If you’re a fan of all-things sports like me, COVID-19 shutting down, or at least postponing, most professional leagues has left a sports-sized hole in your heart. Fear not. While live sports may be sparse, there are plenty of TV shows, movies and video games to fill that gap.
Below, I’ve listed various ways you can enjoy different sports while under quarantine. If you don’t see your favorite sport here, there’s a great chance that ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN+ has something for you.
The NFL has made NFL League Pass free through May 31, and it’s a great way to gear up for the draft, relive classic games and watch some of the best football analysts on TV.
Football is the king of sports movies, at least in the states, as there is no other sport portrayed so intensely on the big screen. Some of the greats include emotional feel-goods like “The Blind Side” and “Rudy,” to comedies such as “Waterboy,” Keanu Reeve’s “The Replacements” and “The Longest Yard” (the 1974 version not the one with Adam Sandler), and more dramatic films like “We are Martial” and “Varsity Blues.”
My personal favorite movie of all time, and by default my favorite football movie of all time, is “Remember the Titans.” It’s so great because it can be watched in two ways. First, you can watch it all the way through and enjoy the inspiring moments and important moral themes of the film. Second, (only to be done after you’ve already seen it all the way through) is to skip through the in-between scenes and just watch the football games. For scripted action, they are incredibly entertaining and impressive.
Unlike almost every other sport, there is zero shortage of football television series. There’s “Friday Night Lights,” which is considered to better than most sports movies including its namesake, “Blue Mountain State,” for those that want to watch one of the funniest, albeit raunchiest, comedies in history, and there’s “Hard Knocks” and “Last Chance U” for those that want real action.
Unfortunately, “Madden” is pretty much the only football game on the market. However, if you happen to still have an Xbox 360, I highly recommend getting an old “EA NCAA” game instead. It’s from a time where EA’s only goal wasn’t to steal your money.
The NBA has made NBA League Pass free through April 22nd, so that fans can get their fill of basketball while the season is on hold. This means you can watch hardwood classics, replays of the best games of the season, in-depth analysis and specials for approximately a month.
If you’re looking for a bit more drama, basketball has one of the biggest repertoires of movies out there. From serious classics like “Hoosiers” and “Coach Carter,” to comedies like “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Semi-Pro,” to romances like “Love and Basketball,” there’s a hoops movie for everyone.
A guilty-pleasure, basketball favorite of mine is “Uncle Drew,” which stars basketball legends Kyrie Irving, Shaq, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie. While it’s certainly never going to win any awards, the comedy hits and Shaq’s comedic timing earns him redemption from starring in “Kazaam.” Plus, many of the streetball moves are genuinely impressive.
When it comes to American television, there is a serious shortage of shows where basketball is the sole focus, but there are several Japanese basketball anime out there that any hoops fan should watch, regardless if they typically like or watch anime. “Slam Dunk” is a 90s anime that follows delinquent Hanamichi Sakuragi as he falls in love with basketball, and it is one of the most realistic sports anime to date. For someone looking for a lot less realism, “The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays” is full of free-throw line dunks, full-court shots and last-second buzzer-beaters. If you just can’t get into anime, then I guess you can always re-watch the basketball episode of “The Office” on repeat.
Finally, as any hoops fan knows “NBA2K” is as great a source of basketball as the NBA itself. If you don’t have the money to buy “NBA2k20,” buy one of the earlier versions of the game series. They’re significantly cheaper, and, honestly, some of them are better than the newest iteration. All of them are better than NBA Live.
MLBTV is temporarily opening their 2018 and 2019 archives for baseball fans, and various sports networks show past games and specials throughout the day.
Baseball is another sport not lacking in movies. If you’re looking for something serious watch “42” with the amazingly talented Chadwick Boseman playing Jackie Robinson; if you want something to make you cry, watch “Field of Dreams,” watch “Major League” if you want to crack up, and if you want to have a serious nostalgia-attack watch “The Sandlot.”
Unfortunately, there are very few softball and women’s baseball movies and shows out there, but “A League of Their Own” is one of the few, and it happens to be amazing. Starring Madonna and Tom Hanks, preserved by the National Film Registry, this tells a fictionalized account of the real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. It’s charming, and its cast is a joy to watch regardless of gender.
Much like basketball, there are very few American baseball TV series that have hit off or even existed. “Eastbound and Down” is a great show that follows a brash former major league player as he is forced to teach P.E. at his old middle school. If the politically incorrect humor in shows like “The Office” offend you, this probably isn’t the one for you. In which case, I would once again turn you to Japanese animation. My personal favorite baseball anime (out of the literal dozens) is “Ace of Diamond” which follows the prestigious Seido High School baseball team and is a surprisingly realistic take on high school sports.
The best baseball (and sports) video game on the market right now is “The Show,” which, unfortunately, is only available for PlayStation. The older versions hold their weight and can be bought for cheap. For Xbox players, the best option is the not-nearly-as-good, but infinitely cheaper “R.B.I. Baseball” series.
There are a lot of other sports out there that didn’t have enough movies, shows or games of quality to write about. “The Miracle Season” is a campy but fun and inspiring volleyball movie that also deals with personal loss. The hockey film “Miracle,” based on the 1980s US Olympic team, is one of the all-time most inspirational movies of all time, and EA’s “NHL” game series is plenty of fun.
Boxing is littered with great films such as any of the first four “Rocky” movies and “Creed,” but there aren’t many great boxing TV shows or games. “AO International Tennis” is a great game for fans of tennis and fans of sports in general. “The Golf Club 2019” is a surprisingly entertaining golf game for any golf fan tired of watching “Happy Gilmore.” Soccer, despite its universal adoration, is also severely lacking in quality moves and shows, but the “FIFA” series can keep any soccer fan entertained throughout quarantine.
Stay sane sports fans.