Firstly the Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” This is the root of the argument around the silly idea that sports have to be about physical attributes like strength or agility. I don’t see it say anywhere that you have to play outdoors or be physically fit. The two determining factors are “physical exertion” and “skill,” but what is “physical exertion”? Oxford Dictionary defines physical as “relating to the body as opposed to the mind” and exertion as “physical or mental effort.” In other words, you’re using your body and putting an effort into what you’re doing. I suppose that it’s a bit implied that you should feel tired after performing this activity since you’re putting a great deal of effort into it. With that said, esports definitely falls within this definition because of the physical energy necessary to have high APMs at a competitive level. It may be less physical than football or hockey but that isn’t what defines a sport. If level of physicality was the determining factor of what is a sport then the sport that changed my life, Powerchair Football, isn’t a sport by those standards.
The next argument that really bothers me is the notion of an esports athletes being “nerds.” I’m sure most that say this don’t really mean it like this, but this type of discrimination is no different than being sexist or racist. We live in a world where our social culture is changing constantly, and as such, we always have subgroups that feel the brunt of discrimination and persecution. In our day and age, we’ve tried to change our ways and huge steps forward have been made with regards to equality, but we still aren’t there yet. Even our greatest global event, the Olympics, has been surrounded by controversy about Russia’s laws towards gays and lesbians. This type of global dilemma is no different than esports being shunned because it’s a bunch of “nerds.” Everytime I hear this comment made it outrages me because it reminds me that we still live in a world where women are considered inferior and people with disabilities are invalids. The fact that people don’t take the time to learn and understand one another is the reason that when I go outside in public people stare. It’s the fact that the glass ceiling for women still exists, and it’s the fact that esports is ridiculed by mainstream personality.
With those pet peeves of mine aside, I’d like to tell you my definition of what a sport is and how esports fits into my definition.
Sport: an activity involving physical or mental exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
I added two words to act as clarification, but those two words are so incredibly powerful. By allowing for the competition to occur on a mental level then we’re removing the shackles that lead to discrimination and inequality. The notion of sports should be more aligned with the ideals of the Olympic movement which states:
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play (http://www.olympic.org/Documents/olympic_charter_en.pdf).
Sports are about friendship, community, fairplay, and equality. They are not about who can kick the hardests or throw the furthest. Those activities come secondary to the spirit of competition and sportsmanship, which esports has in spades.