There is a disturbing new trend that is slowly creeping into the fighting game community as of late. It has always existed, but it has suddenly reached new heights, with players everywhere falling victim to it. It exists in all sorts of communities already, but it has become magnified lately thanks to the heightened exposure of the players to the mainstream media.
I'm talking about idolatry. We have elevated the likes of Justin Wong, Daigo Umehara, Alex Valle, John Choi and other 'top players' onto a pedestal that some people think makes them "untouchable" -- and, by virtue of the tag, a lot of people are following suit and actually making them so, transforming them into mini-celebrities.
Yes, it's perfectly normal to expect the very best of the best to command a good deal of respect in the community. I can even understand that the best players will be the ones that command the most media exposure, and thus will attract the most attention and respect. I don't really care about that, because it's not what I'm talking about -- people who attend events just to spectate can do what they like, and you could make a case that it's better for the long term success of the community that there are spectators that think in such a way. It's not the people who enjoy fighting games as a spectator sport that I'm worrying about.
It's the competitors.
The trend I'm talking about deals more with the amount of respect, lenience and flat-out nervousness that many players show when facing a player with a reputation. Why is it that every time I see Justin Wong on the big screen of a tournament against a player that might otherwise be decent, this player will just freeze up and give Justin the benefit the doubt in everything and let him style on them for the good part of a minute without even offering so much as a peep of resistance? Why is it that someone who has been seemingly been doing great in their pools and showing a lot of skill and resilience will completely scratch their gameplan come crunch time? Why do people, before even starting the match, completely defer to the more reputed player and practically give up before the fight's even begun?
A huge amount of people at Evolution were guilty of this. The problem is that the examples aren't really memorable, and so it is difficult to really point out what is happening because you can't really bring up an instant example. I had people tell me that Lamerboi would have not choked against Daigo if the person he was playing against was anyone else. I respectfully disagree: whether Lamerboi can deal with the pressure of an intense match or make cloudy judgments and decisions in a match has nothing to do with the reputation of the player he is facing and more to do with his personal ability. If you're thinking of Lamerboi's loss against Daigo, that is not the example we're looking for here. The examples we are looking for are, deservedly, much more forgettable.
There was the case of the halfway decent Chun Li player that went up on the big screen against Justin and nearly got double perfected in his first match, without ever taking Justin below 95% health in each of his rounds. It took the guy an entire match before he eventually remembered that he was playing Street Fighter and he actually bothered to start pressing some buttons and try things other than block and cry. The main reason for that? It was plainly obvious the dude realized who he was playing, and was never ever able to try to establish his game or play it, looking incredibly nervous before the match even began. It wasn't that Justin Wong at the moment was simply playing at much too dominant a level for his opponent to handle (it was clear Justin barely cared about the match), his opponent simply was never trying from the start and allowing Justin to get away with whatever he wanted; the match was lost before it ever began. That's where the problem lies.
If you are willing to spend $350+ dollars to get a ticket to travel to Las Vegas so that you can compete in Evolution, then you need to have more confidence in your own abilities and be less intimidated by the levels of others. Even at a hypothetical level: let's say you have an objective and clear understanding that you are not better than Justin Wong. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be playing at your maximum ability against him. You are here essentially competing at the highest level of Street Fighter play in the world, and you have made a considerable investment of time and money to get to this point. Why would you just let Justin Wong walk off with that investment without at the very least trying to get some return out of it? There's no justification for simply laying down and letting whoever you are playing walk away with the results of your time, money and effort, regardless of who they are.
The fact of the matter is that if you're willing to spend the money to essentially play at what can be considered a professional level, you need to start having a professional mentality about it. You can definitely be there to have fun -- this is completely acceptable. But you need to approach all your matches the same. You can't just make concessions in your game plan because you think someone will know how to handle it. Every match you play should require that the other player figure you out and deal with your approach accordingly. Stop figuring yourself out for them. Approach every match knowing full well that you only get to lose twice in every major American tournament.
If you're going to lose, so be it; let the loss come after you've actually put everything you have into the match, don't just give up one of your two losses for free regardless of who your opponent is. If I walked up to you right now and told you to give me $450 for absolutely no reason, you wouldn't do it. Why would you treat Daigo or Justin or Alex or John any different in that regard? That's roughly what you're doing when you mentally give them the win before you even play. And it's about time that people stopped doing that.