I certainly hear people mock eSports as a concept. They say, "eSports!" and other, similar things. But having watched a bunch of this, I am now 100% convinced that League of Legends is a sport. I will explain why:
- The broadcast began 90 minutes before the first game so that people could sit at a desk and blather on about who really needs to win the game.
- There is an analyst desk full of jocular men who predict the winner of each game before it goes live, then act like whoever got it right must have been smart rather than lucky.
- The casters manage to say things that are both tautological and self-contradictory at the same time. "Despite the 3k lead this game is basically even except that [the team with the 3k lead] has a real advantage."
- People quote bizarre, cherry picked statistics that sound like they have a lot more predictive power than they do. "[Team] has won three of their four games when [player] got [champion]."
- There are player interviews that consist almost entirely of the interviewer asking, "What do you need to do to win this game? / How did you win that game?" and the player responding, "We need to play our best. / We played our best."
- Another adult heard the commentary and thought I was watching Hockey.
This is really a sport for me too. I'm actually consistently impressed with League of Legends as a game. It feels like making good plays and getting incremental advantages matters, and playing well in late game team fights matters, but that neither of those things completely eclipses the other in importance. That's a very hard space to exist in. The picks and bans phase also manages to be very important without overdetermining the game.
The picks and bans phase also leads to a very strategically deep game. It is really cool to watch a team known for their aggression play a more passive game because of the champions they got, or to watch a team with an apparently incredible array of champions fall because their opponents realized a weakness in their pool of abilities.
I suppose all I really need now is some LoL buddies to get together with to watching big games. Beer and pizza, and all that. Now that is a sport.