Thousands of "League of Legends" fans poured into Madison Square Garden on Sunday, rapidly filling the 11,000 seats set up concert-style. They came to see Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming in a showdown years in the making to determine which team of 20-somethings will move on to the World Championships which will be held in Berlin, London and other European cities in October.
Team SoloMid (TSM) and Counter Logic Gaming’s (CLG) rivalry goes all the way back to “League of Legends” closed beta in 2009, when Andy “Reginald” Dinh left his teammate and CLG founder George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis to start his own team, TSM, specifically to stick it to Georgallidis and CLG.
TSM then proceeded to dominate the competitive scene, making it to the finals of the League Championship Series (LCS) every year since. On the other hand, Sunday marked the first time CLG officially took to the stage as an LCS finalist. As you can imagine, the hype for fans was very real – especially since TSM was seen as the likely winner.
When the stadium lights finally dimmed completely and the strobes and dramatic music kicked in, the cheers and chants from the crowd drowned out the commentary and music coming from the speakers (a recurring theme of the evening), the 15 minute countdown was on.
The Garden was packed, with fans of both teams sporting jerseys and fake tattoos of the team logos, waving red and blue light-up batons to show support for their team as they shouted the final 10 seconds of the countdown.
Following a pre-recorded trailer showing the rival teams in New York, the five players from each team were announced, taking to the stage one by one amongst deafening cheers from the crowd to take their place in front of their individual computer set-up on the stage. A Twitter poll showed 66 percent in favor of a TSM win.
To pump up the crowd even more, “League of Legends” developer and publisher Riot Games played a video of TSM and CLG’s rivalry as the players got comfortable in their seats – with the crowd cheering and booing Dinh and Georgallidis when they threw shade at each other, pumping up the charged atmosphere even more.
“The rivalry was a really big deal at the start because it was purely obvious that I did not like CLG, and I did not like Hotshot,” said Dinh in the video. “It was just purely based on the fact that we just didn’t get along.”
“Regi is the type of guy that will come kick your sandcastle and then take your sand,” said Georgallidis. “We’re like polar opposites in terms of personality.”
Finally, the long-time rivalry was played out in a dramatic best-of-five series, with fans often holding their breath during a big play or cheering and beating their batons together during a takedown – like the Pentakill (a five team wipe) during game two.
But it never even got to game four, in an impressive showing from CLG, the so-called “underdog” took out TSM 3-0, absolutely dominating their rivals.
It is extremely common for “League of Legends” games to run well over 40 minutes, but CLG secured their third-game win after wiping four members of TSM, just 34 minutes in. Indeed, before the third game had even finished people started leaving the stadium (presumably TSM fans that were salty at CLG taking out the title).
As the CLG members jumped out of their chairs to embrace each other confetti rained down upon the stage and crowd – the TSM players still sat in their seats, waiting for the celebrations to die down so they could shake hands, pack up their things and make an escape from the stage.
The CLG players moved to the front of the stage, facing a stadium-wide standing ovation. The best part of the celebrations however, was Georgallidis’ interview.
“I’m speechless, it’s been years of blood, sweat and tears for all of us,” he said, tearing up and choking on his words. “It’s truly magical to be here.”