Passing the time

Pat Summerall and John Madden
Photo credit Photo: Herb Weitman - USA TODAY Sports

No NCAA tournaments or spring sports, no NBA or NHL playoffs, no baseball season, no Masters golf, etc., etc. 2020, a year unlike any other.

Obviously what's most important is staying safe and healthy, and working together to best contain the burden to be placed on our fellow citizens.

We're looking at weeks stuck inside. So how do fans like you and I bear the silence?

Sports is still out there, if you know where to look.


  • Old games on YouTube and other channels

The Buffalo Sabres are planning on putting some famous old games on TV in place of their live ones, and maybe also on YouTube. That will be well-received, in no small part because watching them live in recent years has been mostly joyless and depressing. They'll probably pick classics from the 2006 and 2007 playoffs, the late 1990s, and maybe even sprinkle in games from the 1970s and '80s. (The unforgettable Chicago game in March 2015 would be on my list, but that's because unlike sports organizations I have a sense of humor.)

I watch games on YouTube from the late 1970s and early 1980s quite often, but I do so with a certain purpose: I like how they sound. In the voices of Bob Cole, Danny Gallivan, Dick Enberg and Pat Summerall, I hear my childhood. I'll often turn on a game from that era late at night before bed, then listen and watch about 15 minutes of it before retiring. I never turn on a 1990s game -- probably not because one is better than the other, but because one is more comfortable to me.

When you have that impulse to watch sports after your work day, there are hundreds if not thousands of free options here.


  • Video games

Play them, or watch them. I enjoy both.

I'm not knowledgable about e-sports, but I know it to be a rapidly growing entity that very well may come to dominate sports watching. Looking back on old games is fine and good, but if somehow there were e-sports tournaments to replicate the NHL and NBA playoffs, knowing how good the games look would lead to me checking them out, if not diving all the way in. 

At my house, we found a video game that works for the parents and the children: Cars 3. We've had a lot of fun these last few nights racing against each other.

Is that sports? Count it!


  • Play outside!

One thing that's not mitigated by the current situation is exercise. It's available, and, it would seem, more valuable than ever. On Monday, my family and I went hiking on the Niagara gorge. We saw a total of three people doing the same thing over the span of 2.5-mile hike. Wide-open spaces, relatively risk-free.

Maybe a family hike isn't technically a "sport", but getting outside together is good, and it also has been therapeutic. In four days home together so far, we've been playing baseball in the yard, and the kids have been riding bicycles, skateboards and on roller blades. There's a lot you can do outside, and the weather of course is gradually improving.


  • Board games

Hey, it is what it is. From classics like Risk and Monopoly to newer games my kids like called Feed the Kitty and Pie Face (which is where people get hit in the face with shaving cream, IDK), all of it is good. It's bonding time, and it's good for our brains. I talked to Marty Biron on Monday; he said after playing three games of it over the weekend, he's had his fill of Clue.

I'm a big fantasy-sports player, and the dearth of live games has put a major wrench into how I normally spend my free time. But there's been one exception to that for me: Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I'm in four leagues with friends all over the country. You're playing a simulation -- essentially a board game, although it can be played on the computer as we do it -- and so you don't need live action to determine your outcomes. We play off last year's cards, and we drafted Saturday (AL only) and Sunday (NL only). Not getting together in New York and Philadelphia for these drafts was definitely missed, but the drafts went along online just the same. Now, we play our seasons.

If this interests you try Twitter or do a Google search to find or create a Strat league of your own.


  • Sports radio!

I had to say it. At WGR, we're in there talking sports every day just like normal. Obviously we're talking about real-life areas too, but we always do that. Follow all the football news (Stefon Diggs, Tom Brady, etc.) and, as upcoming weeks go by, tune in to listen to discussion about what each league's plans for the near future will be. There could be really interesting playoff-format ideas floating around particularly for the NHL and NBA -- if the overall crisis doesn't take us much past the beginning of June. (Maybe that's optimistic.)

It'll take as long as it takes. This is an unusual time for so many reasons, and the lack of spectator sports is certainly one of them. One thing this will do is lead to much introspection about how we spend our free time. Who knows if we don't come out the other end with a collectively different attitude toward sports? Maybe we'll realize we don't need them as much as we thought. Or, perhaps, vice versa.


Be well.