Why eSports Will Never Be Sports, From an eSports Viewer


If you haven’t heard of Blizzard’s Overwatch League, their attempt at a shiny new crown jewel of eSports, then you’re not paying attention. Or you are paying attention, and the targeted advertisements didn’t hit you because you’ve never tweeted the words “Video games.”

The new league, now over two months old, has just completed its first “stage” and given away its first cash prizes, a total of $125,000, to the teams topping the first five weeks of play. The cartoon-y first-person shooter’s attempt at an organized league has been the most “sports-like” attempt at competition I’ve seen yet from a video game so far. Teams are associated with cities. They have their own in-game “jerseys” for the Overwatch character roster. They have…well…uh…hmmm. That’s actually all that the OWL has that makes it any more like a traditional sports league than an organization like League of Legends’s League Championship Series (LCS) or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s ESL Pro League (ESL).

Each team’s “jersey” is displayed on the in-game characters through a unique “skin” colorway.

There are failings in eSports that I believe will keep the format from ever catching on in the United States the way that traditional sports did, and watching hundreds of hours of LCS and now five weeks worth of OWL matches has only cemented my position. This is not a judgment of people who watch eSports, or of the value of eSports themselves. It’s a list of reasons that eSports falls short of the traditional sports product, and (sometimes) things they can do to fix the problem.

There are no home teams to cheer for

“But didn’t you just say that the OWL has teams associated with cities?” I did! I did say that! And that’s a huge step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean anything when all the teams still play all their games in Los Angeles. No one in Cleveland would like the Cleveland Browns if they were terrible AND didn’t play in Cleveland. No one is flying in from Florida to see the 1-9 Florida Mayhem, but they might grab a beer and watch a game if it’s just around the corner. Accessibility is an quick way to build a fanbase for a bad team.

Note that the other eSports have it worse. When you have to choose between cheering for Optic Gaming or Cloud9 in the LCS or ESL, what reason would there be to not choose the team with the better record? There’s no built-in associations to lean on for a casual or first-time viewer.

Nicknames suck

Sports are the ancestral home of the nickname. From Albert Pujols “The Machine” in the MLB to Giannis Antetokounmpo “the Greek Freak” in the NBA to Doug Martin “Muscle Hamster” in the NFL, the nickname game is alive and well. So where did eSports go wrong? Early on, eSports settled on using the players’ self-assigned nicknames as their official league identifiers. Huge mistake. Some of the nicknames make the league seem incredibly casual and amateurish. I’m only in my early twenties and I cringe when I hear players called “ShaDowBurn” or “Grimreality.” If eSports want to be taken seriously by an audience of people older than 14-18 year-olds, they have to take themselves seriously and start using players’ real names.

No youth leagues

This borders on ironic, since generally speaking video games are “for kids,” but in a competitive video game environment children are actively discouraged from participating. This makes sense. A college football team would also try to get out of playing with a 10 year old. They’re not ready to compete at that level and listening to them talk about memes and youtubers would be super annoying. Traditional sports have leagues specifically for kids, where they can learn the fundamentals of the game, plus teamwork, sportsmanship, and social skills. Until eSports can offer that, they’ll be an awkward niche at best.

Americans aren’t the best

The London Spitfire just defeated the New York Excelsior in the OWL Stage 1 playoff to win $100,000. Both of those teams are composed entirely of Korean players. In fact, three of the top five teams are (those two, plus the official Korean team, the Seoul Dynasty). The last five consecutive LCS world champions have been Korean teams, and no American team has even come close. There’s nothing wrong with this. But eSports can go join soccer in the box of things that people in other places like, because Americans only want to watch themselves win.

The London Spitfire roster is entirely Korean and their owner, Jack Etienne, is an American.

Terrible spectator tools

This might be the biggest problem on the list. ESports are absolutely awful to watch. Imagine a football game where the only camera angle is a tight shot on the quarterback. You see him take the ball, drop back, and throw, and then…the camera stays on him. Maybe he gets hit. Maybe he raises his arms in celebration. Maybe he shakes his head sadly. No matter what, you missed the interesting action happening offscreen because you were stuck in a bad forced perspective. That’s the eSports viewing experience.


I think we were all thinking it. Now, I am also a huge dork, but even I’m like “hmmm, no, that’s too much.” Imagine all the time and training it takes to become the best in the world at something, basketball, tennis, trapeze, anything. Now imagine all that time was spent alone in front of a computer. That’s not a great recipe for being well-adjusted. Until there is a player who can be the cool, charismatic face of their eSports league, professional video games will not attract a general audience.

If Antonio Brown walked on the Field at Heinz Field doing this, I’d call him a dork too.

None of this changes the fact that I’m excited to see what the OWL can do in the eSports arena. I think with a concerted effort to make eSports more accessible and familiar to a casual viewer can save professional video games from being stuck forever in nerd no-man’s-land of mild internet popularity.

The Super Smash Bros // Fantasy Football Player Comparison You Needed

It may be a little early on in my writing career to say this but…this is the single most important thing I have ever written.

It has been over 15 years since the greatest video game of all time, Super Smash Bros. Melee, was released. Since then, only one pastime has managed to challenge its title for the most time consuming, entertaining, and agonizing activity: Fantasy football. It is finally time to take these magnificent red and white wines and concoct a sparkling rosé.

Let’s begin:

PeachDeAndre Hopkins

DeAndre’s QBs the past three seasons before DeShaun Watson arrived: Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden.

Peach’s artillery of weapons while having to deal with the lasers, energy balls, swords, fire, and lightning bolts of other characters: radishes, a tennis racket, frying pan, golf club, her dress.

Peach and DeAndre have a knack for a making the best of a bad situation.

Donkey KongLeGarrette Blount

Player A: Perhaps the strongest in the game. Not the fastest, but inflicts damage in close combat. Excels in hand-to-hand combat, especially when facing Boise State. Is Player A Donkey Kong or LeGarrette? Okay the last bit gave it away. But come on, you had to think about it.

FoxLe’Veon Bell – Although these two differ in physical structure, they are the masters of consistency, chipping away at you throughout the entire game. There’s no Roy smash or Samus energy ball that will KO your ass on the first drive, but come 4th quarter when you have one life left, you’re going to dread seeing this guy get the ball play after play.

FalcoLamar Miller

The Kirkland versions of Fox and Le’Veon Bell, Falco and Miller have all of the perceived abilities to reach fantasy and Smash Bros stardom, but their performance is often underwhelming. Think of them as the Walmart to Fox and Le’Veon’s Target.

Dr. Mario, Mario, & LuigiJohn Brown, Jaron Brown, & J.J. Nelson

Who’s better? I don’t fucking know, half the time I can hardly tell these guys apart on the field. All I know is every Sunday one of them hauls in some 38 yard touchdown that helps no one’s fantasy team.

BowserJavale McGee

I know, I KNOW, not an NFL player. But this was too perfect. No player/character makes me say, “Oh god, oh god, oh no, oh nice!” more than Bowser and Javale. It’s like watching a baby deer develop its sea legs.


While clearly gifted with strong finishing moves, these two are just too messy to rely on.

YoshiDoug Martin

There has always been something missing about these two. They both play hard, and impress you at times, but in the end they never quite get the job done. Whether it’s Yoshi’s lack of a finishing move/useless up B, or Doug Martin’s inability to stay on the field and reach that true muscle hamster potential, they just aren’t quite there.

GanondorfRob Gronkowski

Have you ever played someone who is actually good with Ganondorf? It’s terrifying. Gronk is the most intimidating redzone target in the NFL, just as Ganondorf is the most terrifying redzone (when an opponent’s damage is above 100%) player to face in Smash Bros. His sneaky agility combined with his Hulk like power is unmatched in the game. However, like Gronk, he can sometimes disappear and has the potential to act as a massive decoy/hitting target should you be playing team battle with your bros. Double teams and characters with guns can stymie these behemoths, but in the right situation, they can thrive.

Captain FalconTravis Kelce

He wants to be Gronk so bad. SO BAD. Although Captain Falcon never starred in his own reality show , both of these characters live in the literal and metaphorical shadow of their proverbial older brothers. But are we even sure this is still the case? In the past two seasons, Travis Kelce has finished as the #1 overall tight end in fantasy and Captain Falcon has situated himself as one of the most underrated characters in the smash community.

Side Note: Should Smash Community be the new name for the Olympic Village??

NessAlex Smith

Everything Ness and Alex Smith do is within 5 feet of the line of scrimmage. Let’s assess. Ness’ little yoyo? A 3 yard out to Albert Wilson. His mini fire shot? A designed QB run where Smith tumbles forward for 5 yards. Sure Ness has a baseball bat but when he hits you it feels more like a foul ball than a home run. Your only hope is that Ness in within range to use his unbeatable grab to launch your opponent off the map, or in Alex Smith’s case, a screen pass that Tyreek Hill takes to the house.

Ice ClimbersSammy Watkins

The female companion of the lead ice climber is obviously Sammy Watkin’s hamstring. Sure when both are healthy they’re a formidable opponent, and perhaps even a pro-bowler, but the second you tweak that hammy and lose your side piece, your life is as good as over.

SamusTom Brady

A system QB whose success stems primarily from his coach and offensive scheme? If Samus is Brady then her missile weapons are her “offensive scheme.” Samus relies on her ballistics, and is at her best when surrounded by a slew of other characters in combat, which allows her to sit back and pick people off with her impressive energy ball and pesky homing missile. Some may say she is too reliant on her long game, but those may need to spend a little more time utilizing her underrated combat abilities. Whether or not you subscribe to the “system QB” narrative, Samus and Brady will give you a fighter’s chance for the win no matter the situation.

Side Note: Seriously, did they design Samus’ run after Tom Brady’s scrambling form?





Zelda/SheikAaron Rodgers

The top of their class. The most difficult to defeat when playing their best. The question when facing these two is not will you lose, but rather how. Zelda can float, teleport, and disorient to your demise, while Sheik can overwhelm you with a barrage of slashes and kicks at a speed hard to register with the naked eye. Zelda Rodgers can sit back in the pocket, call audibles and pick you apart like a surgeon, while Sheik Rodgers can scramble like Vick, flick the ball across his body down field like Favre, and can discount double check like….well….no one.

LinkJoe Flacco

Let’s talk resumes shall we?

Flacco: Rookie of the Year, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, 6’6’’, big hands, strong arm.

Link: Sword, bow and arrow, bomb, boomerang, AND a shield.

What do both of these players have in common? They’re just not very good! On paper they look like hall of famers and match winners. Then you watch them perform and you mutter to yourself, “meh.”

Young LinkAndy Dalton

Can we all agree that Andy Dalton is just a slightly faster, slightly cuter version of Joe Flacco? His destiny is to fall ass first into a Super Bowl win and legitimize his legacy as Joe Flacco’s spiritual nephew. The difference between Link and Young Link are negligible outside of Young Link’s slight increase in agility, and slight decrease in strength. But I can CONFIRM he’s a cuter version of his older self.

KirbyEzekiel Elliott

Short and compact, these two wrecking balls rely on their bodies more than any other players or characters in the game. They can lower their shoulder and hit you like a brick, literally. Not to mention, on Kirby’s Wikipedia page he is described to have “a voracious appetite.” Just sayin’.


PichuTed Ginn Jr.

People who play as Pichu are the same people who draft Ted Ginn Jr. on their fantasy teams let’s be honest. You can count on one of them screwing you over during a bad stretch of bye weeks with a deep ball right through the fingertips or a down-B move that LITERALLY HURTS ITSELF. However, what these players can do is save your game with an improbable 2 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns (something Ginn did in 2015 in week 13) or a well timed side-A that sends your opponent into the next map.

PikachuJordy Nelson

Jordy and Pikachu are the two most overlooked talents in their respective games. Each and every year, Jordy cranks out quality, pro bowl caliber seasons, yet he is never in the discussion for best receiver in the league. Pikachu has one of the most unique skillsets in the game, combining power, range, agility, and adorability yet no one mentions him when asked who are the game’s most talented characters.

RoyMatthew Stafford (when he had Calvin Johnson)

The gunslinger! Who cares about an interception if you eventually connect on an 80-yard touchdown? Your best strategy with these two is to get down and dirty and let the ball fly, or in Roy’s case, side-A the shit out of anything you see until it works.

MarthCarson Wentz

The mini gunslinger! Like their teachers Roy and Matt Stafford, these boys like to let the ball fly as well, but with just a little more ingenuity. While they may not have quite the arm/side-A strength as their gunslinging role models, their increased mobility will save you when the pocket collapses/when your best friend chooses Poke Floats as the map.

JigglypuffCordarrelle Patterson

People have been buying stock in these two for years, but are they good? The only conceivable way to win with either of these players is to hide them the entire game and hope that eventually these one-trick ponies can take a punt return to the house or crack someone with a fueled up side-B.

MewtwoCam Newton

Prelude: They kinda look alike if you don’t really think about it.

One reason behind this comparison is strictly their aesthetic, as both players are unequivocally the coolest looking on and off the field. However, their stylish moves don’t always translate to success on turf, as Mewtwo and Cam are some of the most volatile players in the game.

Mr. Game & WatchKirk Cousins

If Mr. Game & Watch had a catchphrase, it most certainly would be, “You like that!”