The absence of live sporting events because of COVID-19 has left many fans in serious withdrawal. After all, we’re one of the leading sports towns in America, with a national reputation for our passion.

So what do we do now that they’re gone? And what are people doing to fill that hole in their life?

Joel Fish, a sports psychologist, has been looking at what the loss of sports has meant to fans. Fish, the director of Philly’s Center for Sport Psychology, breaks down fans into four types:

  1. The hardcore fan. The majority of your social entertainment and leisure time needs are met through sports. Not surprisingly, if you’re this type of fan, you’re probably having the hardest time coping right now.
  2. The intense fan. You love sports and follow regularly but have other hobbies and interests. You miss sports, but are probably doing OK.
  3. Casual fans. If you were given the option of 10 activities, you’d probably pick watching a sports event fourth or fifth on the list. You probably miss sports sometimes.
  4. Bandwagon fans. These are fans who will watch sports if a Philadelphia team were competing in a big event such as the Super Bowl. These fans are probably fine (even if they are a bit bored).

Fish says there are some healthy mechanisms to use while not having live sports to watch.

Talk it out. “One healthy mechanism is talking it out, instead of keeping your emotions in,” Fish said. "Spend more time reaching out to people.”

Develop new hobbies. “I know a lot of friends who have walked more, read a book, picked up some music, started to draw,” Fish said.

But if you’re a hard-core, intense, or even a casual fan, you may want more specific ideas, particularly those that are sports-related, to get by in a non-sports world. So we found some ideas on how to get through this difficult time:

How fans are filling the void

Take it outside. One diversion we heard about a lot: gardening. Former Inquirer sports editor John Quinn is among many who have spent more time gardening in his South Jersey home. “I weed, mow, mulch, plant, repeat, weed, weed some more, weed even more. Then I weed,” he said. We think Quinn likes weeding about as much as he enjoys seeing the Dallas Cowboys and their smirking owner, Jerry Jones, succeed at anything.

Fantasy sports. Mike Vechesky of Burlington County figured out how to do a fantasy sports league with no games. He started an all-time college basketball March madness fantasy league on Facebook. What he did was take the best five players of all-time from each college team and match them in games against each other. Then he meticulously researched their statistics and made a call on who would win in each matchup. This was a time-consuming task. “I did a little bit for a few hours every day the first four or five weeks of coronavirus,” Vechesky said. “With all the gloom and doom, it was a nice mental break.”

Go deep into sports podcasts. Ernie Tokay of Kimberton, Chester County, says he is listening to sports-related podcasts. There are plenty of great options, but — shameless plug — we recommend the many podcasts offered by The Inquirer (you can find them at inquirer.com/sports). Here is a recent 76ers podcast hosted by Keith Pompey.

Play sports … with your pet. James McElroy of Stratford has given his dog, Tory, extra workouts and basically plays baseball with her. “I’ve increased fetch with my golden retriever, telling her different baseball situations,” he said. “Pop-ups, grounders, high flies. When she fields flawlessly, catches a fly ball, I praise her and she runs back to me so proudly. She is tireless. My arm not so much.”

Tory, the dog of James McElroy, takes a well-deserved break.
James McElroy
Tory, the dog of James McElroy, takes a well-deserved break.

Get in the game yourself. Many have increased their physical fitness activities. Says Donna Mohollen Clark of Collingswood: “My kids (a 19-year-old and a 13-year-old) have become training partners, biking, drilling (in) the backyard, etc. It’s awesome how they are getting along.”

Build the stadiums you can’t go to. Bernie Valente of Newtown Square has rekindled his passion for building replica stadiums. “Some years ago, I designed and started building a model of Connie Mack Stadium,” he said of the old Phillies ballpark. “I restarted it with my newly acquired free time.” The frame is plywood and the exterior and interior are bass wood. The entire model is exactly one square yard.

Bernie Valente of Newtown Square, built this replica of Connie Mack Stadium. .
Bernie Valente
Bernie Valente of Newtown Square, built this replica of Connie Mack Stadium. .

Collect cards like you did as a kid. Joe Nelson of Mount Ephraim has used the time to rekindle an old hobby. “I definitely have spent more time organizing and adding to my sports card collection. It’s been a fun way to pass a couple hours every day.”

Watch old games. Bob Forich, and many others, have taken to YouTube to watch old games. What has Forich found? “Old 80’s Phillies and ... treasure trove of old Gloucester County Channel 5 (high school) broadcasts with Bob Shyrock and Mike Linder.” Bobbi Colucci, originally from Philadelphia, now living in Virginia, said, “I’ve watched Super Bowl LII a few times.” We heard from plenty of others who have watched the Eagles 41-33 Super Bowl win over New England in 2018, and then watched it again.

For old games, YouTube is the best place to start. But, virtually any sports station, including MLB Network, NBA Network, NFL Network, and NHL Network, are full of greatest hits right now.

Confetti falls as Eagles head coach Doug Pederson holds up the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Febuary 4, 2018. The Eagles won 41-33 to clinch their first Super Bowl title.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Confetti falls as Eagles head coach Doug Pederson holds up the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Febuary 4, 2018. The Eagles won 41-33 to clinch their first Super Bowl title.

Movies anybody? Christopher Jones of Marlton, who is a teacher and coach at Sterling High School, posts a sports movie a day on Twitter (@coachjones_bb). “I dedicate the time I would spend watching live events to at least one sports movie every day,” he said. "Plus I post some kind of daily instructional video for my baseball players so I can coach remotely while I teach remotely.”

Home projects. Nick Marmarou of Westampton Township may have the best outlook: “I’m trying to keep busy and distracted with projects around the house so when sports do resume I can enjoy watching not feel guilty about home projects left undone,” he said.