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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

The day a non-league defender marked Aubameyang and the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on.

Borussia Dortmund vs RB Leipzig Source: DPA/PA Images

1. “Baseball has always offered a safe space for a conservative athlete, the first baseman who squints and spits tobacco into a cup as he talks about big government. But in July 1984, it was still something of a shock to hear three pitchers stand in a major league clubhouse and talk about America’s slide toward communism.”

Bryan Curtis of The Ringer remembers when the sports world was challenged by a different kind of political activism.

2. “It happened all at once, the way it happens to boxers. He had been baited into throwing a pass to the wrong man, and suddenly he stood exposed, with not only the play but nature itself turning against him. His teammates seemed to have disappeared; he was the last man in position to stop the wrong man from running all the way down the field and turning the game into a rout. He tried his best, as he always does, but he was alone against a younger, faster opponent, and when he dove, he missed by a foot rather than by an inch and appeared simply to fall down, in pieces. Even those who root against him might then have pitied him, because it was one of those moments when the essence of sport is revealed to be cruelly and coldly biological: Tom Brady, in the course of throwing a pick-six to Robert Alford of the Falcons in the second quarter of Super Bowl LI, had grown old.”

In ESPN’s The Magazine November edition, Tom Junod and Seth Wickersham on why Tom Brady’s future and his ambition to play until he’s 45 is not entirely in his hands.

3. “As anyone who has spent any time trying to avoid difficult conversations knows, football (and indeed all sport) is perhaps the greatest proxy subject ever created. It provides such helpful cover for a range of repressed upsets, inchoate resentments and subclinical neuroses that, as life goes on, many find it the subject which they feel safest and most comfortable talking about with, say, their parents. And, in due course, with their grown-up children. It is the circle of life, the Great Avoidance, and anyone who has used it to spare themselves another pointless argument about anything from Brexit to how some domestic issue was handled 30 years ago knows to what extent we are all in its most estimable debt.”

Marina Hyde of The Guardian asks when Keys, Gray and Allardyce talk about football, are they talking about something else?

4. “In July 2012 Geoff Walker, the assistant manager at non-league side Heaton Stannington FC, received a very unexpected text from the club’s manager, Derek Thompson. Nobby Solano’s agent had been in touch to ask Thompson if he could help out some friends of his. The Heaton Stan manager was keen on the idea so he typed out a message to his No2: “Gabon are here for the Olympics. They’ve been looking for a warm-up game.””

Tom Nicholson writes about the day a non-league defender marked Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang…on the same day he ran a 10k race.

5. “Greg Zuerlein kicks for the Los Angeles Rams, but on a cloudless afternoon here last month, he played the role of a receiver practicing his sideline footwork. Standing a few feet inbounds, he waited for spirals to soar his way.”

In The New York Times, Ben Shpigel investigates whether the NFL’s most valuable player might be a punter.

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