OSU athletes keeping competitive through “Quarantine Olympics”

Zack Zalesky, Brandon Eisert, Joe Casey and Ben Rodgers prepare for their second day of Quarantine Olympics with penalty kicks at the Oregon State Intermural Fields. Their Youtube video, narrated by Emmett O’Malley, showcases one of several events the group is competing in for their own and others’ quarantine entertainment. 

In a world where self isolation and social distancing have become more of a requirement and less of a suggestion, feelings of boredom have started grabbing control of households everywhere. But don’t tell that to Brandon Eisert.

Yes, like many of us, Eisert is not used to this. The left-handed pitcher hailing from Beaverton, Ore. made his name, and his home, on Oregon State’s own Goss Stadium where things looked and felt a bit different.

Eisert is used to sell-out Beaver crowds and championship expectations, and after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Eisert became used to baseball as a lifestyle. But with Oregon State University, along with most professional sporting leagues and the NCAA suspending all official athletic play, competition has become different for the Minor League Baseball pitcher.

The average home attendance of over 3,600 at Goss Stadium has been replaced with quiet homes and empty streets, but Eisert’s new athletic outlet allows him to express his competitive nature. He, along with a handful of friends who happen to be former teammates, have come up with a way to pass the time in the name of good spirited competition: the “Quarantine Olympics.”

While doing the best they can to stay isolated in an attempt to lessen the spread of COVID-19, Eisert and his roommates came up with the idea to launch a series of events they could each partake and compete in to pass the time. The house full of athletes have done their best to recreate sports like soccer and volleyball, while getting creative for less athletic events like egg racing.

Among Eisert’s roommates and current Olympic competition are Joe Casey and Zack Zalesky, two redshirt juniors on the Oregon State Baseball team, along with former Corvallis High School point guard and current OSU student Ben Rodgers. Along with their other roommate, Emmett O’Malley, the group of friends are not just competing, but recording and publicizing their Olympic events as well. O’Malley serves as the narrator and videographer, while Casey tweets the links to the videos to the official “Quarantine Olympics 2020” YouTube channel. 

With a house full of athletes without much new sports content to consume, the group took it upon themselves to create something they felt could entertain people, while also looking to entertain themselves.

“We were sitting at home really bored and we thought there was no real [sports] content out there and we figured if we posted something funny it might go viral,” Casey said. “My buddy is a funny announcer and us clowns had some good ideas. We just thought ‘might as well do it.’ Give the people some content.”

The group behind the Quarantine Olympics will admit that while the events were created with a hope to reach other people, they exist in large part to satisfy their own increasing boredom. For a group like the athletes behind these events, attempting to pass the time with Netflix or a book would not cut it. It had to be competitive, and ideally as active as possible.

“We’re just competitive people without much going on,” Rodgers said. “We want to get out there and stay active in these weird times.” 

The competitive nature in Eisert, Casey and Zalesky would have been realized with or without the Quarantine Olympics. The two current Beaver athletes were in the full swing of their regular season, while Eisert’s season was close to starting as well.

The Oregon State Baseball season managed to get through 14 games before being shut down for the rest of the year by the university and the NCAA. Baseball was just one sport to fall victim to a series of delays and cancellations by college athletics, joining the rest of spring sports as well as basketball’s postseason tournaments for both women and men.

It took a bit of creativity to scratch the competitive itch left behind with the cancelation of organized sports, but the team believes they have found a fun way to do what they enjoy while showcasing some of their hidden talents. Among those talents include Eisert’s skills as a soccer player. While he was modest, Casey and his friends were quick to talk up his skill.

“[I] just played soccer growing up until freshman year of high school,” Eisert said. “I just kind of decided to focus on other sports instead. I just kind of do it [soccer] for fun now.”

“But you’re still shooting rockets.” Casey said, with a laugh.

The Quarantine Olympics’ penalty kick soccer event stands as one of the more traditional events the team has come up with, but with only four competitors and minimal resources, the group needed to stretch their imaginations to find other events to fill the time.

Their creativity is on full display right from the inaugural event. Standing together on a muted street with minimal traffic, backs turned to O’Malley’s camera, the only equipment held by the competitors being a spoon and an egg. 

Spoons in their mouths with their egg perched a top, the four friends raced a circle around their home from the front yard. More than anything, the Quarantine Olympics were created to compete and have fun, sports or not.

“We just like competing in general and playing games like that, so I’m not sure if we’re always gonna film it but we’ll always be out there playing sports,” Rodgers said.

The current state of self isolation won’t last forever, but the competitive edge and athletic spirit behind the creators of the Quarantine Olympics will. And while Rodgers is not certain about whether or not their athletic endeavors will continue to be filmed, he and the rest of his roommates talk with a sense of optimism about the continuation of the Olympic events.

“If this quarantine happens for a lot longer and we get a couple more views we might just start doing it a lot,” Casey said. “Come up with a new game every day or something stupid.”

This is not the spring season that Casey, Zalesky, or Rodgers had in mind. It’s not the start to the life after college baseball that Eisert had envisioned after being drafted in 2019. None of the isolation, distancing or quarantine were a part of the plan. But the Quarantine Olympics are making the best of a terrible situation, and at this point, that’s all anyone can do.

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