Swole Patrol may have already exited the tournament in Moscow, but their EPICENTER run was a breath of fresh air in CSGO. Along the way they defeated such luminaries of the scene as Virtus.pro and, erm, 5Power, and gave us a taste of what CSGO used to be, as well as a little bit of what it still should be.
Before we go any further, keep in mind that the American mix Jordan 'Zellsis' Montemurro, Braxton 'swag' Pierce, Ryan 'freakazoid' Abadir, Austin 'Cooper-' Abadir and Edgar 'MarKE' Jimenez are a group of unsalaried friends chasing a dream. Swag and freakazoid both have famous, or rather infamous, pasts in the pro scene, but MarkE is most famous for stream sniping and the other two are practically new at this level.
With all that said and, obviously, known by the players themselves, they entered the wildcard qualifier for this against a number of professional teams, some of whom have multiple titles under their belt. Virtus.pro players reportedly earn $25k a month, or at least the famous ones do and have all the support and resources a team could wish for, yet when it came to the crunch the Swole Patrol guys were able to take them out 2-0, with Cooper- finishing the series at +21, a pleasant contrast to GOAT contender Neo’s -21 over two maps.
This meant they made it into the main event, which nobody seemed to have expected, maybe not even the Swole boys themselves, where they were drawn with Avangar, Team Liquid and Ninjas in Pyjamas. In the end, they went home with a 2-0 record, having been somewhat disrespected by the Swedish side in their elimination match, but their contribution to the tournament cannot be understated, especially in contrast to the side they beat in qualifiers.
A welcome addition
For a start, there was a sense that the Americans were just genuinely delighted to be at the event at all, which sounds patronising, but isn’t meant to be. When you consider the level of support they miss compared with a team such as Virtus.pro, it is frankly an achievement to be there at all, and that leads us on to the second part of why they were such a welcome addition to the event.
A reminder of the times when people dreamed of one day being able to pay the bills with esports money
Put bluntly, it is simply a bit tiring as a fan of CSGO to see so many players paid massive money to pursue their dreams and then put in the bare minimum amount of effort. It would be unfair to say every scene has them, but there are players on VP who seem to have been coasting for well over a year and they are far from the only ones.
After seeing the last placed-team care so little at so many events, times like this or the Major, where a team is just happy for the chance to be involved, feel like a great thing for CS, and a reminder of the times when people dreamed of one day being able to pay the bills with esports money. Sure, there is a lot of history around Virtus.pro, but the present day reality is not the plough, but instead the rusted old hoe you forget in the shed.
What's more is these sacred-cow players on VP and beyond often get a free pass for their lack of passion, while teams such as Swole Patrol are mocked for their lack of raw talent. How many times have you heard a pundit say "if kennyS can only get back to top form…" without ever addressing the fact it might be kennyS's lack of effort that is preventing him from doing so? After a while it becomes quite infuriating.
That is not to say you have to love the Swole Patrol boys, as there are decent reasons not to, but you have to respect the hustle, as they say. Against players who earn fortunes from the game, they stood tall (and swole) to prove themselves and showed what it means to play professional CSGO for some folk. When you think about what a privilege that really is, it is awesome to see players who appreciate the opportunity and it is hoped they get more chances to play on big stages in future for just that reason.