On the surface, the Overwatch League Stage 3 final had an eerie similarity to sports past.
In the 2007 Super Bowl, the undefeated New England Patriots fell to the scrappy New York Giants, shocking the world with late-game heroics and an end to perfection. Last weekend, the lower-seeded New York XL upended the stage-perfect Boston Uprising to take its second straight title match of the season.
For the second time in a little more than a decade, New York ended Boston's search for a flawless championship run.
The surface doesn't tell the whole story, though. Where the Patriots were perennial champion contenders, the Boston Uprising were nothing of the sort going into the inaugural Overwatch League season. When the team's roster was first announced, the common response was confusion, wondering how a team backed by Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, could sign such a lackluster roster. Outside of the team's star tank, Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin, the lineup for the Uprising was made up of relative unknowns and untested amateur players.
Heading into the team's first preseason games, it felt like there was a better chance that the team would go 0-40 through four stages than ever challenge for a title.
Over the course of the Overwatch League campaign, the Boston Uprising has transitioned itself into a team worthy of being in the discussion for the best team in the league. Unlike star-studded teams in Boston's storied sports history, this team is more akin to the first Patriots team to win the Super Bowl, when a green Tom Brady back in 2001 defeated the St. Louis Rams -- one of the greatest offenses the NFL had ever seen. The Uprising, with smart coaching and an attitude instilled by StarCraft II legend Chris "Huk" Loranger, has become a team that makes up for its shortcomings in mechanical skill and a sturdy enough structure to overcome the likes of the Seoul Dynasty and London Spitfire.
In the final, however, after sailing past the Los Angeles Gladiators 3-0 in the semifinals, the perfect stage couldn't come to fruition. New York, the best team throughout all three stages, proved itself once again as the team to beat in the league. NYXL sometimes lacks the cohesion Boston has, which led the Uprising to be the only team to take out the Stage 2 champion in the Stage 3 regular season. The rematch didn't have the same ending. New York knew Boston would get into the final, and it was prepared this time around for the Uprising, not dropping a single map in its second stage victory of the season.
While New York is the unquestioned king of Overwatch League at the moment, Boston has laid the groundwork for success. After sticking to its guns early in the season when things weren't going as smoothly, Huk and the rest of the Uprising staff created a culture that promotes hard work and teamwork over individual glory. At a time when teams in the Overwatch League are combusting left and right with players wanting more playing time or failing due to clashing personalities, Boston has established itself as one of the few solid models of the test run season.
When Boston's star DPS player, Jonathan "DreamKazper" Sanchez, was removed from the team early in Stage 3, Boston was once again doubted -- expected to tumble down the standings once more. Instead, the team seamlessly transitioned into playing with Stanislav "Mistakes" Danilov in the starting role, and the Uprising completed the first flawless regular-season stage run in Overwatch League's short history.
During this time, the team's other DPS starter, Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo, separated himself from the other gunners in the league to put his name in consideration for the overall MVP award. Although Mistakes maybe hasn't had the same individual impact as DreamKazper, Striker's step from good DPS player to superstar-level DPS player has turned Boston into a team capable of having a player who can run with the top teams in the competition.
At Boston's core, it is an underdog. Even with the victory over the NYXL in the Stage 3 regular season and the perfect record, the finals result didn't turn heads like when the Giants upset the Patriots more than a decade ago. Gamsu, a former League of Legends professional who bounced around mediocre teams for most of his run and then walked into the same fate in Overwatch on CONBOX, is finally in a position where his years of experience can help a young team become greater than the sum of its parts. From the very start, it has been a year of learning for Boston, and in each stage, the team has gotten sharper, regardless of issues outside the team's control.
At the next stage, Boston will walk in as it has all season: with a chip on its shoulder. No one thought Boston could win a game coming into the season, and the team barely missed the playoffs in the first stage. No one thought Boston could make a run like it did this stage, but the team went through 10 straight squads without a defeat. Now, with a heavy loss dealt by its city rival New York, it's hard to imagine Boston, with only two months before the first Overwatch League grand final, being able to knock off the NYXL -- a team that has not lost a series without going to five games the entire season.
The Uprising might have the Overwatch League just where they wants it.