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Here are 7 'sports' to watch while real, live sports are on hiatus

Starved for live competition? Check out these spectator sports for our quarantined times, from wrestling to marble racing(!) to virtual NASCAR.

marble-racing
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

In a typical year, late March is one of the best times of the sports calendar. You have the madness of the NCAA basketball tournament and the start of the baseball season, as the NBA and NHL seasons hit their stretch runs toward the playoffs. All of this fun and these games have been washed away in this most atypical year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. 

While you'll find replays of past sporting events on TV as ESPN and other networks scramble to fill their broadcast schedules, you won't find any live games to help fill your quarantined days and nights. If you are running out of things to watch on Netflix, here's a handful of alternate and simulated sports you can watch online or on TV while you're stuck at home.

eNASCAR iRacing

With its engines silenced, NASCAR quickly pivoted and started the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Its first virtual race featured 35 current and former drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. who lost the lead on the final turn to Denny Hamlin. The race drew a big audience on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) -- so much so that Fox has decided to broadcast virtual races for the rest of the NASCAR season. Like real races, virtual races will feature live commentators. For the first race, Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds provided commentary from the NASCAR studio, with Clint Bowyer offering "in-car" analysis. The next virtual NASCAR race airs this Sunday, March 29 at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) on FS1 at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway. 

Phoenix Suns on Twitch

Actual NBA games are on hold, but one NBA team is still moving ahead with the rest of its season. The Phoenix Suns announced that it will play out the remaining games on its schedule virtually via NBA 2K20 on the team's Twitch channel. And the Suns' social team is treating the games like the real thing, posting highlights and recaps to the team's Twitter page

Watch Welcome to the Phoenix Suns Twitch channel! from Phoenix_Suns on www.twitch.tv

The next Phoenix Suns game on the schedule is Friday, March 27 at 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m PT) against the 76ers. Games are streamed live on Twitch and then rebroadcast on Fox Sports Arizona. For Friday's game, Mikal Bridges is slated to play as the Suns against a yet-to-be-announced opponent taking the controller for Philadelphia.

NHL on Twitch

The Los Angeles Kings are following the Phoenix Suns' lead and playing out the rest of its season on Twitch. That's great if you're a Kings fan, but something called the IceTilt League has sprung up on Twitch and is simulating every game for the rest of the season. Check out IceTilt on Twitter for nightly schedules, box scores and updated standings. Amazing work.

MLB on Twitch

Trevor May is a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins and an avid gamer. He streams Call of Duty: Warzone along with the newly released MLB The Show 20 to his nearly 160,000 followers on Twitch. Reportedly, he plans to stream 6 to 8 hours a day on Twitch until MLB baseball starts and looks forward to taking on other big leaguers in MLB The Show tournaments soon.

Straight-up esports

There are, of course, plenty of esports leagues streaming on Twitch that involve games not based on a major American sport. Check out Twitch for long-time favorites such as CS:GO, League of Legends and Overwatch.

Professional wrestling

Strangely, it appears that the only nonsimulated sport you can watch on TV right now is fake. The WWE is still moving forward for the time being with its usual wrestling shows: Raw, NXT and SmackDown. Instead of holding events in packed arenas around the country, the WWE is now staging its matches and recording its shows from its Performance Center training facility in Orlando, Florida, with only essential personnel in attendance. Raw is broadcast on USA Network on Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT). NXT is shown on USA Network on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT). SmackDown is featured on Fox on Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT). 

Looking forward on the wrestling calendar, WrestleMania 36 is still on schedule for early April. It has been moved from a one-night event at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and will now be broadcast over two nights  -- Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5 -- from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Hosted by former New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski, WrestleMania 36 will begin each night at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT) on the WWE Network (subscription required), and you can also watch via pay-per-view.

Marble racing

Marble racing is real and it's spectacular. And suddenly very popular. I don't blame you for being skeptical. I certainly was until I watched my first race last week. I was amazed at how quickly I found myself pulling for the light blue marble called Comet. The course through the sand created tons of drama and was surprisingly long, and the announcer for the race -- a hero named Greg Woods -- deserves a sports Emmy or an ESPY or something. Just an incredible performance by Woods. 

The creation of Dutch brothers Jelle and Dion Bakker, marble racing has three distinct varieties. Marbula One is run on plastic tracks to mimic Formula 1 racing. Marble League combines various feats of strength and speed to mimic Olympic competition. And then there's my personal favorite, Marble Rally, that sees brave marble competitors racing over natural terrain across long and winding sand courses. Marble racing can trace its roots back to before the time of corona, so there's already an inventory of races to help you pass the time in quarantine. You can check out all the marble action on Jelle's Marble Runs on YouTube.

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