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Dublin: 4°C Friday 5 March 2021

25 years on from Friday Night Lights, a day with JJ Watt and all the week's best sportswriting

Also, seriously injured jockey Robbie McNamara opens up about his ‘dark days’.

Horse Racing - Galway Festival - Day Four - Galway Racecourse McNamara on RTE Television with Robert Hall and Ted Walsh during day four of the Galway Festival. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

1. “These traumatic days will surprise those who followed McNamara on Twitter, and saw positive updates and pictures posted from his hospital bed.

Everything wasn’t as rosy as I made out,’ he admits now. ‘I was writing on Twitter at the start and I was feeling good, but people probably noticed there was nothing from me for a month,” he says, with a two-word explanation of just where he was holed up for that time – ‘rock bottom’.”

Writing for The Racing Post, Jonathan Mullin chats to jockey Robbie McNamara about his serious injury, the ‘dark days’ and how he has turned a corner. 

2. “For these women, years passed, until eventually they met an LFL coach or league executive — a man who offered them a chance to play football, in real arenas and in front of real fans. All they had to do was play for free, with limited protective gear and barely any clothes.

For each of them, there was only one choice. They said yes.”

Jordan Ritter Conn takes an illuminating look at how for the top female American football players, there’s only one option if they want to play the game they love. 

Sport - International Rules Series - Ireland v Australia - Croke Park Australia's captain Adam Goodes lifts the International rules series trophy after beating Ireland in Croke Park. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

3.  Australian football is deeply tribal, and opposition fans have fair reasons to begrudge Goodes, including his electrifying skill, and the perception he milks free kicks from umpires. Also true is that other Indigenous players, such as fellow Sydney superstar Lance “Buddy” Franklin, are not subjected to the same harassment.

But there is a darkness to the jeering that makes it difficult to believe it has no racial undertone whatsoever (which feels a little like insisting, as per Gamergate, that it’s about the ethics of booing in football)”. 

How did it come to this? Michael Safi on Adam Goodes, the AFL legend being booed across Australia. 

4. “One specific rider, one with a long career and lots of experience, along with some team directors went to my team (Manzana Postobon) personally about this. They told them that they should have never signed me to a contract, because I would never be allowed to win anything. In fact, that if necessary, they would throw me off of my bike, or push me off to keep me from winning, because so many team directors had been offended by what I said. So they would make my life impossible, to the point of throwing me off of my bike in a race.”

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Colombian cyclist Juan Pablo Villegas tells Alps&Andes how threats forced him to retire from the sport. 

Dolphins Texans Football Houston Texans' defensive end JJ Watt. Source: Chris Covatta

5. “J.J. Watt doing an interview is entirely different from J.J. Watt working the room, or working a YMCA facility for that matter. Over, say, maybe 75 minutes or so, I watched him move from coaching the teenagers on the football field, to play-dancing with very tiny children on a playground, to charming a group of older women gathered around a table in the lobby. He didn’t actually glow, but he basically did. When he walked by the older women, one of them shouted, “Come over here by us,” and he did. As he strolled up he said, “Nobody told me the Beautiful Ladies Club was meeting here. How come I’m not in this club?” That’s him when he’s mingling with people in public, and he’s very good at it.”

This piece by Shea Serrano of Grantland is well worth a read for NFL aficionados and casual fans alike. 

6. “Analytical models are also central in Midtjylland’s search for new players. As Steinlein explains, the club could use the database to find any two-footed left-back in the world of a certain standard, aged 22-26, who has not been injured for the previous 18 months – while the recent addition of player-tracking data gives them a further advantage. “Before we had one scout – and he spent half his time coaching,” explains Steinlein. “Now we have a team in London crunching the numbers and suggesting suitable targets. We have gone from using our heart to using our brain”.”

Sean Ingle of The Guardian looks at how Midtjylland took the analytical route toward the Champions League. A very, very interesting read.  

7. There is a familiar comfort in the landscape: the sprawl of the Dallas Metroplex, like oozing oil; the metallic spires of the refineries in Beaumont and Houston; the Hill Country, dressed in lace and wildflowers; the flatlands of West Texas, where you step off into eternity and wonder if you will ever make it back. A thousand miles through Texas with a thousand memories.

I want to resurrect those memories, since I am now 60, when you forget far more than you remember. I hate going back in my life, and I am not a believer in nostalgia. But on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the publication of Friday Night Lights, I feel compelled to return. It was a linchpin moment of my life. The moment, to be honest.”

Twenty-five years on from H.G. Bissinger’s bestseller was released, he visits the stars of the 1988 Permian Panthers football team to relive the ‘Friday Night Lights’

About the author:

Donal Lucey

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