It's been a week since just about every sports league closed up shop in the name of social distancing. COVID-19 abruptly shut down the NBA, NHL, and MLS seasons. The pandemic led to canceled NASCAR races and PGA tournaments. It forced the postponement of all NFL offseason activities and, most likely, will delay the beginning of the MLB season. Just this past Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended there be no gatherings of 50 or more people anywhere at any time.
There's a large gaping hole in our lives that sports once occupied. It's truly a void that needs filling, and we have some ideas about that. Here are a few ways the various sports leagues can take their talents online and continue to entertain without spreading any virus droplets.
The NFL Draft should be an interactive experience. The NFL Draft was supposed to be in Las Vegas at the end of April, but that's certainly no longer happening. Now the NFL has to make a decision to push back the draft to May or June or do it remotely, like your fantasy football draft. It seems unlikely that teams will undergo a long delay waiting to confirm their rosters, so it looks like a throwback '80s draft where teams pick up the phone and call in their picks to New York is in our near future.
Thing is, it's 2020. The NFL can do a lot of fun things with this. Live-streams in the home of every player who is projected to go high in the first round would be a nice touch, as would simulcasts from analysts, as ESPN does for the College Football championship games. Let the audience hear the coaches and general managers calling the players when they make the pick.
Make this year's draft more intimate and less produced. The annual dog-and-pony show is odd anyway.
NBA players should run a videogame tournament live-streamed on Twitch for charity. If there's one thing we know NBA players love, it's videogames — specifically NBA 2K20 and first-person shooting games like Call of Duty. With the season on hold and a lot more time on their hands, the players likely have smoke coming out of their gaming controllers. Why not get together and compete for a good cause?
Twitch is a live-stream service that allows fans to watch other people play videogames (yeah, it's a thing) and even tip them. Imagine how many views and how much money a tournament between LeBron James and the rest of the All-Star players could make — and it all could be donated to helping the world recover from this coronavirus chaos.
Have players narrate rebroadcasts of their greatest performances. Wouldn't you love to hear what LeBron James was thinking during his legendary performance against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals? Wouldn't it be great to round up some of the Toronto Raptors players who tried to defend Kobe Bryant during his 81-point game so you could hear firsthand what it was like?
Hearing about those moments, live and uncut, would be compelling television. All of this, of course, could be done from home. It would be great content and a reason to tune in to watch a game we've all seen already — but never in this fashion.
An impromptu Home Run Derby and fan-judged Slam Dunk Contest via live-streams. Why sit around and wait for games when we can have some fun on the internet? Heavy MLB hitters could play by the same rules and the same number of pitches in a staged Home Run Derby live-streamed to fans. Proceeds from the stream could go to charity.
Remember all the way back to the NBA All-Star break when there was a bunch of drama about Derrick Jones Jr. winning the dunk contest? Let him and Aaron Gordon go at it again, either in person or via live-stream, and let every fan post a vote, with the highest average declared the true champion.
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We're desperate for sports content. Some events don't require an entire staff or audience to entertain.
Players should reach out to one fan a night via Facetime or Skype to spread some joy. This is a really bad time for not only the United States but also the world. Sports are normally there for us in our time of need. They are a distraction. Even after 9/11, sports were there to take our minds off the tragedy, if even for a few hours. Now would be a tremendous time for as much love and happiness as the sports world can ignite.
Every night, ESPN could air a special where favorite players call fans — preferably those who need it most — just to cheer them up. Seeing a larger-than-life star reach out in a positive way in these tough times would be must-see TV. We all need some entertainment right now, but sports can do us one better and spread some happiness — even if it's off the field or court.