As with so much of modern life, sports have been almost completely derailed by the coronavirus. As John Oliver points out in the main segment from last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, a pandemic like the one we’re facing is perfectly engineered to exploit the fundamental nature of sports. From the competitors to the spectators to the crew, sports are about bringing people together, the very thing we’re not supposed to be doing right now. That’s why ESPN and other networks are showing sports-adjacent programming they never would’ve aired in the past—from decades-old games, to videogame simulations, to whatever that slapping show Oliver shares a clip from is—and why sports without unions, like pro wrestling and the UFC, are running shows without audiences.
As usual, Oliver looks at the issue from all angles, breaking down the thorny relationship between sports and the coronavirus, and looking at the measures that experts like Dr. Fauci say need to be implemented for sports to return. It’s not a rosy picture—it seems impossible to run even an abbreviated season of audience-less games without putting thousands of people at risk, from the players and the team employees to the broadcast crew and facility workers. While trying to find any competitive leagues that can still run safely during this crisis, Oliver and his team found the perfect sport for today: Scandinavian marble races on YouTube.
Last Week Tonight doesn’t have the buzz it did five or six years ago. Part of that’s probably because there have been so many shows like this over the last few years, part of it’s probably because the news has conquered all of media and people just want a break from it, and part of it’s simply because nothing can sustain that kind of buzz for long. But the work Oliver and his crew are doing is as vital and hilarious as ever. Here’s another long, in-depth segment about a significant issue the world is dealing with today, told from a unique angle and with legitimately funny jokes every 10 seconds or so. Oliver’s the best at this kind of thing, as this video proves once again.