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Caseythoughts In the altruistic effort to keep you up to date on my latest nail biting, and an effort to prove that at least some of my thoughts are not so out in left field (isn't there a simple solace in being able to whisper 'I told you so?'), I thought I would revisit a column I wrote a couple of months ago about e-sports. I had been surprised by a couple of acquaintances who told me they had never even heard of the concept-cum-factoid. I now have two stories for you to ponder, from a couple of unusual sources.

In the Ithaca High School 'Tattler' (don't laugh, there's a lot more journalistic talent there than in the entire Ithaca Journal, donchyaknow...), November 2018, is a story headlined: "Will IHS Ever Have an Esports Club?" Apparently Mr. Ryan Cunningham feels that the story deserved an in-depth look, and it was placed in the 'Sports' section of the Tattler.

Cunningham states that many students are 'hoping and prepping' for just such a club. He cites inherent shortfalls facing its inception. These shortfalls include which games could be used for competition. Apparently there are a plethora of popular games being used in so-called competition (we'll get to that in a moment) such as 'Counter-Strike', 'Defense of the Ancients', 'Fortnite', etc. I would assume these are games which only use virtual sticks, stones, clubs as weapons, right? I mean, what kind of competitive game doesn't have some sort of weapon? Guns would definitely be on a no-no list...I hope. But my ignorance of the genre is betrayed: maybe the competition would be magic tricks and finding hidden loot. Seems kind of tame and boring to teenagers who like to game. No 'Grand Theft Auto' or 'Call of Duty', right?

The author also points out that a number of high-end PCs and hardware would be necessary for IHS's esports club usage, set up specifically for that purpose. I assume that if confronted on the outlandish costs, these supporters would point out that the football team costs more money to 'equip'. As school taxes continue to rise for everyone in the environs of Ithaca and surrounding communities, I'm sure the taxpayers would love to finance a few kids to sit on their butts and compete with their thumbs to see who's 'Number One' in video gaming. Maybe snacks and munchies would be a part of the club costs? How long before other school districts (you know, the 'rich ones' like Lansing, who faces potential closure of its number one funding source on Cayuga Lake) hear their own students howling: "Ithaca has one, why not us?"

So, on to USA Today and the headline reads: "Little League ESports Eyes Youth Gaming". It had to be good for me to even consider using a USA Today story. God, what a dishrag (or birdcage addition) that newspaper is.

Anyway, there are advocates of this craziness saying that sports clubs of this nature (many, many of them now operating in middle schools and high schools around the country and the world, like any other 'club' sport) and, its advocates point out, it's better than playing alone in a bedroom or basement. The article actually states that some of the teammates (remember that many of them probably have never met except by computer, using competitive nommes des guerre) are as young as six years old, playing Minecraft. And they're formed into leagues, founded (and funded) three years ago into what is actually called Super League that uses 'MineCraft', 'League of Legends' and 'Clash Royale' in its competitions. The article states that this Super League has tens of thousands of players and is now a reality show on Nickelodeon. I quit Nickelodeon watching when my thirty-something daughter turned ten or so. I should have stuck with it if I hadn't sold my TV almost twenty years ago.

Some of these competitors are actually (are you sitting down?) raking in six figure salaries from sponsors and some colleges are offering esports scholarships. Talent is being scouted and identified in middle schools. The US is struggling to catch up with the rest of the gaming world, especially South Korea.

A company called 'Riot Games' (anyone up for some sleuthing about this company?) has partnered with this Super League and manages many of the 'professional' circuits and events, just like any other teen or adult competitive sporting event. I keep on conjuring thoughts of 'professional' wrestling, the WWF etc., with their goats and heroes, outlandish costumes, people screaming for their heroes at ringside and each costumed character having their own publicity stunts, backstories, etc. In reality these kids who qualify for a team actually have uniforms, tech support, coaches, access to digital platforms so they can practice and strategize. They have their own blogs and Twitter accounts. They're calling it America's next Little League. Farm teams, professional coaches, agents...

And, leave it to me to wonder how long before this collides with the new ability to legally bet on sports with your iphone? And if betting isn't your thing, how about the child or grandchild in your life pushing for a little money to pay for a coach, maybe a ride to a competition in another city, and pressure on the school board to finance a team. It's all coming to a school near you. It's already happening.


In a last minute edit, I decided that I needed to eliminate a third story to the above that was just too much of a downer for the last column prior to Christmas, and the last 'Thoughts' of this year. Instead, I decided to turn to one of my favorite people to quote (I never got the chance to interview her on my radio show, but did interview her good friend, the late Molly Ivens). If you've not heard of Anne Lamott, I'm hoping you'll relish her singular and wonderful words in her best-selling books. Some people feel that Lamott is too preachy, at the same time somewhat too angry, too this or that, but I have found her essays to be strangely true and awfully close to my own emotional 'home'. So, I want to give you a tiny little bit of her wisdom in an essay entitled 'Sustenance', from her volume called 'Small Victories' to ponder in this special season of seasons.

"...I learned from all my teachers that when I feel like shoveling in food, a man, or expensive purchases, the emptiness can be filled only with love--a nap with the dogs, singing off-key with my church. Or, maybe, a fig. I learned that opening myself to my own love and to life's tough loveliness not only was the most delicious amazing thing on earth but also was quantum. It would radiate out to a cold, hungry world. Beautiful moments heal, as do real cocoa, Pete Seeger, a walk on old fire roads. All I ever wanted since I arrived here on earth were the same things I needed as a baby, to go from cold to warm, lonely to held, the vessel to the giver, empty to full. You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound love, even when you're dirty and rattled. Who knew?" (Anne Lamott, Small Victories, Riverhead Books, 2014, p. 103).

Is there anyone who needs more love than yourself? Is there someone who could use your quiet understanding and perhaps non-judgmental forgiveness, including you first of all? See if you can read Lamott's words while remembering the 'reason for the season' and, hopefully, find your peace. Then, I challenge myself, and you, to be the peacemaker of the group you call family. Pass it on. Thanks for listening.

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