The NYXL rode their first season on a high of public praise and lofty expectation that at times they would meet, but when it mattered the most, they crumbled. This created the accurate narrative of dominance, but they never “lost.” The team had lost as LW Blue in the past, but as NYXL they never explored what pain was. Facing the cruel mistress of defeat when all the cards are on the table can be sometimes be the reality check that one needs to reset themselves. To take their level of expectation and return it to a state of neutrality and to maintain a level of motivation to continue growth. So before I lose you to the next dopamine shot, lose more, lose often, and use that information -- both tangible and intangible -- to move forward.
Because the NYXL in Overwatch League Season 1 didn’t seem to have a lot of that “good pain,” their dominance, and by proxy their arrogance, is what clouded them and it’s hidden under sandbags.
Let me explain.
We cannot know NYXL’s practice results, but those don’t matter as much. Those aren’t matches on stage with maximum pressure, cheering crowds and disappointed faces, are they? Practice is a closed vacuum where loss is to be expected. Loss isn’t what your aim is, but it keeps you grounded, it helps you learn, and with smaller micro goals that are the focus, loss can
be a net positive in terms of morale for the team. When it comes to game day, that’s where lessons are executed. Note the neutral wording there; it’s both what you’ve practiced, as a unit, as well as what lessons you can take away from your opponents. And when the NYXL approached interviews in season one there is this air of confidence that teetered on hubris, it made me wonder; have they ever truly “lost?”
In an interview with ESPN
, the NYXL coaching staff and their players really exemplified this idea of over confidence. "We understand the game so well, every move we make is meaningful," Meko said. "Every move has meaning."
"I agree with Meko," WizardHyeong said. "I think other teams are trying to copy us[.] They're trying to copy a lot of our strats but I don't think they're understanding the meaning of those moves, so I don't think it's going to be as efficient."
This idea is capped with a quote from WizardHyeong and is used as evidence that NYXL were “sandbagging” -- or deliberately underperforming as to hide information. "I don't really care about this stage personally," and "as a coaching staff, we're very much interested in making sure that our players are in good condition, making sure that they're well-rested as well, mentally and physically. If we have any in-game problems that need to be solved, now is the time."
This idea of reckless abandon guised as long form seasonal play came to a screeching halt during the seasonal playoffs as the NYXL approached a new patch and a new threat to their dominance. They would be playing against a surging Philadelphia Fusion.
Fate would have it that things didn't pan out well for NYXL.
During NYXL’s post match press conference after their upset to the Philadelphia Fusion during the season one semifinals, a number of players were visibly shaken. Some shared their emotion with their displeased expression, their eyes glued to the floor, while others even shed a tear or two.
“When the match ended and I saw the fans sitting in the audience,” main tank Mano said, “I got really emotional. As the older brother of the team, I wanted to hold back the tears. But after the game, I couldn’t do it anymore.”
“Today was the most memorable day of the season,” Saebyeolbe concurred with his teammates. “We got to feel sorry for our teammates -- we felt that today, and it reminded us we never want to feel that again. It makes us try even harder. Today was the most valuable day of the season.”
ArK even took to Twitter to vent his frustration
. “Stage is over. No doubt that Phili was better than us today. I felt so unprepared for today's match,” and “I don't wanna feel this again, so we'll try our best for our next chance. So sad that I cried too much so my eyes are hurt. But next season, we'll make other team cry.”
For the first time all season, they truly suffered the pain of a loss. Sure, they lost a few games here and there, but their dominance was fairly consistent. NYXL made every single stage finals in season one and to be bested in not just one best of five, but two consecutive best of fives? That was unheard of and inconceivable. This was their first “real” loss where their skin was in the game and unfortunately for them, it was ripped off like scab on a wound not fully healed.
Now that does not have to continue.
The NYXL have not made wholesale roster changes coming into season two, so these wounds from the first season should still be somewhat fresh. And, in a weird way, I think that’s a good thing. The pain of floundering in the playoffs is good pain. The pain of disappointment is good pain. Losses are good pain. But it’s not about where the challenges come from, so long as you let them act as constant reminders. To be more cliche, it’s a “how you get back up on the horse” style scenario.
For some, pain and loss is what propels them forward -- and for the NYXL, it seems like they learned their lesson.
That’s the frightening yet intriguing part about the NYXL. They showed us their overwhelming skill in season one, period. It’s difficult to argue otherwise. And if they’ve identified structural weaknesses and remedied them -- whether it be people, ideologies or mindsets -- there is a good chance they can come back during season two and push past their own records.
And for my money, it’s not a matter of “can,” it’s a matter of “when.”
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.