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James McClean and football’s unhealthy obsession with depoliticising the poppy, and the week's best sportswriting

Plus, the New Yorker’s Louisa Thomas on the ham-handed, money-driven mangling of Sports Illustrated and Deadspin.

Image: EMPICS Sport

1. The FA tied themselves up in knots justifying putting the symbol on the England kit. Last year Pep Guardiola was charged for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of jailed Catalan leaders. Martin Glenn, the former chief executive of the ruling body, said, “poppies are not political symbols; that yellow ribbon is.” There has probably never been a greater example of British arrogance, ignorance and high-handedness. No wonder people around the world accuse us of hypocrisy. Glenn should have spoken to McClean. He might have learnt something.

The Independent’s Tony Evans on the annual James McClean-poppy controversy.

2. Jordan Lee was born without a left forearm.

“When I was developing, the umbilical cord wrapped around my elbow, stopping the blood flow and stopping the growth,” explains the 19-year-old, all the while tapping just above where the limb should have been.

“My parents didn’t know about it all. It came as quite a shock to them because it never showed up on any scans.”

PJ Browne of Balls.ie chats to the Kerry teenager ready to take on the world.

3. Maybe there exists perfectly decent and optimistic supporters who only support their team in the most pleasant and positive way, but few of us have ever met one.

Certainly they are not as common as the chronically angry fans who seem determined to make the world around them pay for some private misery, and spend the match screaming at everybody about how shit they are. Nobody wants to be stuck near one of these people at a match, yet most of us have also been that person from time to time.

Writing for The Irish Times, Ken Early assesses the fallout from the Granit Xhaka controversy at Arsenal.  

4. Two years ago, Sports Illustrated, which had been a weekly magazine for decades, began publishing just thirty-nine issues a year. The magazine’s revenue from print ads had been plummeting since the recession; it had dropped more than forty per cent in just the previous two years, from 100.1 million dollars, in 2015, to 57.4 million dollars, in 2017. Digital-ad revenue didn’t make up the difference, and subscriptions were down. Orders to cut costs came again and again from the publisher, Time Inc. At the start of 2018, Sports Illustrated went biweekly—around the same time that Time Inc. was sold to the media conglomerate Meredith Corporation, which published life-style magazines such as Southern Living and Cooking Light. Less than a year and a half later, in May, Meredith sold the intellectual property of Sports Illustrated to a group called Authentic Brands. When the deal was first announced, it was reported that Meredith would continue to publish the magazine for two more years. But, a few weeks after that, Authentic Brands licensed the magazine’s publishing rights to a company called Maven. A month ago, Maven laid off around a third of Sports Illustrated’s staff.

The New Yorker’s Louisa Thomas on the ham-handed, money-driven mangling of Sports Illustrated and Deadspin.

5. When it came to burying the dead, they discovered 70 of the British had been killed by a bullet to the right temple. In the stinging African sun, soldiers had been shielding their eyes, looking away, while Boer snipers took aim.

The heat had already forced many to discard their heavy uniforms, into which names and numbers – their only ID – had been sewn. Dressed for January in Lancashire, they fell in summer near Ladysmith.

On a green hill far away called Spion Kop, the British Empire was fought to a bloody standstill and a 25-year-old reporter-cum-lieutenant called Winston Churchill sent back alarming eyewitness reports. On another slope, a 30-year-old lawyer-cum-volunteer called Mahatma Gandhi tended the wounded.

It was a day of military disarray, when one British general surrendered as another shouted “No Surrender”, when reinforcements ferried water in biscuit tins because mules were dead from exhaustion or gunfire.

Michael Walker explains ‘How the Kop became the Kop’ in The Athletic.

We thought there might be a post-World Cup comedown, but then Saracens went and Saracened. Andy Dunne joins Sean Farrell and Gavan Casey as the pod segues from the international to club season.


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