XL Weekend: The Experience

All photos and videos were taken by Yohan Yun unless noted otherwise

This past weekend, the Overwatch League kicked off it’s 3rd season. For week 1, New York was treated to the home matches they’ve waited over 2 years for. The sold out Hammerstein ballroom witnessed 2 days of some of the world’s best Overwatch. Now that it’s over, lets’s take a look back.

Day 1

For the 1st day, we arrived to Hammerstein at about 12pm, an hour before the opening match. The doors opened at 11am for General admission, and some stood in line as early as 8am to make sure they saw the arena as soon as possible. I can’t blame them. Being greeted by holograms and walking out to see an almost hypnotic stage display, you know you’re home.

At 12:30, the stage shifted from NYXL, to simply Overwatch League. The first Watchpoint of the year was starting, with Soe Gschwind hosting the desk. Her, along with caster Seth “Achilios” King, retired main support Scott “Custa” Kennedy, and the return of Jonathan “Reinforce” Larsson, rung in the new year with confetti. As they talked about the Offseason, Custa’s big mouth, and that day’s matches, all the crowd wanted was for the games to start.

Paris vs Toronto

The first match of the 2020 season featured the Paris Eternal and the Toronto Defiant. Both of these teams were low in most power rankings, but have the potential to surprise this season. They each came to the stage to respectable applause.

Paris off-tank Eoghan “Smex” O’Neill announced that he wasn’t able to make it to New York, which was unfortunate since he was suppose to be playing until Choi “Hanbin” Han-been turned 18 in 2 weeks. Because of this, Paris ran a double Main tank for the entire match, with Benjamin “BenBest” Dieulafait on Reinhardt and Daun “NoSmite” Jeong on Orisa. This worked on the first map, Nepal, as Paris ran away with a quick 2-0. However, the composition’s success didn’t carry over into the next 3 maps. Toronto were able to regroup and win a close Eichenwalde and Horizon Lunar Colony. The Final Map, Havana, was a little more 1-sided with possibly the highlight of the weekend from Andreas “Logix” Berghmans.

Thank, Mr Logix

The Entrance

After weeks months years of waiting, New York finally got what they wanted. The lights went down, and Chris Puckett said “Please give a warm New York welcome to the London Spitfire!” At long last, our time had come to boo our hearts out at our opponents. London’s almost all rookie team came on stage, and we let them have it. Boos rained from every part of the Ballroom onto the stage. The mood was set for the rest of the afternoon.

You wouldn’t think this was a regular season game the way this f***ing crowd is right now. It’s unbelievable.

@ghostless on the atmosphere in the Hammerstein.

The lights went down again, this time for the home team. We could see the team in the back of the floor, ready to make their grand entrance. The first one out is retired DPS Dohyeon “Pine” Kim, waving a giant flag with the team’s logo. Following the big boss was captain Jongryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park, and the entire team after them, ending with Seonghyun “JjoNak” Bang. Each player was serenaded with their own chant, including “MVP! MVP!” for JjoNak. The team stood on stage together and the crowd couldn’t be silenced.

If you thought the homestands in 2019 were lame, then you have no idea how explosive it is in New York.

@RykoShet on New York City’s Energy

New York vs London

After the crowd settled down just enough to start the match, London, led by rookie hitscan specialist Lim “Glister” Gil-seong, surprised the entire arena, as well as most viewing from home, by taking Lijiang Tower in a tight 2-0. Much like Toronto hours earlier, New York decided to regroup and remind London whose city this was. An even tighter King’s Row was decided by mere millimeters, Highlighted by chants all around for plays like this from Hongjun “HOTBA” Choi.

The last 2 maps were dominated by NYXL, and they gave the whole crowd a show to remember, with a 3-1 win over London. After 14 self destruct kills and earning player of the match, Hotba had a message for the entire Overwatch League.

After the match, some fans still found enough energy to sing with the original big boss a few blocks away at Muse. Here’s one of them, Twitch streamer emongg, after deciding to loosen up.

Day 2

To start the second day of action, we decided to get up early and go to VERSA, about a block away from the arena for some breakfast and bingo. After the most stressful game of bingo I’ve ever played, we went outside and started a soccer-style march to the Ballroom for Day 2. As we crossed the street into Manhattan Center, that’s when we started to get the crowd ready.

Photos Courtesy of @ProNessNess
Also @ProNessNess.

Once again, we made our way through the metal detectors, but this time we got our press badges. This was my first time going to any event as an official media member, so I did feel a little out of place. Being in the same room as the likes of Emily Rand and Rod “Slasher” Breslau, all looking for good content was a little crazy to me. But in my eyes, I’m a fan first. I made sure to meet up with the friends I’ve made through the team and get their thoughts.

They are a FAMILY and that is an understatement. these people will welcome you with open arms and show you what it means to be a fan of NYXL

@DelCattNip on the culture of the 5 Deadly Venoms and other NYXL fans

I even met up with the enemy, but it was the nicest enemy ever in Mrs. Swimmer herself, Bryan Levy. Gabriel “Swimmer” Levy’s Mom made sure she didn’t miss her son’s first match, and after seeing Tom Miles’s great interview with OWL Moms, I knew I had to add to it and get some words about Swimmer’s debut.

I’m so proud of Gabe for following his dreams, and I support him 100%, and he’s an awesome kid all around

Bryan Levy before her son’s OWL Debut

Paris v London

Day 2 of the broadcast kicked off with the battle for Europe. Paris was forced to stick with their Double Shield Composition, but this time looked a lot better. Granted, it was against a weaker opponent, but pulling off these kinds of plays takes a lot of quick thinking and coordination.

Coming from Korean contenders to the OWL stage, Glister and Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo were seemingly neck and neck for this match. In my opinion, the difference maker of the match was Eternal’s last pick up, French main support Brice “FDGoD” Monsçavoir. His unorthodox positioning either set up a lot of big plays by the Eternal, or he’d just make them himself. Paris’s biggest difference from this season and last season will probably be their coaching staff, and they have this to say about them.

I kind of prefer this kind of coaching, but I also like the coaching from last year. But if I want to improve a lot, this coaching staff is the best.

Nicolas “NiCOgdh” Moret

New York vs Boston

Hey, remember when I said we booed our hearts out when London went to the stage? Well, that isn’t entirely true. Considering the history between the 2 cities, we made sure to boo extra loud and even more often for the Boston Uprising. We wanted to get in their heads, and after the match, I say mission accomplished.

I can say, with no bias whatsoever, New York demolished Boston. With bias, I can talk about how happy it made me to see it live. I would say we booed every time Boston did something good, but we booed even more than that. Boston’s biggest moment was a tactical crouch from Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse’s signature Hanzo on Anubis, and a wave to the crowd that caused this reaction:

Let’s bring it back to the positives. Hotba continued to impress on D.Va. JjoNak’s Nanoboost onto Lee “WhoRU” Seung-jun’s Genji was history in the making. Taesung “Anamo” Jung and Donggyu “Mano” Kim did what they always do. And finally, Captain Saebyeolbe dazzled the crowd with his signature Tracer and an equally satisfying McCree.

The final score was 3-0 in favor of New York, and the home crowd couldn’t be any happier. 99% of the arena is smiling, including the 10 players on stage. Fans are in front of the stage trying to get pictures and autographs from the heroes of the day. The players are getting pictures too, including this image to make the day complete.

Final Thought

If I learned anything over the weekend, it’s that localized esports work. When you put a city in a team’s name, you carry the weight of that city on your shoulders. And then you fight for your city, in front of your city, for the world to see. 1,600 people witnessed greatness live, and we can only get bigger from there. We can only go #EverUpward.

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“By the common OWL fan, for the common OWL fan”

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