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Defending Arsene Wenger, the Thrilla in Manila and all the week’s best sportswriting

Also featuring ‘Driving to Work With Keith Hernandez, the Real Mr. Met’.

Image: Darko Bandic

1. “But the contest lingered verbally way after the bell, all the way to Joe’s grave. This most noble of fighters struggled properly to forgive Ali for some of the most hurtful insults ever hurled in the name of sporting hype, and convinced himself in repeated assertions to anyone who’d listen that he could have survived one more round.”

Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian revisits the Thrilla in Manila 40 years on.

2. “Most days start the same — behind the wheel of a white 1997 Dodge Caravan SE outfitted with a bubble-top Mark III conversion kit, a VHS player mounted to the roof inside and a r8hers personalized plate. Mark Davis pilots this machine from his East Bay home to the nearest P.F. Chang’s, where he sits at the left end of the bar, same spot every time, puts his white fanny pack on the counter, orders an iced tea and unfolds the day’s newspapers. Beside him on the bar, next to the papers, is his 2003 Nokia push-button phone with full texting capability. When someone calls and asks him where he is, he says, “I’m in my office,” and sends a knowing nod to the bartenders. It gets ‘em every time.”

‘Are Mark Davis and his Raiders leaving Oakland?’ asks Tim Keown of ESPN.

3. “One winter afternoon in 1980, the man who would become the greatest NBA coach of his generation stood in a decaying gymnasium at a Division III college, desperate and out of ideas. Gregg Popovich was 30 years old and a loser. He’d just been hired to revive the basketball program at Pomona and Pitzer colleges, a pair of Southern California liberal arts schools so small that they share an athletic department. Now, that team stared at Popovich, the Air Force veteran charged with inspiring excellence — or at least mediocrity — in one of the worst college basketball teams in the United States.”

Grantland’s Jordan Ritter Conn takes a look back at the beginning of legendary NBA coach Gregg Popovich’s career.

4. “You wander down a gravel driveway, past oaks and purple-red Japanese maples toward Keith Hernandez’s Sag Harbor, N.Y., pad, a handsome single-floor house.

“He is soaping and washing down his Mercedes. He spots you and begins to talk baseball as the hose goes this way and that.

“They’re going to be all right,” he says of the New York Mets, who had lost three series on the way to a stirring coronation in Cincinnati as division champs. “The starting pitching, that’s a little shaky. They don’t condition these kids to go nine innings now.”

The New York Times’ ‘Driving to Work With Keith Hernandez, the Real Mr. Met’ is a compelling read.

5. “They used to have a joke at Arsenal, going back to the 2014 FA Cup final, that Arsène Wenger spent more time working on their yellow carnations than on tactics for the game. It was a bit of a cruel joke given that Arsenal actually won that final. But there was an extraordinary amount of faffing about, apparently, over Wenger’s boutonnières. The florists were called and there was all sorts of toing and froing before he ticked everything off. Then the football started and, after eight minutes, his team were two goals down to Hull City.”

The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor is on top form as he looks at the current problems of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.

Chelsea players deserve more blame and other Premier League talking points>

Utmost respect to Michael Darragh Mcauley and Bernard Brogan for this touching gesture>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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