Introduction by Deirdre Edwards
As you know, we’ve been discussing the great correlation of STEM in sports and how the principles of STEM are being used in our major sports organizations and sports venues. It truly is phenomenal to see how relatable our core academic subjects directly play into our favorite pastimes, and always has!
And while we have focused on traditional, physical sports, there is another sport to be considered when it comes to STEM: E-Sports. Now, I know there are many who may argue that playing video games is hardly a sport (see op-ed below), but there is an actual definition of “e-sports” that could refute your claim.
E-Sport is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: “a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers.”
There are many elements of this definition that mirror what we traditionally know as sports. The words and phrases of “multiplayer” and “played competitively for spectators” also applies to physical sports. Also, the amount of money poured into e-sports rivals traditional sports organizations and has increased every year — with 2019 revenues slated to surpass the $1 billion mark according to CNN (https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/27/us/esports-what-is-video-game-professional-league-madden-trnd/index.html).
Gamers can also, like traditional athletes, have huge paydays and some are backed by traditional, professional sports leagues for e-sports’ contribution to their leagues. There are even full college scholarships given for video gamers to compete in e-sports. Not bad if your student loves Fortnight and Madden NFL.
So, just how much emphasis should we put on e-sports as an actual sport? Some say e-sports is ready for the Olympics, other sports traditionalists largely disagree with the entire concept of e-sports. Below, we have an opinion-editorial (OP-ED) in which a sports traditionalist tackles the subject. Let us know what you think.
OP-ED: Will E-Sports be in the 2024 Olympics? Surely NOT! – By Mike May
When are the leaders in the sports and fitness industry, sports governing bodies, and the leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. colleges/universities going to put a stop to e-sports being considered a sport? Yes, this is a big deal. This issue of e-sports being considered a sport started a few years ago. It must stop. It’s just not right.
A few years ago, U.S. colleges started awarding athletic scholarships to e-sports competitors. One of the first schools to grant financial aid for gamers was Robert Morris University in Chicago, Illinois. Now, e-sports are being considered for Olympic competition, beginning in 2024! And, many U.S. colleges and universities are creating e-sports teams and awarding athletic scholarships to members of those teams. That is unacceptable.
E-sports are not a sport. E-sports contribute to young children, teenagers, and adults not being physically active and playing sports. E-sports have hijacked the name sports. And the powers-that-be in sports need to get it under control.
“In support of PHIT America’s stand against e-sports, I agree that any agenda to add e-sports as an Olympic Game category is a trend that will damage missions invested in increasing physical activity of U.S. children,” said Michelle Metzler, athletic director, Berean Christian School (West Palm Beach, Florida).
Metzler adds, “The scope of the major sports and fitness organizations and governing bodies should be focused on reversing the current decline of participation in youth sports. Seeking revenue by classifying gaming as an e-sport is a deceitful strategy which will ultimately lead to sweeping levels of profound inactivity.” Metzler goes on to say, “We need to rebuild and boost physical education. Campaigns should be empowering children to adopt healthy lifestyles with a strong foundation in fitness, recreational level sports graduating to intramural and interscholastic sports. The long-term benefits are in true physical activity — not the misrepresentation in a scheme of e-sports.”
“We do not recognize e-sports as a sport and don’t expect to change our stance on the issue,” said Wayne Ryan, Assistant Executive Director, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (Parkersburg, West Virginia).
According the Wikipedia, the definition of sport is as follows: “Sport or sports includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organized participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators.”
E-sports don’t match that description or definition of sport.
The power structure in the world of sports should not give into the pressure of giving electronic games any kind of official recognition of being labeled a sport just because it’s expected to exceed $1.5 billion in global revenue with a fanbase of 600 million users by 2020.
An interview on Fox Business and an article in “Fortune” magazine clearly show that one of the motivating factors for including e-sports into the Olympics is money. Clearly the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee are looking for more viewers and additional TV revenue.
While this short-term thinking may be good for an organization’s profit and loss statement, it sends a negative message about the concept of playing sports. Recent sports participation statistics are a concern. According to the Physical Activity Council, the number of U.S. children who are actually physically active in team sports is declining. In the past five years, team sports ‘play occasions’ (practices and actual games) have declined by 19 percent, or five billion play occasions, in the U.S. And American children are ranked in fitness 47th out of 50 countries in the world, based on a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Not surprisingly, only seven percent of U.S. children (age six-17) are active to physical activity standards, as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Olympics and leading sports companies are chasing top, high-performance athletes who spend most of the money in sports. The Olympics and top sports companies are not investing in the “grassroots” programming and the delivery mechanism for physical activity — that being, physical education classes in our schools.
There are organizations and governing bodies which proclaim that they are going to create baseball players or basketball players, but they don’t really care that there are fewer and fewer physically active kids overall. We have generations of children who will never play any sport because they don’t know how to throw, catch, skip, run, jump or even have the balance to stand on one leg.
Sadly, the only thing that many of today’s children know how to move is their fingers, as it relates to cell phones and tablets. This behavior trend is deadly for children and the future of the sports and fitness industry.