Cyber? Get Sober…

Wired notes that the Cyberathlete Professional League is on the verge of going big, as they have secured a $45 million round of venture financing to take the next step in broadening the appeal of their product beyond the current base of hardcore online gamers (assists on the play go to SportsFilter and Shift).

Personally speaking, I don't think gaming has anything remotely athletic about it. The notion that the hand-eye coordination required to play Quake is somehow worthy of an "athletic league" is preposterous. Hey, you're good at what you do, and you have great competitions, but don't call yourself athletes … maybe use the term warriors instead, or something.

What's interesting is that the CPL is drawing audiences for their tournaments, which feature contestants that do not have a physical embodiment, but rather are controlled by a highly-skilled cyber-puppeteer. Now suppose this idea was translated into something that more closely approximated traditional sport, but perhaps offered features that could not exist in reality, such as the zero gravity battlefield games found in Ender's Game. Would this attract a niche comparable in size to that the CPL currently draws? Would it consist of the same community of hardcore online gamers, or would it steal some of today's sport media consumers? If the latter is true, how will the sportocracy respond? Or will they be the ones running the whole thing?

Ladies and Gentlemen…

"MIKE TYSON IS THE NEW HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!"

Or so the fearless prognosticators at ESPN.com tell us. Using the boxing simulation game Title Fight 2001 to determine a winner, they present to their loyal readers a blow-by-blow account of the hotly anticipated bout between boxing bad boy Mike Tyson and reigning champion Lennox Lewis. (Update: Lewis kicked Tyson's ass all over the ring, effectively ending Munch-a-Lot's career.)

This revisits ideas I have explored here and here. After recently returning from the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) annual conference, it shocked me to find that nobody is talking about these issues. Sport is changing — whether the change is in the distant future or not, we must begin considering the implications today.