On Feb. 8, the Superb OWL is coming to the Overwatch League. Literally.
The Overwatch League has nothing to do with the NFL’s upcoming Super Bowl, or so you might assume. But the city-based teams in Blizzard’s new league have made it more similar to traditional sports than esports has ever been. And it also, inadvertently, set the Overwatch League up to host its own version of the Super Bowl.
In the summer of 2017, Robert Kraft — best known, of course, for being the owner of the New England Patriots — made an investment in esports by purchasing an Overwatch League team. That team became the Boston Uprising, an OWL team you could consider the resident esports champion for the New England region of the U.S.
As the Overwatch League developed, Philadelphia also got an OWL team. And as OWL put together its inaugural season’s schedule, the NFL went about its regular season business and then its post-season business until it came down to the final fateful two: Kraft’s New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
There was no way anyone at the Overwatch League could have predicted that these would be the two teams playing in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 (but if anyone at Blizzard did, please contact me). So there’s no way that the match between the Boston Uprising and the Philadelphia Fusion was purposefully scheduled for the week directly after Super Bowl LII. But by happy coincidence, it was.
So the Overwatch League will be hosting its own version of the Super Bowl — perhaps, in this instance, more fittingly called the real Superb OWL — on Feb. 8, only four days after the actual Super Bowl. And it’s an event that team-owner Robert Kraft has not overlooked.
Recently Kraft took the time to speak with the Boston Uprising in person, and while many players on the team are not big football fans, or really even know what football is, his presence and impact was felt.
“He [has] high standards for us,” said Jack ‘Shake’ Kaplan, assistant coach of the Uprising. “Every franchise that he owns is very successful. He brought a Super Bowl ring and showed it to us, and said, ‘Hopefully we’re going to be winning some of these in Overwatch.‘” Kaplan told FanSided that the visit motivated the team, despite the fact that not everyone in the room knew who Kraft was in the football world.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Fusion has also been gearing themselves up for the big game, no Kraft needed, going so far as to invite the Boston boys over to their house to watch the Super Bowl together.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” the Fusion’s Joseph ‘Joemeister’ Gramano told us. “I’m pretty close with some of the Boston guys.”
That closeness is also what might make Philadelphia and Boston the Overwatch League’s next up-and-coming rivalry. “I think it’s going to be a great match. Anything could happen on that day,” Joemeister said. “I really want to beat them. I’ve got some old teammates on [the Boston Uprising] so that match is really important for me.”
Kaplan also mentioned how the teams were familiar with each other from previous esports competitions. “There’s definitely no bad blood, but I think we’re just very close in terms of the strengths of our teams right now,” he added. “I could definitely see it being a rivalry situation this season.”
While both teams haven’t specifically prepped for the Feb. 8 match yet, each side is heading into the showdown feeling confident. “[Boston] is still seen as an underdog team. I’m not underestimating them,” Joemeister said. However, the huge upset over the New York Excelsior has helped the Fusion feel stronger than ever. “It was a confidence boost that we needed. Getting a win like that with such little practice is pretty amazing. I think now we realize any day, anything can happen.”
In the same vein, Kaplan assured us that the Uprising will not be underestimating the Fusion. “The style of both of our teams is very similar. We like to run kind of the same strategies, the same heroes, and then they have very good, very talented players,” Kaplan explained. “They’re a great team, we’re a great team and it should be a really close match.”
And as for the other Super Bowl, both teams are looking forward to the viewing party which will have players and Overwatch League casters in attendance. Not a big football fan himself, Joemeister made his Super Bowl winner prediction based on the underdog kinship he feels with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m pretty familiar with what it’s like to be an underdog team going into a match, and the kind of pressure that puts on the opposing team. I think it’s a bit of an advantage for [the Eagles],” Joemeister said. He then surprised us by continuing his analysis with some specific football knowledge, saying, “I also think having Doug Peterson as their coach right now is a pretty big advantage considering he’s won before against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, so I think he’s going to lead them in the right direction.”
Kaplan, however, is a staunch Patriots fan and shared that the meeting with Kraft left him starstruck. “I haven’t really watched Philadelphia games this year so I’m not really sure how good they are, but I’m always confident as a Patriots fan,” Kaplan said. “Not having Edelman is a little bit of a concern but I’m pretty confident that we’ll win it.”
And while many of the Overwatch League players are not familiar with American football, Boston has made a point to start introducing it to the squad. “We watched the AFC Championship game together a couple of weeks ago, so that was a lot of fun,” Kaplan shared. “We got a chance to teach some of the players who aren’t familiar with football the basics of the game and they were pretty into it. They actually enjoyed watching it even though they were a little bit confused.” We’re sure Kraft would be proud.
The Fusion and the Uprising have levied a bet on Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup. If the Patriots win, Philadelphia will deliver Boston cheesesteaks for dinner. If the Eagles win, Boston will owe Philadelphia some clam chowder. And be sure to catch the Overwatch League Super Bowl on Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. EST on Overwatch League’s Twitch channel.