In sports a good narrative is key. In esports it’s essential. Something that had been lacking from the 2020 season of the Overwatch League was such narratives. Sure there were some stories half developing but there was still something missing. What the move to online play, and eventually to the tournament formant gave fans was this missing piece. Stakes that felt real. That made each game have weight and deliver high-quality entertainment. In this sense, the Overwatch League Summer Showdown was one for the history books.
Fans saw eventual champions the Guangzhou Charge and Paris Eternal take down mighty opponents on their way to the top. They watched gods bleed when the San Francisco Shock were slain. Yet a quieter storyline also emerged this past weekend. The rise of the underdogs. Friday, July 3 was filled with a shock, a surprise, and another shock. In one day the league saw three back-to-back upsets.
Outlaws set the trend
The day actually began as most thought. With Gengi being a key part to the developing meta, the Eternal quickly dealt with the Dallas Fuel. A decent fight was put up, but betting against Kim “Sp9rk1e” was not wise. The day of Upsets truly began when the Houston Outlaws faced the Florida Mayhem. These teams had faced each other just the week before, where the Mayhem were barely able to fend off a reverse sweep. So the narrative was set. It was a revenge quest for the Outlaws. The first map of Busan seemed to indicate the Mayhem would quell this outlaw uprising quickly. Taking it in a swift 2-0. Despite the clear win, the winds of upset were already blowing. Some incredible play from Finland’s gift to Esports; Jiri “Linkzr” Masalin and Dante “Danteh” Cruz gave a glimpse into the future.
After map one, the Outlaws loaded their six-shooters and went to work. After what seemed a disappointing attack on Blizzard World, they just went right ahead and dominated the Mayhem on defense. Full holding them. Full holding the number two team from the May Melee. After this, there were signs of booming from the Mayhem. Hanamura was a close one, but Rialto was anything but. Securing the upset, and confirming their revenge by keeping the Mayhem to point A.
Toronto Defiant are true to their name
It has to be said, going into this tournament the Toronto Defiant were not seen as a contender. They had a big win in the first week of qualifiers but since then had been dominated by each opponent they faced. Going 1-2 in qualifying weeks. The mood was low, but for fans, there was still hope. As Genji returned to the Meta the belief that Brady “Agilities” Girardi would be able to rise once again on his signature hero was there. Toronto sports teams, on the whole, are eternal underdogs. Even when they should be dominant they find a way to beat themselves. Not this day. This day the local Toronto man was pleased from his hat to his shoes. The Raptors jersey was swapped out with a Defiant one. The game against the Los Angeles Valiant would see hope return to the souls of Defiant fans.
Busan was close, but once more it seemed the Defiant may be in trouble. They had some shining moments and took it to a 1-2 finish. Yet the end result was defeat. In between maps, they ate their damn Timbits, chugged a couple of double-doubles, and came out ready to play. Fighting hard they fended off the terrifying DPS duo on the Valiant and were able to even the series on Kings Row.
Defiant to the end
The improvement shown here was wonderful. The tank line of Seb “Numlocked” Barton and Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson were cleaner than they had been in weeks. The following maps were again close, but the Defiant were able to do something they had struggled with all season. Clutch it out and get the win. Their run on Junkertown was a highlight. If there was a map to suggest watching, it would be this one. An impressive performance from start to finish. Securing the upset, and continuing the trend of bracket breaking. Agilities and the king of aim Andreas “Logix” Berghmans led the team to break their losing streak at just the right time. The Defiant win was one storyline this weekend which showed the joy of tournament play. The team no one expected went further than any thought.
The man pictured above granted fans of the long-struggling Washington Justice what they needed most: Hope. Lee “Ttuba” Ho-Sung off the back of his unnervingly good Genji play led the Justice to a victory to even get them into the tournament, and then in a major upset against a now in freefall Los Angeles Gladiators. For instance the first map saw Kevin “Kevster” Persson absolutely dominate, getting his team an easy map win. After this, though it was as if a switch was flipped. As such it was barely a competition. The Justice took whatever momentum the Gladiators had and stomped it into the ground. It was the final piece in the upset day puzzle. Which saw almost every lower-seeded team hit their stride and claim victory.
For the Justice, establishing such dominance on maps such as Anubis and Junkertown was a major boon for their mental. Losing so much, and having fans and others question every move the team had made takes its toll. To come out and prove everyone wrong when it counts like this was essential. The tournament raised the stakes by offering not only pride but the chance at improving the team’s record. While the Justice was unable to claim the extra wins, they showed that they deserve respect. Underestimating opponents cost teams a great deal in this tournament. A lesson they should look to remember.
Underdogs Rise Up
What these upsets on day one showed was a wonderful gift available by way of the tournament format. Upsets do happen in the regular season, but when they are over people can forget and move on much faster. It is an “ah well, gg go next” situation. In this format, there is no go next. A team loses and they’re out. The stakes are raised, the tension is high and the joy of victory is increased tenfold.
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