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The man overseeing Manchester United's decline and more of the week's best sportswriting

A selection of our favourite sporting pieces from the past seven days.
Oct 13th 2019, 8:30 AM 11,877 7

“Deford was not concerned with how sports are played, but what effect the playing has on people who do it. It doesn’t sound like much of a distinction, but it’s the difference between a textbook on Russian history and War and Peace. If you are of a certain age, Deford and his contemporaries at Sports Illustrated defined how you thought about sports, at a time when sports were beginning to define the culture. You read the local paper for scores and opinion. You read Sports Illustrated to better understand your own people. It was less journalism than anthropology. An idea that aspirational – artistic, even – was always going to have a time limit. That limit came up this week.”

Amid a glut of lay-offs, Cathal Kelly writes for The Globe & Mail about the changing face of Sports Illustrated.

inpho_00010020 Ronnie Delany featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1959. Source: INPHO\Allsport

“Like its ageing readership, however, Sports Illustrated started to sag with the onset of middle age, clinging far too long to the annual swimsuit edition, a prurient yet apparently still lucrative anachronism, and, among other errors of judgment, relentlessly cheerleading Lance Armstrong even as journalists in Europe were posing serious, legitimate questions about the specious nature of his feats.” 

– In his Irish Times column, Dave Hannigan also tackled the topic of Sports Illustrated.

“It seems like, in Schultz’s eyes, the most important thing he was bringing to the Sonics wasn’t an ownership group, a management philosophy, or a bunch of money—it was simply himself. His own genius and charm. To be fair, Schultz is an incredible salesman, a guy whose true gift is connecting with people. And one thing he really wanted to do was to hang out with the players. To be their friend.”

– The Ringer’s Jordan Ritter Conn profiles Howard Schultz, the coffee impresario who tried to run an NBA team like Starbucks.

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manchester-united-v-paris-saint-germain-uefa-champions-league-round-of-16-first-leg-old-trafford Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Source: Martin Rickett

“An early story reveals the gap that required bridging. When Everton wanted to sign Tom Cleverley, their manager Roberto Martinez told his board to offer no more than £5.5 million as the midfielder’s contract was up at the end of the season. Woodward confidently turned down the advances, arguing he could get up to £10 million elsewhere. As it turned out, Aston Villa took him on loan, very late on deadline day, United paid the majority of his wages and then Everton signed him for nothing when his contract was up.”

– The role of Manchester United executive vice-chairman is examined by The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell, Adam Crafton, Matt Slater and Oliver Kay (€).

“Nicky Byrne rang Fifa. The popstar son-in-law of the former Taoiseach rang Fifa headquarters and asked to be put through to Sepp Blatter about it. That’s not even a gag. That actually happened. Take all the stuff that went into that. The hurt. The outrage. The sense of entitlement denied. Multiply it by rugby and we’d find ourselves at a pretty pass indeed.”

– Malachy Clerkin of the Irish Times delivers a sympathetic assessment of Scotland’s typhoon conundrum at the Rugby World Cup.

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