Esports is my game of the year. No, seriously. Nothing has pulled me in more this year and made me more invested than the League of Legends North American pro scene, and I hate myself for it.
After my boys in Echo Fox lost to those scumbags from TSM in the quarterfinals of the Summer Split Playoffs a few weeks back, I was more furious than I have been in a long, long time. Why the heck did we put Lucian at mid in a potentially series-deciding Game 4? If we’re picking up Lucian you got to at least give it to Huni, the Lucian god. Even I know this, and I didn’t even know who Huni or Lucian were in 2017. As someone who consumes a lot of conventional sports, I don’t think I’ve been that mad about one of my teams losing in a long, long time.
When the Butler Bulldogs lost in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Finals in back-to-back years, I just cried. When the Cubs were obliterated by Daniel Murphy–and Daniel Murphy alone–in the 2015 NLCS, I was more butthurt than mad — there is a difference. And when the Pacers dropped Game 7 to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2013, I was just numb because I already knew what was going to happen before the game even began. No, this fury that I felt deep within me after seeing Echo Fox blow a 2-1 lead a few weeks ago was something new. And unfortunately, it was something I embraced. I’m in deep.
Despite Echo Fox coming up short and being unable to hang a North American championship banner–which was won last week by Team Liquid–they still have one final chance to make Worlds this weekend in the North American gauntlet. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a small tournament that sees four teams vying for the final regional qualifier position in order to make Worlds, the season-ending tournament which features teams from everywhere. Echo Fox, Clutch Gaming, Team SoloMid, and Cloud9 are the final four teams remaining and competing in this gauntlet.
Echo Fox has been slotted in at the third spot in this bracket, which means they’ll have to do the full gauntlet run in order to make Worlds. While I’m a bit worried about this daunting task, I’m kind of out for blood and want to see them lay waste to all of these organizations. It’ll be that much more satisfying once they win.
I really don’t have a problem with Clutch. I appreciate the memes that they have given us this year and while I hate watching them play, most of their players seem pretty chill. Clutch is fine in my book, but Echo Fox should make short work of them in round one, if history is any indicator.
The matchup I’m looking forward to is the one that should take place tomorrow with TSM. When I was brought into the world of competitive League of Legends, I was taught one thing right away: TSM sucks. This has proved to be absolutely true, and TSM has now joined the New England Patriots, USC Trojans, and St. Louis Cardinals as some of my least-liked teams ever. They’re essentially the Yankees of the North American League of Legends scene. I want revenge against this organization and it’s army of annoying fans so badly.
What I hate so much about TSM right now is that I really don’t think they’re good at all. This roster was supposed to be some sort of “dream team” coming into 2018, but in the time that I’ve watched them, they’ve come off as nothing but inconsistent and weak. My boy Dardoch rolls this squad almost every time they play, and I expect that to happen again this weekend. As much as I want to make Worlds, I’d rather just see Echo Fox prevent TSM from making it for the first time in history. I can sleep well after this weekend, as long as we specifically knock out Bjergsen and company.
Assuming that all goes well today and tomorrow for Echo Fox, Cloud9 is the team awaiting them on Sunday. I’m not really scared of Cloud9, but there’s a bigger, more personal issue with this matchup — my roommate is a massive Cloud9 fan.
My roommate is the one who dragged me into this world of competitive League of Legends. After years of me resisting to ever become entrenched in this scene, he essentially forced me to start watching it after we moved in last fall. It only took a few games for me to become hooked, and soon after I chose a team at random to start rooting for. Echo Fox became that team, basically just because I knew who Rick Fox was. Original, I know.
We’ve reached a point where I’ve practically surpassed my roommate in terms of my consumption of the NA LCS. My Saturdays and Sundays for pretty much the entirety of this year have just consisted of me sitting on my couch watching these games doing hardly anything else. I’ve gone from not knowing how League of Legends even works–and I still really don’t–to now being able to predict picks and bans depending on the current patch that the game is being played on. I now understand memes that I wouldn’t have before, I use key terms and phrases that had never previously entered my vocabulary, and my wardrobe consists of more Echo Fox gear that I’d like. League has become my drug and just like that pretty bad Rihanna song, I should probably check into rehab.
The issue of Cloud9 and Echo Fox facing one another on Sunday, if it comes to fruition, is that I don’t know what’s going to happen between my roommate and I. My newfound obsession with this game combined with his long-term obsession–he has a Cloud9 tattoo for goodness sake–means something bad is going to happen to one of us at the end of all of this. If Echo Fox pulls off the upset and beats Cloud9, I’ll be sleeping with one eye open Sunday night for fear of being attacked. If Cloud9 loses, I’ll probably just have to move out and go back to living with my parents. I can’t live with someone like that.
What’s kind of dumb about all of this is that even if Echo Fox does make Worlds, they’re just going to inevitably get smashed by some team from another region. They have no shot to beat some of the best League of Legends teams in the world and I’m well aware of this fact. Still, coming to grips with this obvious conclusion hasn’t made me want to root any less to see my boys kick the teeth in of these other NA squads. This is less about making it to Worlds and winning the whole thing, and more just about me wanting bragging rights throughout the off-season.
I’m very nervous about this weekend. It’s a feeling that I haven’t had since the Cubs in the 2016 playoffs, and that ended pretty well all things considered. I’ve said my prayers to Rick Fox, I’ve studied Nick “Inero” Smith’s past galaxy-brain drafts, and I’m believing that Huni will finally stop inting in this Summer split. All in all, I’m not really that scared of any one team in this gauntlet run. I know Echo Fox can make it to Worlds, they’ve just got to stop shooting themselves in the foot for once.
The gauntlet kicks off this evening, September 14th, at 5:00 EDT as Echo Fox takes on Clutch Gaming. Saturday and Sunday’s matchups will also happen at the same time. Please send me well-wishes over the course of the next few days, because I’m absolutely going to need them.