as “one of the three best mornings of my life.”)

There is good news, though: If you do get your head stomped by a game-ending wave of revelers, a new College Park study indicates that Fifth Quarter Fresh chocolate milk will heal you by the next tipoff time.

Ask The Slouch

Q. In poker terms, is the Philadelphia 76ers-Golden State Warriors game coming up this week like you playing heads-up with Phil Ivey? (Simon Lester; Falls Church, Va.)

A. Well, to quote the late Amarillo Slim, “Sometimes the lambs slaughter the butcher.”

Q. In his season-and-a-half as Cleveland Cavaliers coach, David Blatt had an 83-40 record. How do you explain his firing? (Paul Rubin; Akron, Ohio)

A. I imagine he needed to be at least 84-39.

Q. How does the NFL expect to be trusted to research brain injuries when they’re not even sure what a catch is? (William Murray; Chicago)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. If an NFL player gets acquitted in court, should he try to jump into the jurors box? (Jim Hayes; Haymarket, Va.)

A. Pay this wise soul, too.

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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