A couple nights ago, I was channel surfing at an ungodly hour of the night, looking for some background noise to fall asleep to. I had a great selection of blender infomercials and televangelists before getting to the sports channels. Or what I used to refer to as the sports channels. Because when my TV landed on ESPN2, it was not sports coverage I saw.
It was people live-playing video games.
Yes, on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, video games were being covered. Video games.
I don't mean to sound rude or talk down to gamers. Believe me, I like playing Xbox as much as the next 20-year-old college student and could probably sink a week straight into the N64, but I do that as a hobby, fully realizing that it takes no physical fitness or activity to be good at gaming or even play them.
Granted, ESPN airs other programming that isn't sports related (World Series of Poker is common and the occasional hot dog eating contest is quite puzzling), but this is uncharted territory for the sports network. 'eSports' as it is being called is one of the quickest growing markets in not only the sporting world, but the betting as well, meaning that this big money industry is probably just now reaching its potential with its full impact not being felt for a few years at least.This means ESPN is probably heavily invested in the industry, with more time slots across its multiple channels dedicating some time to the eSports world. eSports, unlike poker or eating competitions (which are usually only shown at a certain time of year or are shown as a one-off program), is becoming regular network content.
The biggest problem I have with that is its classification as a 'sport' at all. A sport is defined as 'an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.' Video games do not require any physical involvement. Other than being good at pressing buttons on a controller, what physical ability do you need to play games? Yes, it takes a lot of skill, which is indicative of mental ability in some cases, to be a great gamer, but that's not physical and is certainly not a sport. If there is still an argument to define cheerleading as a sport, then how are we classifying this at all?
Gaming is not the same as playing a sport. Gamers are not athletes much the same way cashiers are not investment bankers. Sure both have a lot of money exchanged through their hands, but there is a very evident split where one ends and the other begins. So it is with gaming and sports. Play video games all you want, please, it is fun and can be very exciting. But to define it as any form of sport or athletic competition is a disservice to any athlete in any sport at any level.