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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

The Sports Pages: some of the week's best sportswriting

Are you sitting comfortably? Then get the kettle on and check out some of our favourite pieces from the past seven days.

1. “Last year, after my dad had died, I stayed holding his hand for about quarter of an hour and then left the nurses to it. In the hospital waiting room I made three calls. The first was to Sunderland Civic Centre to register the death. The second was to the undertakers. And the third was to the Independent to tell them that I was, after all, free to cover Sunderland v Burnley the next day.”

Jonathon Wilson writes for SB Info Plus about what it means to be a football fan. Great piece of writing.

2. “This narrative of Woods as the irredeemable bad boy was picked up in certain corners of the US media, such as here, which accused him of trying to divert attention from an exciting Sunday in the world of golf on to himself. “This isn’t the first time Woods has tried to hijack the spotlight,” one American correspondent said. There is only one problem with this characterisation of Woods’s alleged behaviour – it is not true.”

The Guardian’s Lawrence Donegan picks apart the soap opera storyline that played out between Tiger Woods, his old coach Butch Harmon, the rest of the locker-room and a caddy.


“Let us recap. At the very moment the commissioner of the NBA is holding up the New Jersey Nets as a case study of basketball’s impoverishment, the former owner of the team is crowing about 10 percent returns and the new owner is boasting of “explosive” profits. After the end of last season, one imagines that David Stern gathered together the league’s membership for a crash course on lockout etiquette: stash the yacht in St. Bart’s until things blow over, dress off the rack, insist on the ’93 and ’94 Cháteau Lafite Rothschilds, not the earlier, flashier, vintages. For rich white men to plead poverty, a certain self-discipline is necessary. Good idea, except next time he should remember to invite the Nets.”

Malcolm Gladwell writes on Grantland about the fact that what ‘the Brooklyn-bound basketball franchise embodies’ is not what the game’s authorities say.

4. “Myself and my two roommates had been at the pub and two Flemish ladies they knew came back to the house for more drink. Rudely, I guess, I started playing FIFA. We were playing AC Milan in the European League final. It was nil-all late in the match when Fabien Barthez got himself sent off with a completely rash tackle and gave away a penalty in the process. I was too inebriated to consider subbing in a new keeper. Teddy Sheringham took his place between the posts.”

I enjoyed this piece by Xavier McDaniel on about one of things that matter in life: FIFA on the Playstation.

5. “As the baseball climbed into the dark October night and began making its way toward Wrigley Field’s left-field corner, Pat Looney had no doubt. The ball was his. He had caught a pop foul once before, reaching high above the fans sitting around him to snag a ball he later handed to a kid sitting nearby. This play felt the same — as if the baseball gods had targeted his hands as the final resting place for a memorable souvenir. But this ball, from this game, wouldn’t be going to any stranger. His wife had recently learned she was pregnant, so this ball would go to his first-born child. ‘It was coming right at me,’ he says.”

Many of you will have seen ESPN’s film on Steve Bartman, the man most hated by Chicago Cubs fans, this weekend. Wayne Drehs introduces the man who almost saved Bartman from himself.

6. “For United’s youngsters there could be no greater stimulus than being coaxed by the ginger embodiment of the club’s ethos. But there is no guarantee he will keep the tracksuit, the warm coat for cold midweek nights at Rochdale and Bury.”

Paul Scholes has talked more in the few months since his retirement than he ever did as a player. He chats to Paul Hayward this morning.

7. “The burden of loneliness and his marriage weren’t Payton’s only problems. As a player he had numbed his maladies with pills and liquids, usually supplied by the Bears. Payton popped Darvon robotically during his playing days—says Holmes, “I’d see him walk out of the locker room with jars of painkillers, and he’d eat them like they were a snack”—and also lathered his body with dimethyl sulfoxide, a topical analgesic commonly used to treat horses. Now that he was retired, the self-medicating only intensified.”

This excerpt and the book itself have caused quite a stir in the US. Author of The Bad Guys Won and Boys Will Be Boys, Jeff Pearlman, lifts the lid on Walter Payton’s troubled life. Check it out on Sports Illustrated.

Sporting tweets of the week

The sports week in pictures

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