If things were normal, today would be Opening Day for Major League Baseball. But nothing is normal. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch some sweet sixteen action in the NCAA tournament right now?
Of course it would, but the Coronavirus has crashed into the world’s room with all the grace of the Kool-Aid man.
Pete Rose probably regrets doing that “Kool-Aid for hot kids” commercial. How are they going to continue the baseball game now that there’s a giant hole in center field? Who is going to clean up all the debris? The Kool-Aid man sure isn’t going to do it. That was recklessly selfish of him. He should stay inside.
Everyone is suffering through the vacuum of entertainment that Coronavirus has created. Movie theaters are closed, the Olympics are going to be postponed and there just generally isn’t a lot going around right now. People are finding ways to stay entertained, but sports fans are going stir-crazy in their own way.
The thrill of live competition has been postponed indefinitely. Some are returning to the archives to watch 1990s NBA games while others are creating their own avenues to keep the spirit of live sports alive.
There are still sports to follow during this unprecedented time of social distancing. Here’s five ideas to fill the void and keep your sports brain from going stir-crazy.
1. Marble Racing
There’s something nostalgic about holding a marble. The smooth, glassy surface transports people back to childhood, but marbles have taken center stage for adults all over the world since all of sports was postponed.
Jelle’s Marble Runs is a YouTube channel where Jelle and Dion Bakker set up elaborate racing tracks for marbles and let luck and gravity determine the winner.
The channel exploded in popularity after a commentated version of a sand race went viral on Twitter. The video has 34 million views, and the Bakker’s subscriber count has increased 999% since, according to Front Office Sports.
Dion builds the tracks, and estimates he dedicates about eight hours a day to building the tracks during his quarantined time in the Netherlands.
The races are fun on their own, but when once you consider all of the names, teams, circuits, production upgrades and storylines the couple has come up with, it’s easy to fully commit to Marble 1.
The videos are short, fun and engaging. Here’s a look at their latest race. Go Snowy!
Esports is the gamer’s answer to traditional sports, and it’s one of the few competitive industries that can survive without face to face events. Competitive video gaming is on the rise, and can be a nice break from the Covid-19’s dismantling of the sports world.
There are a variety of different esports for fans to follow, all with the infrastructure of professional sports leagues. They break down into a few different sub-categories, but it might be easiest to start with the simple ones.
If you want to get into esports but don’t play video games much, a lot of esports will be confusing on first look.
These gamers are at the top of their craft, making split second movements and decisions that are too fast to comprehend without sufficient background. So for the uninitiated, it’s good to start with simple concepts like Rocket League or Call of Duty.
Rocket League is a soccer game where teams of three use flying cars to knock in goals. The games are only five minutes a piece, the action is easy to digest and the game lends itself to some epic moments. The last week of Season 9 is this weekend on twitch.tv/rocketleague, but you can look back through previous seasons as well.
Call of Duty is a first person-shooter where players strategically eliminate the other team. The league format is franchise based, which makes it easy for a new fan to latch on to a team from their region. Their matches are streamed on YouTube, which makes it easy to binge watch a few series.
Yes, there are a few video game related things on this list, mostly because that’s about all anyone can do right now.
Everyone has that game that just clicks. The mechanics come together, the player understands what the game expects and even casual gamers can feel like gods. Speedrunning is taking that level of skill and turning it up to 11.
The goal of speedrunning is to complete a game as fast as possible using sequence breaks, near perfect button inputs and any other trick the player can find to shave a couple of seconds.
Speedrunners take a 40 hour experience like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and found ways to finish in less than eight minutes. Its community is definitely niche, but the amount of precision and hard work that goes into claiming a world record is astonishing.
A good place to start would be googling your favorite game’s top times and finding the players who are pushing the times even lower. They’ll likely stream their attempts to break the record live on Twitch. If you just want to dip your toe in, check out some top ten lists on EZscape’s YouTube channel.
4. DougDoug Twitch streams
There has been a lot of mention of Twitch in this list, and if you’re not well-acquainted, then it’s time to give Twitch a shot. People around the world go live for audiences of 20 people to 20,000 people. Everyone can participate in the chat, and there’s a great sense of community on the sight.
DougDoug is a good streamer to start with. He does a series of challenges (the word “sports” in the title of this article should be taken loosely) where he performs seemingly impossible video game feats without ever touching the controller.
The challenge is always simple, but he adds an extra burden on himself that makes it borderline impossible. For example, DougDoug will attempt to drive across all of Grand Theft Auto’s map using only voice commands, where saying a phrase into his computer replaces controlling the game with the joystick.
Sometimes he sets experiments where people who participate in his Twitch chat can control the game by typing something into chat. The game is controlled entirely by what people enter in, and the results are pretty hilarious.
Twitch is a content goldmine and can really be an innings-eater with nothing on TV. Here a few other channels you should give a glance, depending on your vibe:
Brutalmoose – A chill streamer who plays a lot of relaxing games. Good place to turn your brain off and kick your feet up.
DrDisrespect – A Twitch megastar who plays exclusively first person shooters. The streamer plays a character that has taken on a life of its own. Traditional sports fans will get a kick out of his Macho Man Randy Savage vibe.
PayMoneyWubby – This is definitely the weirder, more creative side of Twitch, but Wubby is good for some NSFW laughs and focuses heavily on his community. He’s not afraid of embarrassing himself for his fans, and it’s quality content.
5. National Pickleball Championship
ESPN is currently airing the National Pickleball Championship. It’s literally just the competitors and the commentators at the event, but it is technically a sport, so it’s got that going for it.
Pickleball is like tennis for people who don’t like to run around so much. It’s played using a wiffle ball and small paddles, and is probably more fun to play than watch. There’s not a lot of viewing options right now, so watch Pickleball if you’re desperate.
This list focused on competitions that are still ongoing, but there is a ton of great sports content being produced right now. Here’s a whole bunch of other cool things people are doing in lieu of sports:
The Action Network’s Rob Perez is rewatching classic NBA games live on Periscope in his director’s cut series. Perez is incredibly funny and captures the essence of the NBA in the recaps. Check them out on his Twitter page.
Tom Ziller, formerly of SB Nation, is maintaining his daily Good Morning It’s Basketball newsletter even while the NBA is in limbo. He gives great insight, discusses hypotheticals and always posts a great collection of must-see sports links in each email. There’s a free and a low-cost subscription option. Subscribe here, and if you’re into newsletters, Lindsay Gibbs writes a fantastic newsletter about women’s sports called Power Plays.
Fivethirtyeight.com does a bunch of cool projections and simulations on sports and politics. They put together some projections for how the seasons would have gone, if you’re in to that.
That’s all I can think of for now, but feel free to comment anything else you are following below. We need some good things to focus in the face of this global crisis. Stay inside, stay safe and let’s get through this.