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Dublin: 12°C Monday 14 June 2021

The Sunday Papers: some of the week’s best sportswriting

Take a few minutes and treat yourself to some of our favourite pieces from around the world of sport.

Fiji's Tuapai Talemaitogo is interviewed by Irish rugby journalists this week.
Fiji's Tuapai Talemaitogo is interviewed by Irish rugby journalists this week.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

1. “The old ones have mostly passed now, the immigrant fathers and mothers, and uncles and aunts, and grandparents who came over in the great waves from Europe, many of them fleeing failed revolutions of their own, except for the Irish, who were fleeing not only failed revolutions, but famine as well. They came here, Catholics many of them, and they built their own parishes in the images of the villages they’d all left behind. (My grandfather and grandmother grew up two miles from each other in North Kerry, but didn’t meet until their villages reconstituted themselves as St. Peter Parish in south Worcester, Massachusetts.) And all of the parishes built schools, and then the demand grew so great that the great Catholic universities were built, and they became the dream palaces that the old ones built for their children and their children’s children. That was how Holy Cross functioned in Worcester, and Boston College in Boston, and Fordham in New York, and Marquette in Milwaukee. But these were largely regional franchises. The home office was in northern Indiana.”

Despite his background, Grantland’s Charles P Pierce really doesn’t like Notre Dame.

2. “The best thing about the peculiar English distrust of Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s talents is the riposte that arrived in the Friends Arena, a selection of goals that should be shown to football apprentices from anywhere in the world to demonstrate how variety and imagination is worth its weight in striking gold. The next best thing, of course, is that he never gave a hoot about what anybody in England thought of him anyhow.”

Amy Lawrence in the Guardian reflects on Zlatan’s performance on Wednesday night in Stockholm and that fourth goal.

3. “To deal with this, I use a statistical technique called linear regression. Using regression, I control for the number of situations where a player is likely to be fouled in each game by finding indicators in the Opta data. Specifically, I control for the number of tackles a player wins and loses, the number of touches they have on the ball, the number of “duels” they win and lose (where a duel is a “50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides”), and their position.

My regression found that SAIS players do win more fouls per minute. A player from South America, Italy or Spain will on average receive 28 percent more fouls than will players of other nationalities. A team with an extra three players from South America, Italy or Spain would receive an extra foul, on average, per game. There is less than a one percent chance that this difference was caused by random variation.

There could exist alternative explanations for these results. Perhaps, by pure chance, SAIS players happened to play more often in games against teams that are more prone to fouling. But I ran the numbers, controlling for the team a player plays against, and the results still stood.”

Sabermetrics and Moneyball lands in England. One Harvard academic runs the numbers to establish if ‘foreign’ players dive more in the Premier League. Check it out on Deadspin.

4. “Clearly the word has the capacity to offend. But many in the media have accused the SBL of not fully understanding the history of the word in relation to Spurs before it opened its mouth. In a statement, the club said that its fans “adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse.” In any case, the legal position of this is unclear. The club says that the point of law is distinguished by the intent to cause offence, which would not apply in Spurs’ case. TheDaily Mail reports that the police also accept this distinction.”

The Economists’ Game Theory blog looks at Spurs’ fans controversial reclaiming of the word ‘Yid’.

5.Muhammad Ali could talk and jive all he liked: his opponent, far bigger than any he had faced in the ring, was pulverising him. During a few feverish months in 1967 Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, slung into jail and had his boxing license ripped up; all for the crime of refusing to take a single forward step – the step that signalled willing induction into the US army. Ali insisted he had no quarrel with the Viet Cong but much of white America, particularly in the south, did with him. They roared for his blood.”

Sean Ingle unravels the forgotten story of the ‘Rocky Marciano v Muhammad Ali Super Fight’ in one of my own favourite pieces.

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