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Overwatch Is A Flat Circle

Volamel 2019-09-17 05:47:24
  Like a broken record, history has a tendency to repeat itself and on September 29th, Overwatch League’s budding rivalry between the San Francisco Shock and the Vancouver Titans will come to a head during the 2019 Overwatch League grand finals. And at the helm of each team's offense lies an award-winning DPS all-star. For the Shock, it’s the charismatic, regular-season MVP winner Jay "sinatraa" Won and for the Titans it’s the happy-go-lucky, Rookie of the Year Kim "Haksal" Hyojong. As the two primary weapons for each respective roster prepare to square off against one another, it’s important to revisit their first-ever meeting to help contextualize their final one for the season. To do so, we have to travel all the way back to March of 2017. Overwatch was in an interesting place back then. The western scene was in a strange state as some of the top teams were absent, creating a power vacuum. This gave rise to the fan-favorite team, Selfless Gaming and would give Sinatraa his start.  Across the globe in South Korea, underdog team, RunAway, just finished regaining their spot in OGN’s Overwatch APEX league for season two after a disappointing exit in the group stage during the inaugural season. Star Genji specialist, Haksal, made a promising debut but looked forward to the upcoming season. Somehow, both teams--and both players--would meet each other in the North American online tournament, the Alienware Monthly Melee, in 2017.  Both RunAway and Selfless Gaming would be put into Group B alongside Immortals and Luminosity Gaming Evil. Looking back on each team, regardless of group, was littered with unknowing Overwatch League talent ready for their chance to be called up onto the biggest stage in Overwatch. However, it would be the first match in Group B where Sinatraa and Haksal would first face off. 
With Haksal on Genji, RunAway would answer back with a win on Temple of Anubis overcoming a six-minute time bank leading into the second round. The victory was a fine example of Haksal on his signature hero becoming RunAway’s ace in the hole and breaking through the impressive defense of Selfless Gaming.  Ultimately RunAway would buckle under the aggression and ping differential. The underdog team from Korea would fall on Nepal, giving Sinatraa and Selfless Gaming the victory, 2-1. They would then go on to make a brilliant run through the playoffs ending with the silver medal whereas RunAway exited the playoffs early with a loss to Brasil Gaming House. Just as Sinatraa and Haksal were standouts in the Alienware Monthly Melee all those years ago, they both have continued on their trajectory and have been standouts throughout the entire 2019 Overwatch League season.      Rallying back from a disappointing inaugural season, Sinatraa was dominant throughout the regular season on with the San Francisco Shock. So dominant in fact he ended up winning the regular-season MVP award.  Haksal, on the other hand, entered the league alongside the Vancouver Titans, who were comprised entirely of the latest roster from RunAway. With an equally impressive performance compared to his foil, Haksal took home Rookie of the Year for 2019 as well as joining Sinatraa as a DPS Role Star. These two players and their respective teams would constantly meet throughout the regular seasons' most important game. First, San Francisco Shock and the Vancouver Titans would have on of the most memorable sets in Overwatch history in the Stage 1 finals. Trading blows back and forth, each team barely moved an inch, but in the 23rd hour, the Titans roared back against the Shock on Rialto to win the series and the Stage 1 title.  The Shock would have their run back in the following stage with more successful results. After completing the league’s first golden stage (going undefeated in both matches and maps), the Shock would defeat the Titans in their rematch, 4-2.  And now both the teams meet in the grand final of the 2019 season Overwatch League.     Right as the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles California closes its doors for good, right as the 2020 season inducts massive homefronts into the league’s equations, right as the league realizes its core goal, the loop connects. And that’s the thing about history. It’s doomed to repeat itself. Let me indulge you with a colorful explanation. The pre-final festivities begins with a brilliant musical performance from Zedd, but as the setlist reaches its climax, Zedd signs off and the Wells Fargo Center goes quiet. The eerie silence drones on as the audience lie in anticipatory wait. The pause lasts almost too long, but right as the dramatic tension reaches its peak--a faint noise cuts the room.  The Vancouver Titans are revealed on a plateau. One by one they step forward, each receiving their own, but each player on the starting roster is given a small audio vignette of the caster preaching the gospel of their achievements before turning and walking away. Cut to the clearing below them--from the brush emerges the San Fransisco Shock. As they trek towards the mouth of a tunnel under the same mountain range, they’re accompanied by their own individual moments captured by the commentary team.  The faint whispers in the wind are interrupted by the horn of a train.     As the camera pans down, it’s revealed to the audience the Shock are walking headfirst into a tunnel with a train painted the very colors of the team they just decimated in the losers’ bracket finals; the New York Excelsior. As the train blitzes past them, the windows flicker a slideshow of memorable moments the Shock had throughout the season to bring them to this point.  The defeat at the hands of the Titans in stage one. The victory over them in Stage 2. Shanghai’s upset in Stage 3 Atlanta’s upset in the quarterfinals. The screen then fades to black. Cue a slow but triumphant return of the Shock backed by an inspirational theme composed and performed by Zedd in the arena. The entire Shock roster emerges triumphantly from the ground floor, on the leftmost side of the arena, spotlight above them, dimly illuminating the pitch-black Wells Fargo Center.  As the team finds their marks and waves to the audience and the music reaches a valley in tempo, the Vancouver Titans reinvigorates the stadium, emerging from a small stage on the right side of the arena extended from one of the upper-floor suits. As both teams stand, basking in the spotlight and fan elation, two men step forward from their respective teams.     Sinatraa and Haksal step forward from their respective teams, flanked by the remainder of their rosters to meet center stage. The Rookie of the Year meets the regular season MVP and both men shake hands almost signifying a mutual understanding that there is a sizeable chance that either one of them, performance pending, could walk away with not only the coveted 2019 Championship Title but the Finals MVP as well. Two years in the making.  From a humble online competition to a sold-out crowd in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Haksal and Sinatraa will clash to decide the fate of the 2019 season. And that’s the thing about history. It’s doomed to repeat itself. Someone once told me time is a flat circle.  Everything we’ve ever done, or will do, we’re going to do over and over and over again, spiraling to infinity.  These two teams and these two incredibly talented men will wage war against one another on September 29th. And behind them is another budding generation of young men and women that are going to follow their footprints. The titles may change, the genres may be different, but time will reconnect again.  And again.  And again.  Forever.
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.

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