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Deccie's legacy, the losing locker-room and terrorists at the Olympics: some of the week’s best sportswriting

Get the kettle on.

Munster's captain Paul O'Connell at the post match press conference last weekend.
Munster's captain Paul O'Connell at the post match press conference last weekend.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

1. “The greatest managers of British football — Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Don Revie, Brian Clough, Sir Matt Busby and Ferguson himself — all came from the regional communities that felt the harshest winds of the Thatcherite hurricane. None of them betrayed their roots. She was no friend of football and much of its working-class heartlands. In turn, football was no friend of hers. There will be no minutes of silence for her this weekend.”

We could have picked half a dozen piece on Thatcher and her relationship with football in England, but John Brewin on ESPN sums it up very nicely indeed.

2. “Much was made of Ireland’s injury crisis in 2013, but it was a crisis principally because a conservative selection policy in the wake of the 2009 Grand Slam had left such an uneven balance of experience through the ranks, and forced Kidney into giving five Test debuts during the Six Nations, one more than he’d done in his previous four seasons in the championship combined. Including the Grand Slam season up to the end of the 2012 Six Nations, Kidney, just like O’Sullivan before him, had used significantly fewer players than all the other teams in the same period, a policy simply not conducive to spreading experience around a squad, and a policy which, eventually, limited his options.”

TheGainLineBlog breaks down Declan Kidney’s tenure as Ireland boss in this comprehensive post.

3. “In the hallway outside the Michigan locker room, we the media huddled on the far side of the retractable dividers, a mass of cameras and notebooks and digital recorders. Inside, head coach John Beilein had a few minutes to speak in private with his players after they’d lost the national championship game to Louisville. When he was done, the players took their turns. Glenn Robinson III went first, which surprised the others because of his shyness. The theme of his speech and those that followed was constant: This was a great season, we’re brothers for life, we should be proud. When everyone had finished, they sang the fight song together. It was a postgame tradition normally reserved for a win, but it felt like the right way to end the season.”

Louisiana’s Kevin Ware was the man of the moment as he cut down the nets after the big game on Monday night. But in the other dressingroom, this was happening. Grantland’s Shane Ryan on the pain of losing well.

4. “A few weeks ago, on a stage in Milan, I found myself being asked by a senior official from the Italian football federation (FIGC) whether we’d ever see football again in which players were freed from tactics and could just play. It was an awkward moment. The lights were bright, I was working through a translator and in the front row Demetrio Albertini, Ferran Soriano and Adriano Galliani were staring at me. I wasn’t quite sure I’d understood the question correctly. I’m aware that words don’t necessarily map exactly from one language to another and this clearly wasn’t an occasion to go off-piste and risk upsetting anybody – particularly when I wasn’t quite sure I could articulate what I thought (which is another way of saying that the thought itself wasn’t articulate). So I mumbled some guff about how the players are the tactics and the tactics are the players and when the translator nudged me I shut up. But the issue the question had raised is pertinent. I’ve been aware of it for years; a nebulous, unnerving presence, always waiting, always avoiding being directly addressed. It is perhaps the most fundamental question of all: what are tactics?”

The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson on the relationship between tactics and players. Deep.

5.

“But now as Shorter and his teammates Kenny Moore and Jack Bacheler wondered what would happen to their event—the marathon—the politicians debated whether to let the Olympics continue. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir called for the games’ cancellation, as did influentialNew York Times sports columnist Red Smith. At the opposite extreme, Arab nations boycotted the memorial ceremony for the slain athletes. Letting the games continue seemed disrespectful and futile. How could running give meaning to murder? And yet not to run seemed equally meaningless. Nothing would bring back the dead.

Shorter did his best to stay prepared for the marathon. He had already run the 10,000 meters (finishing fifth), and was tired and tight from the race. Trying to stay loose, he jogged around the confines of the village with Moore and Bacheler. He was not a politician, and he could not rewrite history. All he could do was run.”

Deadspin have a long extract from Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Racing fan writes touching letter to paralysed jockey JT McNamara with €100 donation

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