In response to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly every major sport league on the planet has chosen suspend or delay operations indefinitely—and rightly so. But the decision has left sports fans around the world wondering what their sports programming options will look like during mandatory self-isolation.
There won’t be any new games for awhile, but thankfully, it’s easier than you’d think to stream sports and sports-adjacent content right now. Whether you’re looking for full-length replays, throwback matches, or engrossing documentaries, there’s plenty of stuff out there to fill the sports-shaped hole in your heart—even if you don’t subscribe to any streaming services.
Check your usual broadcasters for recent replays
It’s likely that you, a sports fan, already have a few go-to sites for your favorite league(s); if you’ve missed any matches in the last month or so, those are your best bet for catching some replays. ESPN and its sister channels are airing past games to fill airtime during league shutdowns, while ESPN+ has a pretty good selection of replays on demand—mostly soccer, rugby, hockey, baseball, and UFC. (Seriously, so much UFC.) NBC Sports offers a massive catalog of events dating back about two months, including full Premier League matches and just about every winter sport you can shake a ski pole at. (The more niche shit like track cycling and ice dancing is, of course, limited to NBC Sports Gold—so if you’re among the literal dozens of Gold subscribers, I suppose your moment has finally arrived.) And even though it’s not exactly baseball season right now, Major League Baseball is currently streaming one classic game per team on its website, completely for free.
For (almost) everything else, YouTube has your back
Once you’ve worked through all the games you were too busy to watch in a pre-coronavirus world, you’ll probably be in the mood for some deeper cuts. This is where YouTube comes in. Some leagues actually upload a ton of content to their official channels for free: the NFL channel maintains a playlist of classic games, MLB’s channel has a bunch of Game of the Week streams, and MLS has been regularly streaming live-streaming recent matches on their channel since the league suspended operations last week. And, on a topic near and dear to my heart, nearly every NWSL match that has ever been played is streaming in full on YouTube (pre-2017) or the NWSL website (2017-present). (Hint: On the latter, videos are located under “Game Info.”)
If your favorite league or tournament’s official channel is kind of a bust, it’s not over. No matter what you’re into—80s NBA, Olympic shot-put trials, futsal World Cup matches, iconic Australian Open showdowns, and literally anything and everything else you can think of—I can guarantee that, somewhere, a like-minded person has already uploaded it. I’m not linking directly to unofficial channels here because I don’t want to blow up anyone’s spot, but I promise that YouTube has all the classic sports content you can handle, and then some.
Don’t forget about documentaries
A great sports documentary is a beautiful thing, and right now we’re truly spoiled for choice. ESPN+ subscribers can watch all episodes of 30 for 30—including O.J.: Made in America, a strong contender for the best documentary of all time—which might be worth the $5 monthly fee alone. Amazon Prime has a surprising amount of sports programming, including original series like All or Nothing and This is Football. HBO Go reigns supreme, offering an enormous selection of excellent original documentaries: Women of Troy, about women’s basketball at USC in the 1980s; Fists of Freedom: The Story of the ‘68 Summer Games; Being Serena; Andre the Giant; Diego Maradona; I mean, the list just goes on and on.
Of course, there are totally free options out there, too. Most notably, Ken Burns’ legendary Baseball is streaming on PBS for the foreseeable future—by request of the director himself. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Derby Days from Copa90 on YouTube, which explores iconic rivalries in world soccer; the absolutely insane Portsmouth/Southampton episode is a great place to start.
We may not know for sure when sports will be back, but until then, at least we have replays—and each other. If watching sports is a big part of your social life, get your friends together (online of course!) and choose something to watch during your usual game time. It may not be quite the same, but it sure beats going outside right now.