Esports athletes are not like other professional athletes

I’ve only recently started to get more into the esports scene. I have observed it from a distance being that any introduction to it seemed overwhelming to me. I started to follow some of the games I play, including Rocket LeagueCall of Duty: WW2, and the recently, Overwatch.

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When it comes to other professional sports, I have often found it difficult to find that relationship that the rest of my peers seem to grasp. I don’t know very many players in the NFL, MLB or UFC. I don’t clamor in excitement come draft time. I have only once ever in my life participated (poorly, I might add) in Fantasy Football. I enjoy watching games and fights all the same. When it comes to the politics of it all—trades, rosters, players stats—you can count me out.

The one thing, though, that I’ve come to notice between the two camps, is that it takes a great level of skill and talent to excel in your given craft. It’s not like you can pick up a football one day and poof, you’re a professional makin’ millions and signing autographs. The same can be said about esports players. It takes a great deal of dedication, sacrifice and time to become good at something, especially enough to deserve your place on a sponsored team.

Most players in the NFL, MLB, and UFC are well-tuned athletes of great dexterity, speed, and strength. Coming from a United States Powerlifting aspect, I have grown to admire the effort that drapes a person in order to achieve such success having endured flashes of this training in my life. It’s because of this observance that I feel there is a visible difference when you look at someone who plays video games professionally. And, since injuries and athletic skill are held at much higher esteem, I feel that since esports fans don’t worship such athletic prowess on a regular basis, professional video game players come under fire, and under more scrutiny, for what they say and do off of the field. There is no free pass for something that is said out loud at televised events. Err, sort of.

If you look at the most recent instance of Felix Lengyel a professional Overwatch player who goes by the name xQc, it’s apparent that what you say can have a dire effect, causing a suspension until February of 2018. Although this is a little bit of an apples to oranges comparison, the recent win of the Philadelphia Eagles over the Minnesota Vikings led a fan to make these statements regarding fornication with the wife of Tom Brady, the New England Patriot’s quarterback.

In one instance, a player was suspended for his negative comments regarding another player. In the case of professional football, the video at the time of writing this has reached almost 10,000 views on YouTube. Why is this fans outrage glamorized as just an extension of the NFL?

You don’t have to search very hard to find instances of player bans because of racial slurs and other negative communication-based behavior. However, the punishments may be swift and harsh, even in cases of popular streamers, it is often short-lived.

If you look at the punishments above, in both cases, players were banned from games like League of Legends and Player Unknown Battlegrounds for a period of time. Although these bans didn’t last long, even allowing Dr. Disrespect to further his career as a streamer, they did halt players from performing on their respective stages. Albeit, Dr. Disrespect has had his own life quarrels to attend to.

In comparison, when you look at someone like the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, he was forced to issue nothing more than an apology for laughing at a female reporter being just that, female. Mind you, this was during an official NFL press conference. Where’s his ban? Even if he was, does he get a comeback announced by a new trailer?


This brings me to something that I hadn’t thought about until writing this. We, of course, currently live in the age of knee-jerk social media. People draw conclusions about situations that might have transpired over the course of minutes within the confines of a 10-second clip. Jobs are lost, bridges burned, and even people’s lives can potentially be ruined when left to the mob mentality of the internet. Yet, we created this.

Esports athletes live and die on social media. For example, you can look at one of my favorite Call of Duty player’s feed on Twitter. Seth Abner aka Scump, who captains Optic Gaming, has no quarrels with firing off tweet after tweet regarding matches or any other criticisms. Which is in polarizing comparison to someone like Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. This is the same Tom Brady who doesn’t have a Twitter account, nor necessarily needs one.

This isn’t to say that one athlete is better than the other. It is simply to make the point that the platform in which esports athletes compete is vastly different than professional sports. Fans hang on to every character that is utilized and watch their performances like a hawk. Athletes like that of Brady, are judged in front of millions, in stadiums of thousands, most of the time without ever uttering more than a handful of responses at an official press conference.

Those who have yet to acknowledge esports as legitimate are still fiddling with the silly idea that video games are real sports. Those are probably the same people who have no problem spending hours watching professional poker or Olympic curling with their legitimacy biased flags raised high. Sports? Not Sports? Hrmph.

Esports are undoubtedly here to stay. But, I do feel that it is still very much the Wild West when it comes to what players can say, when they can say it, and the outcomes that they face when spouting off in an enraged tirade.

Now if you don’t mind me, I’ve got important Instagram posts to follow #jwonginjapan.


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Image of Greg Bargas
Greg Bargas
A console gamer gone rogue. Collector of retro games, lover of hardware. Find me every Tuesday at 6PM CST on Destructoid's SpotDodge live podcast! Rocket League, anyone?