Doublelift, TSM, and the Closed Loop Career
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In honor of that tradition, it seems fitting for Yiliang Peter “Doublelift” Peng to adopt a coat-of-arms to serve as his heraldry, as the kings of old once did. A legendary beast that symbolizes his great accomplishments and history. Most fitting for him would be the Ouroboros: a snake eating its own tail.
Bygones be bygones
On April 16, independent esports content creator Travis Gafford reported that Team Liquid had put Doublelift’s contract up for trade. The story was corroborated by ESPN’s Jacob Wolf on April 17. Not long after on April 26, Team Liquid announced Doublelift’s departure and Team SoloMid (TSM) announced that Doublelift would rejoin the team.
"When you're good, you'll tell everyone. When you're great, they'll tell you."
Thank you, Doublelift. pic.twitter.com/U0fx9gRjXn
— Team Liquid LoL #BLM (@TeamLiquidLoL) April 26, 2020
There was mild controversy around the trade regarding potential conflicts of interest and avoidance of the rules regarding poaching. However, the discussion surrounding the ungovernable interaction between personal relationships and the LCS’s rules about poaching is a larger topic for another time.
Rather, the overlooked topic is how flat and unfulfilling this trade feels from a fan of the sport of League of Legends as a whole. Especially for anyone who enjoyed the dramatic rollercoaster of Doublelift’s professional career.
How This Move Affects Doublelift’s Persona
This move undercuts his entire player persona. The trash-talking winner who suffered betrayal after betrayal as teams kicked him despite his accomplishments with them. The player who repaid that by rising ever higher on a new roster.
Kicked from CLG after bringing home the organization’s first gold medal? Join bitter rival TSM and re-establish the TSM dynasty.
Kicked from TSM for underperforming at Worlds? Join the eternally-fourth Team Liquid and make them the new LCS kings. Then, for good measure, take the title of most LCS championships away from TSM’s franchise player and personal rival Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg by beating him for the sixth trophy and then take a seventh to extend the lead.
Doublelift was defined by his unshakeable self-confidence. So having to eat humble pie and rejoin TSM is a massive blow to what was, quite simply, a cool career. For all that, TSM can spin it like the prodigal son’s return by recreating his original 2015 announcement video, it’s an unsatisfying and hollow move for both sides.
How the Fallout Hurts Both Brands
TSM had most recently finished fourth in the 2020 LCS Spring split. No matter the aspirations, it is still a respectable placement for a newly rebuilt team that clearly still had room to grow. Now, TSM has thrown that progress out the window and is starting over with the bot lane from the ninth-place team. One who had mediocre performance throughout the season.
While Doublelift has proven time and time again that he can always bounce back to the heights expected of North America’s most talented American player. There should be some discontent and outrage for the dismissive treatment of Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup however.
For Doublelift, this move makes him less an inspiring self-made man and more just a journeyman wandering aimlessly from team to team. The ninth-place Doublelift is crawling back to fourth-place TSM. The proudest player with the biggest mouth sheepishly comes back not as a smugly triumphant victor but as a meek dropout who’d been, wholly deservedly, benched and replaced.
Meanwhile, his biggest rival as North America’s star player is Bjergsen. Bjergsen, who stayed through thick and thin with TSM and was rewarded with partial ownership of the organization. Bjergsen, who is now, on paper, Doublelift’s boss.
Frankly, for Doublelift, there are only two things that will mitigate the impact of this move to his cocky image. Either a top-four finish at Worlds 2020 or a multi-year streak of LCS victories for TSM.
Anything less, and the legacy of Doublelift will be reduced from North America’s golden boy to a mere mercenary stuck in a loop. A player who went on a wild journey around the entire world and then came back to swallow his own tail.
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