Boston Uprising’s second annual Collegiate Cup was held this past Sunday at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston. Defending champion Northeastern University found themselves in the semifinals along with Boston University, UMass Amherst, and Emerson College. A different type of venue, crowd, and competitors brought a different experience than the typical Overwatch League match. I think the league could learn from the good and bad that the college tournament showed.
Good: Hype Videos
While some Overwatch League matches have short vignettes that try to establish some personality to the players, I haven’t seen one that could hold the Collegiate Cup’s jockstraps. Each team got to make a quick hype video where players talked trash, made awkward poses, and made their case for why they’ll win. First, filming them on scene at each school added legit authenticity to the proceedings. Second, you could tell these guys put the videos together themselves. There is some real bravado in some of them. Giving the players the freedom to strut their creativity and let their personalities shine is much better than the pretentious, forced hype that OWL struts out for some of the teams.
I won’t sugar coat it for you – this place was a notch above your typical senior center bingo hall. I didn’t go last year, but I heard Laugh Boston was a dumpster fire. Well, this place was certainly serviceable. They had enough TVs so everyone could see the action. But the seats were cramped on top of each other, it was extremely dark, and the venue just seemed forced into this esports format. Now granted, there wasn’t much of a crowd. I can’t imagine more than 100 people were there. So I don’t expect the Uprising to host this thing at the Ritz. But maybe one of the schools should host on a rotating basis – say the defending champs? Hosting the event at a school would certainly draw a bigger crowd.
In my post-match interview with Northeastern’s captain Matthew Lucido, he said:
“…the captain of BU he’s trying to get at me, he’s trying to assert his dominance. But, like, I know he’s coming. Once you figure him out he only does one thing. He holds W at you and then dies. So, like, I’ll save my cool down, save my shift for his hook and then after that he’s dead in the water.”Matthew Lucido, Northeastern captain
That type of direct, aggressive call-out is exactly the type of rivalry and heat that Overwatch League lacks. Oftentimes teams have cringeworthy call outs to each other that are overly sanitized and harmless. These college players have no problem hyping them and their teams up. That includes putting the other team and their players down. And that’s what makes the event more electric. You can hear the fire coming out of him:
Good: Championship Cup
Unlike that ugly ass Reinhardt trophy you get for winning the Overwatch League, the Boston Uprising hand out some sick hardware. Take a look at that cup. Who wouldn’t want to raise that thing up? Not to mention all the things you can do with it. Drink. Eat. Beer pong. Mini golf. Did I mention eat? That is one piece of hardware that’s a party unto itself.
As I mentioned the venue didn’t help get anyone to show up to support their team, but the time didn’t help either. Starting at 10am and finishing at about 2pm on a Sunday, most college students aren’t even up by then. I don’t see early afternoon as the best time for this target demographic. A mid afternoon Saturday game that serves as a pregame for their weekend antics seems more appropriate. I did spot one kid wearing shower sandals and a bathrobe. Hey, not all heroes wear capes.
What’s great about doing college sports is they have one thing already built in – deep seated hatred for each other. Sure, Boston and New York will never like each other, and you can try to ham that into an Uprising – NYXL rivalry. But the Boston area colleges already genuinely hate each other. There’s no world where BU and Northeastern aren’t going to fire up the crowd. From the US News rankings to the Beanpot, students are going to be fired up to see their schools at each other’s throats. While UMass’ run to the title despite no institutional support gave them a rags-to-riches storyline, you could hear the whispers of ‘safety-school’ and looking down at the sole public school from its wealthier peers. Only colleges can give you this type of built-in drama.
Good: Pro level support
You can’t say the Uprising didn’t go all in on this event. From having Avast (former Uprising player) and ZP cast on-site to the Twitch stream, the Uprising put a lot of investment on this event. They clearly care about the college scene. There were dozens of Kraft Group employees at the venue to help organize and run the operations that makes an event like this go smoothly. Whereas you had Dallas, the first non-Blizzard Arena homestand, get hit with a power outage. This event went off without a hitch. Also getting Huk on site to speak to the crowd, be interviewed by the casters, award the championship cup, and talk to the players was a treat. The moneyball recruiting-savant of the Overwatch League rarely comes out from his command HQ, so to see him at an event like this shows how much the team wants it to go well.