Last night, ESPN2--which purports itself to be a "sports" network--presented live coverage of college students playing video games. Deemed "Heroes of the Dorm", the broadcast featured teams from Cal-Berkeley and Arizona State battling in some kind of role-playing game called Heroes of the Storm for an actual "National Championship". It even featured a play-by-play man and a color commentator to "break down" the action. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future of "sports" in America.
It is now just a matter of time before all of the "live" events that we have come to know and love as fans will be replaced by "digital experiences". Why risk concussions and other injuries on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field when tiny pixelated men of Madden NFL 2025 can collided over and over again on a TV monitor and never "actually" get hurt. (Sidenote: I have suggested having the Pro Bowl played on Madden since none of the "real" players put any effort into the contest--but this is an exhibition game.) No more " genetic advantage" for those blessed with above average height, weight, speed, strength, motor skills, dexterity, reaction times or spatial recognition. All the "superstars" of tomorrow will need is quick thumbs and fast processers.
Overbearing sports parents are probably already drilling their kids to spend 12-hours a day playing Heroes of the Storm, to perfect their fire bomb aiming or spell casting or shape-shifting to be on the next "National Championship" contest on ESPN. "But, Dad, I want to play outside!" "You will sit in front of that computer until you get better at arrow up, B button, rapid fire, X cross control or you will never see the outside of this house again!" I can't wait for the first story about the video hockey Dad that takes his anger at his son's poor performance out on a Playstation 15--berating it for the entire game and then taking it out in the parking lot to destroy in front of all the other video hockey parents.
And think of all the "sports" records that will likely fall in our children's lifetimes. Gnarls Barkley--created by some 12-year old gamer with the screen name "PlayaHayta"--will eclipse Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time NBA scoring record in just three weeks of continuous "season mode" play of NBA 2K40. Hank Aaron's legitimate home run mark will be bested in a month by "Shaq Wilson" as 36-year old "GrateLuvah" dominates MLB the Show while playing in his mother's basement. And the Augusta National scoring record of 63 will be demolished by "Shooter McGavin" who will make an amazing four holes in one and three double eagles in the final round of "The Masters of Video Golf" brought to you with limited commercial interruption by EA Sports on CBS--a tradition like no other.
Like the dinosaurs that once ruled the earth, the era of the "real athlete" is coming to an end. But instead of a big, fat asteroid crashing into the earth to bring their demise, it will be big, fat nerd sitting on their couches.