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Schwartz: Getting By with Simulations and Classic Games

March 29, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

By the time you read this I will have virtually replaced the siding on my house, virtually fixed the SimpliSafe monitoring system that has never worked right, and given our dog a virtual bath.

Then, once there’s nothing else to do, I’ll sit down and read about Iowa basketball playing in the virtual NCAA Tournament and various matchups from the virtual NCAA Wrestling Championships.

Because this is where we are as sports fans. We’re so desperate for content that we’re rewatching old games and using algorithms to simulate new ones. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is where we’re at. Starved for content. Starved for the kind of spontaneous content that only sports can provide.

It’s made worse by when we lost the Hawkeyes. Another month, and we would have had at least some resolution. We would have found out if the Hawkeyes had won the NCAA wrestling championship. We would have found out if the women’s basketball team could make another run deep into the NCAA Tournament and whether the men’s team could have made it to the second weekend.

Instead, the power went out before the gripping conclusion. The plug was pulled just as the murderer was about to be revealed.

The pandemic stole our endings.

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This is where I write the obligatory: Not having sports is minor compared to what so many are going through. Yes – definitely. One-hundred percent. No should suggest otherwise.

This, however, is a sports column on a Hawkeye sports website, and for at least the next few hundred words we’re going to talk about how much we love and miss sports. We’re going to talk about how virtually simulated games, while nowhere in the same area code as real games, are better than nothing. We’re going to talk about how hard late Saturday afternoons are without college basketball this time of year, how hard it was for so many people last week when baseball didn’t start.

It’s important to talk about what’s bothering us, even if our concerns pale to the world’s much larger, far more real problems.

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If you’re a sports fan, and especially a Hawkeye fan, you might have learned the last few weeks of Netflix’s potential, but also its limitations. Tiger King is … fine, probably. It’s wild, good for a week or two of fun reactions on Twitter, but it’s not sports. It’s not the anticipation we feel when the Hawkeyes are scheduled for a 2:50 tipoff in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on a Sunday, when you wake up and it’s ALL you think about – it feels more important than mowing your lawn, than getting the weekend laundry done. Than going to church. For one day, Hawkeye sports is everything.

That … everything … has been temporarily confiscated by a worldwide condition that does not care how hard Luka Garza and Kathleen Doyle and Spencer Lee compete. COVID-19 doesn’t care what we want to watch.

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But here’s my hunch, and I’ve had this on my mind of a couple of weeks, because I think it’s true: Within 36 hours of the first mainstream sports contest returning – whenever that may be – we will stop missing all of the sports that were canceled. Sports are an in-the-moment spectacle bolstered by anticipation. When they return, it will feel as if they never left.

Until then, I’m good (enough-ish) with replays and simulations, because they won’t be around forever. It just feels that way right now.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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