SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- In an ocean of blue Cloud9 jerseys at the LCS Arena for the North American LCS playoffs, two best friends in black shirts stood out among the rest. As Team Dignitas took the first game of the best-of-five against the favored C9, the ocean sat at a standstill, and the lone pair of Dignitas fans shook the stands, upsetting the tide. The louder of the two, a bearded man in his 20s, pumped his hands in the air, screaming, "DIG WIN! DIG WIN! DIG WIN!", undeterred by the fact he was sitting behind enemy lines.
Miyan Nagib, 28, was the name of the man leading the charge, and his partner in crime, Seo Ye-joon. 22, was right along with him, both jumping into the air at the close of the series, Dignitas pulling off the major first round upset over the former two-time LCS champion. Best friends since going to college together in New York City, the pair took a job at the same company and moved to North Carolina.
"We decided -- no, he decided, had to go these playoffs," Seo said, making it clear which of the two made the decision to come cross-country on a whim to watch their favorite esports team play in the playoffs.
Two months ago, Nagib, the loudest fan in a sold-out esports arena, didn't even know what esports were. After becoming roommates in North Carolina, Seo, an avid watcher of all things League of Legends, introduced his friend to the world of pro gaming. From there, following the first game he ever watched, featuring Team Dignitas, the rest was history -- Nagib was hooked, and Dignitas, the plucky perennial underdog, was his team.
"Every weekend, we'd sit down -- a lot of times, since we kinda live in the sticks of North Carolina, we'd have to go on an hour just to get good groceries, and we'd be listening to it on the radio through Bluetooth," said Nagib. "We'd come back, screaming, running up to put the game on TV, and just [lots of] yelling at the TV."
A Minnesota Vikings fan, Nagib is drawn to tortured organizations, and Dignitas is no exception. He would go on to explain the roller coaster ride that is watching a Dignitas series, the number of changes in the roster, and how one game the team would look like world beaters before the next getting dropped in a matter of minutes. The community, the physical closeness between the fans and the players, something that many traditional sports lack, was what drew Nagib to the world of esports, and Dignitas in particular.
When Nagib talked about Dignitas, it was like the team's identity was a part of himself. He talked about how Dignitas' performance in the league was similar to how he was when he played beer pong while camping, always going up early before being blindsided when it seemed nothing can go wrong.
"We reverberate, Dignitas [and I]. I know how it feels like," Nagib said.
Chanting "DE-FENSE!" in the crowd in the waning moments of the series, the money and travel to come to Los Angeles were all worth it. While dropping the third game in the series and bringing flashbacks of past disappointments, Dignitas, down in the fourth set, made a thrilling comeback to take the series, the cries of passion from the two best friends overwhelming the shouts and chants from the C9 contingent. When asked how they felt at the closing moments, the friends couldn't sum it up in a single quote, the two bouncing back and forth, essentially reenacting the entire game from the start, and how miraculous it was that Dignitas didn't fold under the pressure.
Coming out to Los Angeles and getting to meet his favorite player, Dignitas' ace Kim "ssumday" Chan-ho, and experiencing everything in real life instead of listening to the radio on the highway of North Carolina, Nagib was already looking towards Boston, where Dignitas will be playing for third place -- its highest finish ever in the NA LCS.
"There's no going back," Nagib said.