Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas and miscellany

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Sport Geek #55: An insult to locker rooms, crazy 48, and hello Chicago

I know we shouldn’t mix sport and politics, but here goes. Donald Trump’s excuse that his grope-boast was just “locker room talk” is an insult to locker rooms. It provoked some great responses, and at least one open letter that may later be regarded as a classic of the genre. Here’s the killer line (with added emphasis):

Oh, sure, we had some dumb guys, and some guys I wouldn’t want to hang out with on any sort of regular basis, but we never had anyone say anything as foul and demeaning as you did on that tape, and, hell, I played a couple years with a guy who later turned out to be a serial rapist. Even he never talked like that.

Do read. It’s brutal and worth every moment.

Here’s the best of the rest… Continue reading

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Squawka podcast: Sports Geek interview

Check out the latest Squawka podcast via audioboom. Worth a full listen, but I’m on around 28 minutes in.


Ozil? De Bruyne? Coutinho? Eriksen? The level of playmakers in England’s top division has skyrocketed over the past few seasons and Nic English is joined by Muhammad Butt, Squawka Dave and James McManus to discuss exactly who is top dog.

There’s also time for a very special interview with Rob Minto – author of Sports Geek – to discuss some of the myths in sport and why he’s on a mission to debunk them.

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Lewis Hamilton is right – which is why he should play the press game

Snap Prat, earlier.

A major sports figure having a media spat is – for the media at least – Christmas come early. Journalists love nothing more than to generate (faux) outrage over the supposed incoherent rantings of once-media darlings.

And so to this week’s overpaid ungrateful spoilt starlet, Lewis Hamilton. What has media outrage Lewis done now?

First, he arsed about (technical term) on Snapchat during a press conference, putting bunny ears on himself and others. Stop laughing, please. And then, after a major media backlash (read: a few critical tweets from journos from the Sun and Times), Lewis doubled down in spectacular fashion at the next press conference. Specifically, he said:

With the utmost respect there are many of you here who are super-supportive of me and I know who they are… There are others who unfortunately often take advantage of certain things. The other day was a super light-hearted thing.

Before we get distracted with the, like, super-affected over-use of the prefix ‘super’, since when are the media supposed to be uncritically supportive?

Lewis has been in the game for long enough to know a few rules. However, here’s a refresher.

Rule one: journalists may flatter and fawn, but they will always revert to “serving the readers” if push comes to shove.

Rule two: journalists still think they are the main conduit to the fans, despite stars being on social media (which journalists use to their own ends too, don’t forget…). Here’s not the time to look at the symbiotic relationship between social and mainstream media. Lewis might not get it, but let’s just admit that ‘papers’ still have clout.

Rule three: press conferences might be awkward / boring formats, but there they are. It goes with the territory. That’s why you get paid the megabucks. Roger Federer must have done thousands, but he still does them with a smile. He says very little of note, mind you, but that goes with the territory too. It cuts both ways.

So Lewis should grow up and do the press thing, not because he’s wrong, but because he’s right. Say something provocative and true next time. Perhaps just answer the questions, and you won’t get ridiculed as “Snap prat”. And if it all seems too much, just count the money.

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Sport Geek #54: chants, fans and Fury

Sometimes it’s a bit convoluted to stitch together a common-thread narrative about two very different sporting stories. Instead, two of the biggest stories this week highlight the extremes of sport. Compare and contrast: the Ryder Cup, and Tyson Fury.

The best thing about the Ryder Cup is how an individual sport becomes a team event – and not just a normal team event, but a continental battle. Sometimes the fans and players have overstepped the mark, but this edition was marked by great golf, sportsmanship and a result that, even for this European, keeps things interesting for the competition’s future.

Tyson Fury, on the other hand, is a lonely tale. A man who has found his calling in boxing but everything else that goes with it too much. He has many offensive views, but his mental state is even worse. Should we pity him or condemn him? He is a one-man news cycle at the moment, but perhaps the best thing to do would be to ignore him right now. Attention isn’t making things any better.


First, me. I was interviewed on Chris Evans’ breakfast show on Radio 2 this week (2 hr 21 in, or you can listen below.) Book is out on the 20th.


The disturbed world of Tyson Fury.


The right result. Yet in a way, it’s nothing to do with the result, but that first tee shot.

Plus: the Mickelson effect. And just to show not everyone has a good time, Danny Willett on the US fans


The odd origins of the primal, heart-stopping Viking war chant that is spreading from sport to sport.


The strange tale of an utlra-distance runner’s cheating, and what happened next.


If you ban a team’s best quarterback for four games (see deflategate), you hope they don’t keep on winning. Why the Patriots start to the season is a disaster.


Should the FA should wait for Wenger?

Aston Villa are going through managers at an alarming rate.

That’s it – see you next week.

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Sport Geek #53: in defence of Allardyce


Did Big Sam have to lose his job?

When (now former) England manager Sam Allardyce was caught on camera in a Telegraph sting talking about how to get round third-party ownership, dissing the FA, asking for £400k for a speaking gig, and being a bit rude about Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville, it was always going to be curtains. The England job is too big, too heavily scrutinised at every step, for him to stay on.

Really though, nothing individually on the rap sheet was bad enough. Yes, it was cruel to mock Roy. Gary Neville? Who cares. He said Wembley was a bit to expensive, which most would say is fair comment.

Now for the heavier stuff. A series of speaking events in Asia for 6-figure sums? He said he would ask the FA, keeping it above board. Should England managers be doing that? Probably not, given the £3m salary, but if it’s OK, it’s OK, and if it’s not, it’s not. It’s up to the employer. It’s hardly as if the England manager is a day-in-day-out job anyway. All sorts of people, from writers to bankers, do extra-curricular speaking events. It looks a little greedy, but it’s hardly illegal. It’s just a question of priorities and contracts.

What about third-party ownership of players? Dig into the transcript. Allardyce never at any stage is endorsing the practice. He’s highlighting what others do, and that might be a bit unwise, but he’s not actually giving advice. If someone asks you where people buy drugs, it’s not illegal to point them in the right direction. He’s had a drink and is showing off a bit, knowing what goes on. Everyone likes to think they are on the inside and can lift the lid. It’s human nature.

In fact, later on, he has a proper freak out about player bungs, saying “Oh, oh, you’re not, do not, I haven’t heard that… I haven’t heard that, you stupid man… You can have that conversation when I’m not here… You can’t do it now, you can’t do it now, don’t ever go there.” Sound like a man on the take? No. He is cross to even hear suggestion of dodgy dealings.

Overall, there’s nothing here that means he should lose his job. Nothing. As he says, entrapment won.  Given the mixed feelings about his appointment (no major trophies, pragmatic style), he had so much to prove. It’s a pity he didn’t get a chance to have a crack at one tournament.

And so to the rest… Continue reading

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Sport Geek #52: Kaepernick, TUEs, and when 9th is podium

I’m writing this with a broken arm, so it’s taking twice as long. Hopefully it’s not half as good. Anyway.

Here are the things you should be reading about in the wonderful world of sport.


Colin Kaepernick’s quiet protest is starting something very big. One day he will be seen as a hero.

Meanwhile, here’s an insight into the insecure life of an NFL practice squad player.


When ninth still wins an Olympic medal, you know the drug problem in sport is bad.

Para quicker: how did four visually impaired runners beat the Olympic gold time in the 1500m final?

Why is Ukraine so good at the Paralympics?


What happened when a journalist became a tennis coach?

The new tennis stars are still veterans. Whatever happened to youth?

Why Serena Williams’s backhand is so different.


Are TUEs just legal doping? And who are the fancy bears anyway?


A timely reminder from Marina Hyde that the clown show that is Fifa / Uefa rolls inexorably forward. 

That’s it from the recovery room.


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Sport Geek #51: where did it all go wrong?

Back to school, back to work. Let’s crack on.


Nicklas Bendtner, a tale of how to get it all wrong. (Vice)

How on earth do you rebuild a completely corrupt organisation? The Guardian looks at Concacaf.


Pakistan are the top Test side in the world, and that is an incredible thing, says the Economist.


What’s the swimming equivalent of a level playing field? The pool was a bit, well, current-y. (WashPo)

Did the IOC Rio gamble work? And how did Team GB do so well? (BBC)

What happens to the venues now? (Vox)

Bolt’s perfect goodbye. (Guardian)


Good news: apparently, we are nowhere near the limits of athletic performance. (Nautilus)


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Sport Geek #50: the two Olympics

There are two Olympics. Not summer and winter. These are the two that exist in your head.

One is a corrupt pile, a shower, a farce of epic proportions. A world of grand bribery, pointless expenditure by countries racked with poverty, of doping cover-ups. The other is a beautiful world of sporting purity, of heroic acts, of minority athletes given their moment in the world spotlight.

These worlds don’t cross over much. They rarely coexist, in fact, as the outrage gives way to optimism at the first sight of opening ceremony fireworks.

But this Games is different. Rio has got dirty in the pool, and I’m not talking about the mysterious green water. Golf is a joke. Let’s just hope that Gatlin doesn’t win the 100m.

Meanwhile, here’s your August reading: Continue reading

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Sport Geek #49: a colossal waste of drugs

July 31, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


The one thing you need to read before the Olympics (Nick Harris).

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was aware Russia ran a state-sponsored doping programme in which the head of that nation’s WADA-accredited lab was a central figure as long ago as the first week of July 2013.
I know this because I told them.
… This is not an opinion piece. This is the story behind the story

But, assuming you have a little more time…

We all have wonderful memories of London 2012, but was it a gigantic waste of time and money? The Guardian’s Richard Williams puts the case.

How to fix the doping problem: extend the blame beyond athletes, argues Silvia Camporesi in Aeon.

You’ll still watch it though, won’t you? But why? Simon Kuper in the FT (free to read) examines our fascination. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #48: from Russia with drugs

There are always a few worries ahead of any Olympics. Will the venues be ready? Is the athletes’ village a bit crap? Will there be a terror threat? That sort of thing. But this one is something else. Those questions are all still relevant, but the shadow cast by Russia and doping is on a different scale. Plus there’s Zika, and it’s quite literally a shitshow.

So here are three takes on it. First, a whistleblower gives an account of what it is like to be the ultimate party pooper. No prizes for guessing that it’s not much fun. Then Dan Jones in the Standard delivers what many people are thinking – that the IOC are spineless, gutless, and so forth.

However, Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky gives a typically counter-view, suggesting that any Russians at the Games will be the cleanest of all, and banning Russia anyway wouldn’t work: “anyone running a similar system with a crooked laboratory will just make doubly sure there are no leaks. Blanket bans would only make sense if several countries or federations had been caught.” Not popular, but it’s a view. Meanwhile, here’s a history of doping in sportContinue reading

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