LCS Rookies and the Risk of Underperforming
Being a rookie in the LCS is the kind of experience you’d only want your biggest enemies to go through. It’s a thankless position to be in, and its consequences are often ruthless. It is a heavy burden, and it often lingers long after these individuals step off the stage. Reaching the zenith of competition in one’s region is a feat worthy of celebration, and yet that’s a seldom occurrence when it comes to LCS rookies. While other regions nurture and protect their youngest players (and most promising prospects), North America — and its many toxic fans and followers — have a knack for bullying those who fail to meet their expectations. And, for some odd reason, no one’s ever wondering whether the bar has been set too high? Whether these expectations are even remotely rational? Or if they are the result of unreasonable expectations and someone’s wild imagination?
And, it’s hard to discern who has it worse: those who are on up-and-up, or those who’ve been around for just long enough to have a target on their back? Take Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, for example. The hate he’s been receiving over the last couple of weeks has been immeasurable. It also defies all logic and reason (not to mention decency). There are always these cycles of public lynching, and now, simply put, is his “turn.” He’s been shoved underneath the spotlight, and there are more than just a couple of folks online who were happy to see him fumble and fail. With each isolated death he accrued, these venomous individuals gained even more ammunition. With each mistake he made, they were given one more reason to rush to their keyboards and flame to their heart’s content.
But Fudge isn’t the target of their vitriol. If you’ve followed competitive League over the years, you’ve surely noticed a trend — spectators and commenters attaching to one player for as long as it suits them, much like a parasite, before eventually moving on to a newer, meatier target. Their malice isn’t directed at anyone specifically, but it exists all the same. They “hate” for the sake of hating, and they care very little as to which player will withstand their sticks and stones.
The same happened with Tommy “ry0ma” Le, Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, and so many others over the years. There’s a surprising number of toxic LCS “fans” (or spectators, rather) and, as is so often the case with such individuals, they’re often the most vocal part of the community. And, naturally, they always look forward to someone failing — they savor the moments when they can point fingers, mention someone’s paycheck, or conjure up a theory about their mysterious ties within the industry.
There must be something that can explain why they’re still employed despite missing two creeps in the opening minutes of that one game. They fail to understand that competitive League is a team game, with more layers than they could ever imagine. There are so many moving parts, so many ways for things to go awry, that it’s downright impossible to single someone out without keeping track of the bigger picture. Teams and players should be analyzed holistically — whenever that’s possible. And, frankly, it mostly isn’t.
We know so little about what’s happening behind closed doors. We only see the tweets and comments made before and after the match — we have zero insider knowledge as to how they’ve been preparing, who’s doing their job (and who isn’t), and whether they’ve been set up for success.
We only see these teams compete for a handful of games each week. That’s an obscenely small sample size. We can’t gather enough information and create a complete picture until enough time passes — and even then, odds are, we’d have a flawed assessment. Whenever a team “suddenly” starts dominating and stringing wins, that surge didn’t come out of nowhere, even though it might feel like it. There is no “on/off” switch. Instead, these moments serve as reminders of just how little we know about any given team and player at any point in time. We’re building our narratives on bread crumbs, and while we might be correct more often than not, outliers still exist, and there’s a good reason why.
They are reminders that we should never be quick to judge, no matter how easy a conclusion it might be.
It Shouldn’t Be This Complicated
What most fans fail to realize is the fact that being an esports pro is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill kind of job. And, frankly, most of these LCS rookies simply aren’t well-equipped for the job and what it entails. Some of them are, of course, but they’re the minority. Others, however, need to grow into it. They’re not ready for the “public eye” nor are they prepared for the immense amounts of hate and scrutiny that’ll inevitably come their way if they fail to deliver.
It really shouldn’t be this “complicated.” These are human beings, all flawed and fallible, much like the rest of us. Maybe they’re going through a rough patch? Maybe they’re struggling with a certain aspect of their lives? Maybe they’ve lost a loved one or are going through a heartbreak? All of these things invariably leave a mark, so it’s pretty justified if they fail to flash over a certain wall, or if their pathing isn’t all that creative, or if they’ve mispositioned during a key teamfight. It’s hard to stay focused when everyone’s watching, let alone when you have something gnawing at you before, during, and after the game.
There are so many factors in play, and yet we know so little.
So, if a player does badly in his first year, maybe it isn’t his fault — maybe his failure is a result of external factors. But the fact that he even got to the highest levels of play (i.e., someone deemed him worthy) should be enough for us to give him the benefit of the doubt (that being another shot). If he fails in his second year, then sure, send him off to Academy or, if his play was that egregious, maybe not even that much.
But a cordial amount of time has to be given to these LCS rookies. They’re going through a lot, and if we — the fans and media — don’t have enough understanding, then no one should be overly surprised if they don’t grow into the superstars of tomorrow or if they fail to deliver when it matters most. And sure, competitive League is a business that thrives off of entertainment, but there’s a fine line between pushing these nascent players to do better and sheer schadenfreude.
Champions are not born — they’re nurtured. Their greatness lies dormant until there’s something — or someone — that can harness it and catalyze growth. And sure, some individuals are born with more talent than others, but without the right framework, only a select few can thrive and grow. In North America, it seems like there’s a surprising number of folks who are just dying to see someone fail. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s this culture that hinders and heavily impedes the development of native players. The LCS is like a barren land, scorched by years of hate and “malnourishment.” There is talent, despite popular belief, but it’s seldom given the right guidance and understanding.
It’s like everyone wants these LCS rookies to step foot on stage and start dominating right from the very get-go. And sure, sometimes it does happen, but that’s the exception, rather than the rule. A bit more decency (from those watching) and patience (from everyone involved) would truly do wonders for the North American LCS.