During Press Day of the 2019 OWL Grand Finals, a few members of the Overwatch League’s talent team took the time to sit down with me for a round table reflection on their first two years of the league. At the table was Mitch “Uber” Leslie, Matt “Mr.X” Morello, Soe Gschwind and Chris Puckett.
In light of a couple of the recent departures of OWL broadcast members, this interview could very well be one of the last moments to have some of these incredible people together in the same room. And, if you’ve ever had a few members of this crew together at once, you know that it becomes quickly apparent how much of a family they truly are.
Lessons Learned and Uber’s Emotions
To start the interview, I simply opened the floor to hear what everyone had learned most through the transition from year one to two in the league. The first to answer was caster Mitch “Uber” Leslie, who opened with a sincere take on the grind and the need to be realistic in one’s expectations of themselves.
“From a purely personal perspective, when you get into a league like this and you’re pumping out shows every week, I realized that it was much more realistic to really try and go for a very solid product over every broadcast that I worked on, instead of trying to break the mold or reinvent the wheel as a broadcaster every time. I was getting pretty down on myself at the end of season one with some of the games I wasn’t happy with. It’s exhausting, and if you orbit around that too much, it will definitely hurt you in the long run.”
Without missing a beat, his co-caster Matt “Mr.X” Morello, instantly diffused whatever sense of sincerity was in the air, cutting off his partner, “I mean, every game Mitch just got so emotional.”
This, of course, sent the table into a fit of laughter. Amidst her laughs and everyone’s general rambunctiousness OWL desk analyst, Soe Gschwind, sarcastically cut in, “Yeah, we’d look over and see Uber crying alone in the corner in the broadcast booth all the time.”
Having clearly had enough, but not really, Uber cut back in, “Matt, at least, has been able to content himself with just being shit and get carried by—”
This elevated the decibel level at the table even higher than before. If I hadn’t of known better, I would’ve thought I was watching a family at Thanksgiving dinner, battling with one another with lighthearted jeers. I wanted to be a part, I couldn’t help it, so I fed Uber’s ego a bit and pointed out his past “Broadcaster of the Year” accolades. Eyes rolled and Uber’s initial response to my question rolled on with them, taking back up a serious tone.
“To get back to it, it’s just about letting go a bit and realizing that you can have a bad game. It’s just like the players. The players are putting in the hours to perform and for me to do them justice as a broadcaster, I probably want to approach it in a similar way if not the same way.”
With the table having calmed down a bit and the mood shifting to some level of serious, Soe gave her thoughts on the transition from 2018 to 2019.
“I think, in terms of learning from season one to two, it’s just the general approach. I’m not sure how to word it, exactly. We broadcast to different TV channels, there were more teams, more people to influence all things, there were just so many chefs in that kitchen. There’s a lot of input coming from every side, whether that be that production, the community, or even Team Four itself. There are just a lot of inputs and we had to somehow make it work for everyone. I think that was a learning experience and a learning curve for everyone involved in this project, even the people giving input.
From season one to season two, we streamlined everything really well, and it opened up a lot more communication channels with all the different pieces of this puzzle. So, It felt a lot smoother towards the end of season two, which was great.”
Overcoming Obstacles Together
After Soe’s response, the table was fully engaged, thinking through the biggest hurdles and the many milestones of their journey since the genesis of the OWL. For host Chris Puckett, a little bit of backup and continuity helped him to have a much physically healthier 2019 season.
“I think the big thing for me was having the same talent return for the second year. It was ultra beneficial and gave me a lot more work/life balance. Also, having Malik come in and splitting the desk work. I’ve only had two migraines this year where, last year, I was literally throwing up in the middle of the show, at times. So, big props to everyone on the backend of Blizzard for supporting this product and giving it the resources that it should have and deserves.”
At this, several solemn nods spread across the table. It was easy to tell that seeing Puckett suffer through this was something the other members of the talent team were deeply concerned about. Puckett continued.
“I felt like we were set up in a position to really succeed this year and it was great to see the growth of my desk from year one to year two. I can throw Sideshow any question, at any time, and not only will he give us a fantastic answer, but he’s also now confident in being able to telestrate that live, on the fly. In the first couple of months, it was a big learning curve for a lot of the new talent on the show and to see everyone’s growth, it’s been phenomenal in just short of two years now.”
As our time was drawing to a close, Mr. X was the final to respond about what he learned in his transition from Call of Duty to OWL.
“I think my transition from Call of Duty to Overwatch in year one was probably one of the smoother transitions because the Call of Duty season was pretty long as well, and we did a ton of traveling with that. With Advanced Warfare, we did like 30 events on the road that whole year. We were on the road a ton, so getting used to the Overwatch League schedule, at times, was actually almost a little bit easier.
For season two, it was just about how to properly prep and manage the prep time. Keeping track of what games I had, knowing who to focus on, knowing what to watch, knowing who to speak to and so on. Just streamlining that for myself was probably the biggest adjustment for year two, for me.”
Repaying his co-caster for his earlier interruption, Uber chimed in just as Mr. X was through talking, “Not that anyone would have known if you had struggled, because Matt never shows it. Even if, internally, he’s freaking out, he walks in like ‘Hey, what’s up?'”
Mr. X nodded and replied, as level-headed as ever, “Just gotta keep the same vibe all the time.”
In Sickness and in Health
Just as Mr. X had finished speaking, Puckett began to wear a smirk as he waiting to chime in. “Matt, true or false: You were really sick during last year’s Grand Finals, but you didn’t tell anybody so you wouldn’t get removed from the cast.“
Mr. X’s response and body language immediately revealed the truth of the statement. “Yeah, so, about that—”
Uber instantly jumped in, sharing his intel, a regular gossip at recess, “I saw him leave the hotel in an Uber at like 11 pm the night before Grand Finals, and I’m like, ‘Where you going?'”
After some general rustling and some genuinely surprised faces at the table, Mr. X proceeded to tell the story.
“So, yeah, a lot of people actually don’t know about this. I had food poisoning and I couldn’t go to sleep. I was like, ‘alright, we’re gonna get this figured out.’ So, I went out and got fluids and stuff. I mean, I was super sick. I went and got an IV for a bit, got ready, and then went back to the hotel. I got a quick shower, changed, drank a few coffees, went with Puckett to get some anti-nausea stuff, and then just went out there and did it. But, you would have never known just because, I don’t know, it’s just kind of how I am.”
A True Family
One thing that became overwhelmingly apparent when reflecting on this conversation with the broadcast crew was expressed throughout the interview. Through migraines, struggles with feelings of inadequacy and even food poisoning the night before the Grand Finals, this has been a talent team that seems to have become more of a family than they may have anticipated.
In closing, I asked them about pet peeves and which other members got on their nerves but each of them genuinely seemed to have nothing negative towards any other broadcast members (well, except Bren). All in all, despite whatever happens with the broadcast structure in 2020 and beyond, it’s safe to say that the crew up until this point has been a joy to witness.
The Game Haus would like to thank Matt, Mitch, Chris and Soe for sitting down with us at the 2019 Grand Finals. We appreciate all of your hard work and wish each of you the very best in 2020!
Follow me on Twitter: @GoopyKnoopy I would love to dialogue with you about anything I’ve written!
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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