Rugby turning ‘rotten’ and more of the week’s best sportswriting

Florian Lejeune scores a late equaliser for Newcastle United against Everton.

Source: Richard Sellers

“And what about that lad in front, row G, seat 80-something, who swayed through the match, drunk and then drunker, whose game was a stream of ‘fucks’ and ‘fuck offs’, of stumbling backwards and leaning sideways, propped up by his mate, who greeted the sight of the board going up saying four minutes of added time with a superhuman ‘FUCK THIS’ and a dismissive swat, and then he was gone and he missed all of it.”

– (€) An away trip with Newcastle United fans for Tuesday’s dramatic 2-2 draw at Everton, as seen through the eyes of The Athletic’s George Caulkin.

Smoke in the sky over Rod Laver Arena during the third day of play at the 2020 Australian Open.

Source: Imago/PA Images

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“Last week, when the qualifying tournament for the Australian Open began, the air in Melbourne was heavy and hazardous, and haze smeared the sun. City officials advised the public to stay indoors and keep windows closed. Journalists at the tournament reported the sound of coughing throughout the grounds, and some players described feeling their chests tighten as they ran. Rather than posting selfies with wombats at the zoo, players shared images of rescue workers cradling burned and thirsty animals, along with links for relief efforts.”

– The haze of wildfires hanging over the Australian Open this year is a reminder that climate change may force a rethinking of the entire tennis calendar, writes The New Yorker’s Louisa Thomas.

Adama Traore of Wolves is tracked by Tottenham’s Dele Alli.

Source: Bradley Collyer

“Any soccer coach wants a player that quick and powerful; those physical gifts are, after all, potent weapons. Not every coach — indeed, perhaps not the majority of coaches — knows quite how to deploy such a player.”

– For The New York Times, Rory Smith explains why the rise of Wolves star Adama Traore illustrates how players with certain attributes are often mishandled.

Saracens players celebrate after a try in their recent game against Racing 92.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Gloucester were a long way short of depriving Saracens* of the last quarter-final slot in the competition. After all the revelations, the cheats would still be able to take their place in the knockout stages in April. Could things get any worse? Well, yes! Gloucester are coached by the convicted drugs cheat Johan Ackerman who decides that after 55 minutes his son Ruan has done enough and he is replaced by convicted drugs cheat Gerbrandt Grobler. I flipped!”

– Writing in the Irish Independent, Neil Francis reaches the conclusion that rugby is “rotten”.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes goes in search of a Super Bowl ring next weekend.

Source: Nick Tre. Smith

“Playing five games for the Patriots, and having been released and re-signed three different times, Barner wasn’t a major contributor in the championship season (19 carries, 71 yards) and hadn’t been with the club since mid-November. So imagine his surprise when he received a text message from an unknown number during 2019 spring practices with the Atlanta Falcons, saying Bill Belichick wanted him to have a ring. “I was like, ‘Is this a mistake? Do you have the right number?’ I was speechless,” Barner said. “They didn’t have to do that.” Barner let his father, Gary, open the box when the ring arrived and he gifted it to his dad as a thank you for his support.”

– Ahead of next weekend’s NFL showpiece, ESPN publishes 53 unique tales of 53 Super Bowl rings. 

The infamous incident involving Eric Cantona at Selhurst Park in 1995.

Source: EMPICS Sport

“Mere hours after the kick happened, [Martin] Edwards met with David Davies of the FA, with one sentence summing up the severity of it. ‘We’re not talking a life ban here, are we?’ Edwards asked. It is with the benefit of hindsight that it almost feels Cantona’s entire life in football had been building to something like this. Moments like disgraceful stamps on John Moncur – the only other time Ferguson had vented such anger at Cantona – were mere steps to this, the build-up. It is now almost impossible to imagine Cantona without this career moment. At the time, however, it was almost impossible to imagine how this wouldn’t be the end of that career – at least in England. Even Ferguson admitted his ‘initial feeling was for letting Eric go.’” 

– A quarter of a century (!) after Eric Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park, the London Independent’s Miguel Delaney pieces together the time after the incident and the Old Trafford boss’s reaction to it.

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