History is written by the victors.
It’s also written about them.
How quickly can you name the four teams that won each of the past four League of Legends World Championships? Now how quickly can you name the teams they defeated?
It’s perfectly natural that we enshrine and celebrate the winners. That’s the whole point of competition, really. It’s why each team, each player, strives to be the best: they want to establish their legacy, and the only guaranteed way to do that is to win. In any sport, a great player isn’t truly legendary until they have earned a championship, and League of Legends is no different.
In all the excitement around crowning champions, we are quick to dismiss the second-place finishers, let alone third, fourth, or eighth place. We don’t commemorate the “losers”: they receive no trophy, no confetti, and a runt’s share of the media attention. This despite the fact that they were one step away from glory, having beaten out every other challenger along the way just to feel their final goal slip out of their grasp at the last moment.
Every team but one ends their season with defeat. Everyone except the champion goes home a loser. We will remember Fnatic as the team too weak to defeat the KOO Tigers. We will remember EDward Gaming as the team too weak to overcome Fnatic. We will remember Counter Logic Gaming, H2k, and Cloud9 as teams too weak to get out of the group stage. It’s only natural, but what a shame.
How sad that we might look at these warriors and say, “You were not the best; you are inferior; you are unworthy.” Sadder still that the players and staff themselves might internalize this narrative.
In the aftermath of the 2015 World Championships, let’s give the victors their due. Without question, they will deserve their legacy. If SK Telecom T1 wins, they will be the first great international dynasty in League of Legends history. If the KOO Tigers win, they will be the biggest Cinderella story since the Taipei Assassins, and an incredible inspiration to other LoL veterans who aren’t sure they’ll ever be good enough.
But let’s also celebrate the achievements of the fallen. Even if the Tigers lose, they’ve already written a tremendously inspirational story, and a Finals loss hardly diminishes that. If SK Telecom T1 loses, they can still point to their incredible undefeated streak from earlier in the year, their LCK title(s?), and their complete dismantling of the rest of the Worlds tournament, and take pride in those accomplishments.
By the same token, we can applaud Fnatic and Origen for their runs to the Worlds Semifinals, and AHQ, Flash Wolves, EDward Gaming, and KT Rolster for their places in the Quarterfinals. Say whatever you want about regional parity, the unsettled meta, weaknesses in play style, or any other angle you can think up to diminish these teams’ accomplishments, but they made it to the Top 4 or Top 8 of the most significant international tournament of the year. Congratulations to all of them, and good luck improving on those results in 2016.
It’s only natural that we celebrate the conquerors more than the conquered, but no matter who takes home the crown tomorrow, they are all far from losers.
Hold your heads high, competitors: you have all done great things.