This weekend I went to LA to visit my friend Mark and to hang out for a bit for the weekend. While I was there I kept getting these Facebook invites to go to the Azubu CSL finals. Now I've been graduated for almost 3 years now and I haven't really kept in touch with my fellow SC players in a long time. Actually, I haven't even played SC in over a year and didn't really know what was going on anymore. That being said, I decided that it was time to get into gear and support my alma mater Berkeley and friend the not-your-average-wolf on at the Azubu CSL finals.
Now the last time I had been to a starcraft tournament I was expecting something similar to a group of kids in dwinelle where we were playing on table-chairs and everyone using their own laptops. In fact, the only time I've ever been to something even remotely close to a legit tournament was at eudemonia where we had an actual LAN.
So Mark and I get to the place, we park on the side of the street and walk through Johnny Rocket's to find an elevator with a security guard nearby. We get into the elevator not knowing what to expect. I walk out and immediately I hear the familiar voice of Day spewing forth knowledge, comedy and overall entertainment. I knew that I had come to the right place. I walk to the sign in sheet and completely bewildered I ask who was playing and what should I do and the guy at the desk who was a photographer(sorry I forgot your name. I will refer to you as Irvine'10PhotographerNiceGuyAzubu staff or CoolGuy) led me into the main area where I saw something that I thought I would never see in my life.
Sean and Trisha casting Berkeley vs. Korea game 2
Now, I've definitely seen GSL, MLG, and other events on stream. But actually going to one, even if it was smaller, was definitely a breathtaking experience. Now I've definitely been to larger events and competitions before but never one for Starcraft. It was such a surreal experience since growing up I never expected gaming to become professional. I really have to applaud the event organizers, everything seemed very professional and was run very well. There were so many different areas with screens that you could go and watch the games. 3 outside and 1 inside with the casters.
I ended up sitting outside trying to spot any familiar faces that I knew. After the 2nd game of the Grand Finals series, I saw the whole Berkeley team get up and I saw Conan. I went up to say hi and he was happily surprised that I was there to cheer him and our school on.
For the rest of the night I saw back and forth fighting between Cal and the Korean team Chunnam. The games were all really close and there were so many nail biting moments. In the 2v2 match, it looked like everything was going well after the Berkeley team took out the zerg player essentially making it a 1v2. But the korean terran somehow made a miraculous push with upgraded marines that almost took a counter-victory. Cal's 2v2 team held on and it changed the pace of the game. After that, Conan took a decisive victory against a very competent protoss player (this game should be acknowledged that it was really close). Then, in I saw the Korean team try to cheese our berkeley zerg with 5 rax, only to be scouted at almost the last second by a hero overlord who barely escaped the range of a sentry marine to find out the cheese and set up an epic defense. The CJ Barcode terran took apart our berkeley protoss after that one and after the first 6 games I was gripping my chair waiting for the boy wonder to face the korean pro.
Now, as a fan I was excited, anxious and a little nervous. I saw Conan pacing the hallway taking to himself super stressed. I've never seen him (or almost anyone) so worried and anticipating a game as I saw him. He was pacing around the hallway not wanting to see the games that were going on only worrying for his team. It was clear that he cared greatly for his team and that his passion was so deep for not only this game but his friends. When the time came for the Ace match, he went into the room as a gladiator who knew from years of practice what he should do. The actual final game was great as the american Zerg's build completely countered that of his terran opponent's and it was a walkover final win to secure a 4-3 victory for Cal.
Conan calling his father to inform him the good news
When they won the series, there was an eruption of cheers and everyone was ecstatic that our team had won. I took a lot of inner pride that our team was the better team. I don't think I've ever experienced such pride for Berkeley as in that moment (which is weird in a way). Afterwards, there was an awards ceremony, I gave Suppy a hug (he was like a man on the moon btw) and looked to see if I could score pictures with Day and Megumi.
After all the awards ceremony and stuff, I spotted Day and ended up getting a picture with him. My opinion of him has only grown from meeting him. I wish that I could get the opportunity to get to know him better as he seemed like a really cool guy.
Also, I was able to get a picture with Trisha. She was a really nice girl and was really cool with taking pictures. Again, I wish I had the opportunity to talk to her and get to know her better.
Overall, the CSL was a huge success. The event was organized superb. The result was one that I couldn't have dreamed for. The games were gut wrenching, the emotions were wild and I felt extremely happy that I came there yesterday.
The next day (today) I flew back to Chicago back to the winter where it is cold to reminisce about how one day a long time ago I was a SC player. Someone who practiced day and night to gain victory at the end of the day. Going to that tournament was like a childhood dream realized. I didn't play, but I realized the importance of being a fan. I was able to relive the passion that I felt every moment I pressed the OK button to start the game. I was able to finally realize a dream of seeing professional SC games and being with people who loved the game. It was the perfect ending to the Starcraft chapter in my life.
Sadly, that tournament was probably the first and the last organized ESports event I'll ever go to. In the years since I've stopped playing I've been moving forward with my life and developing a professional career. I'll never forget my roots and will never stop rooting for my friends and all of you in ESports who are working their hardest to make it. I will always be a fan, and Starcraft will always have a place in my heart. I tip my hats to all of you and will always support you in whichever way that I can.
P.S. Conan, I want to visit Korea soon. So get your butt their and kick some ass.