Good afternoon, brothers & sisters. I hope the holiday treated you well. In case you were wondering, I gave everyone the week off in lieu of Combo Breaker. No sense in trying to maintain deadlines when your mind is elsewhere. This month's Perspective is about just that: elsewhere...
First & foremost, I need to thank all of you. Your support and all the noise I'm sure you made for it landed me (of all people) on the mic at CB2017. I knew that getting the opportunity was what I wanted, but I'd be lying if I said the nerves didn't start getting to me once I arrived at the Mega Center. As to be expected, I was fortunate enough to run into a few familiar faces as soon I crossed the threshold. No matter what game you play, there's FGC everywhere you go. Not sure about anyone else, but I find comfort in that. Although the urge to lose myself in all the available gaming going on around me was strong, I had to be about my (team's) business. At the very top of my to-do list was the official ceremony of handing out shirts to our new members. Unfortunately, scheduling & the pure kinetic atmosphere of that first day prevented me from the "ceremony" part, but the deed was done.
After handing out the shirts, I made my way around the venue to see what was where in terms of game placement. (Word of advice: Knowing where games are going to be played before a tournament kicks off officially will help you in the long run.) Once I had the floor plan committed to memory, I actually kicked my feet up & enjoyed some of the Day One show. This may be hard to adequately describe, but being surrounded by all that anticipation... all that hunger to be better/the best... is physically exhausting to be around. I'm not talking about jet lag, either. When you aren't personally "plugged into" that energy -- remember, I don't compete -- it's easy to become aloof. Having to schlep my luggage around the whole time wasn't exactly helping. Before too much longer, I called it a night and made the trek to the hotel I'd be staying at for the weekend. (Thanks, Zid!)
Some of you might take what I'm about to say next as a negative, but I would have to quickly disagree. I wasn't staying at the venue's hotel, the Pheasant Run Inn. My arrangements had me a few miles (not an exaggeration) down the road at the Quality Inn & Suites. I never really looked at the clock, but I believe it was about a 40 - 45 min walk. Again, before you deride being so far away from the venue, understand that I rather enjoy long walks. A lengthy constitutional gives me the opportunity to clear my mind & arrange my thoughts. Since the only time my brain isn't firing off in all directions like Chinese New Year is when I'm asleep, being able to just walk for the better part of an hour is extremely relaxing for me. Considering the task ahead of me, those serene moments were a lifesaver.
Like I said earlier, I was tapped for KOF XIV commentary duty this year. If there was ever a time to use the colloquialism "the big time", it was this past weekend. My schedule (and I hesitate to use that word since I rocking the mic is WAY too much fun to be considered "work" for me) was that I call the action for the only pool that was streamed on Saturday with the incomparable Giby "ManChest" Zia, be on rotation for Top 24 & then close the show with Rynge for Top 8 on Sunday. With the exception of that Top 24 spot (ending up calling the action with my boy Amish Mike), everything went according to plan. Although, there was one small personal hiccup to that rundown for Saturday.
I genuinely do not care what anyone tries to say, NOTHING can prepare you for seeing yourself on a giant 30-ft. screen & hearing your own voice hooked up to the venue's PA system for the first time. No longer ashamed to admit it aloud, but I had to crawl back into myself after that first moment. Thankfully, Giby was there & he's done this type of thing way more than I have. Even better, Chris Ceglia himself gave me the thumbs up before we started. For some reason, that mellowed me out a bit. Once Spooky (yes, that Spooky) gave us the green light, we did our thing. Giby had given me some constructive criticism the night before (I tend to ramble when telling stories, gaming or otherwise), so I took that to heart & designated to stay on task. Although it was only for one pool, I still had a blast. However, I needed to knuckle down for some serious business for Sunday.
Since CB2017 was using the "three out bracket" system, that meant we were going to end up with a Top 24... not just a Top 16. More the merrier, right? Taking every bit of critique, input & complaint into account, I was ready for Sunday. And you know what? The people noticed a sharp difference. People who were already fans of my work on the mic were actually praising me for getting even better. When it was all said & done, won't lie to you good people... I gushed a little bit. I didn't go full Sally "You Really Like Me" Fields, but it was a more emotional display than I'm sure anyone would have expected from me.
— Hellpockets (@HellPockets) May 29, 2017
I ran on for a little longer than that clip shows, but it was for a damn good reason. Nothing about me being on the mic at Combo Breaker lends itself to the concept of "overnight success". A lot of people all over the country took a chance & rolled the proverbial dice by giving me one opportunity after another. I owe it to each & every of them (and you) for allowing me the chance to do something I've grown to love. I was only ever put in that position because ALL OF YOU trusted me to be there. After everything was all said & done with KOF, instead of heading to the bar to celebrate, I hung back for a while. I recently developed a curiosity regarding a particular aspect about another game & I needed one last confirmation. I had been asking around all weekend, but no matter where I am, the journalist in me will always aim for a second source to either confirm or debunk information I receive. Long (part of this) story short, I got my answer & I know what I have to do next moving forward.
After all that, ever after the "curtain fell" on the whole event, I didn't hang back to party with anyone. In hindsight, I only partially regret that decision due to the fact that the full gravity of my CB2017 experience & the implications it will most likely have on my immediate future weighed heavy on my mind. As much as I probably deserved a proper drink (or four) after the event, I opted against it. On one hand, I didn't want the hangover plaguing me in the morning before having to catch my flight back to NY... but on the other, I just needed to be by myself for a while. Understand something, brothers & sisters, there's no precedent for what I've experienced in the last 10 months. If you would have told me a year ago that I would have an actual following... that people would actually want to have me involved in such a capacity... there's no way I could have taken you seriously.
And yet, here we are. You'll have to forgive me if I seem a little bewildered by all of this. Being the focus of attention is unfamiliar to me. I was always used to being that guy behind the scenes, but now... to paraphrase something Rodimus Prime himself told me earlier... "in the pursuit to become the Voice, I also ended up becoming the Face." A lot to process, indeed, but I intend to continue on this path. Far too many people have entrusted me with their faith to ever just give up. I may not be able to see the finish line or even prove it exists, but I have no intention of losing a step on this path. So many people want me here just as much as I want to be here & I owe it to all of them/you to keep pressing forward.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.