The players on Team Liquid just won the most money for a single match in the history of esports, but at the staged champagne celebration they stumbled around like sleep deprived zombies.
This is Ivan Borislavov “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov, a truly inventive player who was nothing short of integral to the team’s success at this year’s TI. He was the tournament’s only Dota 2 pro to play immaculate back-to-back Nature’s Prophet games. He was also the only pro from the winning team to successfully open his own bottle of champagne, take a hearty swig, and then spend the rest of the awkward three minute segment shirking away from whatever stage hand off camera appeared to be threatening to douse him in more of Seattle’s finest bubbly.
I don’t want to bombard you with more clips but I honestly can’t help myself. From Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi standing in the background looking on sheepishly as he chugs what remains of his bottled water to Maroun “GH” Merhej in the front beseeching his teammate for help opening his own bottle, the scene laid bare the combined spectrum of emotions that swell up around competitors right after they’ve been crowned champions.
Of course, esports’ unique obsession with and complete failure to fulfill the promise of the champagne celebration takes the post-victory moment to an entirely different level. In case you didn’t know, pros from across many different esports are terrible at 1) opening champagne bottles and 2) knowing what the audience and cameras want them to do with the booze wants its flowing. “Esports champagne fails” is practically a genre unto itself, with a rich and storied past.
It’s understandable too, because unless you’re a rich asshole or in the habit of winning big tournaments, most people don’t spend a lot of time around expensive, fizzy wine, and those of us who have had rare occasion to crack open a mid-to-bottom shelf bottle of the stuff know it can be both a pain and a mess.
That second part, of course, is why production crews keep forcing these champagne photo-shoots on jubilant but exhausted pro gamers. Unlike pro sports where athletes spend their time performing for the cameras, esports stars sit huddled over computers or console controllers. The champagne cerebration, then, is a moment to capture them in a more open and less guarded light. And in that regard, TI7 one was, arguably, a success. I’m not sure you’ll get a much more pure display of emotion from Mind Control any other way.
The walk from the KeyArena to the players’ limo bus seemed to achieve a similar effect. While some fans took to Reddit immediately after the tournament concluded to continue voicing their displeasure with the crew that produced and broadcast the event, the awkward jaunt out the arena’s basement to the street was a refreshingly no-bullshit moment for a competitive gaming scene that equates slick professionalism with quality.
On the way, field reporter Kaci Aitchison peppered the team with questions as they tried both to collect themselves mentally and sign autographs for fans standing off to the side. It was easy to wonder why the festivities were being brought to such a swift and anticlimactic conclusion, but Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen’s answer to question along the lines of “So what now?” made it all seem worth it. No emotional arc would be complete without some sense of eternal longing and disquiet, and the Finnish mid-laner was all too ready to oblige.
“I’m so focused in Dota that I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I just focused on the games and now it feels kind of empty inside actually, cause like, the games ended and I’ve no purpose anymore.”
And then he revealed a bit more from the depths of his soul.
“I was so happy playing these games and now...I don’t know. In the moment I feel...emptiness...what can I say?”
You can watch the final day of TI7, including the grand finals, here.