Bravery, saying goodbye, and why Danteh is the best
The day was Wednesday, January 10th, 2018.
The San Francisco Shock paired off with the Los Angeles Valiant to christen the inaugural season of the Overwatch League.
Few names from that day remain and this week strikes another name from that list. Dante "Danteh" Cruz has joined the growing list of players that have faced their careers and dared to begin to answer the daunting question of "What's next?".
To metaphorically look at what you've built and prepare for what comes next is brave.
Saying goodbye to something you put so much effort into and someone that's always felt like a fixture is never easy. And, let's face it, who doesn't love Danteh?
Oh, the places you'll go
Seems like it was only yesterday we met the former Minecraft phenom. Now he's retiring as one of the pillars of the game.
From humble beginnings as a flex tank turned DPS, sharing tank duties with Félix "xQc" Lengyel to ushering in what modern Overwatch was, before taking his talents to Houston, Texas, Danteh was a staple here.
Like a regular customer at the local shop, he was not just a recognizable face but a name that you'd look forward to hearing from.
What did this season or that team have in store for him? How would he adapt to the new patch? Could he make Sombra work again?
He was a familiar face among the constant churn that esports demands.
Constant changes beget constant changes. New patches call for new rosters, new heroes make others obsolete. Lasting as long as Danteh did is nothing short of miraculous.
When the whims of a development team can make or break your livelihood, having a six-year career is special.
To even commit to this pursuit, to show up day in and day out, every scrim block, and put it all out there? That's the definition of brave.
In a rather honest address, Danteh has said the quiet part of competing in esports out loud.
Pursuing esports requires massive sacrifice even to maintain a starting position. And with the removal of any semblance of consistent stage time in the Overwatch League, what do players actually have to look forward to?
Salaries are annualised and on the decline, jobs are about as safe as finding fruit in the Artic, and teams are questioning their stake in all of this. Can you blame anyone for wondering if this time in the snow is worth the sub-zero squeeze?
If anything, we should applaud the courage it takes to reorient.
The duality of competition
Past that, Danteh spoke on the reality that is competition, a reality he embodied.
A reality where you cannot always win or be the carry and, in some cases, you might be the liability and cause a few losses of your own. However, the confidence and bravery to double down on your own skill and potential are purely and beautifully human.
In the prime of his DPS resume, he was among the most recognisable and flexible talents that were never given a proper runway to see just how far he could go.
We often don't look back and reassess how trades happen in Overwatch. And as one of the first players to actually see that happen, we wonder; could it have been anyone else to see the Outlaws through four seasons?
Yoo "smurf" Myeong-hwan was the missing cornerstone to seeing San Francisco build their empire, but Danteh was the only man that could handle spearheading an effort in Houston.
That's why this isn't so much a eulogy as much as it is a commemoration. A reminder to stay in the fight, no matter the doors that may open or close.
What it all means
Grief is a complicated emotion, but one that appears twice, here.
One-half for the athlete who undoubtedly faced an assumedly brutal bout of reflection and ultimately chose retreat.
And the other is for the community and fans who say goodbye to one of the most affable and talented Western players to ever grace the game.
It's easy to feel the sting of losing another star in Overwatch's growing void, but think of the legends he leaves for the next generation.
Who dared to role-swap and ultimately still remained competitive?
What six-year veteran, survives on an underperforming team long enough, that the game allows him to be the unorthodox answer to a question that puts them in striking distance of the podium?
Who begins a scrim code war, making one of the driest offseasons suddenly bursting with life?
Not too many players leave a lasting imprint, Danteh leaves a legacy of memories in his wake.
That's why he's the best. He had the courage to close a chapter of his life but did so subtly by advocating for his peers.
He bet on himself and tried to prove the world wrong. He maintained a nearly six-year-long career in an unforgiving field. And he did it uniquely his way.
Flowers aside, Danteh isn't going too far. Through streaming and the prospect of collegiate esports, it's like a childhood friend moving to the town over.
By far is he gone and if this is it, if 2023 was the last run for Danteh, then we hope he rests assured the Overwatch world will never forget him.
Enjoy whatever comes next Danteh, you deserve it.