OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Doublelift of Team Liquid walks onstage during the 2018 North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Finals against Cloud9 at ORACLE Arena on September 9, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

If you’re reading this, then by now you’re probably aware that Team Liquid lost to G2 Esports in the finals of MSI 2019. It was a brutal loss, with Team Liquid looking lost at times and woefully incompetent at others. Their best showing was in game 2, where they held a slim lead until the mid game when everything came crumbling down. Personally, I felt they’d already guaranteed the sweep by the time champion select was over in game 3. Allowing Jankos to get Jarvan and the top lane Pyke again was unacceptable, and a mistake that will haunt Liquid at least until Worlds.

People will look at that loss and say they didn’t deserve to be there. They’ll look at the loss, which happened in record time for an international final, and say that it was a fluke that Liquid even made it. They’re wrong. First and foremost, that’s not giving G2 Esports the proper credit. They had a great game plan and executed better than they have at any time in the tournament. Better than group stages, and much better than against SK Telecom T1. But beyond that, it’s a question of match up. Anyone who’s watching international competition shouldn’t be surprised that a sweep between North America and Europe is a faster series than a sweep between Korea and anyone. Liquid could have played the same games against SK Telecom T1, they’d still have lost 3 straight games but those games would have taken much longer. That’s just the LCK style, to strangle the life out of you. Compare that against the bloodthirsty European meta and you get a result like what we saw last night.

So before I get to the point of the article, let me get the obligatory analysis out of the way:

– Liquid looked nervous in the finals. It was North America’s first appearance in an international finals since CLG at MSI 2016, and it showed, especially in the first game.
– Perkz and Caps are as good as advertised, finally. They’ve had some seriously shaky matches in MSI leading up to this, but they were incredible in the finals. The bottom lane should have been Liquid’s chance to win, but Perkz and Mikyx, along with solid pressure from Jankos never gave them room to breathe.
– Liquid looked determined to play their game, but were unwilling to recognize that G2 were going to play their game as well. It’s fine if you want to pick a late mid-game scaling comp, but you HAVE to recognize that G2 are going to want to be leading by 10k gold by the time you get there. If you’re going to play that comp, you have to play safely, conservatively, and focus on vision control. Liquid did none of those things. That’s a coaching issue.
– No matter what, an NA vs EU finals is an incredible development for the League of Legends community. Following North America’s shocking trip to the semi-finals at Worlds last year, not to mention FNatic going all the way to the finals- the gap is finally closed. You can officially call all four regions contenders on the international stage.

Alright, that’s out of the way. Now to the point. Despite everything that went wrong for North America last night, despite the fact that I stayed up until 5:30 in the morning, and despite the fact that I’m going to have to hear it once again how I predicted the finals wrong, last night I became a fan of competitive League of Legends again. For years now, I’ve been an avid follower and analyst of pro League, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been a fan.

I don’t say this because I stayed up til ungodly hours to watch Liquid compete in Taiwan, but because of how I felt when it was over. I felt sick to my stomach. It was genuinely painful to see my team lose, and that’s when I realized that at some point they had become my team. Sure, I’ve always rooted for them because Doublelift plays for them, but last night I became a fan of Team Liquid.

For too long, being a fan of a North American team has been like being a fan of the Lions. Sure, you hope they win, but since you have no expectation that they will, there’s no real skin in the game. Last night, I had skin in the game. Last night, I didn’t just hope we would win, I WANTED us to win. I wanted it badly. And each game that went by, with that trophy seeming more and more out of reach, the pain and desire only grew.

Not to sound like a masochist, but in many ways, that’s what being a fan is. It’s riding the ups and downs with a team. I jumped up and down, screaming at my TV as Liquid closed out Invictus Gaming and I was genuinely pained at their loss to G2. No other esport has made me experience emotions like that yet, and for that I’m grateful to MSI 2019.

So to all the fans out there. Those who have been North American fans for years, and those who have recently allowed themselves to expect the best of their team again. Enjoy the pain. As much as it may not seem like it, the pain is a good thing. The pain means your team is a legitimate contender. Think about it. If it was truly a fluke, you’d be saying something like “Well, I’m just glad we made it.” If it was truly a fluke, we’d be happy to have been at the big dance because we weren’t good enough. The pain is there because we were good enough, because we could have won it all, and we just didn’t get over the hump.

So take a few weeks off. Rest, relax, maybe fire up a game or two on Summoner’s Rift. The Summer Split starts in June, and with it, the road to Worlds. And for the first time since 2011, North America will be a contender.

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