In their scramble to fill the airwaves with content after the loss of their only valuable commodity—live games—ESPN and the other 24/7 sports channels have mostly opted to play the hits from the past few decades. The Worldwide Leader has tried to promote replays of iconic games like Cavs-Warriors Game 7, Texas-USC in the Rose Bowl, and Super Bowl XLII as true viewing events. NHL Network has shown marathons of Stanley Cup-clinching games. And as I write this, MLB Network is currently airing Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
It makes a certain amount of sense why the networks are doing this—with ratings surely plummeting, it’s the games with the highest levels of instant recognition that would likely draw the most viewers. But the constant wave of championship after championship has left me and plenty of other sports fans I know feeling empty.
When I cook in the summer, I like to turn the radio to the Yankees or the Mets as an accompaniment. When I come home to my apartment kind of buzzed, I love being able to flip on like an Oilers or Canucks home game in the third period. When I call my parents on Sunday evenings, it’s nice to have a prime-time game to for my eyes to gaze on in the background—one that maybe my dad is watching, too. And, of course, in plenty of social situations that are currently inconceivable, the presence of a random and meaningless game up on a barely-noticed TV is a regular feature.
This is what I’ve been missing: not the occasional thrill of a buzzer-beater, but the constant, comforting knowledge that sports are just always there. If you want, you can check them out and maybe see something awesome, but if you don’t feel up to it at the moment, it won’t be a life-changing mistake. The rhythm of game after game after game hums like a refrigerator—one with an endlessly replenished supply of snacks to grab whenever you’re hungry. And now that it’s completely gone for the first time in any of our lives, it only adds to the confusion and helplessness that has defined the past couple of months.
Often, I’ve filled this void with full-game replays on YouTube, many of them recommended by the very good QuarantineMLB Twitter account. For example, Madison Bumgarner smashed a pair of dingers on Opening Day in 2017, which was neat to see. The Red Wings and Rangers scored a bunch of goals and got into a massive brawl in February 1992, which brought me some joy. And this tape of a Cubs-Padres extra innings game from 1996 features not only Harry Caray, but all of the original WGN ads from the broadcast, which felt unique and fresh for someone who had never experienced either before.
There remains that uncanny DVR factor—the fact that any sporting event becomes inherently less exciting when you know that nothing can affect the outcome that has already occurred—plus the lost optimism of imagined title runs for a team looking especially competitive. But for now, it provides the background structure that I never realized I’d want so badly.
Unlike the biggest and most memorable games that permeate TV right now, these random contests have a calming effect when I cast them in my living room and half pay attention. Sometimes, a brief moment of normalcy comes just from the banter of two announcers. Other times, the ninth inning or third period actually does give me a jolt of excitement. And in general, it’s just always a pleasure to watch the top 0.1 percent of athletes do things with bats and balls and pucks that most other humans can only dream of, whether they’re playing tonight or in the distant past. Whatever it is, it’s better than watching death totals rise higher and higher on the news, while knowing the only thing you can do to stop them is staying right where you are.
So sports channels should follow suit. We all have extremely short memories (I’m not sure I could recognize more than a dozen regular season games from the past few years), and functionally, there is very little difference between April baseball from 2018 on TV and live April baseball on TV. So dig into the archives and pick out some exciting but low-stakes games—maybe a walk-off here, a pulled-goalie equalizer there—to put on the airwaves instead of just the instant classics (or even worse, a marathon of a Peyton Manning travel show.) It won’t replace what’s gone, but it’ll be a closer approximation of what we all miss.
Couldn’t agree more with this. I miss the mundane weeknight baseball games most of all right now.
April 21, 2020 — 9:06 am
I’ve been doing this too! Did you know Daniel Vogelbach hit his first career home run in an April 2018 home game against the A’s? I sure didn’t!
April 21, 2020 — 9:07 am
I would also recommend channels run entire seasons from sports that were never seen in the US. 2018 Australian rules football season anyone? Every day they could show two or three games from each week and in about 3 weeks you would get a nice recap of something that you have no clue what the result was.
April 21, 2020 — 9:08 am
As someone who has come home from a bar at 2 AM and drunkenly turned on the tv, I can confirm they do show that on tv here.
April 21, 2020 — 10:26 am
Usually only the Grand Final.
April 23, 2020 — 6:47 am
GET RAD says:
This would be amazing.
April 21, 2020 — 3:43 pm
I would say ESPNU has been doing this as far as their CFB programming the last few days. yesterday they aired the blowout Oregon-Arizona game last fall. They did some other routine and forgettable CFB games as well, and today my guide has the Auburn vs Texas A&M game scheduled at noon (but it does have the 2020 Rose Bowl airing at the moment).
April 21, 2020 — 9:10 am
I caught some random mid 2000s bowl on there ( think it was music city or another real meaningless one) with Phillip Rivers on NC State. Fun times!
ACC Network has also been doing marathons focusing on specific schools, and they have been real good for random games from a few years ago that nobody remembers, Especially for schools with less big moments like Georgia Tech or Boston College
April 21, 2020 — 10:10 am
lip balm says:
As fun as it was to watch the Cavs Warriors tilt again, I agree with you. Should Fox Sports Ohio, or Sportstime Ohio throw in a random loser every once in a while? Sure! That would keep things spicy. Show the Indians getting walked off one night…just to keep things fresh. When I tune in and know it’s a winner, even if I don’t remember the game, it takes a lot out of it for me. They should do a “this day in history” from the past 10 years and play whatever game is most competitive from that day, win or lose.
April 21, 2020 — 9:12 am
I will say, as a Cubs fan, I very much enjoyed that World Series replay as it was nice to experience it without feeling like I was going to throw up the entire time. Also definitely watching that opening day relay you linked later
April 21, 2020 — 9:12 am
Fox is going as far as making AI deepfake broadcasts of games that never happened. Just this weekend they showed a “1998” World Series game that the “Padres” played in. LIke, come on, we all know the Padres never played in the World Series. How desperate do they think we are?
April 21, 2020 — 9:15 am
Awesome's Razor says:
Yes, give me a random 4-game Indians homestand. Don’t even tell me what season. Line up the day-night double header so the sun goes down with me while I’m watching.
April 21, 2020 — 9:17 am
Also: Mundane Deadspin blogs are better than classic Deadspin blogs
April 21, 2020 — 9:18 am
Neil deMause says:
MLB.tv has made available for free its archives of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, but badly needs an “I’m feeling lucky” button.
April 21, 2020 — 9:19 am
Mundane games are better because you don’t know what happened in them. Show gae 6 from 1986 and everyone’s just waiting for Buckner to screw up. Show a random Braves v Cardinals game from 1986 and it’s almost as good as a new game because there’s genuine excitement at what might happen.
April 21, 2020 — 9:21 am
You are wise beyond your years Tim.
April 21, 2020 — 6:28 pm
I was watching Randy Johnson’s perfect game last night, and while that is certainly a big famous game, there was still something so comforting and low stakes about the contest. The announcers didn’t try and turn this into the most important game ever, but they got excited when Randy threw an awe inspiring pitch. It was mostly nice just to hear stupid regular season announcer bullshit like listing every Jones to play in the MLB at that point and the history of popular music from Georgia.
April 21, 2020 — 9:33 am
I very much would love to see NBC or NHL Network air some old regular season games where, like, Connor McDavid spends the whole game making everyone else look dumb. Hell, I’d take some good Mario Lemieux highlights right now!
April 21, 2020 — 9:46 am
One of the best things of a regular game is that, unless you go searching, you can legitimately not know who won. That gives it some of the fun you get from a live game. Think I know who won the May 17, 2009 game between the Rockies and Giants? In fact, without looking, I can’t even tell you if that game is even real.
April 21, 2020 — 9:50 am
God, what I’d give right now just to hear any baseball team’s radio guys attempting to fill airtime while a pitching change is taking a bit too long. I never thought I’d ever type something like that with sincerity, and yet, here we are.
April 21, 2020 — 9:51 am
Desi Relaford says:
I have been using the MLB TV app to watch games that I took my kids to last year. It is like a brand new game since all I saw when I went to the game was the top of the 3rd, bottom of the 5th and most of the 7th inning.
April 21, 2020 — 12:25 pm
What I love are reasonably ordinary games caĺled by great announcers. For instance, there are a bunch of 1970s games called by Keith Jackson on Youtybe back before his catch phrases become so fossilized.
The camera angles are simple, replay is limited, and the announcing is so efficient. It’s straightforward. It’s relevant. Nobody is trying to create a geand narrative for the game. It’s just football.
April 21, 2020 — 9:54 am
TBS, play the 1988 season of the Atlanta Braves in real time. An opportunity to listen to truly mundane games called by Skip, Ernie, and Pete. Also a great chance for everyone to remember some guys.
April 21, 2020 — 9:58 am
Son Soiled says:
I have watched Major League 27 times just so I could hear Bob Uecker do play-by-play again.
April 21, 2020 — 10:01 am
“You can’t say “Damn” on the air!”
“What’s it matter? No one’s listening anyway.”
April 21, 2020 — 7:49 pm
If you miss live announcers, NBC Sports in Philly has been televising EA Sports simulations of the actual games on the schedule for the Phillies/Sixers/Flyers and having their actual broadcast crews “call” the “game” as if it were real. Which does still leave lots of stoppage time for the broadcasters to try to fill in by assigning emotions to pixels and gigabytes.
It is wild. You get things like Keith Jones saying “Carter Hart really seems to be settling down now and finding his rhythm after being rattled here in his his first playoff game” about a video game.
April 21, 2020 — 10:05 am
Also, I know what happens in the big famous games. Watching a classic Finals or Super Bowl or whatever is fun in the way that rewatching a favorite movie is fun, but it’s also nice to turn on a game and not know the final score as soon as it starts. Who won the July 29, 2006 game between the Brewers and the Reds? How the fuck would I know? Let’s watch it and see!
April 21, 2020 — 10:11 am
That Cubs-Padres game Lauren linked to is video gold — after the game there are a few minutes of SportsCenter from that day, and it ends with the men’s basketball national championship wrapup & a One Shining Moment. Not that I watched it or anything.
April 21, 2020 — 10:21 am
Great take. The only actual enjoyment I’ve derived from watching sports in the past month has been from the 2019 Red Zone replays the NFL Network has been rolling out over the past couple of weeks. Even though this shit happened like six months ago I only remember the outcomes of a handful of these games. But then I get a little extra jazzed too when I do remember something before it happens and can anticipate it, like the spin move Lamar put on the Bengals or that amazing fake FG flip pass the Dolphins broke out against Philly
April 21, 2020 — 10:55 am
100%. Recently when I’m folding laundry or cleaning I’ve been watching the 1990 San Francisco Giants home opener vs. the Padres, a couple innings at a time. I think it’s a Sunday night ESPN broadcast. Ed Whitson vs. Scott Garrelts, Bip Roberts leading off, commercials included … it’s wonderful. Low-stakes, relaxing nostalgia.
April 21, 2020 — 10:56 am
I was unemployed for all of 2009, but knowing that just about every night I could turn on a baseball game for my team (I lived well out of market at the time) gave some sort of normalcy to the day. I used to get mad every February about the random renewing MLB tv charge showing up in my bank account, but by July, I was always thankful.
April 21, 2020 — 11:01 am
Broadcast the games with the best of mundane conversations between tv/radio guys! No one better than the GOAT bob uecker talking about furries in a meaningless brewers pirates game from 2007:
April 21, 2020 — 11:11 am
Gladys Knight and the Wally Pipps says:
Let’s Remember Some Games
April 21, 2020 — 12:09 pm
Young Drachma says:
This is part of why those Taiwan baseball games are so good. On mute and staring at the TV on Saturday, I didn’t really notice — or care — what two teams were playing, other than it resembling something like realtime.
April 21, 2020 — 1:00 pm
I don’t get what the issue is with this? Ever watched NHL Network during the summer? I did the one summer I was both unemployed and had just gotten access to the NHL Network. It’s non-stop Stanley Cup games with commercial brakes that feature only commercials about penny auctions and reverse mortgages. On the opening day of free agency they simulcast Canadian coverage. I assume that’s what other league networks do during their offseasons.
April 21, 2020 — 1:10 pm
David Dyte says:
I’ve really been enjoying Red Zone showing whole NFL Sundays from through this past season again. I can’t remember how most of the games ended up, and it’s just fun to dip and see a bunch of random touchdowns scored by some guys.
April 21, 2020 — 1:13 pm
A few weeks ago I went onto youtube and searched “classic mlb games.” for some reason one of the search results was a truly random cubs-reds game from 1988. I guess the game merited its place in the pantheon because the cubs’ starting pitcher was making his debut and threw a complete game. I grew up in that era, watching cubs games and trading baseball cards, and the guy was not familiar to me at all. But it was a day game at wrigley, harry caray was announcing, and it had nothing to do with worldwide pandemics, so i enjoyed it thoroughly.
April 21, 2020 — 1:18 pm
In the middle of a Phillies season, I’ll often cook or just sit on the couch with a beer while listening to the games on WIP.
When feel like getting up, sometimes I’ll mimic the pitching style or batting stance of whoever’s playing.
Part of me hoped they’d just re-broadcast 2019 games. Instead, we’re just getting four hours of Joe Giglio…
April 21, 2020 — 1:39 pm
Well Placed Rocket says:
“Super Bowl XLII as true viewing events”
Hell yeah, man. Hell yeah.
April 21, 2020 — 1:45 pm
I’ve actually been doing this very thing on my MLB.tv streaming. I miss ordinary games, and so randomly I have been streaming White Sox games from the exact date one year ago. It’s mostly new because in middle age there’s no way I remember the score of a Sox-KC game from 365 days ago. I know the 2019 White Sox are still mostly terrible, but it’s still nice.
April 21, 2020 — 5:50 pm
The Commentarrorist says:
Man, I miss staying up late to watch Western Conference (live in Eastern) NHL/NBA games on weeknights. Just some random Spurs Clippers or Dallas-St.Louis to make me feel indulgent for staying up late for no reason other than I like sports on a skool night.
April 21, 2020 — 7:44 pm
I’m a White Sox fan living with a Tigers fan in Detroit, and we haven’t really been watching baseball since the Tigers fell apart a few years ago (White Sox were finally supposed to be watchable this year…)
What we have missed, though, is doing all of our regular chores, like laundry, dishes, etc, with racing on in the background. You never really have to pay that close attention until near the end, but it’s easy to just take a glance and catch up on the race so far.
Anyway, the best mundane Tigers game might be the “they can’t stop Don Kelly” game
April 28, 2020 — 11:15 am