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Serena Williams' greatness, wrestling's most violent man and all the week’s best sportswriting

Also, why Jermain Defoe and his job advert have silly season sewn up.

Serena has won 21 Grand Slam singles titles.
Serena has won 21 Grand Slam singles titles.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. “Imagine you have won 21 Grand Slam singles titles, with only four losses in your 25 appearances in the finals. Imagine that you’ve achieved two ‘‘Serena Slams’’ (four consecutive Slams in a row), the first more than 10 years ago and the second this year. A win at this year’s U.S. Open would be your fifth and your first calendar-year Grand Slam — a feat last achieved by Steffi Graf in 1988, when you were just 6 years old.

“Imagine that you’re the player John McEnroe recently described as ‘the greatest player, I think, that ever lived’.

“Imagine that you have to contend with critiques of your body that perpetuate racist notions that black women are hypermasculine and unattractive. Imagine being asked to comment at a news conference before a tournament because the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, has described you and your sister as ‘‘brothers’’ who are ‘‘scary’’ to look at. Imagine.”

Claudia Rankine writes an in-depth feature for The New York Times that looks at the greatness of Serena Williams and at black excellence.

2. “One night in 1996, an 18-year-old kid named Erich Kulas walked into an Extreme Championship Wrestling show in Revere, Massachusetts, hoping to find work for the night. He claimed to be a trained wrestler. He wasn’t.

“Nearly three years later, New Jack was tried on two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He was acquitted by a jury. The Kulas family’s civil suit was subsequently thrown out. New Jack lived another day.

“These days, New Jack says that he doesn’t miss wrestling. He doesn’t have a favorite match or a favorite moment from his career. He doesn’t stay in contact with any of the people he wrestled. If people want to call him a legend or a menace, that’s on them. He doesn’t care.”

Grantland’s Tom Breihan sits down with ECW legend New Jack, the most violent man in professional wrestling history. 

3. All New Orleanians can describe three moments from the past 10 years in cinematic detail: their escape from the storm, where they were when Gleason blocked that punt and where they were when the Saints won the Super Bowl.

“In the team’s first night back in the Superdome after the storm, he (Steve Gleason) stretched out his arms and blocked a punt in the opening series of a Monday Night Football game. There is a 9-foot statue of him outside the Dome now, but the actual Steve Gleason is paralyzed, four years into an ALS diagnosis. Most people don’t make it past five.

“With the air conditioner off for filming, the only noise in Steve Gleason’s home is the breathing machine that keeps him alive.”

ESPN’s senior writer Wright Thompson looks at life, loss, displacement and renewal in this ambitious 25,000-word piece to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 

4. “According to Britain’s Sunday Times and the German broadcaster ARD, more than eight hundred athletes in the database showed highly suspicious blood values between 2001 and 2012, and they won a third of the medals in endurance events at the Olympics and the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in those years.

“The more pressing question is not who is guilty but what authorities are doing about the situation. In a series of increasingly frantic press releases, the I.A.A.F. has argued that the biological-passport process is working: more than a hundred and fifty cases have been referred to its expert panel since 2011, resulting in sixty-three prosecutions, and suspicious results have repeatedly been used to trigger ‘intelligence-led, no-advance-notice, OOC [out-of-competition] testing.’ Whether you find that convincing—and how you reconcile this clash of collective knowledge and individual uncertainty—is as much a matter of personality as of statistics.”

Alex Hutchinson in The New Yorker tells us why the more pressing question in the latest track-and-field doping scandal is not who is guilty but what authorities are doing about the situation.  


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Source: Owen Humphreys

5. “What is not germane to the job of being Jermain Defoe’s personal assistant? Very little, is the answer. Global marketing, plant watering, organising Black History Month events, fridge stocking – all these are areas relevant to the matter in hand, which is sourcing a personal assistant to the Sunderland striker.

“August being the month for game-changing employment moves in the world of football, Jermain has placed an enticing ad for the “24/7” position on a secretarial website, in which he detailed the many requirements of the role.”

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde outlines how Jermain Defoe and his plant-watering job advert have silly season sewn up. 

6. “Boekenoogen was in the same daze. Holtey. Michael Douglas. They didn’t know where to go on the field. Screaming Tornado players bumped into them, surprised them by stopping to shake hands briefly. But it was as if the Ashland players couldn’t hear. A few clear words pierced their confusion, but the free-for-all overwhelmed them. It felt like the view from the top floor of the Marc Antony Hotel, where beyond the initial exhilaration at the sheer drop the boys sensed life going on below without them as its center. Now the glass was gone.

“Coach Nagel says he doesn’t know if he believes that football creates character, or as is more popular today, if it reveals character. This was the second hardest defeat of his career, he says, behind only his son’s senior postseason loss. Unlike the dozens of relationships he maintains with other former players, he is not in contact with anyone from the 1993 team.”

Chaz Reetz-Laiolo revisits 1993 and one unforgettable football season in Ashland, Oregon for SB Nation

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Donal Lucey

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