The Best Sports Highlights to Help you Forget 2020 Was Canceled

Damian Lillard Buzzer Beater Robin Lopez Western Conference Quarterfinals Houston Rockets 2014 NBA Playoffs
Damian Lillard after sinking a last-minute three during the 2014 playoffs. Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Remember sports? Even for the most casual fan, it’s strange to turn on ESPN and see athletes playing video games or training from home. The pandemic has postponed or canceled every major sport out there, from Aussie rules football to the XFL.

At least we have the internet, which is able to function as a library for great old games. YouTube, in particular, is a treasure chest of past matches, from World Cup finals to Michael Jordan completely taking over arenas all over the country.

Soccer

Everybody loves the world’s most popular sport. FIFA TV has released a lot of great World Cup matches via the #worldcupathome campaign. There are some truly splendid matches, featuring some of the best to have ever played the game. There’s the infamous 2006 final between Italy and France in which the former won through penalties. The game is known for the head butt French maestro Zinedine Zidane delivered to Italian defender Marco Materazzi in extra time, but there are so many more layers to this great final. It’s a lesson in how to beautifully defend, something this Italian team did masterfully.

There are matches from the ’94 Cup when the United States played host. You can watch the artistry of classy players like Italy’s Roberto Baggio, Holland’s Dennis Bergcamp, the lethal Brazilian striker Romario, and even an aging Diego Maradona of Argentina. In addition to competitive qualifying matches, FIFA TV has included some excellent women’s games as well, like the thriller between the USA and Brazil in the 2011 World Cup. And there are plenty of highlight reels as well, if you don’t feel like a full 90-minute match.

Some games take a little digging, but channels like World Cup Nerd are likely to have them. One worth revisiting is the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals between the USA and Germany. It remains the furthest our country has ever made it in the tournament and there’s enough controversy to suggest that perhaps we should have ended up in the semis. For those who think the sport is slow and boring, try the high-octane affair between Mexico and Germany from the last World Cup in Russia.

You can always just spend a few minutes watching one of the greatest ever warming up before a game.

Basketball

We missed out on March Madness this year and that’s tough for even the mildest enthusiast because brackets and the college atmosphere are just plain fun. YouTube has plenty of great games, including full championship runs and historic upsets. It’s fun to trace your favorite NBA player’s college experience, like Carmelo Anthony’s title-winning year with Syracuse, Steph Curry at Davidson, or Russell Westbrook taking on Derrick Rose

There are countless NBA highlight reels that are entertaining but one of the most dramatic aspects of hoops is the game-winner. They’re mere instants in time but can be rewatched over and over again. And there are some fantastic ones, from Damian Lillard (against Houston and then against Oklahoma City) and the late Kobe Bryant to Kawhi Leonard and John Stockton (the celebration is as good as the shot).

You can always just watch the GOAT do his thing.

Football

A Super Bowl game is a great way to eat up a day as the games last roughly that long. One of the most attention-grabbing of recent history was Super Bowl 51, between the Falcons and the Patriots. Super Bowl 43 between the Steelers and the Cardinals is considered to be one of the better bowls out there. If nothing else, it’s interesting to watch sans commercials, which tend to dominate Super Bowl Sunday. 

If you’re feeling defeated and need a team that reflects you, try the Buffalo Bills. They made it to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s and lost them all. Here, they lose out to Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys. Sigh. You can always just watch the elaborate halftime shows

Other Sports

Perhaps it’s time to find a new and intriguing sport. Handball is high-energy stuff, especially popular in northern Europe. It’s a fun cross between basketball and indoor soccer, with tons of pump fakes and a lot of acrobatic play. Volleyball is every kind of entertaining, dependent on teamwork and a good old fashioned spike. If you want to get away, the Tour de France is a go-to. In addition to heated finish line sprints, mountain climbs, and time trials, there’s the ongoing backdrop of the bucolic French countryside.

Maybe you need to be reminded of just how fast humans can move. Or the beauty of synchronization. Or the back-breaking barbarianism of the World’s Strongest Man competition.

Try revisiting some bad ideas that are full of entertainment value. Like streaking at a pro sporting event or trying to catch a baseball from the stands. Settle into the simple pleasure of bowling a perfect game or splitting an arrow in the archery realm. 

There are enough leftover sports for all to enjoy.

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