Bad News Bears are the saviours of NACS and looking to make a big impact here at IEM Cologne. We talk to Shakezullah, ptr, and Jonji about being orgless, their aims with the team and recent roster movements, and the sweet sweet merch!
Josh: You guys started that Save NACS hashtag a little bit ago and you guys are the face of this new NACS alongside teams like ExtraSalt that didn't make the tournament unfortunately. Do you guys feel any pressure with having the weight of NA on your back at all?
Jonji: I think if anything it takes weight off our shoulders, knowing we have a bunch of support and people who believe in us, on the project that we're trying to create. We've gotten nothing short of support from every single person and honestly that really does just take the weight off and it just makes us feel like we can just play.
Shakezullah: I'm with that too, a lot of the journalists and everybody back home is supporting us. I think that that's really motivating for us and personally, I don't really think about representing the region, I mostly think about our team and where we're at. I definitely know that I'm representing NA and it's good for me and our team to be the head and the front of that or whatever, or the face of it, but I'm just focused on what our team is and what we can do at this event and like our own growth.
Josh: You've struggled to get an org for a little bit now, how does it make you guys feel? Does that frustrate you or does it make you want to work harder to really show them that you deserve that org?
ptr: We're not too worried about it. It would be nice to be on an org and represent them, but at the same time, we're going our own avenue with the whole BNB thing and for right now it's working out. We did a whole merch drop recently and that did really well, it sold out in the first two hours. For right now we're doing fine, I like not being tied to an organization or having to be strictly "do this, do that" and "have to act this way, have to act that way". We're just being ourselves and having a good time and living the dream, I guess you could say.
Shakezullah: If anything I think it motivates me as well to continue to play and put in the extra work and get the results. I think that when you don't have an org you are kind of fighting, when you look at something like Cologne here, I think we're the only team here that doesn't have an org. That in itself is a statement and I think continuing to make statements like that is really important and what we're looking to do.
Jonji: The big thing with me is I like trying really hard against the teams that like have an organization, have a facility, and just the feeling I get when my team wins against them is just so fulfilling to be honest. Dude these guys have this, this, this, this, this, and all the things - they should never lose to a team like us that don't have analysts don't have paid people, doing everything for us. It makes me so much happier, I love tweeting about it at the end of the day, after I beat them and saying "Look, I just took out this team. We keep beating all these teams that have all this money, put your money where it's actually going to be beneficial and where you can make some back".
Josh: You guys recently added Shakezullah to your roster. Could you just talk a bit about what it's been like having him on the roster?
Jonji: When we first wanted to bring Alan (Shakezullah) onto the team, I brought it up in the TeamSpeak to start the discussion off. It was just that we needed somebody right now that understood how to play the game and had the things that we needed, because the person we was replacing, alter, he was a very skilled player and we just needed the experience now and didn't have the time. We have this event in Pro League and we just didn't have the time to show someone and teach them exactly how to do everything, we needed somebody that could come in and know how to do that.
Also at the exact same time I noticed like Pete (ptr) was, and still is, just absolutely annihilating everybody with the AWP, I was like "Dude, he's just farming everybody. I want to see what it's like if he's not having to call and worry about what everybody else is doing and he can just shoot people with the AWP". He's back to the ptr that I saw on CLG when I was 16 pwning everybody, it's been really nice to see.
ptr: I would just add, it's taken a lot of pressure off of me. Alan's (Shakezullah) obviously a very smart individual inside and outside of the game, he came on and pretty much picked everything up instantly. We have a few problems here and there that we need to work on, but other than that, calling-wise, it's pretty good. Like John (Jonji) said, for me personally, it was really hard for me to micromanage and tell everyone what to do while still be the AWPer that I need to be to compete at a high level.
My original thought was not to bring in Shakezullah, it was to bring in another rifler who could frag and I could still call, but the more we talked about it, the more we thought about it, I think this was the right move. We brought him in to scrim with us and in the first scrim he's instantly doing things that veteran players are doing, things that they're saying, how they're rotating, they're calling for flashes for people - just doing things that are small things that people might not realize other than aim.
Jonji: One last thing to add is he just comes very prepared every single day for practice. If we're going over this map, he's gonna get in the server with us an hour before and just make sure our scrims aren't being wasted and we know exactly what we're there to do and what we're trying to practice or get done that day.
Josh: What are your guys' expectations for Cologne and going forward into the Pro League?
Shakezullah: I think our expectation is definitely at a bare minimum to make Cologne If we come in and we play our game and we're doing what we're supposed to do, I think we can compete with all these teams. There's no reason that we can't be up there with the best of them, if we come in here and we have like a good week. I think that our goal is definitely to have a good showing at both of these events.
It's an amazing opportunity to be over here in Europe and a lot of people view coming over to EU and coming to these events as "Oh, you've made it", but the goal of these events is to become competitive and to become a team that's winning. Coming here and getting last place in these events isn't going to get us invited to more events, it's not going to get us back over here to Europe. Our job is to come here and to win these games and prove that we can be a team that competes on the stage so that we can continue to come back and continue to make strides and to make events.
Josh: Do you guys think that you might be underestimated, especially by some of these top tier European teams, do you think they might prepare a little bit less for you? And do you think you might be able to exploit that?
ptr: Yes, I think every single team we're going to play thinks we're garbage or we're just not good and they're going to regret that very much. I'm probably the most tenured player on the team, so I've played the most EUs and I would say that's their attitude every time we come over. I've talked to many of them and they say "Yeah, we didn't watch your demos, we just know you're from NA" okay that's fine, so you're just going to underestimate us.
I'm not sure they have that kind of mentality still, but I don't know why it would change, because there's really only Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses right now, everyone else besides ExtraSalt is sort of struggling in NA. They're just going to see Bad News Bears, how'd they get here, from the world ranking, okay whatever. I think if they do that, then it's their downfall, but I'm ready either way.
Josh: You guys added madcow in February, how is it having the coach? What do you think he adds to the team? Especially now that you guys are back on LAN, how important do you think the coach role is?
ptr: At first he was coming in because we needed a coach we knew was available, but he surprised me with how knowledgeable he actually was, because he wasn't like a known coach. It wasn't like everyone knows madcow, it was someone that Swisher knew and I knew as well. We brought him in, me and him connected well, I was the IGL at the time and I thought he did great. The problem with him is his schedule was really rough for us sometimes where he had to work overnight, but he's fixed that now. For the most part he does everything we need, him and Alan (Shakezullah) are more on point now together since I'm not the IGL, Alan (Shakezullah) could speak to it more.
Shakezullah: It's pretty nice because he's always there and ready to do work and be alongside me. If I'm ever like "Hey, can we get on and watch the scrim? Hey, do you have time to do this?" we can do whatever out of the server and it's motivating to have somebody next to you that's willing to do all of that with you. He's just super available for all that stuff and he's ready to just get to work and do what needs to get done.
Jonji: He's also really good for our vibes too, it's something I've always felt like in most of my teams. With Chaos, and especially this one, is just having a good vibe and laughing - you're playing a video game for money at the end of the day. You should have a smile on your face and when you do it just takes the pressure off, when you're laughing and having fun it doesn't make you so tense and you just have fun. I try to make sure we do that and he has one of the funniest laughs and there's three people on our team that if you make one of them laugh, your whole team's gonna be laughing for the next five minutes. It's really great, he really has that vibe and if we're getting in that mode where we're too serious or something he'll just start giggling or something and it'll make everybody just put that smile back on their face.
Grady: I'm looking at this webcam - I'm seeing the sick hoodie, the sick hat and it's all sold out. When is the next merch drop? When is this stuff available again?
Jonji: I don't think we're entirely sure, but we released some merch before Cologne and we're scheduled to go to Pro League in August, so we're probably gonna try to get it like a week or two before then. We'll be releasing a lot more cool stuff, hopefully, than just three pieces of merch so I'm really excited.
ptr: We were actually really surprised that it sold out that quick. We knew it was going to sell out, but we didn't think it was going to sell it in two and a half hours. Three hours after I get about 20 to 30 messages saying "Hey, you know, I can't buy your stuff, what's going on?" I'm like, give us time, give us time. So that's a really cool feeling and that's another reason why it doesn't matter to me that we don't have an org right now because the fact that we have a big following with BNB already, we can go how Astralis did. I'm not saying we're going to do that, but potentially just make our it our own org and just do our own thing and grab sponsors like Leetify and maybe other ones.
I like your goatee by the way, I'm just going to throw it out there.
Jonji: Me too!