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The Loop

Video game sports are actually making everything worse

April 06, 2020
New Orleans Pelicans

Layne Murdoch Jr.

If you missed it, NASCAR drivers are doing some kind of video game thing where they race each other virtually and people can watch on actual television. This is not a joke—these are the times we live in. I have friends who have gambled on this, and that's some good degeneracy, but oh my God, what have we become? There's an article on ESPN's front page about the results, and the only good thing about that is the detail that a driver named Bubba Wallace "rage quit" in the middle of a competition. (There's something about the name Bubba...if there was a golf equivalent of this, I'm sure Bubba Watson would be the first to rage quit.) William Byron won, but have we really stooped so low that this is considered remotely interesting?

The NBA's doing it too, with a 2K Live tournament featuring Kevin Durant, and it's airing live on ESPN and ESPN2. Why? If I were ever going to watch eSports—and I'm not—I would want to watch the best video game players in the world, not an actual athlete playing a game that happens to correspond with the one he plays in real life. I know we're starved for sports, and maybe I'm being a scrooge, but I cannot imagine this has any effect beyond making us even more acutely aware of what we can't see. Why not just do what Golf Digest is doing with the Masters this week, and run simulations of the events that have been postponed? At least then we're dealing with the sports on their own terms!

The video game substitutes are not substitutes at all. It's like if somebody waved a magic wand, and suddenly there were no more apples in the world, and then a guy came along and said, "don't worry, here's a piece of cardboard molded into an apple shape and painted red. Eat it."

I would not want to eat the cardboard apple, just like I don't want to watch Kevin Durant fiddle with a joystick. I want to watch Kevin Durant do amazing basketball things, and anything else is just a pale imitation that makes me miss the real thing.

The Better Idea of the Week: Reboot the old 'Superstars' show, but for remote sports

When I was a kid, I would sometimes see reruns of the old ABC show "Superstars," where stars from different sports would compete against each other in a variety of events to determine the ultimate athlete. As I remember, it was pretty entertaining! Why aren't we doing that now, but with events these guys can do at home? It would be great to see athletes doing athletic stuff within the confines of quarantine. I have no interest in a NASCAR driver playing a video game, but what if that NASCAR driver was competing against Kevin Durant and a bunch of other famous people in events like:

1.) Peloton cycling

2.) Eating hard-boiled eggs

3.) Push-ups 'n Planks

4.) Fastest one to dig a hole of three feet by three feet by three feet in the backyard

5.) Hucking a tennis ball really far

6.) Taking six shots and then having to run around your coach 10 times

7.) Lying on your back on the floor and seeing how close you can throw a tennis ball to the ceiling without it touching

Folks, that's a septathlon right there!

Sure, we're still in the planning stages, and I haven't thought this fully through. But the idea is a gem if it can be developed. "Superstars At Home" is a winner, I say! A WINNER!

I Regret to Inform You that the Pitinos are at it again

Look at this nonsense:

It's some bet about the WWE show airing Sunday night, where if one Pitino wins, the other Pitino has to bring his team to the first Pitino's gym, or something.

All I can say, about this and all the video games mentioned above, is that the sports content is decidedly BAD of late, and it's driving me nuts. Last week I wrote about how the content was GOOD, but that's because it came from announcers and civilians posting funny Twitter videos, where at least the system was a meritocracy—the best stuff got the most likes and retweets. Now it's all being foisted on us. I can't ignore ESPN showing video games. I can't ignore the Pitinos tweeting. Athletes and coaches are not made for these times. Give the power back to the people!

The only good sport right now is online poker

For lack of any other diversion beyond mowing my lawn and...walks...I have been playing some online poker with a group of friends. Turns out, and you'll never believe this, but being good at poker takes actual skill. Over the last three weeks, I have managed to soak up some very good advice from a few friends, and the feeling of being decent at poker is a complete power high. You start to recognize patterns in other players, and I'm not just talking about playing patterns; I'm talking about psychological patterns. It's still partly a game of chance, and annoying things can and do happen regularly, but with a few simple tricks, you can become better than the majority of casual players.

With all of that said, where's all the live poker on TV? Now that I know what I'm doing, at least a little, I want to watch the pros! I know they can't play each other in person (unless...plastic bubbles with covered armholes?), but this seems like a sport perfectly suited to playing and televising online. Hell, I'd even watch Kevin Durant play poker! But I'd prefer Bubba Wallace, because it would be hilarious to watch him rage quit after getting crushed on the river.