Fearless proved the world wrong and so can you.
Watching Lee "Fearless" Eui-Seok evolve and grow as a player is a strange mixture of entertainment, fulfilment, sprinkled with a touch of motivation. His triumphant return this year to the Overwatch League has been one of the most heartwarming comeback stories in esports, but it also carries a ton of meaning in the most basic sense. Now Fearless stands atop the league as a Role Star award winner and a part of the 2020 Overwatch Grand Final festivities.
Could you imagine a time where he was viewed as bad? After losing forty straight matches, many thought that Fearless and the remainder of the 2018 Shanghai Dragons would ever see the light of day again. How painfully wrong we were. Second chances aren't doled out, but to write someone off as burnt or less than minimises all of their latent potential, something that everyone, and everything, has baked within them.
In some instances, Fearless is a lot like the titular white mouse from the novel, Flowers for Algernon. He’s the white-bellied seal made to dance and play ball, except he’s a person, with feelings, a past, a present, and a future. Perhaps he has dreamt about hoisting a trophy, maybe this was a summer fling he stumbled into, but the reality of the situation was that he was (is) here now. A young man with no education on how to handle public scrutiny, no emotional readiness to assume the responsibility of being a public figure.
In other ways, Fearless is a pillar to all of the 2018 Shanghai Dragons players. The narrative, as they continued into their 0-40 run, was their undoubted hunger to win, which is a safe assumption, but when a mouse is placed in a maze, isn’t there not a layer of pressure? Sure they want that cube of swiss-cheese at the finish line but after failing 37, 38, 39 times, don’t you think that would weigh on someone? Now, this isn’t some kind of moral finger-wagging at the Shanghai fans who merely wanted to see their favourite team happy, but a reflection of what it means to be a person. You can both want the cheese and be terrified of it all in the same breath.
Where the genius mouse and Fearless differ is how they became great. Algernon never asked to become intelligent, didn’t have much of a say at all. Fearless, on the other hand, worked himself to the bone to regain his position. After being a notable prospect in 2018 as apart of Element Mystic, the team that battled the South Korean Overwatch World Cup team. He was the Winston that lead the team in their first-place during Overwatch APEX Challengers.
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By all sense of the imagination, Fearless was a top prospect sat waiting for his call up. After what happened with the 2018 Dragons, being relegated from Shanghai’s starting lineup in the following year, and demoted to their academy team, he managed to recapture that all through the cliche narrative of hard work and dedication. However, it's cliche because it’s true, but it's almost more than true. It is, in a simple, way profoundly wise. Knowing that we all, as people, have the inherent ability to plant our feet, try, and eventually improve, is remarkable.
Fearless planted his feet and worked at it.
However, people were sceptical, and you can’t really blame them. Sure, he was a promising main tank on Element Mystic, but it’s difficult to view the world without the narrow lens of recency. He was branded the worst of the worst, or rather a part of it, and in the community’s eyes, was there really a difference? In their eyes, Fearless played a part in the Shanghai Dragons’ 0-40 winless season in 2018, did he deserve a second chance in 2019?
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Again, look how wrong we were. We now happily devoured his redemption arc alongside the same team that hung like an albatross around his neck for two years. Often Reddit and the idea of “the community” as a collective is spoken about as if they’re some strange step-child that constantly holds a superposition of every opinion every thought of ever. In reality, it's a gaggle of people, shouting into the void when provoked with a hot title.
That’s all rubbish and here is why!
“My team is bad, good or indifferent?”
Here is a small essay on why not only your opinion is subjectively wrong but also why you smell like milk.
Fearless is a person.
You’re a person.
We’re all people.
Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom...is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.
— Anthony Bourdain
In an age where the world seems to be fueled by the polarisation of its people, we must, if even quarantined to our small little ecosystem called “esports”, remember that the faceless text on your screen, that person on stage, that isn’t some experiment talking back to you.
Fearless wasn’t immediately called up into the Overwatch League and when he did receive his call up he was a part of one of the worst losing streaks in esports history. Two years later, he’s considered on the best players in his role and is winning awards for it. Even the meek and meagre mouse can become a dominant and dangerous dragon even if we can’t see it just yet.
Shanghai believed in Fearless. They gave him a chance at redemption.
We all, as people, have the inherent ability to plant our feet, try, and eventually improve. That is remarkable. Try and give yourself, and each other, that same opportunity to prove the world wrong. So, what are we waiting for? We all have a long ways to go and, if anything, lean into a smug sense of stubborn patience. Bury your head, show up, and roll up your sleeves, we all can reach the end of our own maze and earn our own cheese, earn our own awards, our own promotions, our own happiness.
Just like Fearless.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment