Some sports entertainment events are forms of actual sports, such as the XFL football league and exhibition basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters association. Others are modifications of sport for entertainment purposes: many types of professional wrestling, which derived from traditional wrestling, and roller derby, derived from roller skating. Some take activities that are commonplace and make a competition out of them, such as competitive eating.
Some forms of sports entertainment involve taking competitive games which are usually considered minor in the grand scheme of things, such as dodgeball, poker, or rock-paper-scissors, and televising them with trumped-up theatrics, such as celebrity competitors or elaborate audiovisual packages. Televised thumb wrestling such as Thumb Wrestling Federation is an example of this type of sports entertainment.
The term came into prominence in the 1980s through its use by Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation, in order to avoid governmental athletic regulation, and it is explicitly used in advertisements by the Harlem Globetrotters. Precursors have been found going back to February 1935, when Toronto Star sports editor Lou Marsh described professional wrestling as "sportive entertainment."
While the concept of sports entertainment is generally applied only to modern creations, it can also be applied to traditional public spectacles such as bull fighting or even the gladiatorial fights of the ancient Roman Colosseum.
Monster truck events, and the U.S. television show American Gladiators are contemporary examples of sports entertainment without predetermined outcomes. Robot fighting such as Robot Wars and Battle Bots was a popular fad in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Sports entertainment has a stigma of mindless pop culture, and has been criticized as such in popular media. The film Idiocracy portrays a future where sports entertainment permeates the global culture: the president is an active champion professional wrestler and capital punishment consists of a combination demolition derby, monster truck event and gladiator duel, and is a highly popular television broadcast. Fiction with a dystopian future setting often portrays deadly futuristic games as popular sports entertainment, including the movies Rollerball and The Running Man, video games such as Smash TV and the Twisted Metal series, and the roleplaying game Shadowrun, which features Urban Brawl and Combat Biking.