Updated: March 23, 2020 2:06:10 pm
By Victor Mather
Fans are growing restive as the reality sinks in: There are almost no live sporting events going on anywhere.
Many people finding themselves at home 24/7 for social distancing might be tempted to turn on the TV, only to find repeats of “classic” (and not-so-classic) games exclusively on the menu.
We found some sports (and some attempts at sports) that are still going on out there — Major League Fishing anyone? — at least for now.
Still On: Australian Rules Football
Down under, the news is brighter for the sports junkie. Australian rugby and soccer are soldiering on. And the Australian rules football season kicked off as scheduled Thursday night in Melbourne.
The atmosphere at the storied Melbourne Cricket Ground for Richmond-Carlton was eerily quiet. There were players, television announcers and a handful of team officials, but the 100,000 seats, normally nearly full of leather-lunged fans for the season opener, were empty.
“We Will Rock You” and “Mr. Brightside” were gamely played over the loudspeakers to try to create some atmosphere. But the lack of cheering and singing made for a slightly empty experience, more like watching a practice session than a pomp-filled season opener.
Many took a cue from the music and looked at the bright side. Ronny Lerner posted on Twitter: “Mixed feelings watching this. It’s sad, even depressing, with no fans, but it’s the best result of a bad situation. At least we’re getting to see some footy.”
Non-aficionado television viewers may have been baffled by the footy, but some at least gave it a shot; in the United States it aired on Fox Soccer Plus. “Not a clue what’s going on, but I’m watching live sports,” enthused someone with the handle “Illegal Daniel.”
Still On: Cherry-Pit Spitting and Miniature Golf, on ESPN
ESPN, home to football, baseball and basketball in normal times, planned to run cornhole, ax throwing, miniature golf, cup stacking, arm wrestling and cherry-pit spitting Sunday.
Feel free to read that sentence again.
That leaves TVG as America’s new ESPN, showing horse racing nearly around the clock. Gavle in Sweden runs in the morning, Gulfstream in the afternoon, harness racing from Saratoga in the evening and Swan Hill in Australia (a veritable sports paradise!) late at night.
“We hope that we can offer a safe diversion and a bit of entertainment for people, especially in light of the cancellation and postponement of so many sports events,” said Kip Levin, the CEO of TVG.
Why is horse racing chugging along in times like these? We’ll wager you can guess.
There’s Still a Torch Relay in Preparation for the Olympics
Organizers of the Olympic torch relay simultaneously kept the event going and urged people not to come.
It turns out if you stage a flashy event, people will turn up. Five hundred spectators watched as popular comedians performed at a ceremony in Ishinomaki.
“It is not a good decision,” Kiyotake Goto, 44, told Reuters of her choice to come to the event, “but I am not sure if I will get another chance to see the caldron.”
Can’t Actually Play Sports? Why Not Simulate Them?
There may be no Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, but Formula One plans to simulate the race. The result will be a “Virtual Grand Prix” with some of the actual drivers and celebrities behind the wheel using the video game F1 2019.
Unlike the ruthlessly capitalist Formula One series, in which the wealthiest teams tend to dominate, the virtual series will include a little socialism of sorts. “Due to the wide variety of gaming skill levels amongst the drivers, game settings will be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing,” Formula One said. That means some drivers, who aren’t regular gamers, will get advantages like reduced vehicle damage, anti-lock brakes and traction control.
Strat-O-Matic, the venerable board game, says it plans to simulate the baseball season with each game’s results — and statistics — announced on the day games were scheduled to be played.
Want to simulate some games on your own? The addictive soccer game Football Manager is free this week, and is setting records for number of players.
Leyton Orient, a fourth-tier soccer team in England, got the idea to run a simulated tournament on FIFA 20 and put out a call on Twitter to see what other teams might be interested in (virtually) entering. More than 100 answered, including teams from Italy, Sweden and Australia. The tournament gets underway this weekend.
We’ll take a shot and pick A.S. Roma to win the title. Can we bet on this somewhere? (Please?)
Signing Off: Soccer in Turkey. Still On: Africa and … Belarus?
Turkey was one of the last European leagues to keep its soccer season going, with top-level action played as recently as Tuesday. On Thursday, the leagues were shut down for a month. Basketball and volleyball were also halted.
Shortly afterward came the news that Abdurrahim Albayrak, the president of one of the biggest clubs in the country, Galatasaray, had been quarantined on suspicion that he had the virus, the Turkish sports newspaper Fanatik reported.
Fatih Terim, Galatasaray’s manager, had been outspoken in asking that the season be suspended.
John Obi Mikel, a Nigerian familiar for his years with Chelsea, left another Turkish team, Trabzonspor this week. “I do not feel comfortable and don’t want to play football in this situation,” he said.
Beyond Australia, soccer is now confined primarily to Africa, South America, and, for whatever reason, Belarus.
Pumping the Brakes: F1 Races
Formula One, which had already postponed its first four races, threw in the towel Thursday on races in the Netherlands, Spain and even Monaco, the glamorous site of its most famous race.
That would make the somewhat less noteworthy Azerbaijan Grand Prix the first event, on June 7. Switch those reservations from the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo to the Ramada in Baku, folks!
Even the World Championship of Snooker Has Been Canceled
The international wave of sports cancellations reached down into Central America on Friday. El Salvador ended its season, declaring Once Deportivo as champions, and Nicaragua shut down as well.
Also shutting up shop were lower-league English rugby union, South Korean women’s basketball and Olympic badminton qualifiers.
Bar sports had for a time seemed immune to cancellation, but snooker postponed its world championship at the Crucible in Sheffield, England, and hoped for a rescheduling in the summer.
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