The best Bay Area team you’ve never heard of

Bay Area sports fans might want to find another team to lend their support to: freshly minted champions, the San Francisco Shock.

For those who don’t know, the San Francisco Shock is an American professional esports (competitive multiplayer video gaming) team that compete in the Overwatch League. Overwatch is a team-based first-person-shooter video game where teams of six compete to best each other on one of Overwatch’s maps, or “worlds.” Overwatch League is the professional competitive league for this game and is to esports what the NBA is to sports (and San Francisco Shock are definitely the Golden State Warriors). Twenty teams from all over the world compete in the tournament-style formatted league based in Los Angeles. The London Spitfire, last year’s champions, made over $1 million by playing in the league. 

The Shock are owned by Andy Miller, one of the co-owners of NRG eSports, an investment group aiming to expand the esports industry and dominate the esports scene. The group boasts celebrity membership including Jennifer Lopez, Shaquille O’Neal, and Marshawn Lynch.

This season, Shock placed third overall, though they had the second-best record (23-5). As their placing suggests, Shock had a dominant season, having two perfect stages (Overwatch League’s seasons are split into four “stages”) and a stage championship under their belt. 

In the short history of the Overwatch League, the Shock developed a reputation as a team that does not just win matches but dominates them. In the double-elimination playoff bracket, Shock started their playoff run with a heartbreakingly close loss against the Atlanta Reign but bounced back by tearing through the losers bracket, sweeping four straight matches. In the grand final, the season’s championship, the Shock dominated the Vancouver Titans in a 4-0 sweep, cementing their place as the best team in the league.

In the short history of the Overwatch League, the Shock developed a reputation as a team that does not just win matches but dominates them.

The Shock’s roster is currently made up of 10 players: six from South Korea, three from the U.S., and one from Sweden. This multinational roster is not an anomaly — the majority of the Overwatch League’s teams field mixed rosters. However, many fans do not care where their team’s players come from. In their eyes, London’s full-Korean roster are honorary Londoners, and every player on the Shock is an honorary San Franciscan.

Next year, the Shock will be playing at home and will no longer be San Franciscans in name only. For the Overwatch League’s first two years, teams played a vast majority of their matches in the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, so players spent most of the season competing in Southern California. But next year, the league will shift to a more traditional home and away format — the Shock will play in front of their home crowd at the Cow Palace in Daly City and the San Jose Civic for the first time.

If you want to be a Shock fan, it’s easy. Overwatch League teams try to forge personal connections between the fans and the players. The Shock have made themselves accessible to fans by having a Discord server with all 10 players and more than 7,000 fans, so despite having fans from all over, there’s a place for them to connect. Additionally, even though they’ve never played in San Francisco, the Shock have made efforts to reach out to their local fanbase by helping to organize local signings and watch parties for fans.   

The Overwatch League season may have ended, but you can still follow the competition online and watch replays of matches on Twitch.

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