Professional sports and gyms were some of the first things to close once the coronavirus began to spread in the United States. The lack of televised sports made the stay at home orders especially difficult for sports fans across the country.
New Sports Fandoms
Fortunately, some people got very creative in quarantine and new competitive sports were born. Here are some new hobbies and fandoms you may want to check out that sports aficionados have discovered in quarantine.
For months it wasn’t clear if baseball would be able to have a 2020 season in the U.S. and so many Americans tuned in to watch players across the Pacific Ocean. The Korean Baseball Organization started its regular season on May 5 with empty stands. There is a substantial time difference between the U.S. and Korea causing KBO games to be aired in the U.S. in the wee hours of the morning. That didn’t stop thousands of baseball fans from staying up late to get their fix. Americans now have 10 new teams to throw their support behind.
Some KBO teams have been around since the early 1980s like the Doosan Bears and the Lotte Giants, while teams like the NC Dinos are barely a decade old. Without fans, baseball can’t have the cutesy fan competitions along the baseline or blast t-shirt guns prizes into the stands. But, the KBO found a way to make the empty stadiums feel less lonely by filling the seats with hundreds of stuffed animals. As one New York Mets fan (who wished to remain nameless) said, “at least now that I’m rooting for the Dinos, I can follow a team that actually wins.”
While NASCAR and Formula One racing were on hiatus, many racing devotees turned to an unlikely competition of speed and luck. Jelle's Marble Runs has hosted several seasons of marble racing, but their fan base grew exponentially during quarantine. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight sponsored their fifth season of Marble League this year. The comic racing event has stands filled with marble fans, color-coordinated marble racers, Lego race tracks, and its own high-energy announcer. It’s a fun alternative to revving engines and squealing tires.
Race fans that were looking for events a bit closer to the real thing, tuned in to watch simulation NASCAR racing. eNASCAR is available in 2 different series, the Coca-Cola Racing Series and the Nascar Heat Pro League. The Coca-Cola series runs on a 20-week schedule where 40 of the best simulation racers go head-to-head trying to win a $300,000 prize. They race virtual copies of NASCAR cup cars on famous race tracks that fans surely miss visiting. The Heat Pro League series gives gamers the chance to become an official esport driver with one of 14 eNHPL teams. The prize pool for the Xbox and Playstation gamers gets up to $200,000 dollars as they compete in 14 different events.
The Olympics may have been postponed, but that didn’t stop fans from recreating their favorite events during the shutdown. Roomba curling videos first hit the internet in 2018, but stay at home orders increased the numbers tenfold. Armed with a Roomba and a Swiffer, at home athletes got busy with their own competitions. Using a Swiffer, participants clear a path in an attempt to get the Roomba to head towards a specific target. It’s also a fun way to get your kids to clean the house.
In New Jersey, an Ocean County community has been gathering along the waterfront for socially distanced bingo. Neighbors discovered plastic bags with chips and bingo cards in their mailboxes. They then sat outside on their individual decks while numbers were called with the help of a bull horn. The Friday game night idea became popular and other communities across the globe have adopted the practice.
Since humans were staying inside, wildlife began to come back in a big way. Lots of people around the world watched out their windows as birds began to flock to their feeders and gardens. Competitive birdwatching made following our avian friends a lot more interesting. Some people compete solo by recording their backyard birds or venturing out into national and state parks. Other birders joined teams and tried to spot the largest variety of birds in a day in a particular area like in the Great Texas Birding Classic. The competition gets heated and ruffles more than a few feathers.