If real sports are going to be successful in the online (and televised) space over the next few months, the one thing they need above all others is participation from actual athletes. That’s why the La Liga and NASCAR tournaments have been so fun, and is why it’s a bit worrying that Fox and the NFL’s version only has eight entrants.
Given how many players are on an NFL roster at any one time, and how many of those would be decent Madden players, you’d think it would be pretty easy to get 32 players together for a competition. But instead Fox’s Esports Madden NFL Invitational, which will air on March 29th at 7PM Eastern, is going to feature just eight players, and six of them aren’t even in the league anymore.
Of the retired or inactive players, there’s Vick and Matt Leinart (who already work for Fox), Antonio Cromartie, Orlando Scandrick, T. J. Houshmandzadeh and former Packers RB Ahman Green, who is now working as an “esports coach”.
The two current NFL players taking part are Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chargers safety Derwin James.
Without the novelty of actual professional athletes playing a virtual approximation of their day-jobs, stuff like this quickly falls back into the realm of “regular esports”, which is fine, but also nowhere near as cool as it could be, or what rival leagues/sports are coming up with.
Hopefully the NFL can learn from stuff like Spain and NASCAR and setup something more interesting later on during this lockdown.