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Pluck o' the Irish

Dec. 12, 2011
Dec. 12, 2011

Table of Contents
Dec. 12, 2011

LEADING OFF
GOLF PLUS
  • How big was Tiger's victory at the Chevron? Can Luke Donald hang on to No. 1? Who's most likely to become the top American? How do the major venues rate, and who will win the four championships?

  • Great majors, a new No. 1, LPGA dominance, an old school fight for the money title and the rediscovery of a vintage track too tough to die made 2011 a terrific year in golf

  • The game will long remember Europe's leading light, a pioneering woman and a television innovator

Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR / SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR, 1981
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR, 1976
  • A couple of recent divorces have dusted up the Girl Next Door, but as always she will never sit back and accept defeat

SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR, 1982
  • A man can gather plenty of insight on the road from boy wonder to senior statesman for the sport he loves

PRO FOOTBALL
  • The Patriots' defense, built from spare parts, castoffs and converted receivers, ranks dead last in the NFL, and yet New England is once again cruising to the playoffs. The real test is yet to come

SPECIAL REPORT
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
BASEBALL
  • In 136 major league seasons, there's never been a more dizzyingly dramatic day than Sept. 28, 2011. The Red Sox and the Braves may disagree, but for everyone else it's a date that will live in ecstasy

PRO HOCKEY
  • With the club slumping and captain Alex Ovechkin seemingly checked out, the Capitals dumped their coach. Now one of the NHL's superstars isn't just struggling to rediscover his game, but he's also trying to shed an ugly label

  • The NHL's coaching carousel began to go 'round in earnest last week, with three jobs turning over in a four-day stretch. Besides the departure of Bruce Boudreau and the arrival of Dale Hunter in Washington, D.C., here's the lowdown on what went wrong and what to expect from here on in

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
WALTER IOOSS JR.
Departments

Pluck o' the Irish

Trading punches for pride with the Emerald Isle's nomadic Travellers

In the late 1990s, Ian Palmer, a struggling screenwriter, did a turn as a videographer at an Irish wedding and was impressed by the reverence commanded by the groom's older brother. James Quinn McDonagh was not professionally accomplished or exceptionally virtuous; he was venerated for his excellence in bare-knuckled boxing matches against members of rival clans among Irish Travellers, modern-day gypsies in the British Isles. Palmer foresaw cinematic gold and spent the next decade-plus chronicling generations-old feuds among Travellers that are settled—or perpetuated—by fights held in desolate woods, parking lots and on country roads. The result is Knuckle, a bone-jarring documentary (in theaters this week) that lacks in neither blood nor heart.

This is an article from the Dec. 12, 2011 issue

In lesser hands Palmer's undertaking would simply have yielded a compendium of YouTube-ready brutality—two pasty men, wearing nothing but shoes and sweatpants, extracting plasma from each other. Kimbo O'Slice, as it were. Palmer, though, limns the peculiar Traveller culture and explores themes of tribalism, pointless pride, aggression, respect and revenge. It's classical, Biblical, old-school stuff. The fights, however, are fueled by technology. One clan provokes with a video that makes anything out of Floyd Mayweather's mouth seem decorous. ("You cowardly pack of bollocks, kiss my Joyce hole....") The other clan grows incensed. And, inevitably, it's on.

Palmer offers as little defense for street fighting as there exists defense in the bouts he films. But there is a certain honor among Travellers, many of whom are interrelated. For one, they fight with their fists, never, pointedly, with firearms or knives. When one Traveller bites another, Tyson-style, he is disgraced for years. The shame of it all? You're left concluding that if someone could dam the rivers of testosterone, the clans would share pints at the pub and get along just fine.

Naturally the few women in the documentary provide the voices of reason. "People getting hurt for nothing," says one mother, "and I don't think it's fair to the families. They should stop and forget the whole lot of it."

A fair point. But then again, such harmony would have precluded this knockout of a doc from getting made in the first place.

THEY SAID IT

"The view of his knee by way of tweet is not as strong as a one-on-one examination. I don't imagine there will be any problem there."

LES MILES

LSU football coach, to reporters, on the game-readiness of defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who tweeted about a swollen knee that he sustained on Nov. 25, against Arkansas.

PHOTOMARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE (BROCKERS)PHOTOGREG NELSON (MILES)PHOTOCOURTESY ARC ENTERTAINMENT (KNUCKLE)