The first weekend of the 2020 Overwatch League is in the books, and reports of its demise look to have been exaggerated. We were at both homestands and decided to look at a few key aspects that elevated the events.
Were the matches good?
New York: The New York Excelsior performed well, but for the other three teams, not so much. London vs. New York was better than expected -- mainly because no one expected much out of the Spitfire -- but overall, the Boston Uprising and the Spitfire didn't feel like appropriate opponents for the Excelsior. I'm looking forward to when the Excelsior get a chance to meet more competitive teams, like the Vancouver Titans and Los Angeles Gladiators, later in the season.
-- Jacob Wolf
New York: Of the New York matches, the most interesting one for me was the Toronto Defiant-Paris Eternal match with London Spitfire-New York Excelsior a close second. Toronto-Paris was always going to be fairly hyped as the league's debut series, with all eyes on whatever heroes each of these teams decided to pull out. Despite missing their primary flex tank, Choi "Hanbin" Han-bin, the Defiant looked surprisingly coordinated with Jeong "Nosmite" Da-un running Orisa alongside Benjamin "BenBest" Dieulafait. DPS player Jeong "Xzi" Ki-hyo popped off on his traditional hitscan hero of McCree and also looked remarkably strong on Symmetra. By contrast, the Defiant relied on Lane "Surefour" Roberts' Reaper in tandem with Brady "Agilities" Girardi's Mei. In the London-NY series, London's team of mostly new talent was fun to watch, particularly DPS player Im "Glister" Gil-seong.
-- Emily Rand
Dallas: I honestly had not had any time to pay attention to pre-scrim hype coming out of the Los Angeles Valiant, but watching them play at the Dallas homestand was a treat. The one-two DPS punch of Kyle "KSF" Frandanisa and Kai "KSP" Collins was great and, while they did lose to the Vancouver Titans, the Titans still look like one of the strongest teams in the league. I'll definitely have my eye on the Valiant moving forward this season.
Dallas: Before I make my comments, big shoutout to the ones who never get enough shoutouts: the tanks and supports. The offensive lines of the Overwatch League teams enable the playmakers, which is what made the matches so thrilling in Dallas.
Gui-un "Decay" Jang. Ji-hyeok "birdring" Kim. Kai "KSP" Collins. Hyojong "Haksal" Kim. Reigning OWL MVP Jay "sinatraa" Won. The DPS play on display in Dallas was nothing short of spectacular and thrilled a packed house. We saw immaculate aim from Decay's McCree, precision Dragonblades from Haksal, and chilling shots from KSP's Mei.
Sure, big D.Va bombs came up now and again, and a five-man Reinghardt Earthshatter certainly looked amazing from the LA Gladiator's Roni "LhCloudy" Tiihonen, and Minho "Architect" Park of the Shock put the entire Dallas roster to sleep with Ana, but so often the DPS duels, flanks and outplays kept the crowd hyped.
And the matches themselves? Well, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the Gladiators would bring the Titans to Game 5. The Valiant quieting the crowd in Dallas as the Fuel struggled to hold momentum was more or less expected if you cashed in your scrimbucks. The Valiant's game against the Titans had some wild moments despite a 3-0 scoreline, and Dallas punched back a few times against the San Francisco Shock.
-- Darin Kwilinski
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What was the best thing you ate?
New York: While I didn't check out the concessions on the floor, NYXL had a fake concession stand with Libero-Os, Hotba Hot Fries, and of course their major team sponsor going into this event, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Unfortunately I didn't get around to asking whether we could actually try these brightly packaged foods, but I wanted to call out another aspect of merchandising that the NYXL did well (in addition to their limited-edition clothing line and general graphics at the venue). The best thing I ate while in NYC was a tie between lox on a bagel from Frankel's Delicatessen and Sashimi Zuke Don at House of Small Wonder (both in Brooklyn).
Dallas: The food at the Arlington Esports Stadium was varied and fun, themed around all things Overwatch. While the Deadlock Gang BBQ combo left me wanting (Texas Toast that was just Texas Bread, brisket drowning in BBQ sauce, bland mac 'n' cheese), the Peacekeeper Nachos were what you'd expect and a little more. Delicious jalapeños sitting atop brisket chili and yellow corn chips? Delicious.
The lesson here, however: If you're going to do BBQ, especially in Texas, do it right or don't do it at all.
How were the venues?
New York: Hammerstein Ballroom is an iconic venue in New York and as a pro wrestling fan, I had high expectations for what we were going to see. The venue was great, from merchandising in the basement to nice balcony views.
My only complaint, really, was the stage kit that will be uniform for a lot of the Overwatch League homestands (I don't believe Dallas used the kit, but New York did). Something to be said about teams not having to worry about their stage being operational, but I do wish they were able to inject a little more flavor event to event moving forward. The New York Excelsior made the most of it with nice motion graphics and video content, though. SCORE: 8/10
New York: I've said this to people in person and on social media, but the way that New York have turned around their near-universally panned Magic Eye logo into the strongest brand in the league is ridiculously impressive. From the entrance that included several car-lot inflatable noodle men decked out in NYXL colors, to the way they used the logo in a variety of ways (a graphic block-man, moving images and types on the big screens, repeated chevron patterns on apparel), to the banners hung from every balcony, the NYXL took a historic venue and made it theirs.
As for extracurricular fan and event activities, including karaoke with "Big Boss" Kim "Pine" Do-hyeon, these all took place off site at a few different venues around the city. There's a lot to do in New York and the NYXL used this to its advantage.
Dallas: At the Esports Stadium Arlington, the Dallas Fuel decided to take their homestand one step further than they did last year, when they held their event at the Allen Event Center. In 2019, it was all about the sports aspect of the Overwatch League, with a raucous crowd treating a regular-season game against cross-state rival Houston like it was a championship final. This time around, Dallas still kept the packed crowd, but they added a convention feel to the event, holding numerous gaming events in a separate hall as the league matches were going on. They held a Smash Bros. event, hosted a high school tournament and gave the families that came to the Dallas homestand an alternative to just sitting in one place for numerous hours.
It was a nice innovation to what they did in 2019, and instead of taking away from the fans just there to watch the Overwatch League matches, it enhanced the entire event.
How hyped were the crowds?
New York: "Hyped" is an understatement. The games didn't start until 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, but fans were wrapped around 34th Street and 8th Avenue in Midtown starting at 8 a.m. The energy through the first matches of the day -- the non-NYXL ones -- was solid, but things picked up for the home team matches, for sure. The "boos" from fans toward visiting teams resembled what you'd expect at a New York sports event and chants like "yerrrrr" and "f--- them up" made New Yorkers feel right at home.
All around, good weekend for the New York Excelsior and a good weekend overall for the Overwatch League too. Definitely feels like a bar was set and that the rest of the league should take note.
New York: Despite being a fan of almost every Boston traditional sports team (sorry, New England Patriots), I love the New York crowds for most anything. They're salty, they're mad and they're fun. More importantly, they went well beyond the traditional "Let's go [insert player name or team name here and sometimes it doesn't even have two syllables but more]." While they did do this chant for main tank Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu, there was also a fast "Hot-BA, Hot-BA" whenever flex tank player Choi "Hotba" Hong-joon lit up the kill feed with a D.Va bomb. Naturally, whenever flex support Bang "JJonak" Seong-hyeon hit an Ana dart, the crowd immediately responded with "MVP, MVP!"
Dallas: From the opening minute the doors were opened in Dallas, a full crowd was already in their seats hours before the hometown Fuel took the stage to begin their season. Dallas had the most electric homestand crowd in 2019 and they were just as rowdy in their encore performance. While the Fuel as a team didn't perform as well as they did the last time they held a live event, attendance was strong both days. Along with a bevy of 20-somethings indulging in the Bud Light activations around the venue, families were out en masse, parents and children both clad in Fuel gear.
Winner: New York