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Dublin: 1 °C Monday 18 November, 2019
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The Sunday Papers: some of the week's best sportwriting

Colin Murray’s MOTD demise, Crossmaglen stars doing a Zlatan and plenty more to keep you out of trouble.

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek checks out TheScore app during a break in training this week. We think.
Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek checks out TheScore app during a break in training this week. We think.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

1. “After the session, as the freezing mist descended, one man was still out there, swerving improbable kicks over the bar with both feet. Jamie Clarke. I dandered over to him with my son. ‘Do something special for us Jamie,’ I said, ‘Send us home smiling.’ He smiled in that shy way of his and said an interesting thing.

‘You know Joe, I was thinking that some day, I’d like to score a goal like Ibrahimovic.’

‘You know what Jamie” I replied,” I believe you could.’ And with that, he whipped the ball over his shoulder without looking, straight over the black spot.”

Joe Brolly brought his young son along to watch Crossmaglen training recently. And it sounded like fun.

2. “We will return to Murray the DJ. But first let us deal with Murray the presenter. His most glaring weakness is this: he wishes he were a pundit. There is clearly a great deal of insecurity there: the sensation of being in but not of the world of football. Like most major world religions, football treats outsiders with suspicion. Murray felt uneasy from the start and decided to counter this head-on by asserting himself. The trouble is, he went too far. Nobody will ever care what Colin Murray has to say about football, especially not when David Moyes is sitting four feet away. Yet Murray stubbornly persisted, awkwardly wedging in his own irrelevant take on the game, the neurosis feeding the nonsense.”

The Telegraph’s Jonathan Liew received a letter from Colin Murray’s expensive solicitors when he first wrote about MOTD2 presenter Colin Murray; so he didn’t hold back this week when the Northern Irishman was dropped from the BBC show.

3. “Jim and John both seem to have been born to coach—or maybe they were raised to coach. Their father, Jack, was a longtime college coach who loved taking his kids to the office. In the 1970s Jack was an assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan, and the boys would sometimes throw a football around on the sideline while the Wolverines practiced. Their younger sister, Joani, learned to hot-splice game film by the time she was 10. Joani is the only Harbaugh child who did not become a coach, but she did marry one: Tom Crean, now the basketball coach at Indiana.

This makes Jack proud. His kids saw the coaching profession up close, all the tumult (Jack and his wife, Jackie, have moved 16 times), the long hours and the stress, and they dived in anyway.”

You might have heard US Murph mention this ‘definitive’ Sports Illustrated piece on the Harbaughs during  the week on Off The Ball. It’s a bit old but certainly worth a read.

4. “Dig a little deeper, scrape beneath the operetta of conflicting cardigan-clad ambition, and there are some depressing editorial decisions being made. The Mail reports, with due speculative caveats, that a major source of Murray-friction is his habit of offering criticism of professional footballers from beyond the ranks of those who have actually played the game. This has seemed to anger Alan Shearer, in particular, who in turn sees no contradiction within his own practice of carrying on as a professional television analyst and de facto journalist while evidently lacking the basic forensic and communication skills to perform this role with coherence.

At which point it must be said that this view of professional capacity and the role of the critic is nonsense in any case. As Dr Johnson said: ‘You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table.’ And in any case the notion that only professional footballers are qualified to criticise professional footballers is back to front on many levels.”

Sorry Colin, we had to include Barney Ronay‘s lyrical piece on Murray’s Match Of The Day demotion and the wider BBC malaise too. Favourite of the week.

5. “When Alex Rodríguez, baseball’s highest-paid player, announced last month that he needed hip surgery, it wasn’t just the New York Yankees that groaned. The biggest share of the resulting financial pain may well be felt by Team Scotti, the lead insurer on his ten-year, $275m contract. If Mr Rodríguez can recover by midsummer, the firm will escape unharmed since most policies do not pay out until a player has been sidelined for at least a few months. But if his injury drags on, it could make it harder for teams to get coverage—and thus harder for athletes to extract similarly lucrative contracts in the future.”

This Economist piece on the calculations behind the insurance of players is not something we’d read everyday, but very interesting.

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