Looking back, the month leading up to the second Smash Hard is truly different than what it is now. There was no Facebook messages flying back and forth. No community page to discuss changes to the tournament. There wasn’t even a guarantee we would have another one or even see the same people. Most of us didn’t exchange phone numbers, Wii friend codes, or even names. It was dark, and it was cold. (lol)
That tournament, in that garage was really a special moment in time. It didn’t feel like just another tournament. It had a strange feeling of camaraderie that I am yet to ever experience in a group of strangers. I credit that to the combined energy of Grown Ass Men Play. They brought a level of hospitality to the tournament, that would continue even when hosting away from the house. Everyone was incredibly present and living in the moment. We weren’t trying to be anything other than ourselves. It’s difficult to express how much that day inspired me and reignited a flame.
I spoke to Frank sometime in the middle of the tournament about helping him run his events. I had personally been running tournaments for Super Smash Bros. Brawl and other titles since 2011, and stopped in 2014 due to various factors that will be elaborated on in it’s own post. I knew that offering my assistance would come with some skepticism. After all, I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to offer. But, I was determined to improve the experience for the players, more so by my drive to compete, than my desire to be a host again. So much so, that I bought two Wii U’s and two monitors.
The Lead Up
Out of all the people I met that day I only exchanged phone numbers with one. I don’t know if it’s the way he introduced me to the microphone, our chemistry or just his overall demeanor. What I do know, is that Allan (GenericRhyme) and I made a true connection. A connection that exists even today, states away from each other.
We met up one time before the second Smash Hard, practiced for a bit, and it was there I told him that I would bring two of my set ups. Everything else was quiet up to that point. I reviewed some match footage in preparation for the hopeful next tournament and that was it. That is, until this happened….
Smash Hard 2: Smash Harder
The tournament was to be held on March 28th, 2015. Determined to repeat the initial success, Frank was hard at work trying to find a venue for the tournaments. Even though the house worked, he knew it was only a matter of time before there would be too many people to continue hosting there. So in between his actual job(s), and recording videos, he was on the hunt.
Frank struck up a deal with the owner of a Play N Trade in Jensen Beach not far from his home. In the small plaza where this Play N Trade is located was an empty space that was used for Magic The Gathering tournaments. This venue was out of this world for us and was one of the best, if not the best venue we’ve ever had. We had an entire store front to ourselves. Fully air conditioned, more than enough chairs, a counter to use for sign ups. It was truly amazing.
Frank and Blaine had also made improvements to the stream. Improved microphone quality and added a stream overlay.
All of these things really shined when the unthinkable happened. Remarkably the stream became the highest watched Smash 4 stream for a short period of time. A Clash Tournaments stream had crashed, and everyone flooded over to ours in the meantime.
Frank was screaming and the rest of us felt so much bigger than we were. Even if we didn’t know it, that was the first instance of Treasure Coast pride we all shared. That moment had a monumental impact on Frank and his drive to keep growing his events.
In the days leading up to the tournament I could hardly hold my excitement. I was finally able to compete again and it felt euphoric. There was a lot of down time between my Ultra Street Fighter 4 days and the release of Smash 4. With a reoccurring monthly tournament I finally had something to really attach to.
After a long night of work, FeNriR and I packed up the equipment and headed to the tournament. The room was already a buzz when we arrived. The 50″ TV was back, along with a few other set ups along the wall. I walked in completely unnoticed. It felt like the first Smash Hard all over again. A proving ground. However, that feeling of anonymity wouldn’t last very long.
After setting up my two set ups, a rush of people lined up to get friendly matches with me. One after the other “Hey Czech, can I get a match” “Yo Czech, your Falcon is so sick, can I get a match”. FeNriR and I jokingly started to call it a “Kumite”. This experience was very new to me despite my years of competing at a high level. I was not only being recognized for my results and ability, but I was being embraced as well. “Czech that match against Pthas was so unfair. Lucario is busted” “Can you believe Lucario can do that? You deserved to win that match.”. Needless to say my ego was growing and a narrative was being created with even more intensity.
I was still the hero, and Pthas was still the villain. So much so, that people were conflating their judgement of his character with their judgement of him. I walked up to him and shared this narrative with him and told him we should embrace it. I’m fairly certain he brushed me off. (lol) But my respect for him as a competitor gave me an understanding of his personality.
Smash hard 2 was the first tournament to have doubles. Since they were unsure of the doubles turn out and how long it would take, they experimented with a single elimination format. FeNriR and I suffered a quick round 1 loss. I’m pretty happy that we did though, it gave me a chance to observe everyone in the building and mingle. Allan was busy working on sign ups. Blaine was getting the stream set up, and Frank/Tim were out getting the food. Frank really believed in providing food for the players and simply adding it to the entry fee, despite taking a personal financial loss.. It really made the whole thing feel like more of an event than just a tournament. The act alone had a lot of love in it, that he would miss being able to provide in the future.
After doubles concluded, it was on to what we all came for. The singles bracket. This tournament was equally as long as the first. Frank was determined to run all of the winner’s matches first, and then start the loser’s bracket after. Resulting in very large gaps of time in between sets.
I was fortunate enough to have a round one bye, although Pthas was not. At this point we didn’t understand how seeding a tournament worked. So every match was basically random. I lost the first game of my set to another Falcon player named Steck because I decided to try my Wario first. That humbled me very quickly and to this day I’ve never played the character in bracket again, despite my high hopes for it. I bounced back as though it never happened and took that set hot. I was feeling confident.
Pthas was keeping pace with me, and based on the bracket it was looking like history would repeat itself.
Our semi finals match was called and immediately there was a crowd behind us. There was a lot of pressure on me to win here. After being absolutely dominated in Grand Finals of the first tournament, I had something to prove. I studied our set just days before the tournament in preparation.
The crowd was relentless towards Pthas. Every time something went well for me, the cheers were booming. Any time something went poorly for me, you could hear scoffs and frustration. They didn’t care that he won, they cared about how it looked when he won. For a brief moment it stopped being about who would win, and instead was about who deserved to win. An energy like that could never take place in the present time.
My preparation paid off, and I was able to secure that win 2-1.
He just shook his head and said “I’ll see you in Grands”. This time, I knew that quietly rooting against him would have zero effect.
Bboy (Winners Finals)
There was a lot of good talent at that tournament. Sadly some of those players would disappear in later years. The one that stood out the most for me was Bboy. I mentioned him in the first post of this series. At the first Smash Hard, he didn’t have the greatest performance. Being a Falcon player himself, he came to ask me for advice that day. “How do you do that back air thing?” The question was so basic, I almost couldn’t believe it. “I just push the stick back, forward and then back air.” I showed him on my controller. That was it, he just nodded and thanked me.
Bboy is part of a crew that came from Melbourne.One of his members, HF (King Theo) got 3rd at the first Smash Hard. The rest were not the greatest, including him, so I just shrugged it off. I was competing to be the best Falcon out there, so my ego was pretty inflated.
Fast forward to Smash Hard 2. He enters the room and I remember being happy to see him. He looked very fatigued but had a smile on his face. “What have you been up to man?” I asked him. “Grinding, just grinding.” he said. He wasn’t lying! The amount of improvement he made that month individually, and the separation of talent between him and his crew was insane. His Falcon came out looking scary, even better than mine in his early bracket matches. We played differently, he was far more explosive than I was. He played with a fearless swagger that made him so cool to watch. He also developed a Fox during that short time, before any of us had ever even considered the character. From 1-2 at Smash Hard 1 to undefeated going into Winner’s Finals had me convinced that he had a Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
I was still luckily able to push through and take that Winner’s Finals set 3-1. Loser’s bracket was starting now and I waited patiently for Pthas, as I knew he would make it through.
However, what I didn’t know is that he would go 11 – 1, only dropping a game in his first set. He was coming in hot….with a side of bacon. The crowd gathered around us, carrying the same intensity as before. Heightened by the narrative that continued to unfold throughout the bracket.
I beat him convincingly in Winner’s Semis, this was my tournament, and I would do everything in my power not to let history repeat itself…..
A few things changed after this tournament. The competitive intensity really started to grow. With that growth came a larger talent pool. The amount of participants was also increasing. It was confirmed with this tournament that the first wasn’t a fluke. Frank and crew had something special, and he knew it.
Notable Players – Story Lines
Tilt(Pikachu, Diddy), Mittenkiss(Sheik, Toon Link), Ultima(Sheik, Luigi), Absolute Zero(Rosalina, Mario), Virus(Sonic, Olimar), Stilios(Kirby, Mario), Bboy(Falcon, Fox)