The history of the Smash community is filled with community leaders whose names have been forgotten, or who were never well known to begin with. A couple of years ago one of those smashers - an influential Dutch TO who goes by the nickname of "Exalador" - was diagnosed with a devastating autoimmune disease called multiple sclerosis (MS), which attacks the nervous system and prevents your body from functioning correctly. Given that Exalador had a crucial role in keeping Melee alive in the Dutch community when it was on the decline (between 2007 and 2011), as the Dutch community we want to raise awareness about his accomplishments, his recent struggles, and what we can do as a worldwide family to help him.
The first time Exalador appeared on the Dutch Smash scene was when he and his brother organized a local tournament back in August 2004. As a tournament it was typical for its time: twenty or so people cramped up in a small room with a limited amount of set-ups, hosted in the basement of the TOs parents. As was a tradition at the time, Exalador and his brother had proudly announced on Smashboards that they were the best in the country and would ruin us, despite having no meaningful tournament experience. They were proven wrong of course, though Exalador’s brother made it to grand finals. It may not have been a significant tournament at the time, but that basement would play a large role in the Dutch Smash community in the years to come.
Exalador’s brother never showed much interest in competing again, but Exalador came through and established himself as a tournament regular. He quickly gained fame in the Dutch community for his flexible nickname, which has been bastardized in almost every way imaginable. ‘Exaladork’ was an obvious variation, as was ‘Sexalador’. When he lost a set, sometimes people would jokingly refer to him as ‘Exfailador’, and for unknown reasons people were fond of ‘Exlabrador’ as well. After he arrived a little late for an appointment one day he became known as ‘Extralateor’ for a while. We thought that was pretty clever.
Although he has never been well known as a player, Exalador quickly became one of the most important tournament organizers in the country. It didn’t take him long to move out of his basement and into a proper venue, which resulted in the ZEST tournament series. It was the most important tournament series in The Netherlands between roughly 2007 and 2010, with sixty to seventy participants per tournament (which were record-breaking numbers in those days). They were important training grounds for players like Adam "Armada" Lindgren and Mustafa "Ice" Akcakaya, and after Exalador retired as a TO, the venue would still be used for the Avalon tournament series for years to come.
In 2008 a number of Dutch community organizers decided to start SmashNL: an organization that would represent the Dutch Smash community and host tournaments under the SmashNL banner. A constant frustration for us at the time when organizing tournaments was the lack of set-ups, so our aim was to have a steady supply of set-ups available at every SmashNL tournament. This is where Exalador came in. He had one of the most crucial roles in the whole endeavour, since he was the only one of us who had a driver’s license and regular access to a car, which were rare commodities for us at the time. More importantly, his basement - the same one he used a couple of years before to host his first tournament - was available for storing a large number of CRTs, the lifeblood of Melee communities around the world. Renting dedicated storage space did not fit within our budget, meaning Exalador’s basement became a key asset in the development of our scene.
Now that we had storage space and a way to transport them, Exalador took it upon himself to actually buy the required CRTs. He found a hotel that was replacing their old CRTs with more modern screens and was willing to sell them for next to nothing, and he purchased about twenty of them. For several years, a small group of people - always including Exalador himself - would carry these CRTs up and down the stairs of his basement, into a car plus trailer, and drive them across the country to ensure that our tournaments could actually happen. There are few smashers in the European community who have carried as many CRTs around as Exalador, and even fewer who did it while being the head TO of a major tournament series at the same time.
Rarely was one of these CRT trips completed without at least one of the CRTs permanently breaking down. Some of them failed pretty quickly, others were still in use a decade after they were originally purchased from the hotel. If you have ever attended a Melee tournament in the ZEST or Avalon series, you have almost certainly played on one of these televisions. No, they weren’t particularly high-end CRTs, but they ended up being instrumental in keeping the Dutch community alive for many years.
You may be wondering if Exalador was a good Melee player. His results indicate that he was not, but there is evidence supporting the opposite. For example, here’s a picture of Exalador that Amsah D. Augustuszoon - The Netherlands’ most famous player - does not want you to see:
Exalador after The Renaissance of Smash 4 (the largest European tournament at the time), hosted in 2007. Although Amsah is frequently listed as the winner of this tournament, rumour has it the results were tampered with.
There’s no doubt that Exalador is one of the most important TOs The Netherlands - maybe even Europe - has had, but what many remember most about him is how easy it was to be friends with him. He was always willing to go the extra mile for you, quite literally. In a time where almost all smashers were broke and could not afford a car, he must have driven thousands of kilometers just to bring people or equipment (or both) to places where Melee was being played. Dutch players even went to tournaments in Sweden and England by car, with him being the only driver.
Since Exalador retired as a TO and player a number of years ago, most European smashers no longer know who he is and how essential his role in establishing the Dutch community has been. Of course no one organized tournaments for the fame or rewards back then. The best you could hope for was a sense of personal satisfaction and a few thank yous from the participants. TOs tend to carry over some of the skills they pick up along the way to the next phase of their lives, in hopes of putting them to good use, and in good health. But without some serious help, not even this will be possible for Exalador.
There is a treatment available for MS that ‘resets’ the immune system of the patient and massively improves the quality of the rest of his life. This treatment is available in a number of countries, but unfortunately not in The Netherlands, nor does Dutch health insurance cover the treatment in a foreign country. For this reason, Exalador has started a crowdfunding action, which will hopefully raise enough money for him to undergo the treatment outside of his home country. You can read all about the treatment, Exalador’s story, and how you can donate on his website, https://www.smsms.nl/en/.
If you are one of the many players who are a part of the Smash community as it exists today, please consider the fact that people like Exalador made it possible, and that sometimes we get a chance to give something back to those people. Rarely has a person invested so much in a community with so much enthusiasm and gotten so little in return. If we ever wanted to come together as a group to help one of our own, now is the time.
This article was written by Utto and edited by Marc and Ryuker on behalf of the Dutch Smash community. Slight additional edits were made to adhere to the Smashboards Writers Guide by ZeroSoul .