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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 22 February, 2020

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

Charge the laptop and turn the phone off – this might take a while.

Marco Tardelli speaks to the media after Ireland training on Wednesday.
Marco Tardelli speaks to the media after Ireland training on Wednesday.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

1. “The round begins with announcer Larry Merchant wondering whether Gatti can continue to absorb punishment from the stronger Ward, a concern no one would ever again voice regarding this individual. The left hook Ward lands a mere fifteen seconds into the round is almost inhumanly cruel. To truly understand these three minutes in human history you have to appreciate that even among the insane subset of humans that is professional boxers it is not the type of punch someone gets up from.”

This is my favourite of the week. And it’s one of those rare pieces that’s better rad online. There’s a wonderful scrolling feature, embedded author footnotes and video clips to illustrate interesting points about the famous Gatti-Ward ninth round. Lovely stuff from Sergio de la Pava.

2. “Mid way through last Saturday’s epic first-half performance by Ireland, in the wild chaos of celebrating Tommy Bowe’s wonderful try, I felt a poke on my shoulder and heard the unmistakable tones of an Englishman saying to me.

‘Do you intend to stand up throughout the entire match?’

I could only respond with ‘Well, if this continues, yes.’

‘Well, I can’t see,’ said the man.

‘Well, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but we’re not at a piano recital,’ I retorted.”

Risteard Cooper enjoyed his day out in Ballsbridge last Saturday.

3. “I am a pro football player’s wife and my husband has been knocking heads for the last twenty-plus years. We choose this path. The burden—whatever it may be—rests on our shoulders. This was the dream we decided to chase.”

One locked-out NFL wife writes in The Nation about the real reasons the players won’t budge on safety issues as the lockout drags on.

4. “As maybe a dozen reporters squeezed close, there were the beginnings of a grin on Jonathan Sexton’s face. He understood the implicit swindle of what was looming now, the great, breezy lie of all this conviviality. One week on from a catalogue of mishaps in Cardiff, hosannas rained upon him. Short memories are small blessings in the ‘mixed zone’ where players step up to makeshift barriers and shoot the breeze with media as if meeting old friends. We’re as forgetful in this precinct as Hunter S Thompson on a lost weekend in Kentucky. It keeps things civil.”

The Irish Independent’s Vincent Hogan shoulders himself into position in the bowels of the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

5. Sportswriters, all of us, will be asked at least a thousand times in our lives if we still root during games. The stock answer is: ‘Yes, but I don’t root for teams. I root for the story.’ Sometimes, the more world weary among us — maybe the more honest — will say: ‘I root for me.’ These two answers really mean the same things — rooting for the story, and rooting for ourselves is all tied together. Sportswriters root for short baseball games. Sportswriters root for story lines to emerge early enough to lengthen the writing time. Sportswriters root for good people — or at least accommodating ones — and interesting angles and clear narratives and dissolved traffic and bowl games in San Diego.”

I printed this piece off and read it over lunch during the week. Joe Posnanski meets the ‘Biggest Winner’ Rulon Gardner – an Olympic gold medallist who’s on TV’s weight loss show and is inspired to lose a few lbs himself.

6. “At Riviera Country Club in L.A. one day this year, a PGA Tour player was stopped at the locker room door.

‘I.D.?’ the guard said.

‘Really?’ Phil Mickelson asked.

‘I.D.?’ the guard said again, without blinking.

‘This is Phil Mickelson,’ I pointed out.

‘I.D., please.’

Whoa. Maybe American golf really is dead.

ESPN’s Rick Reilly meets Phil Mickelson again. Is his luck about to change?

7. “The National Anthem is supposed to be exactly that: a hymn of the masses that is sung by the masses, not listened to. Even the piped-in “press play” interpretations of the song are better than the soloists’, although there is no substitute for a band. Nothing but nothing compares to a resounding version of Amhrán na bhFiann. Full of anticipation and dripping with gusto, it adds to the frenzy and the build-up. It transmits to the players, instilling them with urgency.”

The Irish Examiner’s John Fogarty is not impressed with the recent trend towards solo singers performing the anthem

8. It’s not strictly sports-writing but this interactive guide to the grand prix circuits for 2011 by the Guardian is excellent.

9. “Last night my Ag2r La Mondiale team were staying in the same place as the Radioshack team and after dinner I had a good chat with Philip Deignan over a decaf in the lobby of our hotel.It’s great to have two other Irish riders in the peloton this week, even if all we do is slag each other. Our main point of conversation last night, though, was how well Dan Martin looks to be going and how great it would be if he could get a podium spot on this race.”

You could pick any of Nicolas Roche‘s pieces from the Independent this week. This is Friday’s column.

10. “Let’s go to the NCAA basketball tournament. For those who castigated me, brutalized me, said I was a hack and racist and all the rest, perhaps you can explain something: The phenomenon of the Jimmer. Jimmer Fredette is the most popular player in the tournament and perhaps the country. Why is that?”

A few weeks ago we included Buzz Bissinger‘s controversial piece on race and the NBA. He’s only gone and attacked the hornet’s nest again with this piece on college ball sensation Jimmer Fredette.

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