ESPN attempts to infuse a Gordon Hayward and Utah Jazz highlight reel with some League of Legends flavor, revealing a noticeably large generational disconnect.
It’s no secret that ESPN has decided that eSports are important enough that the network should begin to cover them more seriously. ESPN recently hired an eSports editor in an effort to expand its coverage of the nascent competition, and now it appears that games like League of Legends might start working their way into more traditional sports coverage as well. During a segment detailing a Utah Jazz game a few days ago, the hosts made several references to League of Legends in describing Gordon Hayward and his team’s dominant performance, referring to a series of 3-pointers as a “triple kill” and a Hayward dunk as an “ace”.
While the references were certainly cringe-worthy, they were being made by a host who openly admitted he hadn’t played video games since the debut of Pac-Man, and the fact that ESPN tried to include League of Legends terminology at all is testimony to the growing notion within the professional sports industry that eSports are a real sport. Apparently the immensely talented Hayward is a League of Legends aficionado while off the court, which explains why ESPN decided to throw in a few references to Riot’s ridiculously popular MOBA during the broadcast.
Of course, ESPN has showed a renewed interest in eSports as a whole, as the network has made several decisions that indicate its stance on the burgeoning competitive scene in games like League of Legends and DOTA 2. While it was never made public whether or not his public disdain for eSports played a role in his departure, ESPN analyst Colin Cowherd left the network soon after making disparaging remarks regarding fans of the scene and eSports itself.
In his stead, ESPN has increased its coverage of big eSports events, even going so far as to film an entire E:60 network special around that focused on Evil Genius’ massive The International 5 win last summer. ESPN referred to The International as “the Super Bowl of competitive gaming”, a statement that seemed a little like hyperbole at the time but might have indicated just how seriously the network viewed competitive eSports as another source of coverage revenue.
Perhaps the next time ESPN attempts to appeal to the huge League of Legends fandom, they will consult some people who have actually played the game. Given that Gordon Hayward is able to balance a career as a NBA small forward with his passion for eSports titles like League and Starcraft 2, maybe he can make some time to appear on ESPN and straighten out some of the network’s more awkward references.
How do you feel about eSports crossing over into the world of more traditional sports? Do you think ESPN’s decision to cover eSports is a wise one? Let us know in the comments below.