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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020

Tanking in the NBA, Football Manager addiction and getting hit in the NFL: it’s our favourite sports writing

Check this lot out.

The Boston Herald celebrates the Red Sox' World Series win.
The Boston Herald celebrates the Red Sox' World Series win.
Image: Newseum

1. “It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing the defender out of the corner of my eye, and I intentionally lowered my head and shoulders to protect my knees. After I got hit, in the fourth quarter of our win against the Browns last week, my eyes were wide open. I was very conscious, but I could not move. I looked my teammate Andrew Quarless directly in the eye and whispered, “Help me, Q. I can’t move; I can’t breathe.” The scariest moment was seeing the fear in Q’s eyes. I knew something was wrong, but his reaction verified it. That really shook me up.”

Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley pens a first person account of taking a massive hit in the NFL, the frightening moments afterwards and recovery. Check out MMQB.

2. “In paper-bound rugby reportage – less in internet rugger lip-flapping – the use of statistics is still in its infancy. It’s an age of relative innocence. Sabermetrics long ago evolved beyond baseball, and for fans of other codes of football, there are some very hard-working wonks out there [like Football Outsiders, a top notch American Football analysis site] who put a hell of a lot of thought into how to convert accurate baseline data – e.g. the amount of yards run by a tailback – into context in terms of both the sixty minute game itself and the entire league season. Kudos to those lads. The gridiron lends itself to that kind of analysis, with yard markings on the pitch and a typical play lasting about four seconds.

Rugby may or may not be a more complicated game [adherents of the two codes could make a feasible argument either way] but it certainly seems more difficult to quantify, as an effective tackle doesn’t end play. So here at Mole Towers, we look at ‘statistics’ in rugby in a simpler light, as a collection of THINGS THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.”

Check out Demented Mole‘s excellent attempt to ‘analyse and attribute value to the work done by each player at ruck and breakdown’.

3. It’s a short trip home from the bank, but Lukas can’t drive anymore because the accident took too much of the peripheral vision in his right eye. He fiddles with the vents of the air conditioner, which struggles to cool a car that’s been sitting in the heat for two hours. Long ago Lukas thrived on the comfort of detail and discipline, and that quality has survived the brain injury that changed him forever. He recites directions in a genial monotone: “Turn right, and then take the first left. Go to the end of the street—it’s a dirt road—and then go right.” He continues to adjust the AC. Friends say the injury has left him fidgety. The car reaches a long, pin-straight stretch of rural highway, with open fields on both sides, so different from where Lukas once lived, amid the freeway chaos of Southern California. Lukas stares out the windshield and says, “No more big city for me. I don’t just like it here, I love it here.”

Twenty years ago trainer Jeff Lukas stood in the path of a charging horse… and lost everything. Or did he, asks Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated.

4. “A century ago New Zealand were on tour, but not to any of their more familiar haunts. The 1913 All Blacks went to the west coast of the United States and Canada. It was a visit with far-reaching consequences for rugby union in general, and the American game in particular.

It came at a time when rugby was offering a serious challenge to American Football as the dominant football code on the west coast. Much of the US, including President Teddy Roosevelt – whose personal machismo made him particularly in tune with the local code of football – had engaged in debate about its direction during the ‘football crisis’ of 1906, prompted by worries over violent play, serious injuries and evidence of sharp practice by college coaches.”

ESPN’s Huw Richards on the ‘tour that killed American rugby’.

5. “The NBA season is beginning this week and fans of each team are, of course, optimistic. At this point, everyone can hope a title is possible come next summer. Although everyone could theoretically have dreams of a title in 2014, it is clear that every NBA fan isn’t actually hoping their team is successful in 2014. Some NBA fans are actually dreaming of an event that happens just after the conclusion of the NBA Finals.  For fans of a few teams, the focus is already on the 2014 draft.  For example, some fans of the Philadelphia 76ers seem convinced that not only are the Sixers not trying to win this year, but that this is actually the best course of action for this franchise.

Proponents of “tanking” dream of such number one picks as Shaquille O’Neal or LeBron James. Each of these players were selected number one and went on to win multiple NBA titles.  Of course, other number one picks – like Yao Ming, Michael Olowokandi, Allen Iverson, Joe Smith, Glenn Robinson, Chris Webber, Larry Johnson, etc. –  played their entire careers and never won an NBA title.”

Dave Berri on the Freakonomics site explains why losing isn’t a winning strategy in the NBA.

6. “Quite possibly the most angry I’ve ever been was when I realised I’d accidentally overlooked a transfer deal that activated a release clause agreed in the contract of a player I’d been diligently developing for years. Just as I felt he was finally ready for first-team action, a rival club swooped in with an offer that I literally couldn’t refuse. Several minutes of shouting at the computer ensued. My 15-year-old self had never had to deal with that level of heartbreak and rejection before. And even to this day, I refuse to refer to that remarkably disloyal and ungrateful player by name.”

Forgive us if we include one from TheScore this week, but Paul Fennessy‘s piece on how Championship Manager ruined his Junior Cert struck a chord with plenty of us this week.

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