Missing Live Sports? These Competition-Driven Alternatives Will Help Fill the Void
As colleges closed in March amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also called it quits, ending various sports seasons early — and just before March Madness. Apart from busting brackets, the novel coronavirus caused the National Basketball Association (NBA) to blow the whistle on the rest of the 2019-20 season. When March 26 rolled around, baseball parks remained shuttered, even though it was meant to be Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Opening Day.
All of these measures were for the best: Several NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 and, moreover, as this news was breaking, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were insistent that folks shouldn’t meet up in groups — let alone stadium-sized crowds — as that would only help spread the threatening virus. Of course, not seeing live sports, in-person or via broadcast, is a small price to pay when it comes to mitigating and slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nonetheless, it’s strange to flick on ESPN and see, well, reruns. If you’re missing competitive sports — and can’t keep arguing with your quarantine buddy about if Dottie dropped the ball on purpose or not in A League of Their Own — we have a few recommendations to help fill the sports-shaped hole in your viewing schedule.
1. NASCAR Goes Virtual With iRacing
After the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was forced to postpone races amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the association took a quick left turn into well-charted — but perhaps lesser-known by the general public — territory. Enter the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
2. eSports and “Let’s Plays” Bring a Competitive Edge to Your Screen
For the unanointed, the Amazon-owned Twitch is a live-video streaming service that hosts a variety of content, though the bulk of it is video game-related. Thanks to 2014’s viral sensation Twitch Plays Pokémon — a crowd-sourced gaming social experiment of sorts that garnered 1.16 million participants and over 55 million views — the once-niche site eclipsed YouTube Gaming. By 2017, Twitch became the leading live-streaming service for video games in the U.S.
3. Reality TV Shows Bring the Spirit of Competition (With a Side of Drama)
Like any genre of television, reality TV’s quality varies greatly, but, unlike other genres, this one certainly has a less-than-stellar reputation. Commonly made on smaller budgets than narrative-driven shows, reality TV is often about everyday people making fools of themselves or giving viewers a spectacle to mock and bemoan. However, these days we’re all hard up for a little competition-centric viewing and, as the saying goes, desperate times…
4. The MLB Breathes New Life Into “Fantasy” Baseball
If you’re missing the MLB, you aren’t alone. Sportscaster Joe Buck, who has served as the World Series play-by-play announcer since 1996 (with few exceptions), is certainly in the same boat. In late March, Buck took to providing commentary on ad hoc sporting events that amateur athletes — including two young members of the Hackney family, who played a nail-biting tennis match on a "carpet court" — have been recording in their homes during the shelter-in-place directives. While the resulting videos are sure to put a smile on your face, they’re only a quick remedy for that feeling that something is missing.
5. You Can Always Count on “Reruns,” Sports Docs and Talk Shows on ESPN and CBS
After the NBA suspended play, MLB and the NHL followed suit, as did Major League Soccer (MLS) and the NCAA, which, in addition to regular play across all sports, canceled its highly popular March Madness basketball tournament. Despite being a non-contact sport, golf was nixed too when the PGA Tour canceled the Players Championship after one round. In the wake of these season suspensions, networks like CBS Sports and ESPN have scrambled to find engaging programming.