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What's it like to get an Olympic gold medal in Burger King and the week's best sportswriting

We also examine the fight for LGBTQ rights in professional wrestling.

1. His name was Fedor and other men feared him. He had a shaved head, deadpan eyes and construction-worker muscles. He was a Russian army veteran who called Vladimir Putin a friend.

Source: Evan Vucci

“His thing,” Donald Trump said, “is inflicting death on people.”

And he was Trump’s newest business partner.

It was June 5, 2008 and Trump had called a news conference at Trump Tower to announce a new venture into the business of mixed martial arts—a blood-spattering blend of boxing, wrestling and karate often fought in a caged octagon.

As the race for the White House intensifies, Politico’s Michael Crowley takes a closer look at his foray into the world of mixed martial arts in Russia.

2. When professional indie wrestlers Jarrett Foster and Steve Sterling first met in 2011, the chemistry between them was immediate.

The two are stars in the independent wrestling circuit, a series of lower-budget, raunchier, local versions of World Wrestling Entertainment’s televised, high-gloss productions. Both had been training at the Independent Wrestling Federation in New Jersey when they had decided to go out for drinks one night.

They told VICE that they instantly realized they were attracted to each other—but neither was out of the closet.

Joseph Jaafari examines the fight for LGBTQ equality in the world of professional wrestling for VICE.

3. It’s 17 June 1990. And while the rest of the country is exploding in anger at Eamon Dunphy flinging his pen across the RTE studio floor (a longstanding myth) and supposedly declaring that he was ashamed to be Irish (a stubbornly durable misquote), across town, in front of 17,000 die-hards, Kilkenny hurling is experiencing possibly its darkest day.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Offaly are the opponents in the Leinster semi-final. It’s a fixture that tended to follow a different script in those days. For one thing, the preface to the 1990 chapter informed us that Offaly were chasing a third Leinster title in a row, so that’s very different for a start.

DJ Carey, somewhat spooked by a selector who told him he wouldn’t be long giving him the curly finger if he didn’t deliver, endured a shockingly underwhelming debut.

Balls.ie’s Conor Neville looks back at the early years of Brian Cody’s reign as Kilkenny boss.

4. A little more than three years ago, the man in charge of the most ambitious project in European soccer sat in front of a promising young player in a Cypriot hotel and told him the future.

At the time, the man, Ralf Rangnick, a well-traveled German coach with an urbane, faintly academic air, seemed an unlikely clairvoyant. And his pitch to Yussuf Poulsen, a young Danish forward, did not seem to be a strong one. Rangnick’s club, RB Leipzig, was attempting to escape the fourth tier of German soccer. It did not have a famous name, or much of a history. His predictions, too, struck Poulsen as distinctly outlandish: promotion all the way to a place among Germany’s elite in just three seasons.

“He said this club was the club of the future,” Poulsen recalled last week.

Poulsen signed on, and the rapid ascent Rangnick had laid out in the hotel — a romantic rise or a cash-fueled corporate push, depending on one’s point of view — continued.

The New York Times’ Rory Smith attempts to discover why Leipzig’s rise to the Bundesliga is not welcomed by all.

5. The pressing question for many viewers tuning in to a preseason football game on Thursday night will be whether San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will once more refuse to stand for the national anthem.

Source: Chris Carlson

But that question obscures some more meaningful ones:

Why is the national anthem a staple of sporting events to begin with? Why does the United States stand apart in making the anthem a part of the pregame ritual? And what does it mean to be patriotic?

Kaepernick, once regarded as one of the N.F.L.’s top players, has suddenly become its most provocative ahead of Thursday’s game in San Diego because, in a country that is unusual in its marriage of sports and public patriotism, he has chosen the anthem as the moment to communicate a message of protest.

Also in the New York Times, Sam Borden Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest underlines the union of sports and patriotism.

6. Practice had ended when Jeremiah George grabbed his friend and fellow linebacker, Adarius Glanton, to do one more drill. They had only devoted so much time to special teams during practice, and George wanted to get his footwork down for when he played on the line on the punt team. George and Glanton took turns kick-stepping like tackles, blocking the other for a few moments, and then shedding the other’s hold, releasing and charging up field to cover.

This was like a receiver staying after to work on the JUGS machine, a corner working on his backpedal, a lineman driving a blocking sled. George was trying to make the Bucs roster as their sixth linebacker and a special teams contributor, and he was somewhere on the fringe.

For hundreds of players around the league in a similar situation, this is perhaps the most important week of the season. As the starters sit out the final preseason game, those players have one last chance to make a final impression on the coaches. Then by 4 p.m. Saturday, every team will make their final 22 cuts, trimming their rosters down to 53 players.

Sticking with the NFL, MMQB’s Tim Rohan examines what it means for the hundreds of NFL players who will lose their job this week.

7. The reputation of ideology has not enjoyed a happy spell. As a concept, ideology has not recovered from the 20th century’s disastrous political experiments. Today, if a plan or policy is described as being motivated purely by ideology, the implication is that the decision followed from blind faith, regardless of rationality.

Source: Andres Kudacki

The idea that an ideology can be evidence-based—let alone correct and progressive—is on the wrong side of history. The ideologue, as the servant of a discredited conceptual framework, has suffered an even worse reputational fate. We are all pragmatists now, in theory if not in practice.

Not Pep Guardiola. He is the unblinking servant of an idea: winning matches through relentless possession of the football. Possession is the ambition, passing the principle, technique the foundation, collective movement the prerequisite. You must have the ball, keep the ball, move the ball, all the time: that is the only way to play.

This stunning piece on Bleacher Report by Ed Smith contrasts what drives Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.

8. David Herity always had a dream, and it went something like this: “My ultimate thing would be, a minute to go, two points up, top-corner save,” he says.

“Dive over, hit my head, don’t get up. The referee blows the full-time whistle and I can hear it as I’m knocked out, or gone. I don’t care, I’ve done it. I’ve done that for Kilkenny. I’ve got justification.”

Herity, who won five All-Ireland senior medals in seven years with the Kilkenny panel, felt like a man on a mission for most of that time. One of his biggest cravings was for acceptance from his own people.

Jackie Cahill, also of this parish, spoke to Kilkenny’s David Herity in the Irish Independent about his decision to avail of the GPA’s counselling service after injury.

9. Adam Nelson had imagined what winning Olympic gold would feel like as a young boy growing up in Atlanta. The shot putter would stand tall on the top podium and close his eyes when he heard the Star-Spangled Banner played.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

 

He won Olympic gold as an adult, but the medal ceremony came nine years after he competed and it was considerably more humble than his childhood dreams. Among the hustle and bustle of travellers in Atlanta airport, Nelson sat down outside Burger King and was awarded his medal by an United States Olympic Committee official.

His medal had been upgraded due to a competitor doping nine years earlier. Nelson’s road to recognition was far harder than any gruelling training session at the track.

In Guardian, Jonathan Drennan finds out what it feels like to ‘win’ a gold medal nine years after the event.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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