If you’ve read our article on the Reddit Circlejerk, you will easily understand the underlying principles behind what is said. Of course, if you haven’t read it, you will also be able to follow along on this subject.
In the Reddit Circlejerk article, the phenomenon of unreasonably praising a team or player when he’s doing well, only to turn against him and start putting him down, once he unavoidably disappoints the fan base. That is precisely what Team SoloMid is going through following their deciding loss to Royal Never Give Up in League of Legends World Championship Group Stage.
Prior to the tournament, both fans and and analysts all over the eSports corner of the Internet called Team SoloMid one of the Top 5 teams in the world and definitely the best in Western LoL eSports. Nobody tried to imply that TSM was objectively better than teams like ROX Tigers, SK Telecom T1, or Edward Gaming, however, nobody said that, say, Cloud9 or G2 Esports are better. Everyone agreed – TSM is the West’s best chance for a high place finish at Worlds.
While Team SoloMid definitely built up expectations with its absolutely dominant Summer Split performance, their skill didn’t come easily. According to the outspoken coach Weldon Green, TSM trained 14 hours a day for the whole Split, taking only three breaks or so. Nobody else in the west worked as hard for such a long period of time. As a result, TSM became extremely dominant, having the shortest average game time in the NA LCS. Hard work breeds skill and skill breeds victory. The only other thing that can help your skill grow faster is adversity.
What does that mean, though? Well, to win a game quickly, you have to get a lead in the early game and snowball it. That is what TSM did for most of the Summer Split. As a result, they learned to turn leads into victories, which helped them at Worlds, in the first game against Samsung Galaxy. It might look as if there is no negative side to this, but that’s not actually true. Consider this – you are a boxer, who usually gets off a right hook to his opponent’s head in the first round and then simply uses it to methodically destroy him. You’re used to it going like that. Even when you leave yourself open, the opponent is too fuzzy to take advantage. There is nobody in your weight class who can stand up to you. Your opponents start fearing you.
Now, imagine that you get invited to compete in a new international league. You haven’t fought against most of these guys before. The first one gives you a good knock in the noggin’ in the first round. You are surprised. You haven’t been in this situation before. You don’t know what to do. So, you try to adapt. It’s hard, however. There’s only so much you can learn in a short amount of time. When you find yourself getting the first knock, your instincts take over, however, you’re left floundering in unfamiliar circumstances more often than not. You lose. And lose. And lose.
And then the hate starts. Your fans, the same people who praised you when you were winning, turn against you now. You gave everything you had for months in order to prepare for that one moment and you choked. You’re feeling like shit, disappointed in yourself, angry. You might even feel like there’s no point in trying anymore, if your best is not enough. And your supporters are calling you glassjaw.
There are two directions you can take in a situation like this. You can either take the disappointment and use it to fuel you for another year or you can give up if victory isn’t your ultimate goal anymore. Even if you decide to work even harder to get better, there is a problem. While international opponents who beat you are better than you, the rest, which you beat over and over again, aren’t. To improve and fix the problems that caused your fall from grace, you have to have opponents who can push you to compete against. If you do not have any, if you just work hard and meet opponents which you can beat with a hand tied behind your back, you will not get better or it will take a very long time, at least. If, however, a true challenger rises up, you will be able to get better together.
Obviously, Team SoloMid is not THAT dominant, however, most of the analogy stands. If the top NA teams adopt TSM’s work ethic for the next season and TSM keeps going like they were in the Summer Split, maybe a little lighter in Spring due to that whole Split being a little bit meaningless, TSM and NA in general can finally do better. Will they win Worlds next year? Probably not, the Koreans have been going like this for much longer, that’s why they are better. Still, a Semifinal appearance could be in the cards.
All of that is in danger when the community turns against a team that worked harder than anyone else in the region, kicking them when they’re down. While it’s not the first rodeo for many of the TSM players, the ugliness probably still hurts. It could make the team wonder if it’s worth it. If they come up with the answer that it’s not, the NA scene is doomed. Without someone to push the envelope, NA teams will settle into a state of comfort and contentedness, they will stop improving, and the next Worlds will not even be close.
As an aside, Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou recently implied on twitter that he’s seen TSM players going out to party at 4 AM on the night before their last games at Worlds. If that’s true, it doesn’t look good. It was stupid in the extreme, however, we are in no condition to judge. We don’t need to. If TSM players actually negated several months of hard work by going out the night before the matches they had to win to keep competing, if it really affected their performance, they’re probably beating themselves over the head with a baseball bat for it as it is. Hopefully, it will be a lesson learned for next year.