How a run-of-the-mill low-stakes match turned into the game of a lifetime.
In honour of April Fool’s Day this past week, and all the silliness and hilarity that came with it, there’s no better way to celebrate the lighthearted holiday than by reminiscing on one of the greatest clown fiestas in esports history. A little over a year ago, viewers across the world were treated to an absolute travesty of a game, a match so cosmically disastrous, it’s safe to say nothing can conceivably topple its ludicrousness.
Way back when, on February 22, 2020, at The Anthem in Washington DC, event attendees and viewers online were witness to the Overwatch League’s hottest mess, esports’ all-time dumpster fire, the “Toilet Bowl” to end all Toilet Bowls… the Houston Outlaws vs the Boston Uprising.
What kind of match could have possibly taken place to be boldly considered the funniest match in esports history? What exactly happened that faithful day in DC, to have this game considered to be the ultimate hot mess express in all of competitive gaming? Well, if you weren’t there for the premiere battle of the cross-country pins, the Texan flex support timeshare, the trials and tribulations of the Blasé-McCree, or the enigma simply known as “Jerry”, then prepare to relive the wildest rollercoaster no one has ever agreed to ride on. This is the match that made Overwatch and esports history, for all the wrong reasons.
SETTING THE STAGE
Before you can get into the glorious details of “El Classico”, let’s set the stage for it first. It’s Week 3 of the Overwatch League 2020 season, and so far, our two fighters in the ring are both off to particularly terrible starts. Boston’s debut and only match at the time ended with a convincing 3-0 sweep, some boos from a hostile New York crowd, and a hard kick onto an Amtrak train back up the east coast.
Meanwhile, the Outlaws were having possibly the unluckiest beginning to their third year. Basically, their team had all gotten sick at one point or another, and by their debut at Week 2’s Philadelphia Homestand, major players in their lineup were too sick to play. They couldn’t field their main and really only hitscan player at all, so the team would have to rely on Jeffrey "blasé" Tsang to take up that role for the first few matches, a player who had never been known to play traditional hitscan at the professional level. To make a bad situation worse, they even lost their luggage on the way to DC, because the universe just has no love for the likes of Texan Overwatch teams, apparently. Oh, and also, it’s Blasé’s birthday, remember that.
So, here we are on game day. People expect the match to be not all too exciting, and really the only people who care about the outcome are the two teams playing and their fans. It’s the game that takes place before the hometown Washington Justice take the stage, so really, it’s the buffer match to have people arrive during. Essentially, the only hype Boston vs Houston has going for it, is that it will decide who the worst team in the Overwatch League is at the moment, something everyone can find at least a little amusement in.
Also, at the very least, the Overwatch League’s newest casting duo Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson and Brennon Hook would be providing the commentating, which is always a treat to enjoy. If you’re unfamiliar with Bren/Sideshow dynamic, here’s a little showcase of their style and what they bring to the table.
THE FIRST THREE MAPS – ILIOS, TEMPLE OF ANUBIS, AND DORADO
“El Classico” actually doesn’t come right out of the gate with its immense pool of hilarity. Like any good comedic act, it takes time to warm up; you can’t just go straight into the set’s best jokes right from the start. For the first three maps, it’s a pretty standard Overwatch League match, with the Boston Uprising having the upper hand throughout. Nothing quite gets to the level of sheer inexplicableness, but we do get small glimpses of what’s to come later on in the series.
Boston manages to clinch Ilios 2-0, where their ultimate usage and positioning were just better than what the Outlaws had to offer. Nothing too spectacular has happened yet, except Jerry absolutely outplaying Blasé on McCree. That’s the starkest difference in the series, Blasé’s difficulty to make the hitscan role work, and just how uncomfortable he looks on just a pure aim based hero.
After Ilios, it’s Temple of Anubis, where Houston actually shows some signs of life and begins to make this an actual series. Blasé, feeling as though his McCree isn’t cutting it, pulls out comfort pick in his Doomfist, a move that works absolutely beautifully on the vertical defences of point B.
In both attacks, both teams manage to capture second point, but it’s the overtime rounds of Temple of Anubis that really start to showcase, “oh, we’re dealing with advanced Overwatch today”. Boston’s overtime attack ends miserably as they couldn’t overcome the sheer raw power of Blasé’s Torbjorn turret, a strategy that surprisingly covered everything Houston were missing in their first point A defence.
However, Houston’s attack is what really seals the deal for the turn of the tide in this series, the icing on the eventual messy cake. With more time to capture than Boston, the Outlaws should absolutely be able to break through the hold and take the one tick needed on point A to tie the series.
Yet, what happens next is a master class in spaghetti spilling, and the Outlaws were simply unable to close it out and draw Anubis.
Dorado is the second map Boston wins, and the last map they would take for a very long while. The map itself is pretty uneventful because Houston just looks extremely lost as to what to do against Boston in the neutral. They seem to have no answer for the long-range hitscan needed on the map because, as it's been established a lot in this series, Blasé's McCree is just not matching up to what is needed here. Therefore, they get steamrolled on the defence and barely make it past the first point before getting shut out, and the series gets taken to match point.
By now, it feels like it's basically over for the Houston Outlaws. They're just simply outclassed, they don't have the necessary parts to stay alive in the series, and Blizzard World should be the final map of the match. A good effort, but unfortunately, it wasn't going to happen today. The Washington Justice fans should start taking their seats now if they haven't already because this series is going to wrap up soon... right?
MAP 4 - BLIZZARD WORLD
There was bad news to be had, for any Washington Justice fans in the audience, because Blizzard World would not be the last map that needed to be played before the hometown team could take the stage. In fact, it wasn’t even close to being the final map played in this game. No, Blizzard World is the map, where this series goes from the bottom of the barrel infighting to a trash heap of epic proportions, one with few rivals.
The map starts off so strongly for Boston; they steamroll their way through points A and B to have over five minutes to complete the map, which is an insane amount of time for Blizzard World. Houston is struggling to put on any resistance, and as Sideshow says, they are absolutely crumbling under the pressure. As the cart turns the corner into the choke for point C, a once in a lifetime move appears, one that not only changes the tide of the defence and ultimately the series, but it becomes an iconic moment that will live on forever in the history of Overwatch esports.
To try to avoid the incoming D.Va bomb, Jerry accidentally rolls off the map, which gives the Outlaws the footing to take the initiative and win the team fight. This will ultimately allow them to keep Boston’s completion time to just under a minute, which they were able to almost match in their own hard-fought attack round. Jerry’s dive into the depths of Blizzard, and Bren and Sideshow’s subsequent “JERRY!” shouting, instantaneously becomes a hilarious, memetic, and iconic casting call that becomes the epicentre of when this series starts to go completely crazy.
MAPS 5 AND 6 – OASIS AND NEPAL
If this series was Avengers: Endgame, the moment where Jerry falls off the map is exactly the same as when Captain America whispers “assemble” in the final fight scene. It’s the call to action, the signifier of the start of the battle, and it’s when all hell breaks loose. Blizzard World ends with a draw, but it was enough to light the fire in the engines of the Outlaws, and more so than other moments in that season, they began to crawl their way back into the match. Houston were absolutely fighting to win… in their own special Outlaws way.
Oasis and Nepal become a scrap fest of epic proportions. It’s ridiculous, so messy, and so glorious, that the crowd goes wild, and Sideshow and Bren are absolutely eating up that energy and elevating this series to something beyond special. It’s electrifying how bonkers the match becomes over the course of a few maps, because realistically, it should be over; Boston should have this in the bag; why can’t they close it out? It’s because Overwatch has devolved to a level that isn’t comprehendible to the naked eye.
Bren and Sideshow try to make sense of it, but their efforts are futile; no one can begin to comprehend the sheer level of madness on display in these two maps.
Basically, every team fight devolves into these types of skirmishes; one’s where you have no clue what’s going on, why anyone does anything, or what exactly the plans were moving into the objective. It is the messiest and most chaotic play the Overwatch League has ever seen.
Amazingly enough, even though Boston are fighting a losing fight on these two control maps, there is still one player on the team, like the eye of a hurricane; he breaks through the whirlwind to deliver the plays that has a crowd of people cheer his name.
MAP 7 – LIJIANG TOWER
Finally, the brutally long seven map long best of three ends, in perhaps the most anticlimactic way possible. Now that it seems like the Outlaws will bring it back, they’ll pull off the greatest reverse sweep in Overwatch history in a blinding blaze of glory. Lijiang Tower loads and… it’s a complete steamroll from the Boston Uprising.
Yes, after two and a half hours, after so many maps going the distance, after so many chaotic and unpredictable plays, the Houston Outlaws don’t even pull off the reverse sweep. What a better way to end the series, after all of that, it’s a 2-0 finish for the Boston Uprising on Lijiang, and it wasn’t even particularly close. Happy Birthday to you, Blasé.
The funniest match in esports history wraps up with a fading chuckle, as you come to realise you just spend almost three hours watching a game that will never mean anything in the grand scheme of the season. The Boston Uprising and Houston Outlaws will never escape the bottom half of the league; neither of these teams have a chance of beating 80% of the rest of the teams in the league. But you know what? It was completely worth it.
Like a rollercoaster cruising in back to the boarding station, the ride is over, but it was nothing short of an absolute blast.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment