BURBANK, Calif. — After 409 days, the longest losing streak in professional sports history has come to an end.
The Shanghai Dragons defeated the Boston Uprising on Friday at Blizzard Arena to cleanse the demons of a year-plus best forgotten.
Since becoming a franchise at the inception of the Overwatch League, the Dragons have known nothing but futility. For 42 matches, the players marched on stage hoping for a victory. And each of those 42 times, they watched as their opponents celebrated instead.
In the inaugural season, the Dragons played in 40 matches and finished winless. The team attempted to make every change possible — players, coaches, management — to try to secure that elusive first victory, but they all fell short. The Dragons exited Blizzard Arena at the end of the 2018 season with their heads hung low, unable to give the loyal fan base they created throughout the season the moment they’d all been waiting for.
The team that broke the streak Friday is nothing like the group that played during Season 1, and all but a couple of the faces of the franchise are new. The only player remaining from the Shanghai Dragons’ debut, Weida “Diya” Lu, didn’t play a single minute in Shanghai’s first victory.
For so long, Diya, the star of the hapless Dragons, pushed himself to achieve his goal of scoring a victory, but never quite got to the finish line. His new roommate in the Dragons’ team house, South Korea’s Jin “YOUNGJIN” Yong-jin, took the baton from Diya and crossed that finish line.
For the first time in their history, the Shanghai Dragons didn’t need a moral victory. They got the real thing over the Uprising.
“I got to feel the energy of the crowd when we took our first set against Hangzhou,” YOUNGJIN said. “At that point, I was thinking, ‘Wow, what if we really won a game? How would they react?’ When we won on the Horizon map, and I saw the entire crowd stand up, I was really moved by that.”
In its first two matches, Shanghai faced two of the most talked-about expansion teams entering the year, the Hangzhou Spark and the Vancouver Titans. Against the Spark, the Dragons put up a valiant effort but, as usual, were left with nothing but pats on the back and the promise of next time. Vancouver was an even worse outing, the newcomers made up of South Korea’s strongest minor league franchise RunAway leaving little doubt which was the better team.
To make matters worse, the three Chinese expansion teams — the Spark, Guangzhou Charge and Chengdu Hunters — all managed to win a match.
The Dragons had a yearlong head start and were still surpassed by their fledgling counterparts.
“I know a lot of people talk about the last season and make a comparison between the teams,” said YOUNGJIN, who joined the team only at the beginning of this year, “but I’d be really grateful if the fans didn’t compare us. Because the previous roster, they also tried their best, so I think it’s unfair to be judging them like that.”
Now, toting their first victory and an overall 1-2 record — currently better than last year’s Pacific Division champion Los Angeles Valiant (0-2) — YOUNGJIN and the rest of the new-look Dragons are ready to look toward the future instead of looking back at the past. A majority of the current roster wasn’t there when the winless season occurred, and the players are ready to paint a new identity for a franchise that is sick of being left behind.
Shanghai wants the world to know it’s not a charity case. It might have taken 409 days for the Dragons to win their first match, but they hope it’ll take only seven more until their next victory, with the team’s next scheduled match against Chengdu.
“At the very least, if things go well, we can make it to playoffs because that was our goal,” YOUNGJIN said. “And if we do our absolute best for the rest of the season, we can make the finals.”