Saturday, January 27, 2024

A New Kind of Varsity Team

A couple of months ago, I discussed attending a college football game and being subjected to loud rap music over the PA system during halftime. In that essay, I wasn’t trying to rap rap. I was just explaining that as an old Baby Boomer, my preferred music is known as “classic rock,” which typically contains such archaic things as notes, a melody, chords, etc. During that football game, as the rap music thumped along, I suggested out loud that the PA system should play some Beatles. A couple of college students turned and stared at me as if I had two heads. At that moment, I felt very, very ancient.

Another incident occurred more recently, which also reminded me that I am definitely not a spring chicken — unless a time machine takes us back, say, to the spring of 1967.
One of my engineering clients sent me a link to an article he co-authored, which described his firm’s expertise in a burgeoning aspect of higher education known as esports. At first I thought the word was Spanish, possibly pronounced “ess-sporss.” But then I discovered the word is pronounced “EE-sports.” It refers to video game competition. Here is a sentence from the article: “Over 200 universities currently offer varsity esports programs with coaching staff and scholarships.” The article also noted that Syracuse University now offers a degree in “esports communications and management.”

Please understand, just like with the rap music I heard (and felt, and needed time to recover from), I’m not trying to be judgmental. I get it that things change and evolve over time. It would be silly for me to expect college life to be the same as what I experienced in the mid-70s. (For one thing, I experienced tuition, room, and board totaling $4200 my freshman year at the fancy school on the hill in Lewisburg, PA. Compare that to today’s current rate of $81,000 per year.)

If universities truly believe they need varsity video game teams, with coaching staffs, scholarships, and high-tech facilities with areas so spectators can watch, I’m not going to say anything against it. I might, however, quietly roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders — not in judgment of them, but just to express an idea that’s become fairly commonplace with me nowadays: I don’t get it.

That’s what it all boils down to: I. Just. Don’t. Get it.
Coincidentally, on the same day that I read the esports article, I heard a news story on the radio describing a rash of armed car-jackings in Washington DC. Law enforcement officials noted that the technique used by the, um, young entrepreneurs, closely mirrors the behavior displayed in the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto.” 

Again, I’m not judging. Just a mild eye-roll and a shrug. I’ve never played video games. Well, not including “Pong” once or twice a zillion years ago. But I do consider myself a longtime TV connoisseur, and I know firsthand that staring at a flickering video screen for hours on end isn’t the healthiest thing a person can do.
So, colleges now have varsity video game teams, with coaching staffs and scholarships. This gives my engineering client the opportunity to get some work designing the mechanical and electrical systems needed for the high-tech facilities. But I suppose the colleges save some money since they don't have to build brand new weight rooms for these particular athletes. 

Who knows? The competition between schools might be pretty exciting. After all, most of the new college gaming facilities include room for spectators. It must be an interesting event. Maybe I’ll attend one of these days to see what it’s all about. Well, as long as they don’t play rap music during halftime.

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