Sports

A nerd invasion is coming to ESPN. Here’s what that says about the network – and us

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2013, file photo, an ESPN logo is seen prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati. The network will air the inaugural Overwatch League Grand Finals in prime time this month as part of a multiyear agreement to bring esports to the biggest sports platform on American television. Disney and Blizzard Entertainment announced plans Wednesday, July 11, 2018, to broadcast the OWL’s playoffs and championship on ESPN, ABC and Disney XD. The Grand Finals on July 27 and 28 will be shown live on ESPN, marking the first time the network will carry esports in prime time.
FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2013, file photo, an ESPN logo is seen prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati. The network will air the inaugural Overwatch League Grand Finals in prime time this month as part of a multiyear agreement to bring esports to the biggest sports platform on American television. Disney and Blizzard Entertainment announced plans Wednesday, July 11, 2018, to broadcast the OWL’s playoffs and championship on ESPN, ABC and Disney XD. The Grand Finals on July 27 and 28 will be shown live on ESPN, marking the first time the network will carry esports in prime time. AP

A champion will be crowned this weekend.

Yes, we’ll soon find out if another title will be going to Philadelphia or if London can become victorious. This will be prime-time television.

Wait, what? London vs. Philadelphia? Spitfire vs. Fusion?

In a strange agreement, ESPN will be televising the Overwatch League Grand Finals this weekend. What’s the Overwatch League you may be wondering. Well, I found myself asking the same question a few days ago.

From what I’ve read, there’s some more technical terms to explain this phenomenon. But instead I’ll put it in a way most people can understand: It’s a competition in which a bunch of nerds in one city team up to play video games against some other dweebs in another place. They have team names, financial backing, jerseys and all.

Sounds riveting, huh? ESPN apparently thought so.

The network, whose improbable rise to becoming the first 24-hour sports channel, now is including what it calls esports. And maybe I’ve been living under a rock or something (or in the basement of my parents’ house like the players in these leagues probably do), but apparently this isn’t the first time ESPN has shown esports.

According to the sporting empire’s website, “ESPN has been showing esports competitions for several years on its networks and streaming channels, including the Heroes of the Dorm collegiate competition (in a partnership with Blizzard), the Capcom Cup Street Fighter V finals, and the Evolution Fighting Game Championships to name a few.”

But this time it’s going prime time.

OK, so I’ve dissed on the players enough. The stereotypes of the folks who are competing in these leagues are just too funny to pass up. However, I really don’t hate the player nor the game. After all, didn’t a pro gamer just dump “the world’s sexiest weather girl”?

But the network is reaching here.

Am I surprised that people would sit down and watch other people play video games? Yes and no. Yes, because who would rather watch someone play video games than actually be the one playing them? No, because I have a pair of nieces who introduced me to “YouTube stars” such as DanTDM, who they’ve watched play video games via their phones and tablets.

So this is the world we live in these days. Fair enough.

But why is this being called esports? Most of the games involved aren’t even of the sports genre, from what I can tell. Are they ecompetitions? Sure.

However, calling them esports perhaps is how ESPN justifies putting them on the network. (And yes, I know ESPN televises the Hot Dog Eating Competition, but that’s one day and a Fourth of July thing.)

Considering how ESPN started, this is pretty ridiculous. The network began by televising odd-ball sports long before it was showing MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL games live. It rose to become the sports empire.

Now I’m not sure what it is. It appears the network will throw anything on there that will get viewership - and sponsors. This is a sellout. These aren’t sports, no matter what they’re labeled.

As the Spitfire and Fusion duke it out for the Overwatch League title, I won’t be watching. Instead, I’ll probably be continuing my long career in NBA 2k14 while sitting on my couch.

I don’t play online and therefore no one will be watching as my triple-double machine dominates. In fact, the thought that someone would want to watch never crossed my mind.

As it turns out, maybe I’m the nerd. At least those other players have people tuning in.

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295

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