Recently, Cloud9, a professional League of Legends team with a long history of success, announced that they were trading their backup support player, Smoothie, to Echo Fox, for their support player, Feng.
This was a horrible deal for Cloud9.
Smoothie, at his best, is an MVP-caliber player. Feng is a dime-a-dozen support.
Now, Smoothie was one of three players benched at the start of the summer split in favor of players from the Cloud9 academy team. While the other two were later reinstated to the main roster, Smoothie was not, for reasons that have yet to be explained. Apparently, he responded to this by asking to be released or traded
I’m fully okay with Cloud9 making a bad trade.
It bothers me, though, when the organization says this in their press release:
“The decision was a difficult one, but Cloud9 wanted to honor Smoothie’s wishes and, despite there being opportunities that were substantially better for the organization, we wanted to provide Smoothie with the pathway he thought most beneficial to his career.”
The takeaway from this is not only that Cloud9 is worse off from the trade, but that Smoothie got to choose where he went, meaning that C9 might have had a chance to get a better deal. It also needs to be pointed out that Smoothie’s wishes were what brought about the trade in the first place.
So, we have to ask, are the inmates running the asylum?
Now, Smoothie couldn’t elevate himself to the starting role, but was able to choose which team he was traded to, despite the fact that team didn’t have the best offer. This is weird.
As League of Legends tries to develop a more professional pro-league, you would think that the influence of players would start decreasing. This isn’t because the player’s concerns are irrelevant, but because what might be good in the short term for the players might be bad in the long-term for the league as a whole.
Since the teams need to do what’s best for the teams, they can’t be beholden to how their moves make the players feel.
When you look at professional baseball, you have to wonder if Smoothie’s attitude would have gone over well there. If a player is not performing, he gets sent down to the minor leagues, which is essentially what happened here. If the player doesn’t like it, he doesn’t get a trade. He has to earn his way back into the major leagues by performing well against easier competition.
If his attitude sucks, well, that’s how the game works.
And if he asks for a trade, he’s not going to get it, because right after being benched is when his value is at its lowest. So, the team keeps him, hopes he comes out of his slump, and then either uses him or trades him away.
If you’re thinking that I’m extrapolating a lot from just one event, well hold on. Jungler-player, Meteos was recently traded from 100 Thieves to FlyQuest in response to Meteos’ reaction to a likely demotion to the academy team. Another Jungler, Contractz was able to secure a trade from Cloud9 to Golden Guardians during the offseason. Both of those moves made their respective teams worse.
The value of contracts goes way down when players can just get trades when they’re unhappy. And if you want to help build your players’ character, there’s something that should be said for telling people “no” when they’ve signed a contract. Your landlord/lender/insurance company is going to make sure that you adhere to the letter of the law. There’s not a good reason your boss shouldn’t.
However, there’s one big difference between League of Legends professionals and those from other sports. LoL pros live with their team. For a while, most teams also practiced in the house in which they lived, though some have started to use offices in other buildings.
Years ago, this made a lot of sense. It saved money and made sure that young, immature people would have an easy time showing up to practice on time.
Now, however, as salaries grow in the six-figure, and in some cases, seven-figure range, it makes less economic sense. And now that more teams are starting to practice offsite, they’re already commuting to work. The case for living together is less strong. The odds are not good that the five players would be roommates if it were not for League of Legends. And in other sports, that’s not an expectation.
The youngest age that a person can join professional League is 17, and I understand the case that they shouldn’t necessarily be living on their own. However, by the time they’re 20, or so, it’s possible that living in a team house and having their housing, and most of their meals and expenses covered limits their emotional growth. There’s something about making sure the bills get paid that really promotes maturity, and players are missing out on that.
And maybe this is why teams are so eager to trade players that are unhappy. Not only can unhappy players sink practices, because they live together, they’ll make the off-hours uncomfortable, too. And if people are stressed out because of an uncomfortable living situation, they’re not going to perform well on stage.
Now, imagine that everyone had their own apartment. If someone got unhappy at work, the coach could tell them to go home and cool off.
At the very least, living separately means that you can get away from your teammates if you’re tired of them. It also means that they can have more of a life outside the game, which the lack thereof has been a constant complaint for years.
If the owners are serious in that they want their players to be able to have careers after their time playing League is over, then they need to help them grow a bit more mature. It will make the living situation better, it will reduce the ability of a player to weaponize their unhappiness, and it will give the coaches more power to make the changes they need to create a stronger team.