What’s a Bigger Waste of Time: Sports or Video Games?


When it comes to conflicts with roommates, living with someone who doesn’t appreciate sports isn’t the worst possible scenario. It isn’t as bad as, say, having a roommate secretly videotape your feet as you sleep in order to sell the footage to fetish websites, but it’s still not ideal. What’s even worse is when said sports-hater becomes overly vocal about how “lame” watching sports is, calling it a colossal waste of time and acting as if he is above such a disgraceful activity.

See, thanks to having “diversity” and “tolerance” drilled into my head every year of school, I can (begrudgingly) tolerate people not interested in sports. That’s not the problem. What I simply can’t stand is someone denigrating sports-watching when said person loves the ultimate time-waster of ‘em all: video games.

Apr 25, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson holds up a poster after being named the cover athlete during the Madden 13 cover unveiling on the set of SportsNation at Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Attempting to rank video games as a “better” use of an afternoon than watching sports is just ridiculous. Compared to sports, video games promote dangerous fantasies and disagreeable morals, all while quantifiably dragging on for a longer duration due to their intrinsic structure. Now is watching a regular season matchup between the Bengals and the Dolphins the best use of your precious hours left here on Earth? Ehhh…arguably not. I mean, you could be curing cancer or learning to juggle or something.

However, I’d argue that it is measurably better than devoting that same amount of time to leveling-up your fire mage in Skyrim, or whatever it is that gamers do.

(Obviously, this is a false dichotomy; it is perfectly reasonable to enjoy both sports and video games. However, we all know that seeking compromise is a sissy activity. Irreconcilable binary oppositions are where it’s at. If you want rational discussion and a kumbaya acceptance of The Other, you shouldn’t be on a sports site).

To begin with, there is the argument that watching sports is an inherently pathetic activity for former “athletes” (woooo, junior varsity swimming!), a depressing reflection of shattered dreams and missed opportunities manifesting themselves in the act of being a drunken armchair quarterback.

This, to me, is a nonsensical argument.

First, has nobody seen Invincible? I only watched the trailer, but I’m pretty sure the moral of that movie is anyone can make a professional team because all you need is some good ‘ol blue-collar toughness and/or a bushel of steroids (or whatever unit of weight steroids are sold in). Really, watching sports is just a way to remain mentally prepared for when you’re finally called on to take the field for the Eagles. Now is that somehow a sadder escapist fantasy than, say, devoting hours and hours to pretending you’re a space marine, mowing down extraterrestrial goblins with ruthless impunity? I say it’s not. Living vicariously through others is mentally unhealthy no matter what, but it seems saner to daydream about one day playing for the Chiefs than to fantasize about actually being Master Chief.

Speaking of potentially destructive mental attitudes, there’s the problem that video games promote terrible morals. Sports teach you about hard work, perseverance, learning to accept defeat, and why it is important never to root for Notre Dame. On the other hand, what do video games teach you?

That it’s okay to kill everything in your path to pursue a lover (Mario)? That it’s justifiable to eschew responsible resource allocation in favor of a perpetual effort to consume as much stuff as physically possible (Pacman)? That women are just as strong and capable as men (Laura Craft)?! I don’t know about you, but those aren’t that values I want my future children or clones embracing. Sports inspire you to be an ethical and moral person, albeit a hypercompetitive one with tendencies that border on sociopathic, but video games just inspire you to be a degenerate.

Related to the transmission of morals is the whole issue of cheating, a problem that permeates all corners of the gaming world from GameShark cartridges to those deplorable screen-lookers that ruin every Mario Kart match. In life, the only time it is permissible to cut corners is if you’re making one of those paper snowflakes. If you cheat at Crash Bandicoot, what’s going to stop you from cheating on a spouse or cheating the federal government out of its hard-earned tax money? Thankfully professional sports, as far as I know, have never ever contained any sort of cheaters, unless you count Mark McGwire as “cheating” for reigniting the national passion for baseball. People should make a concerted effort to improve their morals every day (Ben Franklin did), and there’s no conceivable way that video games are better than sports at modeling quality ideals.

Of course, the ultimate argument in favor of sports being less of a waste of time than video games is that sports only last a finite amount of time. Sure, there is the occasional basketball game that goes into six overtimes, but for the most part sporting events are confined to a few hours. Yes, you can binge on multiple games back-to-back, but even then you won’t be up until the wee hours of the morning.

Video games, on the other hand, are designed to keep you playing for hours and hours, causing you to neglect things like hygiene, your circadian rhythm, and blinking in your quest to unlock every secret. To accomplish this, games rely on gimmicks like “cinematic” cut-scenes (note to video games: You will never be movies! Stop trying!) and frequent plot-twists (which, let’s be honest, is a technique only Dan Brown is qualified to use). How can it be reasonably argued that watching a football game, which only lasts for a few hours tops, is somehow a bigger waste of time than becoming absorbed into a video game that is constructed to last for hundreds of hours? That’s just…math. While sports “news” coverage can certainly be unnecessarily lengthy, especially if Tim Tebow is somehow involved, the duration of a single game is perfectly bite-sized.

Really though, I don’t have a problem with video games or the people obsessed with them. I’ve played my fair share of the PS2 growing up and, to be honest, ComicCon has always looked incredibly fun. However, I do take umbrage with gamers who want to judge me for spending an afternoon watching sports, as if I’m the pathetic one for preferring to watch real people battle one another as opposed to watching orcs slay centaurs over digitally-rendered gold. I suppose the lesson in all this is that we should just cut back on judging one another and stop acting like we have all the answers about what is “worthwhile” and what is “pointless” when it comes to the oh-so-complicated concept of having fun in your spare time. And I suppose the second lesson is that video games companies need to make some better sports games. I’m tired of needing a doctorate in science to navigate the Madden play-calling system; can’t we just go back to the halcyon NFL Blitz ‘99 days? I’m pretty sure that’d solve all the problems.