A Virtual HORSE Competition? B-O-R-I-N-G

A Virtual HORSE Competition? B-O-R-I-N-G

Current and former N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. players competed in a virtual game of HORSE Sunday night on ESPN. The result? An air ball.

When the competition was announced last week, sports fans were ecstatic to have something — anything — even resembling live basketball to watch. That excitement faded quickly as the competition dragged on.

The videos, filmed by the players with their own cameras, were blurry, shaky and oftentimes awkwardly lagged. It was sometimes difficult for the viewer to tell if the shots, taken on the players’ home courts, even went in. Sound quality was poor, and it was hard to understand the players’ commentary.

Few competitors tried trick shots, even though the main goal of HORSE is to complete a shot so difficult your competitor can’t match it. Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky was an exception — she even made a shot sitting down. Her opponent, Chris Paul of the Oklahoma Thunder, couldn’t match it.

The semifinal will be played Thursday. Chauncey Billups will face off against Mike Conley, and Zach LaVine will play Quigley.

Andy Murray and his wife, Kim, have a challenge for tennis players: can you complete 100 straight volleys?

The two failed the first time, but made it on their second try. They posed the video on Twitter, encouraging players and fans to try it themselves.

The tennis world responded. Professionals like Novak Djokovic and his wife, Jelena, tried the challenge, and then asked for another competition.

“We’re here, we’re available,” Djokovic said. “We have all the time in the world. This is the funnest part of the day.”

It was a great chance for the young to show off their skills, and for the old to show that they still have it. And don’t forget about the pets, who always find a way to be included.

No partner? No problem. One fan did the challenge alone by tossing the ball back and forth between his racket. Other fans adapted the challenge by using their cellphones instead of a racket.

Play ball! It’s opening day. Ah, the smell of freshly mown grass, the crack of ash on horsehide, the cries of the Cracker Jack sellers … sorry, we lost it there for a minute. Actually, the opening day to which we were referring is in Taiwan.

Like basketball, baseball is back in Taiwan, where Covid-19 has been contained fairly successfully.

The Uni Lions beat the Chinatrust Brothers on Sunday, 4-1, in 11 innings, and more games are scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

There were no fans in attendance, but President Tsai Ing-wen and her cat were pictured watching the game on television.

Both the men’s and women’s soccer leagues in Taiwan also got underway over the weekend. VICTOR MATHER

Hammarby, a Swedish top-division soccer team, has resumed practicing. That would be exciting enough news for sports-starved fans, but making it all the more electrifying was the presence on Monday of the brilliant and colorful striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic gets attention wherever he goes. And his presence with Hammarby started eyebrows rising and tongues wagging because of supposed friction between Ibrahimovic and his current team, A.C. Milan, which he joined in December after two years with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Could Hammarby, in his home country, be a final stop for the 38-year-old Ibrahimovic?

Hammarby’s training sessions are being kept below the national limit of 50 people gathering in one place, although the excitement of Ibrahimovic’s presence might make it hard to keep a lid on the attendance.

“Zlatan has been home in Stockholm with his family during the break, and felt he wanted to touch the ball again,” Jesper Jansson, Hammarby’s director of football, told the team’s website. “Of course, we were in favor of it, so he was here today and trained.”

German teams are the highest profile so far to begin practicing, as a handful of leagues around the world start to creak back to life.

And in another hopeful sign, the player transfer rumor mill seemed to be cranking up. The BBC reported that Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur was not for sale, and Galatasary in Turkey was said to be interested in one of the few players as flamboyant as Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli, now with Brescia in Italy. VICTOR MATHER




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