Thirty is an intimidating number.
It’s the number of days in September, April, June and November. It’s the minimum age for U.S. senators. Jack Weinberg was a student activist at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement who coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” so it’s also the number delineating the generational gap between demographics.
It’s also the new record for the most consecutive losses in professional sports, courtesy of the Shanghai Dragons in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. And depending on the outcome of this Wednesday’s match, it might be getting even longer.
The Shanghai Dragons are one of the 12 original franchises in Blizzard’s Overwatch League and are the only Chinese franchise.
Owned by Chinese internet technology company NetEase, the Dragons have yet to win a single match in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, sitting at 0-30 at the end of Stage 3. And if one considers the preseason exhibition matches in December 2017, then technically the Dragons have lost 32 games and won a grand total of zero since their inception.
The previous holders of an ignoble title similar to this were the Philadelphia 76ers. Beginning March 27, 2015, against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Sixers lost 28 matches in a row before finally earning a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers the next season on Dec. 1 of that year.
To contrast, since the Overwatch League began on Jan. 10, the Dragons have lost every four-map series in the regular season. The Dragons’ overall map record consists of 17 wins, one draw and 105 losses, for a total of -88 map differential. The next lowest, in 11th place, are the Florida Mayhem, who sit at a -51 map differential. And considering that the Overwatch League only has 40 matches in the regular season, compared to the NBA’s 82, this means that the Shanghai Dragons have lost at minimum 75 percent of their games.
Heading into the fourth and final stage of the Overwatch League, the Dragons are down to their last 10 chances to come out with, at the bare minimum, one victory in their six-month odyssey.
And though the situation is looking better, it isn’t by much.
On the plus side, the Shanghai Dragons have been somewhat revitalized from the additions to their roster. The original all-Chinese roster under head coach Chen “U4” Congshan had a map differential of -30 in Stage 1 and -35 in Stage 2.
In Stage 3, the new Korean-Chinese mixed roster under new head coach Wang “RUI” Xingrui had a map differential of -23. And though they remain winless, the Dragons continue to steadily improve and take maps off championship favorites such as the Boston Uprising or New York Excelsior.
On the negative side, head coach Wang stepped down May 9, citing health issues, after only one month of leading the team, leaving assistant coach Son “Kong” Jun Young to lead for the time being.
The new Dragons have improved — however, so has the rest of the league. While the Korean-Chinese mixed team looks stronger than the previous iteration ever did, it only formed in Stage 3, four months after the other teams solidified their cores. The Dragons must now play catch-up, and they have to do it in one month and under new leadership.
The best opportunity for a Dragon victory comes this Wednesday, the first day of Stage 4, when the team must play against the Dallas Fuel.
In their previous match, the Fuel dominated the Dragons, 3-1, off the back of a herculean performance from their star Hyeon “EFFECT” Hwang. However, it was the only victory the Fuel had in Stage 3, and they ended with a map differential of -21, only two maps better than Shanghai’s.
In addition, Hwang has stated that he will not be playing in Stage 4 because of health concerns, after having stepped down from the active roster halfway through Stage 3. In his absence, the Fuel has floundered, and after a season marred by controversy that hamstrung a team originally believed to be a championship contender, their morale is likely to be at an all-time low.
This will be the Dragons’ best opportunity to end their losing streak and claim that elusive first win. They have been mathematically eliminated from the seasonal playoffs and have already established the record for the longest losing streak in all of professional sports. At this point, all they have left to play for is pride.
Perhaps the knowledge that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain will give them the strength to make that final push and let the stadium light up with Shanghai red.
And if not? Well, I could always recommend the self-help book of Walter B. Pitkin, “Life Begins at Forty.”
Michael Jeong covers Heroes of the Storm. Contact him at [email protected].