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Tiger's fall, Ireland to win the World Cup and cricket emerging: It’s the week’s best sportswriting

There are also superb pieces on a homeless former college footballer and how the All Blacks coach their players.

1. At some point over the past few years, as his marriage broke down and his body broke down with it, Tiger Woods became something far weirder. To see those pictures of him wearing a skull mask at a skiing event in Italy to hide a missing front tooth, you couldn’t help but wonder if he’s veering into Michael Jackson territory.

And so when that journeyman professional, Dan Olsen, made claims that Woods might be using performance enhancers and might someday “surpass Lance Armstrong with infamy,” the charges were taken seriously enough to be reported by mainstream media outlets.

Writing for Rolling Stone, Michael Weinreb examines Tiger Woods’ mighty fall from grace.

Phoenix Open Golf Source: AP/Press Association Images

2. Ireland will harbour realistic expectations of winning the tournament and, in my book, anything less than a first-ever appearance in the semi-finals would be a real disappointment.

Some people have accused Ireland of just kicking the leather off the ball. In my view, that’s an unfair criticism.

Fresh from their win over England, Ireland are realistic World Cup winners, says former All Blacks coach John Mitchell in an ESPNScrum column.

3. Just like their N.F.L. counterparts, Hoffman and those former college players have been left to wonder: Did football do this? Are the hits to the head I took the reason for my decline? Or would I be in this condition even if I’d never played a down?

They might never know the answer, because a definitive answer might not exist.

Hoffman blames football for scrambling his brain, but at this point it is impossible to disentangle what could be football-related brain injuries from his subsequent drug use and possibly genetic mental illness. He simply cannot be sure. No one can.

Juliet Macur of the New York Times tells the remarkable story of Ryan Hoffman, a former college football lineman who is now homeless.

4. Professional fulfillment comes in many forms during a person’s career. For Kindred, one of the most accomplished sportswriters of his generation, nothing now makes him feel more fulfilled than chronicling the exploits of the girls basketball team from Morton High School, located near Peoria, Ill.

“I wrote about the ‘Dream Team’ in Barcelona (at the ’92 Olympics),” Kindred said. “What gives me the bigger thrill? Put it this way: I truly like this. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t like it.”

Big time sports writer Dave Kindred is finding his fulfilment in covering a small town team, as recounted by Poynter.’s Ed Sherman.

5. Both coaches identified an incident on tour in South Africa in 2004 as a critical turning point in their coaching style and the motivational climate of the All Blacks team.

After a lost match, the players organized a social event where binge drinking and other antisocial behavior occurred. Both coaches were appalled by the incident and regarded it as being symptomatic of a deeper lack of maturity within the team at the time.

Something a little different here, but this superb study by Ken Hodge examines the coaching of Graham Henry and Wayne Smith during their time in charge of the All Blacks from 2004 to 2011.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2011 - New Zealand Victory Parade - Auckland It all ended well for Henry [right]. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

6. I ride to the bike shop. I spend a lot of time in bike shops, because I have a big, heavy body that is very, very hard on bikes. Since I got my bike last year, I have needed: a replacement wheel that was technically built for a mountain bike, two replacement tires, six new tubes, new gear cables, a new chain, and a new bottom bracket, which I tore in half one day because I was starting from a high gear too often.

The repair shop guy looks at my brake, cleans it and tightens it.

I ride back home.

There are few airs and graces to this piece, as Corbin Smith details a week on his bike for The Classical.

7. While the Irish cricket team is on an upward trajectory, perhaps the biggest wonder is why it has taken the country so long to make it this far, considering the country has excelled in other sports with British roots, like soccer and rugby.

An easy answer: history.

An interesting perspective on cricket emerging in Ireland after years in the shadows from the New York Times’ Tim Wigmore.

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