For all the expectation and all the hype, Team SoloMid fell short of their goals on the international stage once again – exiting the 2016 League of Legends World Championship prematurely after failing to qualify from Group D. After losing conclusively to Chinese outfit, Royal Never Give Up, both TSM’s fans and players were plunged into a state of shock, seemingly at a loss for the disappointing performances that cost North America’s first seed their spot in the knockout rounds.
As a western League of Legends fan, Team SoloMid’s ejection from Worlds 2016 brought a series of mixed emotions: shock and sadness of course, but also an underlying, bitter sense of ‘I told you so’. TSM fans are renowned for wearing their hearts on their sleeves, voracious in their defence of the star-studded NA championship roster – albeit at the expense of objectivity.
After predicting a potential TSM group stage meltdown after week 1 and receiving a considerable amount of backlash, there was initially a satisfying sense of validation… quickly drowned out by the realisation that the west’s best hope of winning the championship would play no further part in the tournament.
In a sense, Team SoloMid’s failure to progress through the group stages has been more of an upset than North America’s 0-10 whitewash in the second week of the 2015 World Championship. After being built up as genuine tournament hopefuls, the fall back down to the cold stage floor will certainly leave its mark.
Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow is that TSM simply did not do enough to merit their place in the next round – they were outclassed by RNG and pivotally dropped a game to Samsung Galaxy, after Splyce handed them a golden opportunity to progress.
The players themselves did not perform to the standard expected of them. AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng seemed unable to dodge skillshots, top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell appeared to have let the nerves get the better of him – there were errors across the board… but none of that matters right now.
They may not have played to the best of their abilities, but TSM’s players gave it their all, months of dedication – now is not the time to scrutinise their mistakes – Doublelift in particular, seems to have reached breaking point:
“I know I didn’t play well, that I didn’t play like myself, that we were outclassed against RNG’s bot lane. My teammates know it too, and yet I think they still blame themselves for our losses.
“It’s through our time practicing together that we’ve gotten to know each other so well. They all focus on the burden of their own mistakes, but I wish they would just blame me and be done with it.
“I’ve never been a weak link of any roster I’ve been on until this moment. Everyone has felt embarrassment and shame, but have you felt it in this magnitude? I let down my teammates, friends, and millions of fans. It’s a crippling feeling of unworthiness that has kept me off social media.”
Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
Far from the frustrating arrogance that shrouded G2 eSports’ World Championship campaign, TSM’s roster were genuinely crushed by the defeat:
Can’t put in words how disappointed I am. Sorry for letting all of you down.
— Søren Bjerg (@Bjergsen) 9 October 2016
I’m so sorry
— Yiliang Peng (@TSMDoublelift) 9 October 2016
I’m sorry guys, we failed you all
— Kevin (@lolHauntzer) 9 October 2016
Thanks for all the cheers, I am so sad to let everyone of you down.
— Svenskeren (@TSMSvenskeren) 9 October 2016
Whatever your feelings towards Team SoloMid and their fan base, it’s important to appreciate the incredible amount of dedication the roster showed in their bid to become North America’s first ever World Champion – it hurts to learn how much the failure has affected the players, particularly a veteran professional such as Doublelift.
The time will come for analysts, fans and meme vultures to pick the fleshy weaknesses from the bones of Team SoloMid’s World Championship journey, but the post-mortem must be put on hold for now. TSM’s players need to be given time to grieve and reflect upon this tournament; given time to evaluate how to improve and come back stronger next season.
Without this period, the League of Legends community may damage some of the greatest personalities the eSports scene has ever witnessed beyond repair.