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

Kick back and get the kettle on. Here’s some of our favourite pieces from the past seven days.

Nigel Dineen, Roscommon U21 manager, is interviewed at Croker this week.
Nigel Dineen, Roscommon U21 manager, is interviewed at Croker this week.
Image: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

1. “This was top-level tennis 100 summers ago: men in starched polo shirts, long pants, leather shoes and stoic expressions, using wooden rackets strung with beef or sheep gut to bat the ball around for hours in the afternoon sun. They might reconvene afterward in the clubhouse for a brandy, perhaps stopping first to call back to the office. In the era before prize money, many of the male players moonlighted as lawyers or bankers. From the clubhouse the winners would repair to their rooms to prepare for the next day’s matches; the losers would throw on seersucker suits and head for Newport (R.I.) or Merion (Pa.) or Chevy Chase (Md.), whichever moneyed enclave was hosting the next tournament. But in 1912 some of the losers at Longwood might have stayed on for a day to check out a baseball game nearby at newly opened Fenway Park. The Williams-Behr match was full of precise shotmaking, savvy tactics and gyrating momentum. The lanky, dark-haired Williams brought his aggression and superior athleticism to bear and won the first two sets. Then the sturdier Behr, who wore wire-rimmed glasses and held back his sandy hair with a not-yet-voguish headband, surged and gradually wore down Williams’s resistance. Over five gripping sets the veteran beat the newcomer 0–6, 7–9, 6–2, 6–1, 6–4.”

A century go the Titanic sank into the north Atlantic; two of the world’s top tennis player survived but in very different ways. Check out this piece by L Jon Wertheim on Sports Illustrated.

2. “Because Seau apparently shot himself in the chest, his death will be inevitably compared to Dave Duerson’s, the former Chicago Bear who also shot himself in the chest last year, better to preserve his brain for science and lawsuits. There is no doubt that over his twenty brutal seasons in the NFL, Seau suffered his share of brain damage. There will be dark shadows found inside of him. And everyone will talk about how something has to change and how terrible this all is and, gee, is it really worth all this for a game? And then everyone will buy their tickets and popcorn and get ready for some subtly altered version of football This is an incredibly complex issue, of course. It’s not going to be solved quickly or with bandages. It’s pointless, in fact, to try to find a single answer — “the golden BB,” accident investigators call it — to a collection of a thousand questions.”

There’s been plenty of ink spilled since the tragic death Junior Seau this week. This piece on Esquire is a good starting point.

3. “Three young men in the arena were not clapping or hooting. They were working for a Washington, D.C.-based company called FightMetric, and they were watching the action quietly with old video game controllers in their hands, pushing buttons every time one of the fighters visited some brutality upon the other. When Diaz slammed Carlos Condit in the head with his fist, one of them ticked his controller. When Condit kicked Diaz in the stomach, one of the others ticked his. As the audience roared at the ferocious beating taking place in the ring, the three men from FightMetric were methodically turning it into a stream of numbers. After five rounds, when all was said and done, their record would indicate that even though Diaz seemed to spend most of the match as the aggressor, he had in fact been outperformed.”

The Boston Globe’s Leon Nayfath describe one man’s mission to bring statistical analysis — that staple of modern US sports — to the chaotic world of mixed martial arts.

4. “The dynamics before a big fight invariably are on a knife edge. The combatants can either pretend to hate each other or they can work themselves into a sweat and become utterly convinced that the guy in the other corner is the reincarnation of the devil. None of that was going on in the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday, until… a man in a suit decided it was all a bit cosy. Leonard Ellerbe is Floyd Mayweather‘s long-time business adviser, manager, promoter – as you will – a cohort of the rarely interviewed Al Hayman and a damn loyal cheerleader. In the absence of any perceivable rancour between his employer and Mayweather’s putative “devil”, Miguel Cotto, of Puerto Rico, who will be defending his WBA light-middleweight title here amid much fanfare against Mr Mayweather at the MGM Grand on Saturday night, Mr Ellerbe decided proceedings needed spicing up.”

The Guardian’s Kevin Mitchell on Pedro Diaz, Miguel Cotto’s Cuban trainer.

5. “Is Sarah Phillips for real? Thirteen months ago, she was an unknown message-board participant at Covers.com, a gambling website. Then Covers plucked her from the boards and gave her a weekly column, sight unseen. Five months after that, she was tapped by Lynn Hoppes, an editor for ESPN.com, to write a weekly column for ESPN’s Page 2—once the home of writers like David Halberstam, Ralph Wiley, and Hunter S Thompson, and which has now been rebranded as ESPN’s Playbook. The swiftness of her ascent gave her that weird sort of internet half-celebrity whereby she became moderately famous before anyone really knew who she was.”

This was the most intriguing piece of the week for me, Jeff. Deadspin asks some probing questions of ESPN’s hottest new columnist. She doesn’t work for Bristol anymore.

6. “‘My name is Jerry Joseph,’ Guerdwich Montimere tells me.

‘I truly don’t think he thinks he’s Guerdwich Montimere,’ Permian coach Danny Wright says.

‘I don’t know if he’s Jerry Joseph or Guerdwich,’ says his attorney’s private investigator, Randall Shafer. ‘Jerry Joseph better damn well be Montimere or this judiciary is gonna be in a heap load of s— because they’ve got a 16-year-old kid in there.’

‘He’s tried to con a lot of people,’ says Odessa District Attorney Bobby Bland.”

Sticking with America’s favourite sports network and the question of the sporting imposters, Wright Thompson investigates the curious story of Guerdwich Montimere, a high school basketball star who may or may not be 22 years old.

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