Sports that remain active amid widespread closures over COVID-19 concerns

For many sports fans across North America, we are entering uncharted waters in the wake of nearly every major sports league either cancelling or suspending play amid concerns of the COVID-19 viral pandemic.

The concerns from the general public are many, and as people begin the safe practice of social distancing in an attempt to stem the rate of infection, the lack of sports on in the evening presents an eerie absence of a relied upon respite from the stresses of daily life.

Sports, of course, are not the most important thing in the world, especially when such major issues are happening right in front of our faces. For many people, watching sports serves as a way to escape those realities, if only for a few fleeting hours.

If you’re a sports fan and you are feeling ready to grasp at some straws for entertainment, there are still a few options available to you right now.

Rugby

Despite several of the top soccer leagues in Europe suspending play, the Betfred Super League of rugby has decided to continue on.

The team Leeds Rhinos have decided not to travel to France for a fixture, but otherwise the league is continuing on with business as usual.

"The Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer have reiterated today that there is no medical rationale for restricting large public events such as sports fixtures – and our programme is therefore due to go ahead as planned this weekend," the league said in a statement. "For the moment, we hope supporters will feel comfortable in attending matches, and backing their clubs, in challenging times for everyone."

Additionally, in Australia, Super Rugby has claimed the show must go on.

Spectators will be welcomed for this weekend’s matches, and then the league will go forward playing games in empty stadiums.

“We are confident from this (Government) advice that there is no significant or imminent health risk to our athletes or fans for the weekend’s matches,” Raelene Castle, chief executive of the players association said in a statement. “At all times, any decision we make is with the health and welfare of those people front of mind. As this situation is evolving constantly, we will continue to review our position on a daily basis.”

NBL Grand Final

Australia’s National Basketball League is continuing on, playing matches with no spectators. They’re relatively high stakes games, as well, with the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats currently in the league grand final.

NBL Owner Larry Kestelman released the following statement:

"After consultation with local, state and federal authorities as well as our clubs, we have made a decision that the remainder of the Hungry Jack's NBL Grand Final Series presented by MG between the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats will be closed to the general public.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and follow all protocols as outlined by the relevant authorities. In the event of a player, staff member or official testing positive to Coronavirus we will immediately suspend the series.”

Former NBA player Andrew Bogut is leading the Kings, who are tied with the Wildcats at one game apiece in the best-of-five series.

UFC

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is still going ahead with this weekend’s fight card in Brazil. In fact, the UFC plans to continue with all currently scheduled events, with a bit of shuffling of locations.

The card in Brazil will be held without spectators, while the event March 28 originally scheduled for Columbus, Ohio, and April 11 originally scheduled for Portland, Oregon, will be moved to the 1,500-capacity UFC Apex arena in Las Vegas.

UFC president Dana White said the decision was made after a lengthy meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“[The UFC] always go overboard with health and safety, and that’s what we’re going to do here,” White said on ESPN. “I talked to the president and the vice president of the United States today about this. They’re taking this very serious. They’re saying ‘Be cautious, be careful, but live your life and stop panicking.’”

Olympic Wrestling Qualifier

The Pan-American qualifying matches for the Olympics will take place this weekend in Ottawa at the Shaw Centre Friday through Sunday of this weekend. The matches will take place without audience. Essential staff and family members will be the only ones permitted to attend.

Canadian Erica Wiebe, the reigning Olympic champion in the 76kg weight class, is one of 16 Canadians scheduled to compete for a spot.

The opening ceremonies of the event have been cancelled.

Cricket

Three one-day international cricket matches between Australia and New Zealand are being played in empty stadiums this week.

Australia won the first game yesterday by 71 runs, and if you’re feeling like staying up all night, the next match gets underway Saturday at 7:30 p.m. local time. The third match of the series takes place on Thursday, March 19.

E-sports

With the NBA season on a minimum 30-day hiatus, watching sports videogames on a live stream is probably the most feasible available remedy for basketball action in the interim.

The Phoenix Suns are embracing this route, announcing on Thursday evening that the team plans to broadcast a live stream of the team’s remaining scheduled games on NBA 2K20. The schedule starts Friday night, as the Suns will take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Aside from a pro sports team streaming their games, nearly every video game you can imagine is being played somewhere by someone for your viewing pleasure.

Pro Wrestling

Yes, we’re talking about “sports entertainment” instead of traditional sports in the purest form, but chances to watch some very high end athletes perform incredible feats of athleticism and coordination are currently few and far between. There happens to be a little extra pomp and pageantry thrown into the mix because of the nature of professional wrestling, and your mileage for being entertained by this sort of thing may vary.

WWE has yet to officially cancel any televised events, and this Friday evening’s episode of Smackdown will be taking place in front of no audience at the company’s training ground called the “Performance Center” instead.

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