2021 has been just as eventful as 2020 was. We had an insurrection, people still haven’t received the rest of their stimulus money, Mr. Potato Head is now gender neutral, and last but not least the world is still racist. I need to thank Meyers Leonard for bringing that back to everyone’s attention.
Leonard is an NBA player who played for last year’s bubble championship runner-up Miami Heat. He’s a decent rotational option big man who is able to stretch the floor with his outside shooting but I’ve digressed. Leonard had season-ending shoulder surgery last month and has been filling his newfound free time with live-streaming Call of Duty: Warzone. During one of his livestreams on Twitch he used a racist slur for Jewish people and has been indefinitely suspended from the NBA, the Heat and the eSports team he invested in, FaZe Clan. What bothers me more than the fact he used a racial slur is the fact that eSports exists in the first place.
eSports are competitions between professional video game players that draw a wide array of spectators from live television audiences to online livestream fans. These professional players, teams and leagues get sponsorships, become influencers and partners with the games that they get famous for playing, and get paid lots of money to play video games. They get all of the perks of any other professional athlete but one thing is clearly missing. eSports isn’t sports.
I consider myself a huge fan of video games but I don’t understand wanting to watch someone play video games. Even when playing video games with friends, the only time I’m content watching and waiting is in anticipation of when I’ll be able to play again next. In the video game world, that’s referred to as “passing the sticks”. I’m also a huge sports fan but I watch sports to see feats of athleticism from the most supremely gifted athletes on Earth. This same logic is why I don’t casually watch archery or NASCAR. NASCAR is people driving large circles really fast. That happens everyday on I-85. They could at least add some twists and turns to increase the excitement and suspense. I’ve seen better racing at Spaghetti Junction but I’ve digressed.
eSports has emerged as the next frontier of the sports world because people have a craving to see competition and they want to believe the competition is authentic. As each year goes by I believe that sports fans are becoming disillusioned with how authentic the NFL and NBA are. MLB’s long games and even longer list of unwritten rules don’t seem appealing to the casual fan either. There was also a large period of time where sports were cancelled or postponed because of Covid-19 and eSports was the only thing available. That perfect storm of events has combined to create a sports fandom void that eSports seems perfectly poised to fill.
If only it was a sport.
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