Feeling joyless while watching Man City win and the rest of the week’s best sportswriting
1. Competing at the Saudi International can’t seriously be construed as professional golfers endorsing the regime or its practices, but it lays bare a reality that is no less dispiriting for being commonplace: that so many elite players can’t or won’t see beyond the perimeter of their wallets, that they consciously choose to ignore what they will contribute to an odious regime simply by doing their job.
It was the case back when the game’s best turned a blind eye to apartheid so they could play for riches in South Africa, and it’s the case today. Sure, they just want to play golf. And Leni Riefenstahl just wanted to make movies.
Truth be told, golfers are not politicians. Politicians at least pretend to have principles.
In Golfweek, Eamon Lynch criticises golfers who deflect when asked if they have any moral objection to playing at next month’s Saudi International.
Novak Djokovic [file photo].
2. This is a man, a phenomenal tennis player admired and adored by millions of fans across the world, who has form in this area. And we’re not talking about the kind of form that might win him the Australian Open this month. It is the kind of form that makes him a repeat offender, a man who organised a super-spreader tennis event, the Adria tour, in June 2020.
Djokovic does not actively promote anti-vax views but this is a player who tested positive for Covid a second time last month and still turned up for a photo-shoot the next day and posed for pictures without a mask. This is a man who blamed his agent for concealing the number of countries he had visited in the build-up to his arrival in Melbourne last week. This is a man who thinks rules are for the little people.
Writing for the Daily Mail, Oliver Holt takes a hard swipe at Novak Djokovic over his recent behaviour at the Australian Open.
3. Why doesn’t the City experience feel as exciting as their record-shattering numbers suggest it should be? Partly it’s the style that makes their matches too one-sided to be interesting. Even Jack Grealish is hardly worth watching these days. The most exciting footballer of last season has been subsumed into the City system as a kind of glorified ballboy whose role is to stand on the sideline and pass it quickly to the main man, João Cancelo.
But of course the main problem is, and always has been, the money. City represent the ruthlessly efficient application of overwhelming financial firepower and there simply is not a lot of magic about that story.
They will soon celebrate their fourth title win in five years, which is not an unprecedented level of dominance: Aston Villa did it in the 1890s, Arsenal in the 1930s, Liverpool twice in the 1970s and 80s, Manchester United three times in the 1990s and 2000s. City fans rightly point out that all of these dominant teams were underpinned by considerable economic clout. But in no previous case was the financial superiority as overwhelming as it is now.
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Ken Early writes in the Irish Times about how money is helping clubs like Man City win titles but the football they’re playing is not exciting for fans.
4. In Deebo Samuel, the unicorn has finally arrived. Samuel is the San Francisco 49ers’ best running back and the team’s best receiver. He may be the finest running back and the finest receiver in the league, at least in terms of efficiency and explosiveness. If he’s not, he’s as near as makes no difference.
There is a childlike glee to Samuel’s brilliance. To watch him is to see an athlete who is stronger and faster than the 21 other human beings on the field – and those 21 humans are among the strongest and fastest athletes on the planet. Samuel brings intricacy for the nerds and loud highlights for when you just want to see cool athletes doing the coolest things. With the ball in his hands, he’s a leaning, bobbing, weaving, stop-on-a-dime phantom.
The Niners offense now revolves around finding an ever-increasing number of ways to get the ball to Samuel, or leveraging his threat into easy yards for everyone else.
For The Guardian, Oliver Connolly explores the impact of San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel on the NFL this season.
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