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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

Sports leagues turn to virtual events as play is suspended for the foreseeable future

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With the sports world at a standstill, many are left without their favorite form of entertainment. Many can only watch classic games or their favorite sports moments so many times. As a result, some sports organizations and fans have looked for alternatives in different media: esports. This is how I’ve been receiving much of my sports fix, and I believe a few are worth highlighting.

One of these is Formula 1. With all of the races on the early part of the calendar being cancelled or postponed, and with more optimistic projections of the sport returning being early July, Liberty Media and Formula 1 have turned to the virtual world to provide fans with racing entertainment. They have been doing this through their Virtual Grand Prix, semi-competitive events on their official F1 video that correspond with when the real events would have taken place.

The races boast a colorful starting grid composed of former and current F1 drivers, junior Formula drivers (Formula 2, Formula 3 etc..), esports drivers, commentators, athletes from other sports and famous celebrities. While the stakes of these events don’t go far beyond bragging rights, they provide some form of competitive racing and a chance for people to see their favorite drivers interact in a unique and more casual environment with each other.

While most sports can’t get as close to the real thing as simulation racing, that hasn’t stopped them from trying to keep the competitive spirit in both athletes and fans. Many teams simulated the remainder of their regular season games on Electronic Art’s NHL 20 video games, with some even having their own commentators providing their play-by-play analysis. The NHL has also held many competitions between individual players and even celebrities. For example, current caps super star Alex Ovechkin and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky faced off in a charity event for COVID-19 relief. While neither had much experience with the game, both showed their fierce competitiveness and the game resulted in an exciting overtime thriller.

The pandemic has left the traditional esports world in an interesting predicament as well, with events normally taking place offline in venues. This has resulted in many organizers moving to online run events, and while there are issues hosting competitive events over potentially unstable networks, that hasn’t stopped some organizers from trying. VGbootcamp, a esports and tournament organizer known mostly for its work with the Super Smash Bros. Series have been running online events for the game with prize pools as high as $10,000. These events have had at times thousands of entrants with even more viewers and are pushing the limits of the scale at which these events can be run. could organize something similar. With all of the spring sports being cancelled, could there be ways in which athletes for these schools could scratch their competitive itch against regardless of how formal the events are? If not for the athletes, it could provide a great way for peers to interact with each other in an engaging way until we eventually go back to our normal lives.

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    Pam ValeirasMay 20, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Cool article! Great descriptions. I have to admit I’ve watched a few of these esports events too! I MISS SPORTS!

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