Growing up, I was part of a family full of men who really — and I mean REALLY — loved sports, particularly football… the American kind. My dad was a huge fan of Notre Dame; something I never understoond since he was from Texas and I’m pretty sure he’d never stepped foot in Indiana in his life. (He was also raised Southern Baptist and not Catholic and was maybe like a sixteenth Irish at best, so go figure.)
I remember football season at my parents’ house being some of the most boisterous times we had. Being a nerd — and an introvert — I wasn’t really big on this whole sports thing. It was noisy — often in an angry way — and seemed to require the involvement of a lot of people that at the time I was pretty certain I wouldn’t get on with. I simply didn’t get all the excitement and… the yelling.. Seriously, what was that all about?
Every year, when Thanksgiving rolled around and my father and brothers settled in for a long day of yelling at their favorite teams on the TV, I’d head upstairs to watch cartoons or play video games. I seriously just didn’t get it.
Even after spending nine years in marching and pep band, which required me to attend football and basketball games every week, I still didn’t get it.
I just didn’t get it…
Until one day I did.
About five years ago, I picked up watching StarCraft 2 matches at 4:00 AM with some of my SC2 obsessed friends. I wasn’t crazy into it, but it was a good time and as I watched I found there were specific players I looked forward to watching. I’d also taken to watching the BlizzCon WoW tournaments.
Then, two years ago, I was invited to attend my first live eSports event when Hi-Rez held the SMITE Launch Tournament. Without realizing it, I found myself picking the teams I wanted to root for, cheering them on, getting upset at botched play, and generally becoming emotionally invested.
Now, I’m preparing to attend the SMITE World Championships, something has become an annual event for me due in part to my living in the same city in which it takes place. I watched the entirety of the Super Regionals on Twitch, and I’m ready to go.
But even knowing I was planning to attend SWC, it didn’t hit me until recently that I finally get where all the sports fans I’ve known throughout my life are coming from. I was watching the BlizzCon Heroes tournament livestream with a friend. This was his first year watching a MOBA event and I found myself explaining the basics to him as we watched.
That’s when it hit me. Here I am explaining the mechanics of a competitive game to someone who is unfamiliar with it as we watch — a lot like those times where my sports-loving friends would sit patiently and explain what was going on on the field and what some flag or hand gesture or something else meant. I’m filling him in on what he needs to pay attention to to follow everything and giving him the scoop on the teams. He’s asking me questions about various things and nodding and going “Oh!” every so often. And every so often we’d jump up, yell at the screen or pace around the room.
Admittedly, I’ve done this with TV shows too, so maybe I understood a little and just didn’t realize it. But for the first time, I knew I understood. Esports are an exciting event I can share with friends and strangers and have an excuse to scream at until I’m hoarse, without having the cops called on me — which is always a good time.
So, to all my sports-loving peeps out there that I’ve scoffed or rolled my eyes at,I’d like to say, “I finally get it.”
I still won’t be watching football any time soon, but I get it.