The Point of Double lift

The point isn’t that Doublelift was a good trashtalker -- awkwardly saying everyone else is trash and that you are going to beat them isn’t going to find its way onto a diss track. He wasn’t someone you feared in the traditional sense. And with a penchant for big in-game gaffes -- the likes of being caught while split pushing or the now infamous dash into Crown’s Viktor at Worlds -- the point isn’t that he was a perfect player. From the awkward bowl cut early in his career to the leaks that endlessly trickled from his streams, the point was always that he was imperfect. The point wasn’t that he was a good or bad trashtalker. The point was that he did it at all.

I am not here to tell you this signals the “end of an era” -- in many ways we’ve already rehearsed this retirement, whether it was the first time he took a split off in 2017 or his recent suggestion that he also immediately retired alongside Bjergsen. There are the numerous times he’s gotten emotional in a post-elimination interview at Worlds that felt like “this is it,” and this entire year he never felt quite like the same old Doublelift. It’s not that I expected this to happen so much as I am just not surprised, which is, in a nutshell, how much of his career has panned out.

The point isn’t that he’s gone now so much as it is that he was ever here at all. Nine years ago, he made a post on Reddit detailing his situation: he’d been kicked out of his house, he had a couple thousand dollars (won through tournaments) to his name, and he had no guarantee as to where he would be the next night, let alone nine years later. He ended the post by saying, “Nobody has followed up on letting me couchsurf anywhere yet, so I'll likely find a library and use their internet until I can find a place in biking distance to sleep for the night.” The point then was that he had only League of Legends as a sort of guiding light to his entire life, and now nine years later, the point is that, remarkably and a little unfathomably, that’s all he needed. Leona Runen

There are those of us who watched him literally grow up before our eyes. I met him for the first time in 2013 in the hallway of a hotel room that was hosting a post-Worlds party where he called me “Long hair Hai.” I interviewed him for the first time in 2016, and when I asked him if I should call him Doublelift or Peter, he said, “Friends can call me Peter. So you can call me Peter,” which is a thing that sits exactly on that line between cool and awkward, which is where he has sowed his entire brand. Just last year I sat next to him on a plane ride back from Las Vegas and had this fleeting thought, as I often do on planes, about whether or not the LCS could go on if the plane went down. Surely it could do without me, but what about Doublelift?

The point is that, of course, the LCS will go on. The point is, of course, that he won’t go on, and the point is that those two realities not being tied together is something we have always known to be possible, though we haven’t experienced it. There is so much of his career to sift through that any individual step would have, in isolation, been an incredible career. His stints on CLG, TSM, and TL each could have been a miraculous resolution to that Reddit post, and yet he did all three of them.

The point isn’t that Doublelift will go down as the winningest player in LCS history, it’s that it happened after he was ruthlessly flamed for not being able to win at all. There are fans today who did not begin watching until, say, 2016 -- by then he would go on to win all but two or three of the LCS titles across a wide range of players. They have only known Doublelift as a winner. Then there are those who stopped watching altogether by 2016, and would come back now and say, “Wait, he played for that long?” or “Wait, he won that much?” The point is you could vivisect his career into bits and each stage would teach a new lesson. There is hubris and there is humility. Triumph is always quickly followed by disappointment, and no other career has oscillated so finely between the two. The actual result, though, was never the point -- that’s not what made his story so magnetic. The point was that the result would come at all. The point was that he kept finding ways to do it again.

Like this, he pieced together an image that was unapologetically something that we were always on the brink of disliking, and, maybe, for some people he did cross that line. Maybe he was daring us to dislike him. It’s not that the wins created a glorified monster -- he was, without fail, humbled every single year come October where the leaves of Worlds gave a different color to anything he’d managed to achieve in NA. I am not someone who bought into the idea of Doublelift being arrogant -- to me it was bravado for the sake of the show, which is something he has admitted to doing at least in part. There was always a hint of “what-if” in his voice, and if you know his career well, then you know the self-doubt carried him as much as the self-confidence. There was always something to prove. There was always something to disprove. But, well, the point is it was very difficult to dislike him -- at least not entirely -- because there was rarely ever any actual malice from him.

The point of Doublelift isn’t that he’ll retire as the greatest North American player, though that may have been a goal of his at the beginning of his career. The point isn’t that he’s won eight LCS titles, though that mark may never be bested. The point isn’t that he’s come to build a family -- his teammates and friends and us fans as a sort of distant, knows-too-much relative. The point is that it happened at all. The point is no one can undo any of it. The point is nine years now come to an end. It started with him asking us, “What next?” and it will end with us asking him the same. The point isn’t that he missed out on a deep Worlds run for a storybook ending. The point is, when you look back at what he needed at the beginning of this journey, he’s already accomplished the storybook ending again and again. The point of Doublelift is that he became so much more than anyone ever asked for.

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