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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

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

What a selection of treats we have in store for you this morning, reader. Lucky you.

1. “There was the one about a junior match in Kildare between Castledermot and Two Mile House back in the 1960s. When the ball inched past the post for a goal late on, through a haze of bodies in the square, Castledermot thought they had earned a draw only for the opposition umpire to use his foot to roll the ball to the wrong side of the post and wave it wide. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘The umpire got a Stilson across the back of the head, was knocked unconscious and all hell broke loose.’ ‘Why would anyone bring a pipe wrench to a football match?’ I continued. ‘It was championship,’ came the answer to which, oddly, I could think of no further reply.”

Ewan McKenna tells us all to chill out, GAA violence is no worse than it’s ever been.

2. “‘A lot has been said and written about the luxury life on the US PGA Tourbut none of it strikes a truer note than the words of Gary Christian as he walks down Pebble Beach’s famous 18th hole: “It sure beats selling knives.’ It sure does. Behind Christian, the Pacific Ocean crashes into the rocks of the Monterey coast. Ahead of him stretches a world of possibility. ‘It sounds a little bit daft, but I truly feel that I am being preserved for something really good,” he says. “I get right to the point where it seems that I might be at the end of the rope and then something good happens.’”

Lawrence Donegan in the Guardian sits down with a journeyman club golfer who’s made it to the big time with Tiger and Phil.

3. “Nobody has ever drowned at an organized freediving event, but enough people have died outside of competition that freediving ranks as the second-most-dangerous adventure sport, right after BASE jumping. The statistics are a bit murky: some deaths go unreported, and the numbers that are kept include people who freedive as part of other activities, like spearfishing. But one estimate of worldwide freediving-related fatalities revealed a nearly threefold increase, from 21 deaths in 2005 to 60 in 2008. Only a few of these fatalities have been widely publicized.”

Strap on a mask and dive into this piece on the world of freediving by James Nestor on outsideonline.

4. “With the Republic now needing a goal, Jack Charlton turned to Tony Cascarino. There was one problem: Cascarino, for the only time in his career, had forgotten to put his kit on. When Cascarino unzipped his tracksuit top, all he saw was a plain cotton T-shirt. When Charlton asked what was keeping him, Cascarino informed him of the slight impediment to his introduction. “His face turned purple,” said Cascarino. “I thought he was going to have a heart attack. ‘You fucccccking idiot!’” As with Gualtieri’s goal, this was stratospheric farce.”

This is the best thing I’ve read in a while; Rob Smyth retraces the the forgotten story of 17 November 1993, the last night of World Cup qualifying.

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5. “Gold’s Gym was a money pit from the day it opened until Joe Gold sold it in 1970; it seemed Gold went out of his way to avoid making a buck. He’d built a two-story bulwark of concrete blocks that had all the amenities of a morgue — a place exclusively for hardcore lifters, many of them friends of his from boyhood. The gym was big for its day, 30 feet wide and 100 deep, and consisted of a single, large, double-height space, unlike the rabbit-hutch layouts of other gyms. Up a narrow staircase was a smallish loft where members could change and shower after workouts or dose themselves with the first, crude anabolics — typically, Dianabol tablets and Deca-Durabolin shots, a combo that grew muscle but also compromised heart walls (as these men would come to regret in middle age). The gym’s windows were sealed, there was no sign on the facade, and Gold usually kept the front door locked, lest any casual lifters happen by. ‘You’d go in the back door, which was always propped open — that way we’d get the breeze from the ocean,’ says Ric Drasin, a pro wrestling legend in the 1970s and ’80s who joined Gold’s Gym in 1969. “’You could park back there, but most of the guys walked. They could barely afford rent, let alone gas.’”

Paul Solotaroff writes in Men’s Journal about the new breed of American man that emerged, led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, from one gym in Venice Beach in the 1970s.

6. “It’s amazing that some journalists treat the internet (the main reason for the decline of newspapers) as a bad thing. It’s a ridiculously, gigantically good thing for journalism on the whole, because so much more media is being consumed. That is the raw fact. Traditional media sources may still be adapting to how they embrace the internet and there are issues with how it is funded, but the main thing is that it’s opened up dozens of new opportunities. I reckon 90% of the football media I take in every week wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the internet. Good ideas can become respected sources remarkably quickly and people with the good ideas have a good chance of being successful… anyone can make a site or a podcast, and if it’s good then they’ll be picked up elsewhere. It’s quite meritocratic, really.”

The Trawler – a website, of which I had previously not heard - interviews the man behind Zonal Marking, Michael Cox.

7. “In the comic book Watchmen, the businessman Adrian Veidt stages an apparent extraterrestrial attack that kills half the population of New York City. His aim is to pull the world back from the brink of nuclear warfare by providing it with a common enemy to unite against. It is not easy to say whether Suárez shares such ambitions, but over the last few weeks he has certainly achieved many of the same goals. His refusal to shake Evra’s hand on Saturday bore a strangely martyrish quality to it; a single-minded resolve to keep outraging us until we had completely forgotten all our own problems.”

Jonathon Liew of the Telegraph gets all nerdy when analysing the Luis Suarez debacle for Liverpool FC and English football.

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