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Why NFL needs to follow NASCAR’s lead, embrace eSports

Jesse Reed
2018 NFL draft

With so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming NFL season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it’s time for the league to truly embrace eSports as a viable alternative.

The skinny: The need for sports is real. In the past during times of crisis, Americans have flocked to sports as a way to regain a sense of normalcy. The COVID-19 pandemic is a new challenge, unlike any we’ve faced in modern times.

Everyone is stuck at home and desperate for entertainment.

A simple Twitter search of “missing sports” right now provides all the evidence we need that everyone is hankering for their fix. MLB, NHL, College hoops, NBA — it’s all canceled or suspended indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But there is hope.

The model: NASCAR has taken the lead when it comes to engaging fans and providing entertainment for its fans. It’s a model the NFL needs to take note of and follow.

Clearly, fans are engaged and loving every minute of the action. It’s become the best thing on television for sports fans on Sundays, with the only other real alternatives being pro bowling or re-runs of old classic games.

The sticking point: The NFL is still dead set on trying to wait out the storm with the hope that the 2020 season won’t be lost. The 2020 NFL Draft is still being held on April 23, despite general managers asking for a delay.

Players taking matters into their own hands: In the meantime, many NFL players are actively pursuing eSports as a way to pass the time, engage their fans, and provide meaningful financial assistance.

On Wednesday, NFL stars Denzel Ward, Jarvis Landry, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyreek Hill, DeSean Jackson, Deebo Samuel, Derwin James and Keenan Allen are taking their “Madden” skills public with a tournament that will be broadcast live on Twitch and will raise money for COVID-19 relief.

You can bet that thousands upon thousands will tune in to watch these stars duke it out in the virtual realm.

Just imagine if the NFL itself got involved and made these types of tournaments an actual thing people could count on every week. The potential to entertain is endless.

Not to mention, the NFL could raise a ton of money to help out during this crisis, if it chose to do that.

The bottom line: The NFL has to consider evolving to meet the unique challenge of the times.

This is especially true in light of a stunning, albeit necessary announcement Monday that the state of Virginia has a “stay at home” order that will last at least through June 10.

Barring some drastic measures, it’s going to be almost impossible for the NFL season to start on time — if it starts at all.

There’s no better time than the present for the NFL to make a meaningful trek into the world of eSports — the only thing that’s truly viable during an age where the best line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic is everyone staying at home.