“Great, today would be the day.”
Of all the days to get in a car accident, Cassandra Koch had banged up her car the day of the Boston Uprising’s first in-person signing with fans. A diehard fan herself and one of the select few fans able to mingle with the team as a VIP, Koch had gotten in a small car accident half an hour or so before the event. But that wasn’t about to stop her. She’d been waiting for this day almost as long as she’d been cheering on the Uprising.
“The cop asked me, ‘Do you have anywhere to be?’” recalled Koch. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I have to be at the Prudential [Center] in 20 minutes!’ I was about to run here if I had to.”
This was the first time the Uprising had travelled to Boston. Up until now, players and fans had only been able to interact through the various avenues of the internet, through Twitter, Discord, and Twitch. For fans who had only been able to express their passion through regularly held watch parties, this was an opportunity to meet players they had only ever seen on a screen.
The signing only lasted for around three hours, but the event was the culmination of an entire season’s worth of work - for both fans and players. People started lining up outside the Microsoft Store in Boston’s Prudential Center four and a half hours before the signing began at 6pm. Some were dressed in cosplay themed to the team’s Overwatch League skins, the bold blues and yellows of the Uprising’s color scheme standing out among the crowd. Everybody was clutching a shirt (some made sure to point out they were authentic team jerseys) and posters, ready to meet their hometown heroes.
A couple days before the signing, a small but vocal group of about 30 fans even waited for the team at Logan Airport flags and “Welcome home” signs at the ready.
“It was really cool to see them and they seemed really happy that somebody was there for them because they don’t see this support in LA,” said Caroline Lares, one of the fans who was there to welcome her team right off the plane from Los Angeles. “Getting the support here I hope meant something.”
After an incredible, undefeated Stage 3 performance, this was a chance for the players to meet their fans and their city for the first time, to see what they have been fighting for. Breaks between stages aren’t long - the team was only in Boston for four days - but the Uprising took advantage of their time in Boston to experience the sights and sounds of their distant hometown.
There were the requisite visits to the Boston Aquarium and Faneuil Hall, as well as a walk along the historic Freedom Trail. Some players found the time in the middle of a tightly-packed trip to explore a little bit, making their way along Newbury Street, Boston’s famously bougie shopping strip, or stopping at Mike’s Pastry in the traditionally Italian North End. For some, it was just amazing to walk around in a city they’d only ever seen in movies and games.
“It was kind of extra awesome because I played a lot of Fallout 4 and it played out around Boston,” said Lucas “NotE” Meissner. “Walking the Freedom Trail was one of the quests you can do in that game, so it was awesome.”
Of course, the team’s homecoming culminated in the signing with fans on Wednesday. Both fans and players were understandably nervous. Uprising fans have been working hard to build a community that players would be proud to see when they came to visit, and the team has tried its hardest to represent a city and fanbase it’s never even seen.
As soon as the first fans started making their way down the line of players, shaking hands and shedding tears, the tension was gone. Within the span of a couple minutes, fans were suggesting local hotspots to check out, chatting with the players like they were just some friends in town for the weekend.
“Without this kind of interaction the whole league wouldn’t be possible,” said Mikias “Snow” Yohannes. “It just creates this stronger connection between the players and the fans and that’s something we love to do.”
Luckily for the Uprising, that connection has been there since day one, despite the the team’s rocky journey through its first season. One of the Uprising’s star players was fired after serious allegations, and the team recently let go of one of their coaches. Despite all of that, the Uprising came through with a record-breaking 10-0 Stage 3 performance.
Uprising fans have been through the wringer and come out the other side with even more faith in their squad. That kind of energy is infectious and for the players who finally get to witness it in person, it’s game changing.
“You meet a lot of these on Discord and you see them on Twitter and suddenly now they’re right in front of you,” said Messner. “It changes everything.”