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The beginning of the 21st century created a new wave of modern sports, in the form of “E-Sports.” E-Sports, which stands for “electronic sports”, are played on different gaming consoles, like the Xbox One or Play Station 4, as well as personal computers known as PC. My personal favorite e-sport to watch is Call of Duty, which holds a 1.5-million-dollar tournament every year crowning the best Call of Duty team in the world.  This tournament is known as the “Call of Duty Championship”. Commonly referred to as “COD Champs”, this tournament can make or break a team’s season because of the prestige that comes with winning, and the embarrassment that comes with losing. Thirty-two teams from all around the world travel to Columbus, Ohio each year to play for their stake in the 1.5-million-dollar prize pool and have a chance at receiving the elusive COD Champs ring that is given to the winners. Through many series, one team is crowned champion and the best team in the world. Going into the 2016 COD Champs, I was rooting for a team called OpTic Gaming. However, as time would soon tell, OpTic Gaming would crush the hearts of their fans across the world, especially mine.

OpTic Gaming consisted of the four most talented players in the game: Karma, Crimsix, FormaL, and Scumpii. I, and many others, believed that they had all the signs of being the next Call of Duty world champions. Leading up to COD Champs, I had watched their live streams everyday of them practicing against other teams and creating new strategies to surprise their opponents. Consequently, die hard fans, like myself, had no other option but to believe that they were going to hoist the trophy at the end of the tournament. Around mid-August, about a week before the tournament, the squad arrived in Columbus with only one thought on their minds, winning.

Competitive matches were played in a best of five series, consisting of three types of game modes: Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Capture the Flag. This setup would typically favor OpTic Gaming as they were considered the best Hardpoint and Capture the Flag team in the world. However, Search and Destroy was always the only weakness in OpTic Gaming’s arsenal, and it would prove to be their Achilles’ heel, once again. This tournament also featured two stages of play: group and bracket play. Consisting of eight groups of four teams, the top two teams from each group were sent to the winner’s bracket, while the third-place team was placed in the loser’s bracket, and the fourth placed them was eliminated. The difference between the loser and winner’s bracket is that in the grand finale, whichever team comes from the loser bracket has to win two sets of series, instead of the one that the winner’s bracket team has to win. On top of having to win two sets of series in the grand finale, the loser’s bracket team will play nearly twice as many matches as the winner’s bracket team, resulting in fatigue and a drop-in play once they reach the grand finale. As an effect, it was seen as impossible for a team coming from the loser’s bracket to win a tournament.

OpTic Gaming breezed right through pool play and are placed first in their group. OpTic Gaming’s first bracket play match of the tournament was up against Team Envy, who were widely considered the second-best team in the world. However, on that day, Envy were the best team in the world, by a large margin. The match began and I was able to feel my heart pounding throughout my body while I sit by the same desk that I’ve sat by during all of their matches. Map one goes by swiftly, with OpTic Gaming taking the Hardpoint and making the series score 1-0. Map two goes by, then map three, then map four, and I find myself looking up at the computer screen wondering where OpTic’s lead went. I check the scoreboard once, then twice, and then a third time, to make sure that the series score is right. I finally come to a realization that OpTic Gaming, a team with the four best players in the world, winners of copious amounts of Call of Duty tournaments, and my favorite team, had just lost three straight nail-biting maps, starting with the Search and Destroy. No previous loss by any team that I supported measured up to the heart break that I felt after that loss. I went to sleep that night with the heaviest sports-related heart ache that I had ever felt, knowing that OpTic were sent down to the loser’s bracket. Although OpTic Gaming were not officially out of the tournament yet, watching them lose that match and get sent down to the loser’s bracket was similar to the feeling I had when I watched Wolverine die his slow, but inevitable, death in Logan.

The next day, OpTic Gaming were finally eliminated by a team called Cloud-9, officially ending their run at COD Champs. Although OpTic Gaming were eliminated by Cloud-9, I didn’t feel nearly as much pain in that match as I did in the loss versus Envy. Two and a half years later, even after OpTic Gaming went back the next year and won, I still look back to that lost versus Team Envy as the most disappointed that I have ever felt from a sports team.  Though it may not be a traditional sport, e-sports can cause just as much, if not more heartbreak to its supporters.