Things grow desperate in the wide world of no sports

By: New York Times |

Published: March 30, 2020 12:15:42 pm

Players in action during the match in Belarus despite most sport being cancelled around the world as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues (Source: Reuters)

By Victor Mather

As usual, there were more cancellations. The Kontinental Hockey League, based mostly in Russia, had stopped play in the middle of the playoffs. Now it has called off the season entirely.

Well, Russian fans, there’s always chess.

And the postponements continue. The Indianapolis 500, a Memorial Day staple, has been rescheduled to Aug. 23. The NHL draft, which had been scheduled for Montreal on June 26, has also been bumped back.

For now, the NFL draft, set for April 23 to 25, and the NBA draft, June 25 in Brooklyn, are on. The WNBA draft will be held as scheduled on April 17, but via video conferencing rather than in person.

Horse racing is one of the last sports still trotting along, with races scheduled in Florida, Ireland and South Africa. But not in Victoria or New South Wales, Australia, where racing was shut down after a jockey flew on a plane with a confirmed coronavirus case among its passengers.

But Belarusian soccer plays on. Round 2 of its Premier League season began Friday.

There may be light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. Japan’s J-League, the top soccer competition, has set a date of May 9 to resume play. (And if you’re even more desperate, the second division is to start May 2.)

It may not happen, of course, but we’ll gratefully take the hopeful signs when they come. And maybe someday soon we will crowd out the cancellation news with a slew of sports relaunch stories.

Hey, Kids! Help Mom and Dad Stay in Shape

Top athletes need to train. But in all likelihood they are cooped up inside, perhaps with children underfoot. So they’re getting creative in using what they have.

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City did leg lifts, with his children providing the weight. Curiously, while one wore a De Bruyne jersey, the other opted for Raheem Sterling.

Boxer Tyson Fury’s livestreamed workout with his wife, Paris, was repeatedly crashed by twirling, jumping and dancing children. Hey, that’s cardio.

For runner Ben Bruce, training was a treadmill session while shooting arcade basketball with his son feeding him. He reported going at a sub-10-minute pace while scoring 36. Listen to the man, and don’t try that at home.

The Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine, on the other hand, found his dog Grizzy was a good defensive player in quarantine. LaVine, however, got the shot to fall: 2-0. AirBud, you’re up next.

The Games Continue in Nicaragua

Nicaragua recorded its first coronavirus death on Thursday. Schools remain open in the country, and the Nicaraguan soccer league is still pressing on, without fans in attendance.

All 10 teams were set to play over the weekend, even as some disagreed with the decision to continue playing.

Diriangén, which was second in the league, posed for a pregame photograph on March 21 with 10 of the players wearing masks (the goalkeeper, for whatever reason, did not). Bernardo Laureiro, a player on the team, wrote on Twitter: “I don’t want to play, and I don’t understand my colleagues who don’t say anything. We are the protagonists, no one else. If a team has 30 players, and the 30 say they don’t want to play, don’t play and that’s it.”

On social media, Nicaraguans have been sharing the ironic meme “Be like Ortega” to encourage people not to go out. President Daniel Ortega has not been seen in public since February.

A Virtual Workout With Venus Williams

If you’re one of those confined at home, those excuses for being too busy to work out are seeming especially thin these days. Luckily, some athletes are there to help out.

Venus Williams has started a daily live short workout on Instagram in which she does squats and curls and such, and encourages her viewers to join in. Don’t have weights at home? Don’t worry, she has been using water jugs and champagne bottles as weights, too.

Also getting in on the action were members of the USA Field Hockey men’s and women’s teams, who are planning a daily series of skills challenges, and the former NHL player Brooks Laich, who posted some at-home workouts and challenged viewers to match or better his time.

Is This Thing On? Twitter to the Rescue

Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs got a big Twitter debate started when he urged followers to pick “the top 5 wideouts to ever play the game.” His replies were flooded with some 6,400 takes from pros and fans alike.

For Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams, the selection came down to Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones. Retired cornerback Antonio Cromartie substituted Terrell Owens for Jones on his list.

Carolina Panthers receiver Robby Anderson also tabbed the automatic choices of Rice and Moss and added Chad Ochocinco (who changed his name back to Chad Johnson), Steve Smith and Antonio Brown. Chargers receiver Keenan Allen threw Larry Fitzgerald in the mix along with Moss, Rice, Owens and Johnson.

Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders wouldn’t bite when Diggs pushed him to make a public selection. “Man, I don’t rank players at all. It’s the quickest way to lose friendships. That’s been established for years.” But then Sanders couldn’t resist adding, “Hint: They played in my era or before.”

One of the great receivers himself, Hall of Famer Cris Carter, broke his choices down into eras: Rice, Moss, Harrison, Owens and Johnson from the older crowd and Fitzgerald, Jones, Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and one open spot from the younger generation.

For his part, Diggs stayed coy, but he did say that Owens had to be in it, and also said, “I’m surprised more people not saying Julio.”

Retired NBA center Kendrick Perkins jumped in with his five best basketball players, selecting Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird. The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum was one who replied, offering up four Lakers on his list: James, Bryant, Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, along with Jordan.

Poker Is Still On. They Like Their Chances.

The National Spelling Bee was postponed indefinitely. The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has been moved to September.

And — perish the thought — the Eurovision Song Contest was canceled outright. How will the next Abba or Celine Dion, competitors in their unknown days, emerge on the music scene?

The International Chess Federation decided to pause the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg after Russia announced that flights to other countries would stop on Friday.

The tournament was halfway completed, and the results will stand until it can be resumed at a time and place to be determined.

The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, which starts its preliminary events in late May, is still on for now.

Casinos on the Strip are closed for now, with many scheduled to reopen after March 31.

People from all over the world converging in one place and passing cards around. What could go wrong?

Swimmers Are Getting Creative About Water

With most pools closed, many swimmers have become desperate.

Phoebe Bacon, a member of the U.S. national swim team, found solace in a teammate’s backyard pool. It was only 15 meters long, 10 meters shorter than a normal training pool, but it did the trick.

Her coach, Tim Kelly, tethered her to a diving board to add some resistance.

Nathan Adrian, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, trained in a 3-foot-deep pool used by the swim school he runs. It’s not ideal for Adrian, who is 6-foot-6.

Those who couldn’t find an open pool began to feel like fish out of water.

Yasmin Rieger, a member of the Wagner College triathlon team, practiced her stroke on dry land by lying down on a stool. She attached her paddles to strength cords and had someone throw water on her.

Bree Soileau, a swim coach and triathlete from Texas, took to the bathtub with her fins. She has also posted videos showing swimmers how to practice rhythmic breathing in the shower.

Preston Planells, a swimmer at the University of Iowa, did the 200-meter backstroke on his hardwood floor. Brock Brown of Indiana University raced dogs through the snow. Olympians Ryan Murphy and Josh Prenot pushed a car up the hill for their dry-land training.

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