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Published July 23, 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 Nintendude’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.

Don’t you wish Evo would just happen already? We have another week or so before Smash’s premier major season starts, but last weekend already saw a few notable smaller events. To no one’s surprise, Armada won Smash Factor 7, traveling all the way to Mexico, while on the opposite side of the world in Japan, aMSa won Battle Gateway 21. At Short Hops in MD/VA, Junebug came out on top, and Swedish Delight took Aurora Blitz in West Michigan. Tristate also had another edition of Nebulous, Pioneers Edition, with Jflex finishing first.

A lot more happened over the last week, but I’ll talk about the details later. For now, here’s a recap of the weekend’s events.

1. Nintendude is Back! Kind of?

Turns out that when an Ice Climbers player practically says they’re done with the character, you should take it with a grain of salt. Who would have thought it?

Snarky jokes aside, this was a good return to form for the now ICs/Marth player. His set against Armada was fairly brutal to watch, but Nintendude double eliminated Javi, beat Bimbo – a Mexican Falco who beat Medz and DJ Nintendo as part of a massive loser’s run to fourth place – and swept Medz. It was refreshing to see the longtime veteran return to a significant tournament and do well.

I’m not sure what that means for Nintendude’s future as a competitor. For his matches against Armada and n0ne, his Marth honestly just looked overwhelmed. Against the Nicaraguan, he played fine in the neutral game, but didn’t hit nearly as hard. Versus the Swede, he didn’t stand a chance from the start, but that’s Armada for you. The foundation and potential for strong play are there with Marth, but it will take time and need more major play if Nintendude wants to reach the same level of his ICs.

2. Does Maryland and Virginia fill HugS’ heart with fear?

What’s up with HugS and MD/VA? Does this whole region just nerf him? The SoCal Samus ended up finishing only third at this tournament, sent to loser’s bracket early by the regional Peach Polish. Though HugS ended up beating Rhyme, Hax and BBB (who scored a win over Hax in winner’s bracket at the event), he also barely scraped by Polish in their rematch before being sent home convincingly by lloD.

For those who aren’t sure what I mean by “nerf him,” HugS has a reputation of losing to MD/VA players or at least having some of his less-flattering moments of being a competitor related to the region. In addition to never having beaten ChuDat, he also has losses to SmashG0d (now Rishi), Hat and others from this region across his career, even finishing a paltry 49th at Pound 4, which came after his return to competitive Melee.

Admittedly a lot of this is anecdotal, if not partially influenced by Chillin’s diss track on him, so I’ll let HugS clarify on whether MD/VA is actually a hard region for him to compete in or not.

3. Don’t Sleep on Junebug!

Don’t be surprised if Junebug finishes highly on Melee Panda Global Ranking (I’m going to have to get used to this). He’s quietly become one of the most impressive breakout stars of 2018, turning from a regional Marthslayer into a force across numerous matchups.

Though he’s mostly known for his success in Project M, that’s shifted this year with a new focus on Melee. It’s going to sound like a strange comparison, but when I watch Junebug play, he sometimes reminds me of Shroomed, though a little more on the defensive end.

He doesn’t have the years of experience, but similar to the NorCal Sheik, Junebug is strong with using needles, boasts strong fundamentals and controls stage very well. The similarities even extend into their shared weaknesses – for example, Junebug’s punish game on fast fallers remains somewhat underwhelming, but he makes up for it through smart decision making and intuition.

If you compare their resumes, Shroomed is clearly ahead because he’s far more consistent against the field. But view their best wins to each other, and you’ll see that their ceilings are closer than you’d initially think. Junebug hasn’t competed too much out of his region, but when he has, he’s taken victories over the likes of La Luna, Slox, Stango and Abate.

Though the MD/VA Sheik still has a negative combined in-region record against Zain and lloD for the year, being able to remain competitive, let alone take sets from them, is already impressive enough.  Look out for Junebug in the second half of 2018, at least if he goes to more events.

4. A Terrible Week for Smash

A little over a week ago, Josh “roboticphish” Kassel gave an update on the Harassment Committee, a behind-the-scenes built institution meant to protect the Smash community, as well as provide a blueprint for local tournament organizers when it came to creating a code of conduct and, if needed, implementing a system of bans and suspensions. Earlier in the year, the task force had made a long-form code of conduct and planned to create a shorter version of it, with the goal of getting the signed approval of several other notable tournament organizers.

You can read the full statement above, but I’ll cut to the most notable part.

As of the time of this update, 18 of the 38 tournament organizers we wanted as signatories have given their full support of the program. However, some concerns have been raised by the biggest TOs and organizations that have not signed on yet, which has slowed our progress until an acceptable answer is found. The main concern is surrounding the legality of having a panel ruling to ban individuals from an event; particularly, the question of legal liability should someone banned from an event decide to press charges against one or all of the signatories or the panel members. The issue is that if someone feels slighted and decides to sue for defamation or discrimination, there is no clear distinction of who is legally liable for damages or a legal defense. Is it one member of the organization, or are all equally liable and equally [un]protected by law? Furthermore, TOs have typically been under the assumption that they are legally allowed to remove anyone from their event at any time and for any stated reason; this assumption has come under question with the investigation of legal liability as well.

While this may sound over-complicated for what should be an simple organization, there is unfortunately a current precedent for taking this into consideration. A prominent member of the community (who will remain unnamed) is currently accused of the grooming of a minor and sexual assault, however this person has hired a lawyer on retainer who has threatened to litigate against any tournament who tries to bar him entry into their event. While the victim has opened a criminal case against this person, and while it is obvious that the community should want to bar him from all events, the very real and serious threat of litigation is far too much for any tournament to afford. Tournaments already strain and struggle just to break even; defending against a $20k defamation lawsuit would bankrupt every TO in the world.

Upon reading this part, I felt horrified. It put the assumptions that I had surrounding the power of tournament organizers into question. If they can’t ban smashers without being held at legal gunpoint, what can they actually do to keep smashers safe?

After the update, perhaps in response to many now-deleted online comments across the social media sphere, Toronto smasher Nightmare posted a statement from his solicitor on July 16, 2018. I’ve attached the tweet below, but I have a copy of the letter written in text, if the post was ever deleted.

I can’t comment on the exact specifics of Nightmare’s case, if there is one that exists. But there’s a lot to unpack surrounding the statement that worries me as an attendee of three majors next month – and not just that it responded to an account of an unnamed smasher.

“This note is meant to comment only on relevant facts. We are the solicitors for Vik Singh. If the postings are intending to refer to Mr. Singh, which we believe they are, the postings are false.”

Why even comment in the first place if nothing happened? What information in the post singled him out?

Mr. Singh is not issued of the grooming of a minor and sexual assault. Mr Singh was not convicted of the grooming of a minor or sexual assault.

The wording of this is in response to the specific charge within the task force’s statement. But this is a strange method of proving client innocence. Why not write something like “My client has not committed any sexual offense,” or “My client is “absolved of all sexual crimes,” etc?

This sounds unimportant, but Canada has numerous different sexual offenses, such as sexual exploitation, sexual interference and a lot more, per Canadian law. Naming two specific legal ones in response to the phrase “sexual assault,” whether as a catch-all or specific term, is hardly clearing.

In conclusion, this letter, upon posting, shall serve as notice that in the event of any further false and defamatory postings, Mr. Singh will suffer serious and irreparable injury, and will take necessary steps. Neither this office, nor Mr. Singh, have threatened any litigation against any tournament and none is intended.

We consider this matter at an end, and suggest that all postings in relation to this matter cease.

This segment of the letter enraged me. In my opinion, it’s hard to read this and not infer a that it is a passive-aggressive legal threat against anyone who tries to talk about his status as a questionable figure to allow at events.

If you’ve followed my Twitter over the last week, you’ll note that I’ve been anything but silent. But that’s easy for me to say because I don’t have a direct stake in this matter. What about TOs behind closed doors, who are trying to keep their attendees safe, but can’t make a public statement about banning anyone from an event? What options do they realistically have if someone they deem a threat to attendant safety shows up to their venue anyway?

On the other hand, we’ve seen local bans recently instituted in other regions, many of whom have leaders that actively speak about them. In New York, “Jeffy” Moon was banned from local tournaments for online harassment of other people, among other instances of bad behavior. In Michigan, Mingee was banned partially due to being  in a position of power and yet making demeaning comments made toward another smasher online, as well as having a history of questionable conduct at tournaments, which he even details in his own defense.

To add to the list, Big Blue eSports in New England has reportedly instituted a clause for its events, in which the organization can ban any smasher from events for any reason it deems necessary. Yet the same logic that may keep tournament organizers apprehensive about addressing a behind-the-scenes investigation into the potential sexual misconduct of a smasher could be used for anything.

I don’t know how to fix every related issue, but I’ll say something specifically to the solicitor who wrote the statement for Nightmare above:

If this meant to stop smashers from talking about your client, then you don’t get to decide how we speak. There’s been enough public discussion of this topic to warrant more dialogue surrounding him. If you think that’s defamatory, let me give you more of my opinion.

In my opinion, responding for your client to a claim about an anonymous smasher’s conduct is a red flag. In my opinion, the Smash community is filled with many people who are teenagers and younger, whose safety at events is an utmost need for community leaders. In my opinion, if anyone is willing to suggest a legal threat against those who share concerns surrounding their background, even presuming innocence, it should be taken as a direct assault on an institution made to protect smashers, one that everyone from the victim to the accused should be supporting and cooperating with the whole way.

In my opinion, I cannot repeat enough that the Nightmare situation, news surrounding the task force and related  issues are grave matters for the community – and we should absolutely demand answers.

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