Manhattan, NY—Joshua has been camped out on line in front of the T-Mobile signature store in Times Square for two hours with his mother. He’s all nervous energy, gripping a Zarya Funko. “Sinatraa is my favorite—I love his aggressive Tracer plays, it’s pretty insane,” he says excitedly. “I’ve been waiting for him to come out [to New York] and he finally came out!”
His mom stands beside him, smiling as he gushes. Far from feeling like she doesn’t belong, she says she watches the Overwatch League as well. “Sometimes I play,” she admitted, smiling shyly.
“She plays D.Va!” Josh interjects proudly.
Behind the pair, a growing line of fans snakes along the pavement on the corner of 46th and Broadway, where fans are waiting to meet 10 of the Overwatch League’s biggest stars (one from each team save for the two Grand Finals teams). The streets of New York have been cooking over the last few days, but the temperature today dropped to a gentle simmer—good news for the people waiting outside for this official fan signing event. Among them is Claudia, dressed happily in her NYXL jersey despite her team not making the Grand Finals. “You can’t win them all,” she says, “They had a really good season.”
An NYXL fan behind Claudia in line, also named Joshua, is a little less diplomatic. “It was a good season until we lost!” he says, laughing. “We’re just sandbagging until season two!” This particular Joshua is also a diehard NYXL supporter. He went to the fan meets in New York earlier in the season—a photo of him and Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park is the background on his phone—and he even traveled to California to watch them play at Blizzard Arena. “It was an experience I’ll never forget,” he says fondly.
The line isn’t just NYXL fans, though, far from it. Joshua’s friend Liam can’t wait to meet LA Valiant support Scott “Custa” Kennedy, and the queue behind them is a rainbow of jerseys, with fans of the Seoul Dynasty, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, San Francisco Shock, and more all waiting patiently for the doors to open.
About a third of the fans are women—some in couples, some with their friends. One is Robin, a Grandmaster Mercy player who has come today with her friend Jessie. Robin’s favorite team is the Houston Outlaws, but she says she’s excited to meet all the players inside.
Inside the store, those players take their spots—Dylan “aKm” Bignet, Aaron “Bischu” Kim, Lucas “NotE” Meissner, Je-Hong “Ryujehong” Ryu, and Saebyeolbe stand in the photo area, while Weida “Diya” Lu, Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty, Jay “Sinatraa” Won, Johan “CWoosH” Klingestedt, and Custa sit at the signing table. The doors finally open, and the carwash commences.
A friendly T-Mobile employee takes photos of the fans with the players, one by one, patiently counting to three before each shot. The fans are often not shy at all, many throwing their arms around the players before each picture. Saebyeolbe sees a fan he recognizes and, in that moment, he’s the one who opens his arms first.
After 30 minutes of snapshots, aKm has begun mouthing the countdown at the same time as the employee taking the photos. Bischu maintains a friendly smile despite how long he’s been standing in one place, but starts stretching his shoulders between photos.
The players take a break before they switch from photos to signings, and vice versa, and outside the store, an orderly line forms once again, with Joshua and his mother at the front once more.
Joshua holds up his Zarya Funko with joy, now marked in silver with the signature of his favorite player. “He signed it!” he exclaims excitedly, rocking back and forth on his heels as he waits to be ushered back inside to meet more of his heroes.