No Sports, Now What?

In the absence of actual games, leagues such as the NBA are turning to virtual platforms to engage with fans and maintain some sense of community. // Photo courtesy of 2k Sports

Throughout history, sports have often been a means of distraction from the hardships and difficulties of life that many people face. While sports are ultimately a form of entertainment, they also have a unique ability to galvanize large and diverse groups of people in support of a specific team. There are numerous examples of how sports have been able to rally communities of people after a tragedy or during a difficult time. Some of the most recent ones include Mike Piazza’s walk-off home run for the New York Mets in their first baseball game after 9/11 and the New Orleans Saints’ unexpected run to the playoffs in their first season back in the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 crisis has shut down virtually every major sporting event for the foreseeable future. The NBA has suspended its season indefinitely and while there is hope that it will eventually make a return, nothing is guaranteed. MLB has also delayed the start of its season, and the NHL and MLS are both on hiatus. Meanwhile, the NCAA canceled all spring sports, including the annual men’s basketball tournament famously known as March Madness, which was scheduled to conclude in Atlanta. 

However, everyone is trying to make the best of this situation, and different leagues are doing their best to fill the current void by providing resources for people who are stuck at home with no live sports to pass the time. The NBA has launched a #NBATogether campaign focused on building community while practicing social distancing. NBA League Pass, which gives replay access to every regular season game this year as well as a library of classic games, is now free. The league is also airing a classic game every night on YouTube during normal “primetime” games on major networks. This is a cool opportunity to relive some of the most famous games and moments in NBA history. MLB is also giving away access to their subscription service, which includes every game from the past two years. 

The NBA is also collaborating with ESPN to put on an NBA 2K20 tournament featuring NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Atlanta’s own Trae Young through the video game platform. The tournament began this past Friday and will continue until this coming Saturday. The league and sports network are also collaborating on the possibility of airing a virtual H-O-R-S-E tournament featuring different players competing remotely on live television. Such an event promises to be very well-received during such a time as this. 

ESPN has also moved up the premiere of “The Last Dance” documentary, which retells the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s from the perspective of their final championship run in the 1997–98 season. The first episode will air on April 19 and continue until May 17.

It remains to be seen how long sporting events will be put on hold. It seems likely that when sports do return, it will be without fans for some period of time. President Trump has expressed optimism that fans will be able to return to stadiums and arenas by August or September, but nothing can be stated with any real certainty these days. Obviously, nothing can replace the thrill of watching live sports as we see history unfold before our eyes, but all we can do is do our part by following public health guidelines and hope that real sports will be able to make a return before long.