You go to a bar and football is on. You sit next to a nonchalant guy and ask for bartender for a drink. Next thing you know you're talking to your neighbor about the Super Bowl.
It happens all the time. Outside the stadium, people can gather around for a purpose and end up talking about their teams and such. When we talk about WoW on the other hand, there are a lot of mixed responses. Generally, no one looks down for others for liking a sport, but WoW is fair game. Why is our society like this? What are the similarities and differences that tell us what to accept or shun?
First and foremost, sports are well ingrained in the American society. You can grow up on it, join your parents in it, go to college for it, and even make a career out of it. One can say it all started with a group of children trying to have fun. Gaming however, is only about two generations old. Even then, many gaming systems came from Japan. Naturally, they were easy to look down upon, as we were only one generation out of WWII.
Another key difference between the two are the qualities of the participants. Athletes are physically trained, resulting in toned bodies and better than average physical skills. Gamers train their intellect to optimize their gaming. However, it doesn't show on the outside, except in some cases the lack of hygiene. Anyone who is new to both areas would initially lean towards sports, causing a decrease in popularity for gaming.
Although these are significant, I believe the greatest reason is that there is too much competition within the gaming industry. Sports are divided by the type of sport, whether it be football or whatnot. Gaming emulates this too, boasting a plethora of genres, such as FPS, RTS, fighting, and MMORPG. However, unlike sports, these genres are divided. For example, in fighting games we have Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Blazblue, King of Fighters, and much more. These come with their own set of players and fans. Such division causes fickle and reluctant sponsorship, since you never know when a game is going to go out of style and become obsolete. This doesn't happen in sports. With the advancement of technology, the players are still there and so are the fans, leading to sponsorship and growth. The worst part about this is that gaming as we now know it strives on the creation of new games. This means that it'll never be able to become a mainstream phenomenon.
This is where WoW differs from your average game. Rather than making money off initial purchases, Blizzard uses subscriptions to get the green to flow. There is great potential in this, as it lays a foundation that isn't reconstructed every new release. A building that doesn't break can only grow. It all comes down to Blizzard pushing the game towards mainstream success.