Esports provide solace to fans


Cameron Spurr and Isabel Link.

Fans have turned to esports to find some relief as leagues across the world have ground to a halt. Map used with permission from Wikimedia Commons.

Cameron Spurr, Lead News Editor

For sports fans, not being able to watch live sports has been a huge contributor to our neverending boredom. Before lockdown, if I stayed inside on a Sunday, it was because sports were on TV the entire day, not because I was forced to. 

A few weeks ago, I received a promotion email from the National Basketball Association which piqued my interest. I usually just trash these emails, but the subject intrigued me: Watch Sergio Aguero play NBA2K Sundays with Thibaut Courtois tonight!” For those who don’t know, Aguero and Courtois are both famous footballers, and, three months ago, the prospect of the two logging into a basketball video game and battling it out would have been unthinkable.

With little else to do, and with a passion to continue their sport in some form, many sports leagues have begun regularly hosting gaming events like this. Sports teams and leagues have not only lost their primary streams of revenue, but also the ability to showcase their sport to viewers across the world. Yet, by broadcasting their sport virtually, they can still do so, just in a different form. 

Virtual events have not only been able to bridge gaps between different sports, but also between people across the world at a time when this connection is needed most.

The athletes themselves are clearly bored with the loss of their seasons too. Some upload trickshot videos to their social media while others are joining these gaming events. I’m no professional athlete, but I assume that just like us fans, they can appreciate the increase in virtual sports content as well.

We often forget that sports leagues are for-profit corporations, and with no viewership or live attendance, business has plummeted dramatically. To some extent, virtual events might actually be able to provide at least some financial consolation. Ad revenue and sponsorships now pop up on the screen, rather than on jerseys, providing another form of revenue for sports teams. Attendance that used to be recorded by the number of seats filled in an arena is now represented by the number of viewers watching a Twitch stream.

I’m a big Formula 1 fan, and F1 has been putting in a lot of effort to keep their fans entertained during the lockdown. For one, they take their fans back in time by live-streaming races from back in the 80s, as well as more recent ones. They also host virtual races on the F1 2019 game with professional drivers, athletes from other sports, and celebrities taking part. 

The racing is admittedly quite poor, but it’s funny to watch singer Liam Payne line up on the same grid as golfer Ian Poulter. I suppose this atypical crossover is exactly the kind of thing we get to enjoy under lockdown. F1 seems to be scheduling these events following what would have been the real-life 2020 race calendar, which returns a small sense of normalcy to this odd situation.

I do strongly advise you to check out your favorite sport’s social media to see if they are doing events like these. At the very least, they cure your boredom for one or two hours. Unfortunately, in the end, no matter how arduously virtual sports try to console our loss, the sporting world will continue to look forward to the next real-life display of its beloved pastimes.