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Dublin: 0 °C Sunday 20 April, 2014

The Sports Pages: some of the week’s best sportswriting

A Red Sox double-whammy, a cricket club coming straigh outta Compton and the most successful professional sportsperson you’ve never heard of: its all in our selection of the week’s best writing about sport.

Boston leave the field after the Baltimore Orioles secure their post-season qualification.
Boston leave the field after the Baltimore Orioles secure their post-season qualification.
Image: Patrick Semansky/AP/Press Association Images

1. “Instead, Boston’s three elite starters went soft, their pitching as anemic as their work ethic. The indifference of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey in a time of crisis can be seen in what team sources say became their habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season.”

The late-season collapse of the Boston Red Sox last month was the essence of sporting tragi-comedy, a slow-motion collision of complacency and poor motivation every bit as predictable as it was infuriating. Bob Holher went looking for the roots of the humilation and uncovered a shocking story of greed, arrogance, marital strife and (alleged) drug abuse. His feature in the Boston Globe is unmissable.

2.“The ingredients of Straw Dogs’ violence, Blade Runner’s dystopian LA, Haye’s Dome Village and Gaye’s redemptive message of love and peace amid a hail of ultra-violence perhaps created the perfect foundation for the establishing in 1996 of the Compton cricket club itself. Or, as they are now affectionately known, the Homies and the Popz.”

The Compton district of Los Angeles is synonymous with the birth of gangster rap, but the area’s also home to Compton Cricket Club. The Guardian’s Ian Thornton is left fascinated by a rag-tag team of gang members, LAPD anti-drug officers and formerly indigent criminals.

3. “On Monday, presuming he throws for at least 258 yards, this man you’ve probably never heard of will become the leading passer in the history of professional football. He has accumulated more yards than Peyton Manning, more yards than Dan Marino, more yards than John Elway and Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton and Joe Montana and Brett Favre, and he has done it all without ever being even marginally famous in the United States.”

At 39 years of age, Anthony Calvillo is the most prolific passer in the history of professional (American) football. Not only that, but his consistent statistical brilliance has been enlivened by the most inspiring of human interest stories: both he and his wife are cancer survivors. He should be an all-American hero, and would be, notes Grantland’s Michael Weinrab, if it weren’t for one inconvenient fact: he’s Canadian.

4. “The sausages are so popular that they make public appearances, and the Brewers organized a five-kilometer run/walk for charity with five runners in the costumes. But Fielder, even after seven seasons of watching wieners jog past his dugout, still does not get the appeal.

“‘I never understood that,’ he said. ‘I think it’s cool, but I don’t know.’”

Traditions help define the identities of sports teams, and some are stranger than others. Lazio have an eagle they like to set loose around the stadium, Manchester City supporters dance “The Poznan” and fans of the Milwaukee Brewers like to watch men dressed as giant sausages race around Miller Park. Dan Ponzi, writing for no less a publication than the New York Times, takes a closer look one of MLB’s genuine oddities.

5. “My Facebook Sweetness page—landing ground of a whopping 240 followers—immediately becomes the hottest place on the Internet to simultaneously abuse and misspell. One particularly enlightened reader (who has yet to read the book) insists ‘You will bern in hell four what You dunn.’ I note that the book is actually 460 pages, not seven. “Fuck you, whore,” someone (who also has yet to read the book) writes. I think he is unmoved.”

Jeff Perlman‘s new book, a biography of NFL legend Walter Payton, has been gaining traction for all the wrong reasons. In an article for Deadpsin entitled “Just Read the Damn Book,” the author vents his frustration in the direction of media hypocrisy, illiterate Payton devotees and gossip columnists.

6. “Henry confessed that before he bought them he knew ‘virtually nothing about Liverpool Football Club nor EPL.’ … Werner said he, too, had barely heard of the club: ‘I had been in sports so I was aware of the EPL and its strength globally,’ Werner said. ‘But I didn’t know the inner workings of it. I certainly knew about Manchester United.’”

John W. Henry, the owner of both Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox, is engaged in a delicate transatlantic balancing act, managing the expectations of two of sports’ most demanding fanbases. Here, he speaks to the Guardian’s David Conn about his ownership philosophy and his plan’s for the red half of Merseyside.

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