It was announced unofficially yesterday by Xpecial himself that he would be benched from the starting roster of NA LCS' #2 seed, Team Solo Mid. The decision has been finalized earlier today by a direct statement from the team's owner and coach, Reginald, who claims the move was made not for Xpecial's performance but as a business decision. This comes as a shock to many fans, who are now criticizing Reginald for his actions.
Xpecial, who is NA's 2013 support all-star and veteran player for the iconic League of Legends' pro team, TSM, is regarded as NA's best support player and is said to have some of the best gaming mechanics among his peers. In several occassions, he has made most of the plays in a handful of games for his team. With accolades like that, of course fans of the player, as well as the team, will riot. But of course, before any one comes to any crazy conculsion, I feel we need to analyze what we have and piece together as much of both sides of the story as we can.
A Business Decision at best
Reginald, who runs TSM and was even its former mid-laner, makes most of the background decisions for the team. While the team owner is known to be rather hot-headed and often times stubborn, you can't argue that he hasn't made some great team decisions in the past, even going as far as to bench himself for all-star midlaner, Bjergersen.
In his statement posted via Facebook, Reginald himself says that the move to bench Xpecial did not come from lack of performance but rather, it was a "team decision" that was primarily fed through Xpecial's supposed negative "attitude." While the theory, among most people, say it was an emotional decision, there's no evidence at this time other than the fact that he's benching an excellent player, and that his emotions have gotten the best of him in the past.
The attitude theory vs the emotional outbreak
Right now, we have two possible conclusions: the one where fans are right and Reginald is a dirty liar because he's actually emotional (wow, much extreme) and the one where Reginald is making a a good business decision despite how much he actually wants to retain Xpecial in the starting line-up.
As an eSports enthusiast myself, I definitely know how much a good attitude plays in the success of your team, no matter how much talent you actually have. Obviously, most of us don't know how much of this attitude business there actually is, but most of the speculation that has spawned these accusations have come from Xpecial's lack of playing the game constantly and his need to "play other games" as well. While I don't know the extent of his need to play other games, it's very reasonable for pro players to want to play other titles to relieve themselves of stress.
Mind you, the LCS is more than just typical eSports where you compete for a prize purse, you actually get paid a salary, meaning it really does become your job once you're bound to the contract. The point Reginald is making, to some extent, is that Xspecial needs to suck it up in some sense and constantly play League of Legends. From the outside looking in, I know how much others would kill for his job as a pro support player for TSM, but at what point does it get taken too far in-terms of what you're a loud to do?
To me, as someone who enjoys general sports as well, it can never go too far. This is where I insert today's Malcolm Gladwell quote and say it takes "10,000 hours of practice to become an expert." Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are amazing as-is yet they still maintain their continued training regiments. Of course, that's not to say I don't see Kobe playing Soccer every now and then and Tom Brady playing golf.
Remember, bench does not mean removed
Remember, folks. Xpecial was not removed from the team. He was benched. While you can say the same for former TSM Marksman, Chaox, who was benched prior to his permanent removal from the team; based on what I saw in their online web series, Chaox' attitude was extremely negative in nature for a pro team and TSM found immediate success in the acquisition of current marksman, Wildturtle.
The one thing seperating the two scenarios, with Chaox vs Xpecial, is Xpecial is benched during a sort of downtime in the LCS. The All-Stars are coming up on May 8th and it might be another week after that, at least, till LCS resumes regular play, meaning it's unlikely for TSM to find a suitable replacement by then in-terms of a competitive play standpoint. Who ever TSM picks-up as a temporary player won't see real competitive play till a later date, leaving said player untested and making the reacquisition of Xpecial much more enticing if his demeanor improves by then.
Possible options for TSM
Obviously, TSM's future goes one of two ways: they keep Xpecial in the starting line-up or they find someone else. Currently, fans have speculated Gleebglarbu will be his temporary replacement. Based on what I know, I feel that's not really an optimal pick-up but honestly, who is? Xpecial is a great player -- and regarded as top-tier in the support department -- and it might be easier to just give him a break and some time to recooperate (which might be Reginald's strategy anyways) rather than to put effort in finding someone else and reacquire bottom lane synergy that's had more than a year to grow.
Those are just some of my thoughts on Xpecial's benching. However, right now we know very little on the actual scenario and honestly, it should stay that way. I feel both Reginald and Xpecial should have a level of class that allows them to just push through this with few words. Stay tuned for more updates on the situation.
UPDATE: Xpecial posts a video log on the situation --