stamina has led NA's Finest to the Top 8 of Fragadelphia 15
Dust2.us had an opportunity to talk to Strife IGL Bobby "stamina" Eitrem, who is attending Fragadelphia 15 with NA's Finest, a mix featuring Danny "cxzi" Strzelczyk, Dominick "JazzPimp" Dimpfel, Carson "nosraC" O'Reilly, and Riley "Reality" Fusch. The conversation covered the gamut from the path from Advanced to Premier, FPL, work life balance and more.
First off, how are you doing? We're here on day 2, how was yesterday?
Pretty good, day 1 was smooth, I think we dropped one map. We're here as a mix, we played against a solid Premier team and they took a map off of us, but we got the job done. The first day was really fun, I like the venue, and they have food here which is great, I didn't think they would have food here to be honest - I haven't played a bigger Fragadelphia before.
Walk me through that last match you played yesterday against Third Impact. Obviously, even though you're a high-level mix, but they are a full team, what allowed you guys to succeed in that series?
The biggest thing that I don't think people are looking into is that they don't have DaneJoris here, he's definitely their best player, if you look at HLTV I think he is the only player on their team with a positive K/D over the past six months. consti is obviously no slouch, but against a team like that, I'm playing with guys like nosraC, cxzi, and JazzPimp, they've been around the block, they've made Premier playoffs, basically every season they've played Premier, and even made runs in those playoffs. We're going up against a team that, even though they're a full team, they haven't made it to that point, and I think nerves get to you. I don't think they showed what they are really worth. I think we just came out and were super confident, and that was why we handled it so easily. I thought they were going to take a map.
Let's go back in history a bit to your origins, your first event on HLTV is actually Fragadelphia 13 aka "Fragifornia". You were there with Rebirth, I believe. What was your story before that point in time?
Before that point I was really struggling to get my feet on the ground on a solid team, mainly because of my personality. I'm a very assertive IGL, but when I was younger that assertiveness was more toxicity. I was pretty horrible to my teammates, in the way that I would speak to them, but it wasn't always something that was so bad that people didn't want to play with me, so I would find teams but we would only make it so far, and then eventually it would stop. And then I'd get another opportunity, we would make it so far, and it would stop. At some point I had to work on that a lot.
To an extent I can still be a tough personality for some people to play with, but for the most part, in comparison to 2015-2016 stamina, its a totally different player. Night and day difference. Up until that Rebirth roster, I'd never found a team that I played a full season with. You can actually look at my ESEA history, sadly, up until that team, and I'm pretty sure I never played one full season. Part of that was also due to high school sports and college and stuff like that, but really the biggest problem was my personality.
That Rebirth roster was really good, and we came to Frag 13 with 4/5 and our ringer was Rampage, who was arguably the best player in the division statistically. We felt really good about that event, we placed 5-6th, I think I performed pretty well individually. It was the first time people started to respect me, I think.
With that same Rebirth roster, you placed well in Advanced Season 32 playoffs and went to MDL Relegation. But then you again didn't play a full season until Season 36, what happened there?
Yeah, so, what happened with that Rebirth roster was kind of unfortunate, we wanted to make a roster change and remove Magician. He didn't have the time to commit, nor did he really want to, he kind of lost his passion. We picked up vek, actually, we played one map with him and he decided to leave the team, but the rosters had locked, so we had to play with Magician. Going into Advanced playoffs we actually had no practice, we looked super practiced because we had a lot of chemistry throughout the season, and I'm always a very in-depth IGL, l like to make sure I have my ducks in a row. I think we still looked fine, but we would have had to make a glory run, someone would have had to perform crazy for us to make it all the way.
After that, VALORANT was starting to come out, everyone was talking about Project A. I have a VAC ban from like six years ago, and at that point you could only play a Major if you didn't have a VAC ban, which has obviously changed now. I went to VALORANT, I tested the waters, and I actually genuinely enjoyed the game. A big part of coming back to CS:GO from VALORANT was the fact that they changed that rule for Majors, I felt like I have an opportunity to try something, and I've had so much passion for the game since 2014, and I didn't want that to go to waste. Unlike a lot of other CS players and tried VALORANT and are like "the game is horrible" or "I don't like this game", I actually genuinely enjoyed it, I thought it was really good, really fun, but I just liked Counter-Strike more.
Now I had a real opportunity to play, and right out of the gate, I got asked to join the ChocoCheck roster with some friends, I got moved into FPL immediately. So I went from being an Advanced player who didn't really have a real level of respect from a lot of my peers, to instantly playing on a playoff Premier team and having FPL overnight. At the beginning it was pretty rough because I was just coming back from VALORANT, but after few weeks back it felt really good.
How has that FPL invite helped you personally, and do you think it helps the scene at large?
I actually have a very different view on FPL than a lot of players, a lot of players are super negative about it, and I've only looked at it as a positive. For me, the opportunity to compete for upwards of $1,500 first prize weekly is absurd. That's the kind of money that can make or break someone's financial situation in life. I also think that you get to play with players who are better than you, or at least similarly leveled to you. So when it comes to playing on a team like ChocoCheck who is pugging, its like we go up against a team and we know everything they do because we've played with all their players in FPL, and you learn everything about them. I think it made me a better player intellectually, but also it kept me sharp because I was able to constantly be playing against the best aimers that North America has.
Now, do I wish it could be better? Yeah. Do I think they need a better add and removal process? Yeah. Should I have even been added when I was? Probably not. The system is a little bit broken, but I think for the most part it is a good thing, and that some players need to shift their mindset to understand that no matter how bad the environment is, if you make the most of it you can still improve. I think I'm a perfect example of that. I went from playing at an Advanced playoff level to a Premier playoff level, literally overnight it might look like for some people. I don't think think that was luck in terms of me improving - obviously I got lucky to get into FPL - but I think I put in the work and it shows. I think anybody can do that.
Since that season with ChocoCheck it has been a bit of a whirlwind for you, you hooked up with Pryde briefly, which was an Advanced team, so a step down there, and with Strife currently by way of Recon 5. Walk me through how all that came to pass?
Originally right after ChocoCheck I was going to join Recon 5, it was a set deal, I was replacing desi. That changed because I was offered an opportunity to work as an analyst for a Tier 1 organization in Europe, that I thought would really help propel my career. However, back in the day we saw valens working for EG and playing Premier, and no one had a problem with that. But when I reached out to EPL they were like "this is the first season under the EPT rules, and you can't do that." So when that came to light I was like ok, well I still want to play, because my career is only getting started.
I'm 22, some people look at it as old, but when I see guys who are still competing at 30, I look at it as young. So, I still want to compete, I want to offer what I can, and if I can join an up-and-coming Advanced team and help guide them in the right way, maybe I can get them to Premier, and maybe I can step away from the analyst role. But that became something I couldn't do, because they wanted me to trial full-time. Being in North America, and they're in Europe, and I work a 9-5 job, I couldn't possibly trial for them, work 9-5, and play Counter-Strike. Literally impossible even if I wanted to. So I lost that opportunity and decided to join Recon 5. The thing about Pryde was, they're good kids, they are up-and-coming players, they really do work hard, they want to be good. Half their roster is here with my [Strife] teammates currently, but the thing is I know what I'm worth, and I don't want to set myself back for three months.
All that led you up to joining Recon 5, now Strife, can you talk about the players on the team and the organization?
I was super excited to play with these guys, mainly because they are super dedicated. I don't think I've met more dedicated people than the players I'm playing with right now. J0LZ first and foremost plays like 120 hours in two weeks, and that was prior to even linking up with Strife or having any financial backing. He just wants to be really good, he has the opportunity to put in that time and he puts it in. SATURN recently moved to Dallas to have better ping, he literally moved himself to a different state because he had the means to do so, and he wanted to help propel his career. SLIGHT, he's in college, but he has all his time outside of school, and as someone who is finishing his degree, it's pretty easy to play Counter-Strike full-time if school is your only other thing. AAustiN, same thing - school and Counter-Strike. Looking at these guys, I'm the one who holds them back seeing that I work a 9-5, but if I can work a 9-5 and then work 5-midnight in Counter-Strike, I'll do it. That was the biggest motivating factor, not to mention that everyone on this team is relatively young, and they have bright futures, really great mechanics, good mentalities. It was just a perfect mix for me.
Obviously, J0LZ got caught up in the match-fixing and ESIC-related stuff, any concerns from you or the team related to that - though of course he has been cleared for the time being?
One of the first things I made pretty clear to not only journalists, but anybody who asked me in my friend group, is that not J0LZ, nor anybody that I played with on ChocoCheck did I believe was actually involved in that, based on what they've told me. I've been friends with these guys for a really long time, I think the trust level is there, but also they've been straight up with me, I asked them, I wouldn't have played with them otherwise. After speaking with J0LZ, for sure, 100%, not a doubt in my mind, he was implicated, but I don't think he was involved at all. With that being said, I have no concerns at all, he's been very honest with me, and he's been very honest with ESIC and ESEA. I think it just comes down to the fact that ESIC has dragged this on for so long, you start to make your own ideas of what could have happened, rather than just let the facts come out.
You mentioned you play high school sports earlier, how have those experiences translated over into your esports career?
In a good way and a bad way. The good standpoint: my work ethic, my ability to be a leader from being captain on my varsity sports teams, that really help me. It's good to have an assertive personality when you're in a leadership position. Where it has negatively impacted me, is if my football coach wanted to ream me out and scream at me, he would do so. If I want to play CS:GO and yell at my teammates, it doesn't work well. So I think some of the aspects of traditional sports don't actually crossover into esports, and if you aren't playing with people who haven't also played traditional sports, they may not react properly. I've had mixes of teammates where they did play football, they did play hockey, and if I yell at them a little bit they might not get upset. I have other guys who have never played a sport, and their parents don't yell at them, so when I yell at them it's like "woah."
Yeah it's a bit different when you're talking about a coach in traditional sports, that is generally an elder, as opposed to your teammates are your peers.
That's the toughest part about Counter-Strike, the IGL really does take on the responsibilities of a coach. Because when you play a sport, you have a captain, he's your motivating factor. I was the captain of my basketball and my football team, my job was to hype the guys up, be a leader, lead by example, usually be one of the better players on the team. In Counter-Strike, you have similar duties, but you also have to teach people to play the game, tell them when they are doing things wrong. When you cross those two things over, you're combining the good with the bad, and that is where you get IGLs who have a tough time managing people's personalities.
You also mentioned your job, can you talk about the difficulties of juggling that with a CS career? It seems to be something that players struggle with a lot, especially in North America.
The hardest part about it just knowing that I could be way better if I wasn't working. I don't think that comes down to the fact that I'm not working as hard as I can, I will literally work 9-5, and then from 5-midnight I'll game, Monday through Friday. On my weekends, obviously I need to give time to my girlfriend who I live with, my family, trips every once and awhile to visit people. For the most part, if I didn't have to work, I think the time I would play would double. It isn't like I would take those hours off and lay in bed all day, I would just work more. So when I see other players who are given these crazy contracts and don't work hard, that really hurts me, because I know I wouldn't take that opportunity for granted.
What are your and the team's hopes for Strife?
Right now we're trying to become a full-time team. What I mean by that is that, for people who don't know the inner workings of the scene, teams like Bad News Bears, Party Astronauts, RBG, along with Liquid, EG, FURIA, all the South American teams, they all practice starting pretty early in the day, usually 4-5 PM Pacific, maybe even 2-3. But anybody that works or has school, we're like three hours behind, so what happens is... you're not on the same schedule, you don't get the same level of practice. We might scrim GODSENT for the first scrim of the day and then some Advanced team I've never heard of.
After sending Third Impact down to the lower bracket yesterday, NA's Finest were sent there themselves today after a 2-1 loss to Party Astronauts. They will next face off against the victor of Infinity Gauntlet and Coldest Riders.