When dreams aren’t enough

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Ashton Stansel tackles the week in esports.  Photo courtesy of Fnatic on Twitter

Ashton Stansel tackles the week in esports. Photo courtesy of Fnatic on Twitter

In sports, there are some bars that just can’t be reached. Sometimes, a team on their best day playing better than they ever have before, still can’t reach the mark that will allow them to take down their opponent. It’s the unspoken rule of sports; it’s not just about who shows up on the day. Sometimes one team is just so much better that their mistakes cease to matter in the context of a game or series. 

That was the case this past weekend in both the LCS and LEC playoffs. While underdog teams put up strong performances and played good games, they were incapable of reaching the level of the favorites even on days where those favorites made mistakes. And while the underdogs did not play the best games of their lives, they played good games. They played well. And in most of the games they played this weekend, they still got utterly destroyed.

Look at the Cloud9 versus Evil Geniuses game in North America. Cloud9 came into this series after a 3-0 victory over 100 Thieves a week earlier, a series that in no way looked close at any moment. On Saturday they played their second best-of-five of the year, this time against Evil Geniuses. While Evil geniuses put up a better fight than 100 Thieves, even claiming game three from Cloud9 and handing them only their second loss of the year, it still never felt like a close series. The games were all won by Cloud9; in the three games Cloud9, EG got just three turrets total. 

Even as Evil Geniuses became the second team this year to take a game off of Cloud9 — which is certainly an accomplishment — it never felt as though there was a world in which they won the series bar Cloud9 suddenly all passing out or throwing. The same was true in Europe when G2 Esports faced off against Origen. G2 was coming off of a shocking defeat to the rookie Mad Lions, which many people thought might throw them off their game a little and give Origen a chance.

It didn’t. G2 didn’t beat Origen as soundly as Cloud9 beat Evil Geniuses, but the series still ended 3-1, and G2 still felt like the better team by far. That’s not to say Origen was terrible, because that would be untrue. They had successful plays and moments in multiple games where it felt like they should win, but G2’s might overwhelmed them in all but game three. In game two, Origen even had a lead for a while, but G2 was just better. In the end, it didn’t matter that Origen had played game two pretty well. They weren’t good enough to win it. 

It often feels like the unfortunate reality of sports that most underdog stories inevitably don’t end in victory. People often argue that they don’t need to; that whatever made that run special will be remembered even if the team loses, and they’re often right. But that doesn’t change the reality that cheering for an underdog usually means you’re going to get your heart broken. 

This week, it was Fnatic who broke the hearts of fans in Europe, as they defeated the underdog Mad Lions and knocked them to the lower bracket in a bloody 3-0 series. The Lions, who had looked so strong against G2 just a week earlier, floundered and lost badly, putting a dampening on their miracle victory. But that loss also created a compelling story. G2 now gets a rematch against the rookies, this time for a spot in the Finals. If the Lions can win again, there will be no question of their power. But if they lose, then they’ll likely go down in history as just another underdog team with a lucky win that doesn’t truly mean anything at all.

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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ashton.stansel@uconn.edu

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