The Dallas Fuel ended its very first homestand on the highest note of the inaugural OWL Ultimate Weekend. The Battle for Texas was a fitting finale, and in front of a sold out crowd, Dallas Fuel defeated Houston Outlaws 3-1.
After winning the Battle for Texas, Dallas Fuel held a press conference featuring Flex DPS Dylan "aKm" Bignet, DPS Zachary "ZachaREEE" Lombardo, Flex Tank Lucas "NotE" Meissner, and Head Coach Aaron "Aero" Atkins to discuss the successful 2-0 weekend and playing in front of the home crowd in Dallas.
*This press conference has been transcribed for clarity and comprehension*
aKm, the 'aKmblade' after your Genji performance last year became a meme within the community. How did it feel to have the entire crowd chanting your name after your great play today?
aKm: It felt great. Initially, I took the aKmblade meme too hard. I was really frustrated by it and I was feeling down, but eventually, I embraced it and took it upon myself to become a better player and teammate. That's what I did, and I've been working on that since the off-season. Being able to show that on stage in front of our home crowd was an amazing experience for me.
What was it like playing this weekend, and what do you think it's going to be like to go back and play at Blizzard Arena after playing here?
aKm: I feel like I'm going to feel really down. Going from a daily crowd of 4,500 cheering fans back to 700 people is going to feel really different. We're going to be feeling down for the whole next week, but we are professionals, so we're going to have to re-focus to go into the next match. I feel sad that we won't get to see our fans anymore, but we're just hoping that next season arrives fast enough.
How important for the growth of the league overall to have a weekend like this? Was this a crucial step in the development of globalization in the Overwatch League?
ZachaREEE: I think it's really important. There's never been a 'home game' in the Overwatch League before. It's the first time a home fanbase are being brought in as a factor to competition. Even outside of the game, there was a lot of interactive stuff: fanmeets; signing; a lot of stuff with the Reinhardt cosplays - it's a lot to build in the local fanbase and actually show people Overwatch can be as interesting as a regular sport.
Part of that is selling that to mainstream media. For example, Washington Justice does stuff in DC; we do stuff with other media people here; etc. It could lead to esports being something bigger than it already is. This weekend shows that season 3 of Overwatch League is not going to be a flop.
aKm: I think the biggest factor to consider is that the weekend sold out. Over 9,000 people in just a weekend is awesome. Props to the Dallas Fuel and all of our staff that came up with all of these amazing ideas and things that went on over the weekend. We sold out the venue all weekend, and it was crazy.
What was the most emotional moment for you guys this weekend?
aKm: When you have everyone looking at you, cheering for you, it's very emotional. Our whole life right now is hard work, and it's paying off, so when everyone is cheering for us and rooting for us, it's pretty emotional. We are feeling proud of ourselves.
ZachaREEE: I also think it's nice seeing a new face everytime you look around. It's like, 'Hi! Hi! Hey! Hi there!' and I'm high-fiving everybody, and it's all of these people I've never seen before. It's pretty fun.
Nick Geracie; Inven Global. ZachaREEE, you just spoke about your fans, but Houston had a decent amount of support as well. Was the expected, and was it on your mind heading into half-time at 1-1?
ZachaREEE: I mean, not really. I felt like every time we did something well, it was really loud. Anytime Houston did anything well, it really wasn't. I felt like we won in the fan game, maybe just a little bit...nah, not really, we definitely won in the fan game. I didn't really notice much when Houston was winning.
aKm: When Houston got booed during the entrance, we could HEAR that we were going to overtake them.
ZachaREEE: *Laughs* We were able to hear them getting booed through our headsets!
What was the most hyped moment of the series against Outlaws?
aKm: Probably the very last fight of the series. We were all screaming — ZachaREEEE was actually destroying his voice yelling, "ZARYA! ZARYA! ZARYA!" *laughs* He was screaming his throat out, but anyway, that last fight was the most hype fight for us because we had to win it to clinch the series. If we lost, we would have gone to map 5, so it was definitely that last fight that was the most exciting.
ZachaREEE: And then Boink tried to get back on the point, but we bubbled him. We broke the bubble, and I hit the shot on him and he died.
NotE: I've never seen six players call for Lucio so hard in their lives. At the exact moment in time where everybody saw him, we all were suddenly screaming, "THAT LUCIO!" and he just disappeared off the map.
This question is for NotE. Since you recently came to the Fuel in a trade, what has been the toughest part about transitioning to the Fuel, and what has been your favorite part about transitioning to the Fuel?
NotE: I think my favorite part about this is how easy it's been. It hasn't really felt like a challenge to me in any of the bad ways, but only a challenge in the good ways. It's a whole new thing switching from team to team from me.
I haven't moved from too many teams. I have usually stuck with the same team for a decent period of time, so the switch was jarring at first. But then, over time, it just felt really easy. Every time we scrimmed it felt like I was getting more in sync with the players on the Fuel. They all make it super easy for me to work with them, so it's been less of a challenge and more of having fun and working with the team.
ZachaREEE: We love NotE!
Now that esports is growing in Dallas, how would you guys like to see things develop?
aKm: We're just players, so we don't really know what's going on, but obviously, we want Dallas to be a big esports scene in the USA. As players, however, that's not really our personal objective, we just play and focus on that.
ZachaREEE: Most esports stuff in the USA has been in Los Angeles or Las Vegas. I personally am not a super big fan of LA. I'm from Florida, so it's all green and open. Texas is all green and open too, and I have family who lives in Fort Worth. I really want us to have a super cool stadium and for Dallas to be a big hub for a lot of esports stuff, because it definitely can be.
ZachaREEE, there was a lot of tactical crouching in this match. Was that due to your familiarity with some of the Houston Outlaws players due to playing with them on Team USA in the Overwatch World Cup?
I think traditionally, you're teabagging people just to get in their head and annoy them. I teabagged Jake once, and then he spent the entire rest of the match trying to teabag me back. I thought, 'Ok, my mission's complete. Jake is not thinking.'
It's the same thing with other people. I'm just trying to get in their heads and get them upset. I also think it's pretty funny. I don't usually do it much, but this is a historic match, so I needed to a little bit. It was less about them being on Team USA with me and more about it being Houston vs. Dallas. It really works out when I'm getting in their heads and they are more focused on what they are going to do to me after the fight as opposed to the fight itself.
Eric Van Allen; Washington Post. Aero, with the turnout you saw today and all the excitement, how hopeful are you that the fans that came here this weekend will continue to come back?
Aero: I'm very hopeful. It was definitely an unforgettable weekend, and I think anyone here can agree with that. I think this was a very bright showing for what the future can be like for the league in a home and away game format. I'm very confident.
Aero, how has your coaching style changed since joining the Dallas Fuel?
Aero: My style has definitely changed a lot. I always try to grow and adapt with everything. Coaches can mess up too, so there are weeks where I may have a bad week and we will learn and grow from it. We have a fantastic coaching staff that helps keep me and the players growing. I think it's a really big deal to have staff around you that you can trust.
Briggsycakes from Overwatch Score; Aero, was there a particular moment this weekend where you were most proud of your team?
Aero: Can I say the whole thing?
Honestly, I think from the very first point that we played on Oasis against Los Angeles Valiant yesterday would be the one. We pulled off our very first GOATS combo of the match and won the fight, and hearing the emotion in the way the team communicated in the comms was really special. I think that set the precedence for the weekend and how we performed. To me, that was a really, really big deal.
Aero, when you joined Dallas Fuel in Stage 4 of Season 1, did you expect to be sitting here at 8-5, coming off of a 2-0 weekend in contention for playoffs?
Aero: Yes. When I joined the Fuel, it was just a team that was in a rut. I knew that the players that were there were still some of the best players in the world. Even if sometimes things don't work out, they are still some of the most talented players in the world. I knew that we could be a really solid team. I think this stage and even last stage shows that we're growing, and we're going to keep growing.
Do you guys think the Houston/Dallas rivalry has ascended to the next level and become the #1 rivalry in Overwatch League?
akm: I mean, the only way they won a map was by cheesing, so...
ZachaREEE: I was going to say, I've played better GOATS teams in east coast ranked.