Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with caster James Bardolph before the playoffs of the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta to talk about the state of the game, his affinity for traveling and becoming a scuba diver.
Vince Nairn: First of all, what are your overall thoughts on being here again in Atlanta and what you have seen to this point of the Major?
James Bardolph: I love being in Atlanta. I think the break has been good for the players. Not just the holiday break, but the break in between Majors as well. I think the timing was really good to change to the Swiss system. I think that was really enjoyable. I find it more enjoyable to watch as well as a commentator. There’s more “Who’s going to play who?” More excitement to each day. I like the Swiss system. ELEAGUE, obviously, we’ve worked with them for an entire year. That’s been great. Good company to work for, and they’re doing well so far at the Major.
VN: Who impressed you most from the group stage?
JB: It would have to be Na’Vi. They seem like such a unit. And again, we’ve seen the history of s1mple from Flipsid3 onwards, and even before then. I think we’re seeing a transition into a player who’s playing a part of a complete unit as opposed to a hothead they’re trying to control. And that’s a very dangerous prospect for anyone who’s not Na’Vi.
VN: We’re at the point in Counter-Strike where it seems there are so many important issues that are going to come to a head this year. What do you think is the most important thing that needs to be addressed in the pro scene this year?
JB: That’s a very good question. There are so many topics at the moment. I don’t know if it’s easy to pick one most important one. But in terms of importance, I always have tournament integrity, integrity of the game up there. But I don’t see any necessary issues. I would say, it might not be the most important, but consistent player conditions. That’s treatment, transport, food, but also the environment they play in. The tables, they have enough space. It’s been a very inconsistent year from event to event in that respect. These are issues that are easily solved, but some people are constantly failing to do so. I would say an important thing is consistent player conditions.
VN: Did you get a chance to check this place out (The Fox Theater) beforehand?
JB: I’ve gone by it, but I never had the chance to go inside it. I’ve been to many things in Atlanta. The Fox Theater is not one of them.
VN: What do you think of seeing a historic venue like this turned into an esports event — kind of a next generation thing?
JB: I like how classy and classic the building is. And I like how different it is compared to other events. Everyone’s doing stadia at the moment, but this is something different. And it’s something I love, so hopefully I’ll be able to dress accordingly for it. I’m very much looking forward to how the event will turn out.
VN: What’s something away from CSGO that people might not know about you?
JB: One of the best things for commentators at the moment is all the travel. It depends on what your interests are, but for me, when I travel, I always try to find something interesting to do, cultural or otherwise. There’s one two-week period in Atlanta where I had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, and I became a qualified scuba diver. So now everywhere we go, I try to find time to go scuba diving there. The reason I did it here was to go scuba diving at the Georgia Aquarium with the whale sharks, which I’ve done. I’m going shark diving in the Bahamas immediately after the Major. That especially is a great thing. Anything where there’s water, there’s often diving to do. It breaks up the work and really adds some excitement as well.
VN: What did it take to get the scuba diver qualification?
JB: I had to do a study online, which I managed to do in I think four days. So I had a lot of exams to do for each chapter and a huge exam. Then I had to go into a swimming pool for a day to learn and familiarize myself, kind of like an orientation. There’s a quarry in North Georgia, and I did two days there learning to dive with a great teacher. After that, I got my card and was able to dive to 60 feet anywhere in the world, basically.
VN: What’s your favorite trip you’ve taken, either for an event or not?
JB: From an event point of view, MLG Columbus was my favorite event I’ve done. The event was great, the surroundings were great. The Short North was really cool. The fans were outstanding. We went for dinner one evening, and there was a woman standing in the middle of the road with a poster of my head, so that was quite hilarious. I think that was my favorite event. In terms of things I’ve done around events, I spent maybe two months in Atlanta last year with ELEAGUE. I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do in Atlanta. I went to my first basketball game a few weeks ago. That was cool. For things around the work, ELEAGUE. For the event itself, MLG Columbus.
Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE