The LCS Imports: Ry0ma & Eika — Mistreated and Abused Without Reason
Being an LCS import is no easy task. You’ve shown some promise in your own region, maybe you’ve been proclaimed as the MVP or have stood out in any way, shape, or form. Naturally, seeing how the LCS is a region that favors importing over developing its own talent, you’re bound to get a couple of offers.
You’re probably young, relatively inexperienced, and the sheer notion of moving to a different region/continent and competing against the teams and players you’ve watched for years is obviously alluring beyond measure. For a professional League of Legends player, that’s an opportunity of a lifetime. Now sure, the LCS hasn’t been particularly competitive over the years. It is a region best known for entertainment, rather than competitiveness, but it’s still stacked with talent — albeit most of it is misguided and misdirected.
If you’re a young player who wants to take over the world (and have already reached the highest of levels of competition on home soil), an offer to compete on the LCS stage is an offer you simply cannot decline. The LPL and LCK don’t import from Western regions, and the LEC has its own way of doing things — importing players doesn’t happen all that often these days as there’s more than enough native talent “lying around.”
So if you’re looking to advance career-wise, the LCS is as good an option as any. At least there’s ample exposure, which is nothing to scoff at.
These adolescents then travel farther than they ever did to compete in a region that can by all means be described as “hostile ground.” They have to prove their worth within a staggeringly short amount of time and justify their signing — not just to the organization that brought them over but to the fans and spectators as well. This is perfectly natural (it comes with the job), but one could argue that there’s no other region out there that’s as unforgiving and impatient as North America.
Good Things Take Time
Not everyone is like Rasmus “Caps” Winther. Most players need time, and this time we’re talking about can only be measured in splits, rather than games or weeks. These imports aren’t aware of the pressure that comes with performing on the LCS stage; they’re acclimating to an entirely different set of circumstances, to an entirely different culture, mindset, and way of life — these are incredibly complex challenges and obstacles, and they cannot be tamed and conquered overnight.
And yet, for some strange and inexplicable reason, people expect these LCS imports to deliver and perform right from the very get-go. A good chunk of the community — the ones who are most vocal about these things — fail to understand the minutiae of the situation. These things are not “plug and play” nor will they ever be. Building synergy takes time, finding your own role within a team is a process riddled with trial and error, and you can’t have the good without the bad. But in North America, one shoddy split is all it takes for a player to be written off. Those who criticize and complain somehow ignore the fact that these are people made of flesh and blood and they’re not infallible. League of Legends is also a team game and you often can’t show your true potential or shine particularly bright if you don’t have the right teammates by your side.
How many times did we see a player blossom and grow beyond measure after switching teams? How many teams have improved tenfold after making just a single change to the starting line-up? There’s no tried and true formula, no recipe for success — it’s all subjective, and we should understand that as a community and forgive these players when they make mistakes.
Performance, Not Results, Driven
Now, obviously, no one’s saying they shouldn’t be judged based on their performance, but giving them a split (or even two) to ramp up is the bare minimum; there simply are too many factors that impact a team’s performance, most of which are never disclosed to the community.
All we see are two games on a weekly basis. Nothing more, nothing less. While those two games are certainly invaluable, they are by no means the ultimate indication of someone’s long-term potential or talent. Individual talent is also just one part of the equation — coaching staff is equally as important. Without the right guidance, infrastructure, and coaching, even the best players around will underperform and deteriorate over time. Mechanical prowess is great, but by itself, it’s just not enough. We rarely know who’s doing what behind the scenes, which organizations have capable coaching staff, and who’s “phoning it in” without actually putting in the effort.
There are so many moving parts, so many elements that impact a player’s performance and yet most people just take things at face value, like there’s no depth at all. For a team to fully blossom and realize its potential, many things have to go “according to plan.” Any hiccups along the way can not only slow down the process but also derail it entirely.
A good number of North American fans want results, and they want them now. The idea of long-term development and growth are foreign concepts. This kind of mentality mirrors that of the ten LCS permanent partners — they’re not willing to invest in up-and-coming rookies and would rather sign washed up pros who haven’t accomplished anything even though they’ve been competing for years.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Good things take time and there are no shortcuts along the way.
Take Counter Logic Gaming, for example. Their Spring Split run was abysmal in every sense of the word. With just three wins on the board, CLG was the laughing stock of the region, and with good reason. Coming into the off-season, everyone expected them to go for a complete roster overhaul, and yet CLG decided to do something different: stay the course and give this line-up another shot. Right now, at the time of this writing, they’re sitting on a very commendable 4W-4L record and are by all means in the running for playoffs, even though they’ve kept the exact same players. And it’s not just about the record either — they’re playing some very solid League of Legends. They’re cohesive, they have a concrete identity, along with distinct strengths and weaknesses. And yet if you went online last Spring and read what people thought of them, you’d be hard-pressed to find a comment that was even remotely positive or optimistic.
A good number of North American fans are always quick to board any kind of hype or hate train. Everyone’s singing Cloud9’s praises now, but most people forget the trials and tribulations the organization had to go through back in 2018 to rebuild and find its footing. Most people forgot the amount of backlash Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu received after benching some of C9’s most beloved members. Right now, everyone’s saying he’s the greatest coach North America has ever seen (a fairly correct take), but it wasn’t that long ago that his methods and way of thinking drew the ire of a very vocal part of the community.
North America, as a region, is at once both incredibly welcoming and bafflingly hostile, and there’s very little rhyme or reason behind it all.
This brings us to Tommy “ry0ma” Le and Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire.
The LCS Import Conundrum
What did Ry0ma and Eika do, as LCS imports, to deserve so much online abuse? Well, by the looks of it, they’ve been getting harassed just because they’re mediocre players competing in a region that’s stacked with mid lane talent (albeit most of it also comes from other regions).
Is their play particularly impressive? Not exactly. Are they worthy of taking up an import slot? Not really. Should they be getting any of the blame? Of course not. They’re just mediocre players (when compared to the best the LCS has to offer) who are trying to prove their worth and haven’t found much success (yet). They’re not “cashing in” nor are they stopping North American organizations from developing native talent — they’re just trying to write the next chapter of their careers. They were given an opportunity and they took it, much like everyone else would’ve done in their place.
The fact that they haven’t delivered doesn’t mean they haven’t tried. Furthermore, on the topic of Eika, he was never supposed to be this unassailable mid lane giant who was going to demolish anyone on his path. He signed for a team that was, by all means, a bottom-tier dweller in the making. Why are so many fingers pointed at him, and not at the many permanent partners who are still recycling players from 2015?
Ry0ma, on the other hand, found himself in a slightly more complicated position as he signed for a team many thought was better than it actually was, so he’s shouldering a part of the blame, although most of it is unwarranted.
In any case, the problem with North America isn’t that its imports aren’t good enough for the LCS but rather that no one other than Cloud9 is trying to foster the superstars of tomorrow. We have to hold these organizations to a higher standard — they need to do better.
Finally, some North American fans are impossible to please, it feels like. Those who are talented and decide to move across the Atlantic are often being called out for trying to “retire” and “cash in.” Those are young and have shown promise are being criticized for not delivering soon enough. And yet the age-old veterans who are past their prime are not getting called out because they’re household names. Go figure.
North American fans are frustrated, and they have every right to be — but lashing out on young imports is not the way to go. Their toxicity and vitriol is misdirected. The ferocity of the hate these LCS imports have been getting is baffling, and it’s a sign of a much larger problem that’s present in North America.