LCS: A Discussion on Poome, Criticism, and Toxicity

Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games.
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games. /

With a lot of controversy surrounding the treatment of 100 Thieves support Poome following his performance in the LCS playoffs, let’s take a look at how we fans treat pro players.

It was a quiet night following the end of the LCS Summer 2020 Playoffs yesterday. I had resolved myself to play a little solo queue that night and would do another review of the playoff VODs the next morning for some analysis. Unfortunately, all of that was blown up by a tweet from Mark “MarkZ” Zimmerman on the performance of 100 Thieves’ support Philippe “Poome” Lavoie-Giguere.

Those three numbers are the scorelines of Poome in the three games that 100 Thieves lost to Evil Geniuses. He went a combined 3/23/6, for a KDA of 0.26, in that losing effort. MarkZ was obviously not the only person to point this fact out or to levy criticism at Poome for his performance, but the joke (which MarkZ has apologized for) sparked a lot of backlash not only against Poome himself but to that backlash.

More from Blog of Legends

Poome himself responded to the criticism, implying that this criticism was bad faith flaming. 100 Thieves General Manager Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith and 100 Thieves Academy Coach Kelsey Moser both came to Poome’s defense, calling out the “bad faith” criticism and flaming. Obviously, those two have some bias towards Poome, but that doesn’t mean their points don’t have merit.

How media (of which we at BoL sort of qualify) and fans treat players and organizations matters. Moser’s tweet implies as much. And that’s not necessarily a bad way to do business.

In all entertainment industries, from sports to movies and television, executives weigh the reaction of fans when deciding who to cast in a role or who to put in a line-up. How much weight that is and should be given is up for debate, but it unquestionably exists. As a result, we should examine how fans and media treat and evaluate players, particularly Poome in this case, and whether the things have been said of him is “fair” criticism.

Poome Performed Badly in Playoffs

This is almost un-arguable. Even looking beyond those stat lines, anyone watching the series between Poome and EG support Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam could tell that Zeyzal was the better support on the day. But did Poome perform so poorly that he should be subject to particularly harsh flame?

Well, kinda.

A 0.26 KDA isn’t just a bad scoreline it’s an objectively horrible scoreline. 23 deaths means Poome averaged 7 deaths per game. Any pro player who has seven deaths in-game is going to be subjected to flame, especially when those games are among the most important games all season.

Poome is a Rookie and Doesn’t Deserve This Level of Flame

A lot of the Poome defenders are throwing out the argument that “Poome is a rookie, who has only been playing League of Legends for two years,” and shouldn’t be subjected to such harsh flame. This argument is ludicrous because it assumes that fans and commenters haven’t already taken these facts into account.

MarkZ, in a follow-up tweet, clarified that his criticism of Poome always has the caveat that he is so inexperienced. These points were also brought up numerous times throughout the Summer Split and playoff broadcasts. Any reasonably-engaged LCS fan knows Poome is very inexperienced, even for a rookie.

However, that does not give him carte blanche to play poorly for the starting roster. Yes, he should be graded on a curve that accounts for his lack of professional experience and most fans are considering that when criticizing him.

Being a rookie and inexperienced in any setting, be it a rookie NFL player, a child actor, or just a fresh university grad at his or her first job, always grants a certain level of insulation from criticism. Viewers understand that a rookie isn’t going to perform at the level of an All-Pro or seasoned vet, but they do expect certain level of competence that Poome did not show (at least in those three games). The insulation also goes away as the player or person gets more time and experience in that role, and Poome had played 12 games of LCS prior to the playoffs.

Saying his rookie status earns him a bit more leeway is fair, but there are certain levels of performance at which even a rookie as green as him deserves criticism.

Criticism is Fine, But Flame Shouldn’t Be Tolerated

Almost everyone should agree with this point. Players underperforming deserve to be called out, but that doesn’t mean they should have every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a Twitter (or website) cursing them out and demanding that they be benched/fire/deported.

That Poome played poorly and that 100 Thieves arguably mismanaged the roster to the extent that they put him in a position to play that poorly is deserving of criticism. Going into his, other players, coaches, and management’s DMs and mentions spewing hate and name-calling is plainly unjustified.

Does MarkZ’s tweet fall under that umbrella? In my opinion, no. It’s a joke (playing off the “Poome Gang” meme that the player and org have cultivated) and not even in that poor of taste.

It’s not attacking Poome as a player beyond that specific playoff performance, nor is it saying that Poome deserves to be benched or set adrift on an ice floe. It’s a joke contrasting the perception and hype that have been built up around him with the performance he displayed. And it’s fine if the player, the coach, and the org are unhappy with an analyst for the LCS making that joke, but that doesn’t mean it’s unprofessional.

The LCS has recently been recognized (and largely lauded) for its casters calling out players and teams that underperform during the game. In what way is this one comment so much worse than a caster ranting about how “Dignitas hasn’t done anything proactive in the last 20 minutes”?

Some commenters are calling MarkZ a hypocrite because he is being “toxic” after previously releasing a video discussing certain analysts that use their platform to incite flame against players and coaches. But these situations are not equivalent.

The video referenced was one where MarkZ how certain casters were flaming players and coaches (and worse yet, implying those players and coaches weren’t qualified to give an opinion) because they disagreed on an opinion. Opinions should always be something that is open to debate and discussion, not outright flame for disagreement unless the person disagreeing is being intentionally obtuse.

This isn’t a matter of flaming a person’s build or play and saying that they’re completely incompetent and unworthy of a roster spot. It’s a joke pointing out something that everyone with eyes was able to see.

LCS Teams Shouldn’t Base Roster Moves off Public Perception

This was part of Moser’s point about how teams are a bit gun-shy to bring up rookie talent because they’re worried about the perception of the team. While many fans contend that teams shouldn’t make roster moves based around fan perception, that is simply not possible.

Already, you can see Reddit comments and Tweets discussing Poome’s poor performance and indicative of 100 Thieves’ poor roster management. To a degree, that is fair, considering they started the season with an underwhelming support in William “Stunt” Chen before moving on to Poome in the Summer Split. However, it must also be acknowledged that likely part of the reason 100 Thieves moved on from Stunt was due to community outrage at his poor performance.

And yes, it’s fair criticism to say that 100 Thieves didn’t come into this season with a decent plan at support and had they secured a better support perhaps they would have advanced further in the playoffs. But 100 Thieves also took a calculated risk by going with home-grown talent that they believed in rather than just recycling the same veteran talent that hasn’t proven much.

The organization deserves credit for that, even though it hasn’t panned out yet. The team still has talent that can develop in the next year or two with more time and experience.

There will be cries from the community to move out some of those (currently) underperforming pieces including Poome. But if 100 Thieves believes in their plan and their vision they should ignore those voices and plow ahead. The fan reaction does influence certain roster moves, but the job of good GMs and coaches is to weigh that against the factors they see every day and we do not.

If, after everything, 100 Thieves sticks with players like Poome and mid laner Tommy “ry0ma” Le, they’re going to have to bear that criticism. If they’re correct, they’ll be lauded (just look at how everyone is praising FBI after years of calling him a wasted import slot) but they’ll have to take the bad days until it pays off. Which leads to the final criticism.

Poome doesn’t deserve an LCS slot

This is the most laughable criticism of all because no one other than the teams dictates who “deserves” a position other than the teams running them. Fans can complain that a certain player is playing over someone they perceive to be better, and when the starter underperforms (as was the case here) those fans will gleefully take their chunk of flesh. Part of being a pro player is developing the thick skin so that the chunk isn’t too big.

So saying Poome doesn’t deserve to be in the LCS is ridiculous because no fan gets to make that decision. He played a significant amount of games to a level that convinced the coaches and management that he was the best option they could put out on the Rift.

Next. Ranking the 50 greatest LCS players of all time. dark

I wouldn’t say that Poome performed better than most LCS supports, or even at an average level, but he definitely outperformed Stunt. Certainly, he didn’t perform at such a low level in the season that it justifies the organization just completely giving up on him. Even this one, exceptionally bad, playoff series doesn’t outweigh all the potential he has to get better and become a very good or even great support.

100 Thieves is 100% justified sticking with Poome next year based on that promise, but the fans are 100% justified questioning that decision until it starts to pay dividends. But to call Poome a lost cause or say he never deserved a spot on the roster given what he has done and what he could do one day is ridiculous.