For many Americans, the coronavirus didn’t feel like a real threat until the NBA initiated the domino effect of professional sports cancelling and postponing their seasons. Now, nearly three months after that first cancelled game in Oklahoma City, fans are desperate for a little taste of sports and competition, even if it comes from an unlikely source: virtual reality.
NBA Suspended Its Season on March 11
It was Wednesday, March 11, just seconds before the Utah Jazz was to face off against the Thunder at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Area, that the league announced the suspension of its season.
Rather than beginning the suspension on Thursday, however, the final game was cancelled after eager fans and players had already filled the arena. Members of the Thunder’s medical staff sprinted onto the court, spoke to the referees, and soon players from both teams were herded to their locker rooms. Fans looked on in bewilderment, concern, and ultimately anger and disappointment when the game was suddenly cancelled.
A message on the arena’s sign stated, “Per the NBA, tonight’s game has just been postponed.” Only later did a statement from the NBA reveal that the sudden cancellation was due to a positive coronavirus test from a Utah Jazz player.
All Other Professional Sports Followed the NBA’s Example
After the NBA’s shocking decision, it didn’t take long for other sports to follow suit. The NHL, MLS, and MLB all suspended spring play, while the NCAA cancelled all of its championships, including the men’s basketball tournament that supplies the majority of its annual budget.
The Masters golf tournament, one of the biggest sporting events of the year, was also postponed, followed by auto racing, tennis, and even the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Most statements published by sports organizations echoed the sentiments of the NBA: ““The N.B.A. will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Virtual Tournaments Tide Fans Over Until Real Sports Return
Shutting down the entire institution of sports, which is such a cornerstone of American culture, was painful but quick. Reopening, however, will prove to be even more difficult as organizations like the MLB scrutinize every single angle of risk and potential disease spread before, during, and after each practice, game, and team event.
As a result, sports anchors like Sam Adams at SWX in Spokane, Washington, are eager to keep viewers entertained until real games and matches begin again… whenever that may be.
Adams turned to sophisticated sports simulation technology as his solution. “I wanted realism,” he said, “but selfishly, I wanted to run highlights.”
Adams created the hashtag “#QuaranTourney” on Twitter to share his simulated NCAA Tournaments with the world, including “Brackets busted, dreams made true.”
“It’s a perfect distraction,” explained Gary Gorski, founder of Wolverine Studios, which publishes simulations for pro and college football, baseball, and golf. “Our games are so deep that you can sit there for a couple of hours. It’s a great time to get lost in sports.”