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Published April 9, 2018

This series is a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In it, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the smash community. Consider this a mix of news and mild takes. Featured image from Esports Arena Twitter – will take down, if requested.

In a week that’s been defined by endless arguing between community members on Twitter, it’s easy to forget that two pretty substantial tournaments happened on Saturday: Fight Pitt 8 and Noods Noods Noods: Oakland Edition.

1. In Bronze Comes Westballz

Hungrybox and Plup unsurprisingly took the top two spots at Noods, but Westballz had his best performance in months. He defeated Rocky, Shroomed and double eliminated Wizzrobe, only losing the tournament’s top two.

Looking at his sets, it’s hard to say Westballz necessarily exceeded expectations as much he simply performed to the highest of his perceived skill range. A cynic might say that beating Wizzrobe twice, even if he is a top 10 player, simply reflects the SoCal Falco’s expertise in the Captain Falcon matchup, while beating Shroomed on its own isn’t too impressive, due to Shroomed’s recent decline.

By the eye test though, Westballz demonstrated a lot more discipline within his play. His improved laser game and focus on positioning stood out, as he didn’t overextend on hits, stayed composed and picked his spots carefully without being too conciliatory. Though Westballz can attribute some of his success against Wizzrobe in their second set to Wizzrobe SD’ing mid-tech chase, that’s also a part of Melee you can’t ignore.

Since finishing in the top 10 for 2016, it’s been a tough stretch of time for Westballz. He’s still an elite Falco, but his up-and-down results following his initial rise to the top have been disheartening for his fans. Most of this can be attributed to a lot of Westballz’ gameplay (heavy use of crouch cancel, unsafe shield pressure mixups and speed) having new solutions in the current metagame. Noods won’t change how he’s perceived in terms of performance evaluation, but it nonetheless shows Westballz at his best.

2. Fight Pitt 8 In a Nutshell

Watching FP8 was a blast. Between the simultaneous hilarity and “did he really just say that?” moments between “non-esports” FendrickLamar and always-boundary-pushing NEOH Carroll on commentary, I thought this was one of the most enjoyable top eights to watch live. Or at least barring the groan-worthy few seconds of Carroll saying “gay” and “rape” repetitively, if I recall correctly, in reference to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

In first place came lloD, who looked fairly untouchable throughout most of the tournament until losing a close game five set with Colbol in winners finals. If you thought that set was exciting, you had a lot more to come – he and Colbol battled for two more sets, with lloD prevailing in the runbacks, 3-1 and 3-2 to win the tournament.

Santi and AbsentPage, who quickly dispatched of Junebug, 3-1, had the set of the tournament in a wacky, clip-heavy slobberknocker of a losers semifinals set, in which the longtime SoCal hidden boss vanquished his Minnesota counterpart. Sadly for Santi, his tournament ended just as quickly as he was sent to losers bracket, with a quick 3-0 loss to lloD.

3. My Smash Summit Pick: The Marth That Isn’t Zain

I was asked this last time on the new Melee Stats Podcast and I stumbled around on my answer, initially picking Zain and Ice as my first two candidates. However, I changed my mind and eventually decided to go with Stango, due to a few factors.

The majority of casual spectators have never heard of Stango, due to his relative obscurity as Philadelphia’s unquestioned top dog. Check his head to heads against the rest of his region, with many of them able to be described accurately as “infinity and zero” (or two, in the case of R2DLiu, the region’s No. 2). He also boasts several noteworthy wins over the last half of a year, having beaten Colbol, Abate, Darkatma, Android and Rishi, among others throughout his career.

Playing at Summit gives Stango a chance to actually showcase his skills against the best players. For reference, he has taken Hax, Crush and Mango to game five. You can see Zain play on a semi-regular basis against fellow elite players, but Stango hasn’t had the opportunity to travel or take as many names as some of his contemporaries.

I want to mention something else that’s semi-related to Stango, but more of a broad take as well: even though he’s not ranked among the game’s elite, since when has that ever deterred anyone from being voted into Summit? Were the invitational only meant for the world’s best players, the whole process would have been exposed as a sham. Simply put, if someone is entertaining and good enough, they’re qualified to make it in. Is he really any “worse” of a pick than Blea Gelo, Alex19 or Kage?

If you want the eye test rationale behind voting him in, of note is Stango’s ability to adapt to his opponents mid-set. Though he lacks some of the finer execution and grit to clutch out sets against top-level opponents, he’s extremely good at picking up on patterns in a game and figuring out quick solutions to his opponents.

Ask anyone in Tristate, Philadelphia or people that have played him. Stango is the real deal and absolutely has the potential to benefit from Summit exposure.

4. Still No Progress By The 25

I was about to go into detail about my frustrations with the lack of any update by the 5/25 regarding the status of box controllers and “arduino adapter” solutions, but my friend Ambisinister pretty much summarizes it better than I could.

When are we going to get an answer about this? Say what you want about CEO differentiating legality between different types of box controllers, but at least it’s been transparent about the details behind its decision making. I think it’s time we get an official update from the committee that isn’t just rumors or hearsay from a member.

Speaking of receiving an update from a group of supposed “authority,” let’s discuss another prominent issue.

5. Women and the The State of the Smash Union

I don’t want to get into too many details, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, take a look. It’s not flattering – the long story short is that an argument online between two members of the Michigan Melee community blew up into a chaotic discussion on issues of player conduct, sexism and accountability in the smash scene.

It’s beyond disappointing that people in the smash community are being harassed, even among progress that’s been made over the last decade. Even if you disagree with proposed ideas, emptily advocating for civility (without a proposed solution or any real insight) or erasing marginalized people’s experiences lacks empathy and furthers needless discussion without resolution.

I’m not in a position to point fingers, but I’d like to propose a potential solution: a Skype call between the Five and women leaders in smash to discuss an agreed upon, long-term player conduct code at events. It might be uncomfortable – and perhaps it should be done behind closed doors – but I feel like it’s necessary at this point to discuss sustainable, ethical and strong solutions to problems of harassment, sexual assault and other conduct issues.

Of course, enforcing these policies a difficult proposition. TOs of each region barely have any authority over each other when it comes to deciding on UCF, let alone enough resources to tackle a topic as pernicious as sexism. I frankly don’t think it’s possible, nor necessarily ethical, to hold local TOs to a “national” standard.

At the very least though, a conversation that isn’t on Twitter could lead to making progress.

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