HBO’s Real Sports laughs at eSports

3 min read

Pot kettle

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.

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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.

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Last Updated: December 19, 2013

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • CodeName Tailgunner

    Phil “the Power” Taylor

    What an athlete

  • oVg

    I do not know. Is Chess a sport or a game? To me sport is a physical activity.

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      but what about when people use other creatures for their sport? horse racing is considered a sport, but the horse does most of the physical activity…

      • oVg

        and then they call it the Olympic games. Now I am confused.

        • Her Highness the Hipster

          LOL, indeed!

        • Weanerdog

          I am going with all sport are games, but not all games are sport

      • oVg

        We use mice

    • Weanerdog

      Agreed, I think that certain physical activity needs to be done.

      • Dean

        How much physical activity? Bowls and bowling are considered sports and i’m pretty sure it doesn’t take much to role a ball…

        • CodeName Tailgunner

          Lots of people die from the physical exertion required for bowling which to me would classify it as a sport

          • Her Highness the Hipster

            don’t people die in their sleep, too? is sleeping now a sport, because if so, i’m totally pro!

          • oVg

            I feel more buggered in the morning than after a Karate lesson.

          • Her Highness the Hipster

            actually, by @codenametailgunner:disqus’s reasoning, sex is also a sport – loads of people die “in the saddle”. jenna jameson must be a pro athlete!

          • oVg

            I need a black belt in that.

          • oVg

            Or neck belt. In fact, not many sportsman require a belt.

          • CodeName Tailgunner

            How about a crown?

          • oVg

            On that note. Why is the world cup not called a world trophy? You cant drink out of it.

          • CodeName Tailgunner

            Mind Blown

          • Weanerdog

            Because the original was a cup

          • CodeName Tailgunner

            Agreed, but then again with the size of the porn industry on the interwebs it would be difficult to classify it in any other way.

            Would also explain Darryn’s personality. He has watched way too many replays.

          • CodeName Tailgunner

            And its not my reasoning – its the bloody oxford dictionary. You don’t get much more official than that.

        • Weanerdog

          Bowls has the highest mortality rate of all sports, it’s not from the excitement, so it must be from the physical excesses. As to bowling that ball weighs a ton, I struggle to get any serious height on it.

    • CodeName Tailgunner

      Personally I would classify a sport as something that requires physical exertion and an athlete someone who actually does a sport.

      Golf for me would be a borderline “sport” anything less is not a sport.

      Chess and dota are not sports they are games, but you still have to give credit where credit is due, those guys are good and have spent a lot of time to improve and excel.

      Professional gamer is a title that should be respected, but the biggest test is the size of the crowds they can draw. Ring tennis may be a sport, but is way more of a joke than Dota or LOL. And a commentator that says something bad about people that watch a sport/game is a complete idiot since that is all they do.

      • Estian Hough

        It is a given that you have some fine points – and I’ve tried not to be insulted by this, but the only thing I see you doing is denying the fact that the mind also deserves a place in Sport.
        If it is not Sport, then it most certainly is a Mind Sport. And to me – that is a sport.

      • Ravaldy

        The real definition is available on WIKI and makes it that gaming is a sport by the fact that it requires physical skills to perform the activity. A high level of hand eye coordination is required to play at the top level of any gaming competition. Some players after a 1 hour match will come out exhausted both physically and mentally. I wouldn’t compare the physical fatigue to a sport like Hockey or Football (the real one) but it meets the criteria for it to be a sport.

    • Stanley Watson

      Darts? I believe this is considered a sport? Physical activity, but very little. Jamming controllers, mouse and keyboard also contains a tiny bit of activity.

      It’s not just chess, card games like poker are also considered sport.

      The brain is a muscle and – in my opinion – it flexes like crazy when playing games.

      Sport – to me – is any activity which includes sanctioned competition between participants.

      • oVg

        Good point.

    • Estian Hough

      Defining this as a Sport is debatable – but it is without a doubt eSports (Electronic Sports).
      And by that I mean there is but one simple difference. The one focusses on the physical, whereas the other focusses on the mind.

      If people deny that eSports is an accepted ‘version’ of Sport, then it shows nothing but ignorance.
      It’s not about being crazy, it’s about being passionate. Some people are just too stubborn to accept the fact that their way isn’t the only way. That will never change.

  • IceH

    I seriously dont need eSports to be considered an official “sport”. It doesn’t need to be. Chess was a historical exception when it comes to calling it a “sport”. And I accept that fact. So when you take chess out of the topic, linking sport to a physical activity, eSports is no official sport. So lets keep it like this and be happy about growth, entertainment and fun. Let those old people do what they like. We grow older, become “old” ourselves and then we are the ones accepting eSports, liking it. The people younger than us will do anyway. So lets just… wait

  • oVg

    I suppose customs do not know either and let the Koreans pass via a sport visa and not a game visa 😛

  • oVg

    lol I found this in another debate
    “ONLY Chess is a sport !( for Homo Sapiens).For others,sport is …..eating”

  • CodeName Tailgunner

    I Like the second definition in the Oxford dictionary

    — sport /sp:t/ n.LME. [Aphet. f. DISPORT n.]1

    a Diversion, entertainment, fun; an activity providing this, a pastime. LME.

    b Lovemaking, esp. sexual intercourse, viewed as a game. M16–L18.

    c A theatrical performance; a show, a play. Only in L16.

    2 a A matter providing amusement or entertainment; a joke. arch. LME.

    2 b Jesting, joking; merriment. arch. L16.

    3 a An activity involving physical exertion and skill, esp. one in which an individual competes against another or others to achieve the best performance. Later also, participation in such activities; such activities collectively. E16.

  • oVg

    One day everybody over 45 will be dead. Then we will let the gaming generation do their shit. In the meantime we will have to endure our daily condescension from people who find it tough trying to figure out how to use e-mail.

    Remember, their generation went through the same shit while they tried to defend the Hip thrust of Elvis to their parents.

  • Ultimo_Cleric N7


  • ToshZA

    Maybe they just hate the fact that those same “nerds” who they used to tease in school invented an entire generation and type of sports. They merely played the often brain dead sports that were already there. eSports is way more complex than any traditional sport I know.

    Seriously, ignorance is indeed bliss, as they’re all happy, but oblivious to the fact that eSports are sports. Who cares if they can’t run 4 laps, what they can do is out think, and out play them in their respective computer games.

    As someone said below, if eSports are just games, and can’t be sports, then what are the Olympic GAMES?

  • No Longer SIR Twakkus

    Too be honest I agree on some level. I have always seen sport as a physical activity but do acknowledge the dedication and commitment of pro gamers.
    Maybe they should group these types of activities together while remaining under the banter of Sport in general.
    1: Physical Sport – which will entail Rugby etc. and
    2: Mental Sport – which will obviously include sports such as gaming, chess etc.
    That way one can, as human nature dictates, point the finger at the other and say how stupid it is while allowing both to jump through legal loopholes of being a sport. Thus allowing sponsorship and the honour of competing say in the Olympics. This will allow both to shine in their own right and wont make the one feel more superior than the other (pfft yea right). Well that’s my thought for the day, time to go eat sum food at Cappacinos!!

  • dastrix

    The first person that spoke on that panel sounded like a man! The rest of the panel is made up out of mainly pensioners. What further surprises me, well maybe not, is this coming from a bunch of Americans which will watch hot dog eating contests, spelling bee’s and even Rock, Paper, Scissor contest on ESPN!

    My personal opinion is that eSports is new ground and a new concept and in time will be accepted by the masses as a full on sport, however with the current definition of a “sport” it is debatable, but we have seen definitions changed before.

    One can however not deny its growth, impact on a new generation, the skills of the players or the crowds it draws, so in my eyes, yes it is a sport, maybe a sport for a new generation, but a sport none the less.

  • Verrayne

    If nascar can be a sport than masturbation can be too!

  • Engrishman

    He said they got to be CRAZIER than the ones playing, not “lazier”.

  • Bizaro

    Just have them walk on a treadmill while playing and theyll call it a sport.

  • wints22

    Good article, disheartening video. One thing though, at the end he says “Crazier” not “Lazier”, an important distinction.

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