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Dublin: 4°C Friday 5 March 2021

'Farcical' LOI, Di Maria an uninterested bystander and the week's best sportswriting

Also featuring ‘The Unbearable Lightness of [Billy] Beane’ and a heartfelt tribute to Tony McCoy.

A new League of Ireland season recently got underway.
A new League of Ireland season recently got underway.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

1. HONNOLD COULD AFFORD to buy a decent home, if that interested him. But living in a van — a custom-outfitted van, in his case, with a kitchenette and cabinets full of energy bars and climbing equipment — represents freedom. It also represents a commitment to the nomadic climber’s ideal of the “dirtbag,” the purist so devoted to climbing that he avoids any entanglement that might interfere, stretching every penny from one climbing area to the next. Honnold, who graduated from high school with a 4.6 grade-point average and who has big ears and wide-set brown eyes — “cow eyes,” his mother calls them — has been the king of the dirtbags for the last decade. When he’s not climbing overseas in places like Patagonia, France or Morocco, he lives an endless road trip through the Southwestern desert, Yosemite Valley, British Columbia and points between. Along the way, he has turned himself into the greatest living free-soloist, meaning that he climbs without ropes, alone.

The New York Times give a fascinating insight into ‘the master of climbing,’ Alex Honnold.

2. MLS was not the only league to kick off a new season last weekend. Minus the hype, 60,000 sellout crowds and media coverage that is expanding across the globe, in the Republic of Ireland there was a more subdued introduction to the new League of Ireland campaign. Optimism is short in supply and those close to the action know trouble is never too far away.

It’s a new season for the League of Ireland, but writing in The Guardian, Alan Smith sees the same old problems.

3. Somewhere along the line, we need to make our peace with losing, to detach enjoyment from triumph. My sporting hero is not a Steve Redgrave or Martin Johnson, but an American golfer called Briny Baird. Over a career spanning two decades, Baird has amassed more than $13 million (£8.5 million) in prize money on the PGA Tour. He’s still waiting for his first win. I bet he’s enjoyed every minute.

The Telegraph’s Jonathan Liew looks perceptively at the ultra-competitive sporting culture that is prompting athletes to dope.

4. In the old press box, Goldberg was the literary manifestation of “wire services.” He was an enormously powerful NFL writer during the reigns of three commissioners. But his name is almost unknown to readers. Last month, the AP published Goldberg’s obituary. Newspapers inflicted their typical violence, in some cases chopping off the byline. At first, I felt a small pang for the author. But then I remembered Dave. How fitting, I thought. How utterly perfect.

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Grantland’s Bryan Curtis pays tribute to the late sports reporter Dave Goldberg.

5. The Arsenal left-back, Nacho Monreal, started to charge past Di María regularly and eventually opened the scoring with a cool finish. Di María must take his share of the blame, failing to retreat 10 yards to get goal-side of Monreal as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dribbled through the centre, but equally confusing was what happened beforehand. Chris Smalling found himself badly out of position, closing down Monreal near the touchline, which left Valencia to cover in the centre and Smalling to wander back, leaving the right-back zone exposed. It was an incredibly poor goal to concede, though Monreal deserves great credit for his positional bravery and his impressive near-post finish against David de Gea, who later made a couple of outstanding saves to keep United in contention.

Michael Cox, in The Guardian, attempts to explain what’s going wrong for Angel Di Maria at Man United.

6. Being the general manager of a baseball team is an extraordinarily difficult job. A GM must have a near-preternatural understanding of baseball, the patience to deal with the Bond-villain egos of owners, and the administrative capacity to manage a diverse and often combative set of employees. A GM must earn the trust of his (or, someday — we hope — soon, her) coaches, staff, and players in order to get them to operate like a unit, while maintaining the emotional distance to view them as chess pieces, assets to be discarded when a better replacement can be had. It’s a job that’s equal parts art and science, and it requires talent and expertise beyond the imagination of the overwhelming majority of people who care about baseball.

Michael Baumann of Grantland on ‘The Unbearable Lightness of [Billy] Beane.

7. Before career planning, before ‘profile’, the battered heroes of the winter game would climb down from a horse, gather their things from the weighing room and limp away. Some had lost their appetite. Many were sick of the injuries. McCoy, on the other hand, is undaunted by the terrible toll on his body. Nor is he capable of feeling sated. He is calling time on his life in the saddle, it seems, as a personal challenge to himself. He has lived with all the broken bones, with the heavy load of obsession. Now he seems to be whispering to himself: “Go on, you’ve lived every second of it, now see if you can live without it.”

The Telegraph’s Chief Sports Writer, Paul Hayward, eloquently encapsulates what makes Tony McCoy special.

It’s 10 years since Roy Carroll’s gaffe against Spurs but where are the players now?>

How do we get our hands on one of these ‘Tae Passes’? It’s the sporting tweets of the week>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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