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San Francisco’s Third Title And The Pursuit Of Peace

Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

16th Nov 2021 13:10

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Be it stage titles or tournament victories, amateur accolades or individual awards, everyone that rises through this circuit skitters and scrambles to grasp one goal; to one day call themselves Overwatch League champions. It’s what we all were sold when we were asked, what’s in a name?

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It’s what weaves through the dreams of amateurs climbing the ladder. It’s the fuel that continues to drive the next generation of talent. We often hear how difficult it is to maintain your position at the top of the mountain, but seldom do we hear about the moments following glory. It is that peace, that relief only champions can refer to, that the San Francisco Shock are prepared to re-capture. Twice they’ve curled up in the comfort of victory and for their third, they call on echoes of their past and the future of the game itself.

The new year hails a brand-new game, one that these professionals have never played. With that in mind, flexibility and agility will be at an all-time high in the sequel to a game that already demanded it at nearly every impasse. That’s why the Shock’s offseason moves hold so much weight.

In arguably the biggest acquisition of the offseason, the San Francisco Shock were the ones to court former O2 Blast DPS, Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun. For his rookie season in the Overwatch League, he’ll also be joined by his former teammates Oh "FiNN" Se-jin and Jung "Kilo" Jin-woo. The latter pair are stars in their own right, FiNN being one of the most talented young supports to come out of this year’s freshman class, as is Kilo from a DPS perspective. However, Proper is a different beast. When we consult experts and analysts about this year, you cannot escape the hype vortex that orbits Proper. As flexible as they come, with star picks that covers the entire roster, Proper shows the makings of a colourless flex DPS akin to former MVP winners. They’ll also be joined by former Redbird Esports DPS, Samuel "s9mm" Santos. 

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These are all players that know and have found their won victories, that’s part of the reason why they’re here. And that comforting echo of putting faith on the broad shoulders of rookies should feel very recognizable to tenured Shock supporters.

Familiar notes shroud the 2021 San Francisco Shock, less in terms of the individuals, but more so the philosophy we can glean from the surface. The City by the Bay has a positive track record when resting their season on fresh-faced rookies. While 2018’s master plan was founded around Jay "sinatraa" Won and Matthew "super" DeLisi stalled initially, they stuck the landing in 2019 with their first title win. 2020 saw the introduction of another young talent in Lee "ANS" Seonchang among a cavalcade of veteran legends. 

Yet during the Overwatch League’s fourth outing, San Francisco fumbled what looked to be a championship calibre roster. Without projecting or postulating as to why that happens—and no, this isn’t some rookie hex—the Shock has never felt like they needed a look in the mirror. After 2021’s wake-up call and an opportunity for a fresh start. They’ve established themselves as champions, as the tyrants of the Overwatch League. They are the Patriot’s in the Brady era, the Yankees, the Bulls when Jordan was kind, the team with the Midas touch that polarizes communities.

While their era is over, the stigma they mantle carries impossible expectations. 

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The echoes of rosters past continue into the front office of the Shock as well. Not only is this new team being led by one of the most prolific and most successful coaches in Overwatch history, Park "Crusty" Dae-hee. Alongside him now sits one of his former assistant coaches from the Shock’s reign as undisputed king’s of Overwatch, Kim "NineK" Bumhoon. Every crossroads feels like a Shock-esq team. The coaching staff both call on a myriad of experience working with each other and in the Overwatch League itself, and all have track records of success. Their new acquisitions all have domestic titles under their belts. 

This team breathes victory and has been built with a foundation of success. 

This is as Shock as it gets.

It is that success that leads to one topic that few ever notice; peace. Through the elation and celebration, there is a relief that only those who have reached the summit of their individual mountains. These new talents have seen success in their amateur fields, but now they’ve been promoted to the grandest stage of them all. It is that finality that these people, and we stress people, have been chasing for years.

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In this way, pro-gamming is like tasking a miner to demolish a dam. Battling the odds, few climb their own proverbial mountains in the pursuit of the glory and calmness around becoming the undisputed best in their field. 

After their title wins in 2019 and 2020, the Shock had achieved it all. No longer were they scared of what issues might plague them tomorrow. No anxiety around practice. No stress about tackling a new metagame. Just those brief, free moments being swept away by a torrent of relief and peace. After a disappointing showing for San Francisco through 2021, the Overwatch League throne now sits firmly under the Shanghai Dragons. 

Calling upon their past and dusting off old blueprints, the San Francisco Shock aim to not only return to the crown, but to bring new faces in a new game to the show as well. Knowing or not, it is this pursuit of peace these fledgling talents are hellbent on completing.

The San Francisco Shock’s success, along with their new players, both stand in the shadow of this massive levee. The legacy they carry is one of excellence, which is not divorced from their previous resume bullets, but the stakes are completely different. This test is past Herculean and whose reward is indescribable. However, as we venture into a new year, a new game, with a new team packed with their own growing pains—the questions continue to prattle on. 

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Can the Shock pin a third star to their chests? Can they swim in the mountaintop spring of ultimate victory? Can they reinvent themselves once again to steal the comfortable crown of thorns from the grasp of Shanghai? 

They call it “Shock Magic” for a reason.

The Shock leadership, both within the team directly and sitting at the head of the coaching table, have dealt with adversity. They’ve managed rebuilds before, and while these names are new, look no further than their individual achievements in Overwatch Contenders to change your mind. Look no further than the coaching staff’s resumes to change your mind. Last year’s Overwatch League grand finale was uneventful due to the Shanghai Dragon’s separation of form. They were a country mile ahead of anyone in the playoffs, and it is not up for debate. 2022 changes a lot. While it won’t likely make the Dragons any worse - the former champions look deadly, and they haven’t even finished roster-building yet. 

That said, let’s not mince words; with Proper as their spear, the 2022 San Francisco Shock look posed and capable to drive deep into the heart of the playoffs and beyond. Year by year, we continue to say it, and it continues to crash onto us all like a wave of truth. The 2022 season of the Overwatch League has the makings to be the most competitive yet. We know the narratives are rich, look no further than the aforementioned battle between champions, but it is this year’s rookie class combined with more and more talent coalescing together that has us buzzing. 

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The “Golden Child of Contenders” has joined the only team to complete an immaculate “Golden Stage”. 

A budding constellation is forming on the chests of all those who back San Francisco, one whose story is far from over. 

Esports history is right around the corner for this team. 

This is as Shock as it gets.

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A Rivalry Of Rings: Which Legendary Coach Will Reign In Overwatch 2?

Images via Blizzard Entertainment and OGN

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

24th Nov 2021 13:57

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