Picking an Overwatch League team to root for was difficult. Living in the middle of the Midwest, I don’t have a hometown team—yet. There are rumors that two of the first crop of expansion teams will be located in North America, so I’m praying one of them will land in Chicago. But until that dream comes true, my pickings were slim. For a while I adopted all the teams as my own, and even now I could tell you one thing I enjoy about watching all of them.
However, a few weeks into Stage 1 my heart settled on one team. One team stood out above all the rest by standing out literally below everyone else: The Shanghai Dragons.
Why Shanghai? Why choose to support a team that hadn’t won a single game and would go on to lose 40 straight games over the course of an entire season—one of the losingest professional sports teams (esports or otherwise) ever?
Y’all, I live in Cleveland. And before that, growing up in Northwest Indiana, I inherited my grandfather’s love of the Cubs while the sensible family members flocked to the White Sox. I know what it’s like to love a loser, so becoming a Dragons fan was like second nature to me.
The team we love to love
The Shanghai Dragons started with one of the smallest rosters in the League. Only 8 players, very little option for substitution. DPS duo Weida "Diya" Lu and Chao "uNdeAD" Fang were the clear stars of the team. Shanghai added to that star power with the acquisition of several new Korean players.
I was secure in my choice of the Dragons as my number one team, yet the addition of Se-yeon "Geguri" Kim to the lineup launched my support into the stratosphere. All I knew about her was that she was good. So good she was accused of cheating and had to be exonerated by Blizzard itself. Before her, the League was fraught with discourse surrounding the lack of female players. If they were good enough, some said, they’d be there—arguments that don’t consider the systemic barriers of entry that keep women out.
We’re excited to welcome He "Sky" Junjian, Kim "Geguri" Seyeon, Lee "Fearless" Euiseok and Chon "Ado" Gihyeon to our #OverwatchLeague roster. #FightingForGlory #OWL2018 pic.twitter.com/ErP88CmDS6February 14, 2018
I’m a girl, I’m a gamer, and I’m black. I know well how much representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see. To me, Shanghai’s acquisition of the sole female player felt like it did when LeBron announced he was coming back to the Cavaliers; unbridled, unmitigated, unadulterated joy. (And in a cruel twist of fate reminiscent of Shanghai’s soul-crushing loss to Florida in Stage 4, LeBron is gone.)
Watch Shanghai’s first match in Stage 3 against the Dallas Fuel. Listen to crowd explode when she’s on screen. Listen to the crowd go wild every single time thereafter.
That’s what she means to me and a lot of other girls. That’s what Shanghai did for me and so many other players and fans. For that, we stan eternally.
Despite my hype, I knew the addition of skilled, new players wasn’t going to be the magic bullet Shanghai needed to get that first win, and that it would be unfair of me to expect as much. The troubles that plagued them during the first two stages followed them right along into the final two.
Why they lost
Dragons are supposed to be auspicious and lucky creatures. Unfortunately, the only luck that rubbed off on Shanghai was the bad kind. Over the course of the season, they lost two head coaches and two of their best players (thankfully one came back), they practiced for 12 hours a day, and had to do some of that practicing without a translator. Shanghai could not catch a break. Add to that their communication woes, having a mixed language team, and a less than great support line and it makes sense the Dragons were kinda terrible.
But they’re not always terrible. They have their moments of brilliance, when they can get the kills, push the payload, or advance the control percentage just a little bit closer to 100 percent.
When the Dragons are awake, they can take maps from the likes of the New York Excelsior and the Seoul Dynasty. They can take the Philadelphia Fusion to a tiebreaker map twice. They can almost beat the Florida Mayhem in match that was so good yet so heartbreaking to watch I still cannot speak of it. When they get aggressive and let their players do what they know best, pick the heroes they’re most comfortable on, they shine.
And when they are on fire, we all burn with them. You feel the spirit of love and support, something sorely missing from the oftentimes toxic environment of competitive play, encompassing everyone from the casting desk to the chat. That’s the best thing about being a Shanghai Dragons fan, something I wouldn’t trade for a winning record or a better team.
In those perfect, victorious moments, everyone becomes a Shanghai fan.
Season one is over and the Dragons obviously did not make it into the postseason. However, Geguri has earned a spot on the Pacific Division All-Star team and I suspect at least one of her teammates will join her. After that, I don’t know. But I do know Shanghai will win in Season Two. I believe it. Throughout the course of the season, they’ve only improved. If it’s only one game or 20, I believe Shanghai will win. But even if they don’t, or if my favorite players are traded or if Blizzard decides to torpedo the entire organization, I will still believe.
I’m a Shanghai Dragons fan, and I’m not going anywhere.
Ash is a freelance gaming writer and unrepentant lover of underdogs—and actual dogs. Find her on Twitter @adashtra.