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Dublin: 3°C Tuesday 26 January 2021
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The Sunday Papers: some of the week's best sportswriting

Get your feet up and get stuck into this lot.

Munster coach Rob Penney faces the media this week.
Munster coach Rob Penney faces the media this week.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

1. “In the background, meanwhile, as everyone tries to put Lewis’s legacy and his accomplishments into perspective, there’s the looming, out-of-scale shadow of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, who don’t get to register their opinions, because they’re dead. They bled out on the street in Atlanta 13 years ago, beaten and fatally knifed, after a brawl with Lewis and his friends outside a nightclub. Lewis fled with his companions in a stretch limo, disposing of his bloodstained suit somewhere along the way. He was initially indicted on a murder charge, then pleaded down to obstruction of justice after agreeing to testify against his friends Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. Neither was convicted, and Lewis eventually reached undisclosed cash settlements with the victims’ families. And there’s the implicit connection between the murder trial and the overcooked shtick, Lewis’s gridiron-preacherman persona as an attempt to bury the ugly parts of his past.”

This weekend’s play-off weekend could be Ray Lewis’s last in the NFL. He’s a complicated problem who played football with simple greatness according to Deadspin’s Tom Ley in this excellent piece.

2. “More often than not, fans give their players the benefit of the doubt, but with Rio, he makes it hard for us not to assume that he’s a prick.

The summer following his contract debacle he introduced the word “merked” to the masses when bringing out a TV show that took the mickey out of England players. Gary Neville was confronted with a scouse copper and Wayne Rooney was left having to break the news to a kid that his dog had died. There were other hilarious stunts set up for his England team mates, with Rio behind the scenes cracking up. “You got merked, bruv!” The next season he scored another goal against Liverpool, a blinder, but then chose to repeatedly “brap!” at the crowd in celebration, which didn’t do anything for me. Then there was the disastrous Christmas party, with Rio organising girls to be shipped in, with no wives or girlfriends allowed, which saw Jonny Evans accused of rape. This was the last Christmas party our players were allowed to have.”

He’s been at Old Trafford for a decade but Manchester united fans are ambivalent about Rio Ferdinand. The Republik of Mancunia explains why.

3. “Few football fans wouldn’t want Baines at their club. The Everton left-back stands out as an unusually popular player – he’s an old-fashioned, quiet, unassuming professional. He doesn’t talk back to referees, he doesn’t enjoy the media spotlight, he doesn’t tweet. His only online presence is a sporadic music blog for Everton’s official website – his picks of 2012 included Dr John, Arctic Monkeys, Tame Impala and Mark Lanegan. He’s the shy kid no-one really noticed at school, not the loudmouth who got all the girls.”

Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox usually sketches excellent tactics pieces using X’s and O’s. This piece on Everton’s Leighton Baines for ESPN adds a bit more.

4. “Here comes Barrett Jones, straight at you, rolling through the Alabama football offices on a scooter. It’s three weeks before the BCS championship game, and this self-propelled four-wheeler enables him to keep his left foot immobilized. Jones injured his foot, which was in a temporary cast, in the first half of the SEC title game. But it didn’t slow him then — he didn’t miss a snap in Alabama’s 32-28 victory over Georgia — and it’s not preventing him from nimbly cruising down the carpeted hallways of the Mal Moore Athletic Complex now.”

Sports Illustrated’s Lars Anderson on ‘Bama’s giant offensive lineman.

5. “On New Years Day a 10 year old Leeds United fan found himself the centre of 2013’s first (it saddens me greatly me that I type that believing it will not be the last) footballing race row. Sporting Leeds player El Hadji Diouf’s recognisable white mohican and a blacked up face, pictures of the child with posing with his footballing hero soon began doing the rounds on Twitter with cries of racism on one side and this is political correctness gone mad on the other. I’d like to make my view on this subject as clear as possible. My skin colour is not a costume. Blacking up is inappropriate and I consider it offensive.”

Carl Anka on Sabotage Times is not impressed by that picture.

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