23 April 2020 – From Premier League stars reliving their own iconic moments to the documentary that broke records in America, the lack of sport during the coronavirus lockdown has triggered a wave of nostalgia among fans and players.
With virtually no live action anywhere in the world due to the pandemic, sports lovers have been forced to go cold turkey over the past two months.
Whether it is the Premier League being postponed, cricket tours being cancelled or US leagues going into hibernation, the sudden shutdown has been a shock to the system.
Searching for a sense of normality in troubled times, fans have turned to comforting trips down memory lane.
In England, Premier League and Championship clubs have been keeping their supporters entertained by turning back the clock.
Many teams have posted entire matches from the past on their websites and YouTube channels, along with individual players’ finest moments and interviews with old stars.
As part of their “Cityzens at Home” campaign to encourage supporters to respect lockdown rules, Manchester City organised a Twitter event, tweeting clips from their 2017 Champions League win at Napoli.
Sergio Aguero, who became City’s all-time leading scorer with his goal in the game, joined in with video commentary on the 4-2 win and fans tweeted their own descriptions of key moments as though the match were happening in real time.
Such is the desire to remember happier times that even a boy’s recreation of Paul Gascoigne’s classic FA Cup semi-final free-kick for Tottenham against Arsenal in 1991 briefly became a Twitter sensation.
Thousands of social media users saw the youngster, wearing a Spurs kit from that season, smashing his shot over two rubbish bins and into the top corner of a small goal before copying Gascoigne’s Wembley celebration.
Television companies have responded to the absence of scheduled matches by feeding the appetite for nostalgia.
The BBC has rebranded Match of their Day as the long-running Premier League highlights programme switches to showing memorable matches selected by the show’s pundits including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright.
In July, the BBC will show the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics alongside highlights from the rest of the London Games and Rio 2016, replacing coverage of what should have been Tokyo 2020.
Filling the void left by Euro 2020, which is delayed until 2021, they will show matches from Euro 96 and classic Wimbledon contests will be screened during the July fortnight normally dominated by tennis.
“In these unprecedented and difficult times we are delighted to bring some of the most incredible sporting events from years gone by to our audiences,” the BBC’s director of sport Barbara Slater said.
Sky and BBC radio allowed cricket lovers to relive the drama of Ben Stokes’s unforgettable 135 not out in the third Test against Australia at Headingley last year.
Sky’s programme included a “watchalong” segment that saw Stokes and captain Joe Root dial in via video-link.
Even newspapers have got in on the act.
The Guardian has run a series of “as-live reboots of classic sporting events” including Jack Nicklaus’s win at the 1986 Masters and Italy’s victory over Brazil at the 1982 World Cup.
Jordan smash hit
In the United States, basketball fans successfully campaigned to get ESPN to move its eagerly anticipated 10-part Michael Jordan documentary series ‘The Last Dance’ from June to April.
Jordan is widely regarded as the NBA’s best-ever player and ESPN said Sunday’s first two episodes, which focused on his final title-winning season with the Chicago Bulls, were the most-watched documentary content in the company’s history, with an average of 6.1 million viewers.
Encapsulating the public’s enthusiasm for some sporting escapism, Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson tweeted: “Michael Jordan’s Last Dance was fantastic and I loved all two hours of it.
“Young fans that never got to see Michael play now understand why he’s the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) of basketball!”