Just three years removed from being named league MVP, this former superstar is now stocking shelves at Sam’s Club. No, it’s not Shaun Alexander. He’s at BJ’s Wholesale.
Emmanuel Rodriguez was a star playing Dead or Alive 4 in the Championship Gaming Series, and made a full-time job of it, complete with salary and endorsement deals. But to no one’s surprise, one of the casualties of the economy has been professional video gaming, the sport no one needed or wanted.
News Corporation and DirecTV launched the Championship Gaming Series in 2006, a magical time when money grew on trees, people read newspapers, and you could get a mortgage with just a margarita maker for collateral. They had more than 100 salaried players, including Rodriguez, who made $30,000 as a base, with tournament prizes as much as $5,000.
CGS folded suddenly, but not unexpectedly, in November, along with numerous other leagues.
“Going into this, I busted my heart out,” Rodriguez said recently. “It felt like I put in all this energy to build something big. I felt like everything I built up was gone.”
I do feel bad for the kid, but let’s keep some perspective. This isn’t the AHL or ABA shutting down operations, or baseball going on strike. This is the ultimate niche sport, and “sport” is generous. When companies, including News Corp, are laying off employees, did anyone really expect them to keep pumping millions of dollars into kids playing video games against each other?
And let’s not forget that fat kid in middle school who you could never beat at Street Fighter 2, or the skinny Korean kid at the movie theater who was always on the DDR machine. These aren’t athletes. So I’m going to go ahead and declare: “not a sport.”