OPINION: ESPN’s Colin Cowherd shows his age and lack of expertise in his rant against professional gaming

May 28, 2015

Look out, America. There’s a new sport on the horizon and it doesn’t involve balls, pads or large crowds of people getting drunk in a parking lot before games. Well, it might actually involve the latter.

I’m talking about live video game tournaments, more commonly referred to as eSports. In recent years, they have broken out of living rooms and into the mainstream as gaming events now garner massive followings. Naturally, sporting networks like ESPN have taken notice.

Johnathan_MugshotAccording to Polygon.com, popular eSport game DOTA 2 has one of the largest gaming tournaments in history, amassing over 20 million concurrent viewers for last year’s International–DOTA’s annual global tournament. The competition is usually streamed on services like Twitch and YouTube and covered live on ESPN3.

Developed by Valve, DOTA 2 is one of many games derived from a Warcraft mod, which have spawned a gaming genre of their own called massive online battle arenas (MOBAs).

Most commonly, MOBAs are head to head games that pin two different teams with five players each against each other. Each player gets to select a from a large pool of characters, each with their own special strengths and abilities.

Other MOBAs such as League of Legends — which touts 67 million players worldwide, according to IGN — have created international tournaments of their own with millions tuning in live.

This year, ESPN is upgrading DOTA 2’s International coverage to ESPN2 and is already expecting huge ratings. According to USA Today, DOTA 2 International broadcasts have brought in more viewers to ESPN than the NBA playoffs at times.

However, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd is having none of it. In a much publicized rant against eSports and online sporting in general, Cowherd had some choice words to say about online gaming in his morning radio program, “The Herd,” following ESPN’s coverage of a Heroes of the Storm tournament.

“Here’s what’s going to get me off the air: if I am ever forced to cover guys playing video games, I will retire and move to a rural fishing village and sell bait,” Cowherd said. “You want me out? Demand video game tournaments on ESPN because that’s what appeared on ESPN2 yesterday.”

After railing against the event itself, Cowherd then went on to insult gaming as a whole.

“Somebody lock the basement door at mom’s house and don’t let ’em out. I will quit this network if I am ever asked to cover that. I tolerated Donkey Kong,” Cowherd said.

Obviously, Cowherd doesn’t have much appreciation for eSports or gaming in general. And here’s the thing, I’m not a huge fan of giant gaming events either. I’m just not into them. I don’t even think they should be called eSports since they’re not a sport.

Cowherd’s commentary, however, shows just how out of sync he is with society. Video games are quickly becoming a tent pole in modern society, with cultures across the globe spending billions every year.

According to polygon.com, Grand Theft Auto V made just under $1 billion in one day and in 2013, the industry grew to $67 billion annually.

There’s a lot of interest in gaming today and the emergence of streaming sites like Twitch and Ustream corroborate this. Today, millions of gamers stream games and watch others stream games every day.

ESPN jumping on the train is only natural. There’s a lot of money to be made in broadcasting gaming tournaments. League of Legend’s Champion Series brought in 32 million viewers during the Summoner’s Cup competition, according to Riot Games, League of Legend’s developer.

To put that in perspective, game five of the NBA finals last year had 15.5 million viewers, as reported by tvbythenumbers.com.

For Cowherd to say he’s “tolerating” certain games today is just asinine. No matter how negatively he views professional gaming, he can’t run away or hide from it. It’s not possible.

Whether he takes issue with ESPN broadcasting these tournaments is another story.

For many, myself included, eSports is an unfortunate moniker of professional gaming since games are not sports. Sports always have and always will require physical, competitive activity.

Should ESPN spin-off one of their networks to solely cover gaming tournaments? Maybe. There’s certainly money there. Should Cowherd throw a hissy fit and threaten to quit if he’s forced to cover a gaming event? Go for it. I’m not much a fan of him anyway.

Instead of complaining, he should invest in a “Video Games for Dummies” handbook or start looking for another job. Video games are here to stay, and they’re just getting started.

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