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sitdown sunday

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Mother and Son

Stephanie McCrummen introduces us to Naomi Haskell and her son Spencer, 10 years after he began feeling the first effects of schizophrenia, 20 months since his diagnosis and a year after he tried to take his own life. We read about Naomi and Spencer’s relationship after his diagnosis, the constant worry, the steps towards independence, the stay in a psychiatric hospital. But above all, we read about the quiet persistence of a mother’s love for her son. (Washington Post) (Approx 20 minutes reading time  –  4034 words)

Naomi starts to cry. If he is feeling better, she knows it might be the start of a manic phase. If he is feeling worse, she knows he is trying to hide it. Maybe the medicine is working. Maybe the psychiatrist has finally hit on the magical formula and what she is seeing right now is the start of a period of stability, the start of the life she wants for her son to have. Maybe she will get a phone call tonight that he has taken his life.

2. Power and talent

Kate Fagan introduces us to the world’s most famous female basketball player, the 6ft 8 Brittney Griner.  The uber-talented 22-year-old doesn’t care about what others think of her – and is refreshingly frank about the fact she won’t change who she is for anybody. Why? Because she has experienced enough negative attitudes to realise that the only opinion that matters is her own. ESPN chats to Griner about sexuality, bullying, basketball, and online abuse.   (ESPN) (Approx 19 minutes reading time  –  3951 words)

“I am 100-percent happy,” she says. “When I was at Baylor, I wasn’t fully happy because I couldn’t be all the way out. It feels so good saying it: I am a strong, black lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better.”

3. Being Denis Rodman

Terrence McCoy brings us another athlete who defies classification: Dennis Rodman. The potty-mouthed former Chicago Bulls basketball team member loves drinking, women, and being controversial (see his recent declaration that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is his “friend for life”), but says that for him, “Every day is difficult”. But he’s not the easiest of characters himself, as this profile shows.  (Broward Palm Beach New Times) (Approx 25 minutes reading time  –  5089 words)

After a night of partying, Rodman hits the gym for “detox,” she says. He almost exclusively attends Equinox, a workout facility on the third floor of Aventura Mall, and does pushups in the sauna for hours. Only then, after he’s sweated out all the booze, can Rodman rest at his Aventura condo, Trishy Trish says. “After I make a big old dinner, we sleep for days. The television is always on. He’s sober for days. But then he starts looking out the windows and gets cabin fever. And once he’s out again, he starts drinking. What else is there really to do?”

4. Murder in Pakistan

Elizabeth Rubin takes a look at the murder of journalists in Pakistan, showing how the targeted killings of two in particular – Wali Khan Babar and Mukarram Khan Aatif – give an insight into a “culture of manipulation, intimidation, and retribution”. This special report, which is in four parts, takes a long look at each case, before offering recommendations to Pakistani authorities and the media. (Committee to Protect Journalists) (Approx 81 minutes reading time  –  162, 61 words)

He reported on clashes, extortion, drug dealing, and land grabbing. He knew he was in treacherous water, but he was optimistic and, as he told one of his colleagues, he thought he could forge a truce between the ANP and MQM. But lately he was nervous. He told his boss that the MQM was after him. He told a Pashtun colleague that he thought people were following him home and watching his movements. “I get phone calls every day with threats,” said a Geo supervisor, “and unfortunately we didn’t realize the gravity of why he was saying that.”

5. Deadly sniper

Nicholas Schmidle tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal and deadly sniper who left Iraq scarred by the deaths of his friends and compatriots. After his return, he set up his own business, and though he tried his hardest, he attracted trouble almost everywhere he turned. In 2010 he began writing his book, American Sniper, and became a minor celebrity. But when he tried to help out a younger soldier with PTSD, things took a tragic turn. (The New Yorker) (Approx 65 minutes reading time  –  13000 words)

Shay, the psychiatrist, defines combat PTSD as “the persistence into civilian life, after danger, of the valid adaptations you made to stay alive when other people were trying to kill you.” In an interview last year, Kyle observed, “There’s no way you can go in, kill people, see people blown up and maimed and everything, and not come out with some stress”; however, he added, acknowledging PTSD was “hugely frowned on” by most seals.

6. As Serious as Your Life

Lisa Palmer speaks to ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, a man who once ran for 24 hours on an oval track, the equivalent of 6.5 marathons in one day. What goes through his mind as takes part in races across the desert – “it felt like my internal organs were liquefying” – and what drives the dedicated vegan on as he pounds the pavement for unimaginable lengths of time?  (Slate) (Approx 7 minutes reading time  –  1445 words)

He also seems to perceive pain differently. He has learned both to mask pain and to use it as a motivator. Pain-easing music helped him get through the last few hours of his 24-hour running record. But mostly he accepts pain as a given. He runs toward it. Pain has rewards for Jurek, and he considers it a tool to “pry myself open.”


In 1989, the bodies of Jo, Michelle and Christe Rogers were found floating in Tampa Bay. All three had been tied up, with cement blocks placed around their necks. Thomas French wrote for the St Petersburg Times about the murders and the search for their killer in 1997. The shocking story of their deaths takes in the tough times the family experienced before their trip to Florida – a trip that was supposed to give them space to relax, but instead ended in their deaths. (St Petersburg Times) (Approx 261 minutes reading time  – 52219 words)

Several hours later, when the investigators left the farm, they had learned nothing that would cast suspicion on Hal. To begin with, he didn’t appear to have had the opportunity or motive to arrange the murders. Although his wife and daughters had been covered by life insurance policies, the money Hal had received – Cummings recalls that it was just under $ 70,000, but Hal believes it was closer to $ 100,000 – was hardly enough incentive to kill one’s entire family.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by >

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