Athletes Find Solace in Esports as Sports Feel the Impact of Coronavirus


by in General | Mar, 20th 2020

The winding tendrils of the coronavirus have impacted millions around the globe in the past month. Countries closed their borders, businesses shut down, and people are staying home and social distancing themselves. In these trying times, sports have traditionally been the way we as a society come together to still experience comradery and friendship, social needs we as a species need to keep our mental sanity.

Normally in a crisis, these sports outings would have a moment of silence or a speech made regarding the situation, as had happened with Kobe Bryant’s death, but the event still goes on. With the coronavirus outbreak, however, sports across the globe postponed or canceled outright. It left many fans without another source of entertainment and comfort in these trying times. The coronavirus has been especially problematic for sports athletes, defined by the game they play and the brand exposure they build. With lockdowns likely to go on for the next few months, what are athletes to do to keep that exposure up and not be forgotten about by the time everything resumes?

For some, the answer has been doing volunteer work or raising money to support those fighting the virus. For others, though, the answer lies in a surprising place: gaming and streaming.

Balls and Pads for Mice and Keyboards

With athletes confined at home amidst the outbreak, many have turned to gaming to help pass the time. Some have even turned the connective nature of streaming to keep themselves going. Sports athletes such as Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns basketball team have been streaming for a while. Now, other athletes such as Luka Doncic and Josh Richardson are getting in on the streaming game, too.

Others have taken a more competitive approach to downtime. Several F1 drivers are taking part in a virtual race run by online motorsports news site The Race. It has been working to set up and run an esports initiative called the All-Star Esports Battle using the game rFactor 2. The game is a racing simulator and real-life pro drivers and esports driving pros, such as Rudy van Buren and Brendon Leigh, have been competing against each other in it for a chance at the top prize (though what exactly that is is unknown at this time). Other real-life drivers, such as Stoffel Vandoorne and Lando Norris of Formula One, took part in another tournament for the game F1 2019 called the Not the Australian GP held by Veloce Esports.

And it’s not just athletes taking part in these esports events. Several major soccer teams in Europe have taken to using FIFA 20 to simulate or play out matches they would otherwise be playing. Tech news site Engadget noted that La Liga, the Spanish soccer/football league, saw two clubs, Real Betis and Sevilla, have two of their starting players play the game against each other to play their canceled match, a game that drew in over 60,000 viewers to the stream. Several clubs in Britain have also gotten together to host their own tournament in-game between teams while the virus dies down, with a tournament featuring teams already in FIFA 20.

It’s a tough and trying time for the entire world right now. But it’s good to see traditional sports are finding ways to still engage and keep fans entertained as they face strict quarantines around the globe due to the coronavirus. We’ll continue to cover the impact of the virus outbreak on the gaming community as the situation develops, so stay tuned.

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