Online based sports, fantasy leagues rise in popularity
By Alex Naselius, John Seward & Jay Phillips
It used to be that a sports team was comprised of neighborhood friends; now it would be quicker and easier to hop on a computer or PlayStation and connect with a gamer in South Korea faster than it would be for the average person to find a soccer ball in their garage.
And that is the world we now live in, thanks to eSports.
But what exactly is eSports?
Imagine professional sports mixed with competitive video gaming. According to Owen Good at Kotaku.com, eSports’ humble roots began at Stanford in 1972, as students were invited to an “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics,” whose grand prize was a year’s subscription for “Rolling Stone.”
Even though the physical talent might be a little relaxed on the eSports side, the competitiveness doesn’t slack off in the slightest.
“Everyone has a great time with it, but there is constantly a lot of competitive talking,” Pensacola State College (PSC) Intramural Coordinator Doug Rogers said.
Who could have imagined that it would only take 45 years for eSports athletes to go from competing for a magazine subscription to battling it out for millions of dollars in tournaments watched by millions of people? One of these million dollar tournaments,“The 2016 League of Legends Championship,” had more viewers than the NBA Finals.
With recruitment scholarships going out to top high school athletes countrywide, it was only a matter of time before colleges started recruiting for eSports. Schools such as Boise State, Columbia and Georgia State have started awarding scholarships to their eSports clubs and the clubs’ top recruits.
With the only requirements being a student’s gaming console of choice and lot of skill, it’s no wonder that eSports is gaining popularity across the globe.
One eSport that the world has seen take off on a very mainstream level is Fantasy Football.
ESPN has a week dedicated to it every year, and you’ll see advertisements for it everywhere (Yahoo, ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
With NFL ratings going down and the eSports side of the NFL growing rapidly, it’s hard to definitively say the NFL would still be around without Fantasy Football.
According to Sports Illustrated, “Monday Night Football is down 24% from last year at this time, Sunday Night Football is down 19% and Thursday night is down 18%. ”
This in contrast to fantasy football which has seen skyrocketing numbers. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s Industry Graphics website, usage started at 500,000 users in 1988 and has jumped to 59.3 million in 2017.
Skill and time spent is a big part of the prerequisites, even for eSports such as Fantasy Football.
“I spend a few hours every weekend looking at certain matchups, even height differences, between positions like cornerback and wide receiver to choose who to bet on. I even look at kicker matchups, and I usually pick the kicker who is playing indoors and is used to that,” said former-PSC student, Charles Marek, when describing a method that has worked quite well so far for him.
Even PSC is getting in on the fun by offering Fantasy Football leagues and College Pick ‘Ems to students and faculty.
“Our leagues and picks are open to all students, faculty and staff. Each week the winner of our Pick ‘Ems gets a reward, and the overall winner gets a gift pack at the end of the season,” said Rogers.
It’s not only Fantasy Football and other athletic-based eSports that are taking off. Many video games have also developed their own eSports communities.
“League of Legends” even has different leagues for different regions of the world in addition to having world wide tournaments known as “World Championships.”
Another video game, Counter-strike: Global Offensive has tournaments around the world. Sponsored by the company Valve, majors for Counterstrike have become such a big deal that they are defined by having over one million in their prize pools.
One of leagues, known as the eLeague, is televised. eLeague features production values rivaling ESPN with its own announcers, hosts and experts.
This abrupt change in the definition of sports has come from traditional sports’ lack of acceptance when it comes to athletes.
Someone who stands six feet tall would never make it in the NBA due to their size and lack of athleticism. If that same person wanted to spend the majority of their time playing video games, chances are that they could make a professional eSports team once they became proficient.
With eSports, it doesn’t matter how you look or how fast you run — all that matters is what you can do.