Misery, Demons, And Other Things Dallas Fuel Killed To Become Champions
Resilience. Defiance. Persistence. These are the tenets of success and there is one team that embodies those attributes at its core. Blitzing through the photo finish against a surging San Francisco Shock, the Dallas Fuel can now proudly call themselves your 2022 Overwatch League world champions. Yet their journey to this title stands in stark juxtaposition to their past, both individually and as a franchise. With one final twist of the knife, the Dallas Fuel's cycle of misery is dead, their ghost's exorcised and their demons caged. The title heading to Texas alongside someone of the world's best Overwatch talent. However, should this have even happened?
It's ironic that Dallas just wrapped on their Five Years Of Fuel docu-series going over the intimate details of their history and what it took for them to become front runners in the west. While it seems blasphemous to say, Dallas were not always a "good" team.
If anything, history will remember the Fuel as a fairly mediocre team for the first few years of the Overwatch League. From the core of Team EnVyUs and the lofty expectations that came with it to landing a superstar that just burned too bright, the Fuel was a mess.
It would have been easy to find peace in complacency, no shame in minimising their own starry goals to find their barrings, but Dallas would not quit. They moved heaven and earth to bring success to Fuel. Acquiring players from the 2020 Paris Eternal, retooling their coaching staff, and moving to a full South Korean roster, the front office knew drastic times called for equal measures and they answered that call.
This thread of stubborn persistence flows perfectly into some of the Dallas Fuel's most prominent players.
Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han started his career as the next big thing, but many forget he's seen his fair share of pain. Trace your memories back to Overwatch Contenders 2018. Here, Element Mystic are the team to beat. They advance from their group undefeated, they were front runners, the torch bearers for South Korean Overwatch in Lunatic-Hai's stead, and they stumbled straight off the line.
Element Mystic would be reverse-swept by Park "Viol2t" Min-ki's O2 Ardeont.
As the face and the ace of the team, SP9RK1E expectedly took the loss to heart.
"I feel like if I had played better [...] on that day [...], because I was really lousy that day. I also feel sorry to my teammates."
SP9RK1E and Viol2t have met countless times in the Overwatch League, but never in a situation with these stakes on the line. With a championship of his own, SP9RK1E doesn't have to carry that weight anymore. Maybe it was okay that they lost back then, maybe he'd be a different person if he hadn't, and maybe that's what gave him the resolve to compete at the highest level. Nothing in life is ever clear when were present within it.
However, what is clear is that he's found redemption, for himself and for that team all those years ago.
And he's not the only one.
No one holds a candle to the trials that your 2022 Grand Finals MVP Lee "Fearless" Eui-Seok has had to go through.
From leaving familiar faces to join the 0-40 Shanghai Dragons to being relegated to Overwatch Contenders, and finally making his way back into the league, Fearless is owed a championship. One bad season often kills careers, being relegated coats you with the dust of disappointment, and yet Fearless had the courage and determination to chase his dreams.
Hell, even looking at the demands of Overwatch 2, Fearless could have easily toss the towel to his teammates and no one would have batted an eye.
All his hard work, all the blood, sweat, and tears. All for this.
One shot to grab hold of glory and not let go.
Kim "Edison" Tae-hoon is all too familiar with that sentiment as well. Many viewed him as someone who was over the hump when the Fuel signed him this season. He was a third-string DPS playing behind Atlanta Reign's prominent damage stable and no one knew how he'd fit on this new-look Fuel or if it was even an upgrade. We think that question was answered by the time the 2022 playoffs had begun.
We often view the underdog or someone without expectation as free.
But are they really?
Are they free from their own judgement?
Are they free from the scrutiny of others?
Are they free from a general sense of apathy?
Some fans might not have been too aware of Edison coming into this season.
With his name in lights and a trophy under his arm, we think people are catching on pretty quick.
Even stretching into the 2022 Overwatch League grand final, no one would have faulted the Fuel for losing. In his rookie season, San Francisco Shock's own Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun swept the awards and was leading his team through the lower bracket to a historic third-world title. There would have been no shame in succumbing to a demon like that, plenty of others had, so why not Dallas?
Emerson was right, he usually was, and maybe through lateral thinking Yun "RUSH" Hee-won also agreed that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, and that at no point in the history of the world has the uniqueness of you, ever existed.
Wading through the great tribulation that is the Overwatch League, RUSH has always found a way. He knows his players and not in some cold spreadsheet or flimsy superlatives type of way. He knows their strengths, their weaknesses, where they excel, and how they'll fail.
And it is not just knowing those intimate details, RUSH's excellence comes from implementing strategies and systems to accentuate those strengths as best he can.
Through their team history and their individual players, the Dallas Fuel's "never say die" attitude bleeds true.
And look where it has taken them.
The Dallas Fuel had to kill the spectre of their respective pasts, a literal demon who feasts on dreams, and 11 other teams to get to where we are now.
You'd have to assume that the odds that this iteration of the Dallas Fuel should probably never have existed in the first place. Fearless likely should have retired. Edison probably would be passed over. Kim "Doha" Dong-Ha said it himself, he was looking for a new team in 2021. This list goes on and on, so many difficult decisions, so much trust needed, so much pain and tears.
The 2022 Dallas Fuel are quite literally a miracle.
The Fuel could have opted out. Drifting away in the current of sugar plum ideas of what could have been.
They fought hard, they did all they could, there is no shame in coming short again.
Maybe it was to be expected? Maybe it couldn't be helped.
It would be easy to let exhaustion creep in like a deep sigh after dipping into a warm bath.
It would be easy to tap out at the last hurdle before destiny.
It would be easy to buckle under the intimating pressure.
And yet here they stand, atop Mt. Overwatch as its new owners.
A wise man once said those who burn blue, burn brightest.
And that couldn't be more true.