Remember when I told you about Soledad O’Brien reporting for Real Sports on HBO about eSports? She looked at League of Legends and gave some pretty decent coverage of the eSports scene. Well, in their end of year debate, HBO completely undermined everything she spoke about and questioned eSports’ validity as a sport.
The entire debate clip isn’t available yet, but here’s a short snippet (the actual discussion begins about a minute in):
For those who can’t or won’t watch videos, the first person to chime into this debate claims astonishment at the story. When looking for backup, one of the old men on the panel asks for statistics on how many eSports fans go to Star Trek conventions. O’Brien says while there may be some overlap, there is a strong argument for it being a sport. The other panelists proceed to laugh at her, saying “It’s not a sport, it’s a game”; one panelist goes so far as to say that the people who watch eSports have to be “lazier than the ones playing the damn thing”.
Where to begin? I’m honestly shocked that people on a high profile sports show could make a comment that something that’s a game can’t be a sport. Does that mean that baseball, (American) football, and even poker aren’t games? They are all covered on major sporting networks – even hotdog eating competitions are covered on networks such as ESPN in the States; all of the games covered on Super Sport are just that – games.
I understand that some people still debate the athletic ability required in eSports. Does Chess count as a sport? It has a federation, ratings and huge competitions; it has widely been considered a sport ever since the Cold War when Chess matches were used as athletic events between the US and USSR. So what is the difference with eSports? It also requires mental acuity, but it requires some degree of physical speed and precision as well – do you have any idea how many clicks per second those guys manage? Meanwhile, venerated athletes like Babe Ruth, Zola Budd, Ernie Els and Benni McCarthy are all universally accepted as athletes, even if their skill is limited to one activity; Babe Ruth couldn’t even run between the bases – the only reason he was loved in baseball was because he would knock out home runs… when he actually managed to hit the ball.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised – it will still be a long time before eSports goes fully mainstream outside of Korea. It’s still shocking to see such ignorance and stereotyping on a critically acclaimed show.