When we here at ESPN Video Games decided it was time to get back on the MLG horse, we knew we had to come back with a bang. Who would be the most interesting interview? OGRE 1 and his retirement seemed newsworthy. Strongside has a new squad of unknowns worth asking about. Anyone from Str8 Championship would probably work. But for some reason, none of these seemed as exciting to us as Neighbor.
Let's talk about it.
He's sporting another new jersey, this time for Instinct, where he's signed for the season. On top, he's teaming with the Halo Godfather that is Walshy. And hear this! The old dog has said Neighbor is teaching him new tricks, like "How to be sneaky."
He was responsible for arguable the biggest roster mess in MLG history when he left 1st place Str8 Rippin for a struggling Final Boss. His indecisive flip-flop put him at odds with many, including T-Squared, the angel of MLG. But then his honest, humble, and well-thought-out blog response won us back.
And who knows Neighbor the best? The guys that frag with him for hours and hours every day -- other Pros. The same Pros that voted him Best Overall Player in the 2008 Pros' Choice Awards. In a recent Xbox Live run, I asked Ant from Team Classic who he picked. "Neighbor. He's just so good. Great snipers like Neighbor get recognition because everyone loves a good sniper, but unlike some of the others, Neighbor can do everything." Ant's fellow Pro's agree -- Neighbor was voted 2nd Best Sniper as well as 3rd Best Close Range Combat. Pick your distance, Brah.
If you haven't seen the awards, check them out. Neighbor was also voted 1st Best Power Weapon Controller, 2nd Most Unpredictable Player, and 3rd Best Pure Slayer. If MLG was Fantasy Basketball, Neighbor would be LeBron -- zero holes.
He may not have the charisma of Walshy, the experience of an OGRE, or a rhythmic crowd chant like "Roy's our boy." He doesn't have any of Mackeo's faces, and the face he does have is definitely not on the side of your Dr. Pepper bottle.
But none of that really matters when he's repeatedly hitting the crouch button on Master Chief's corpse.
So without further ado, we bring to you... Neighbor.
TheBuckStuff: Last season was pretty wild. Tell me you've had some time to rest and relax this off-season.
Neighbor: Yes, yes I have. I've been taking it very easy. Last season was a crazy season. I took some risks, some I shouldn't have. Some backfired. But now I'm on Instinct and I'm really excited to put last season behind me.
TBS: Last season was the first time you were really heavy in the MLG spotlight. What have you learned?
Neighbor: Not to let things go to my head. After Orlando, it was crazy. Everyone was telling me I was the best Halo 3 player. I thought I could do anything, so I took some risks. I thought I could save the Final Boss name and we'd "ascend back to greatness." I should not have left that Str8 team. But I've learned. I'm on Instinct this year and I'm going nowhere.
TBS: You signed a contract mandating that, right?
Neighbor: Yes. It's actually something I brought up, since I knew the season would get crazy and there would be temptations out there. I think it will keep us all focused on Instinct and what we need to do.
TBS: How are things with you and T-Squared?
Neighbor: I haven't really talked to him outside of Halo. But we've played online and had fun and chit-chatted. I'd much rather talk to him in person. We were supposed to talk in Vegas but didn't get around to it. Maybe in Meadowlands.
TBS: The season didn't quite end the way you wanted. Final Boss fell in Vegas like my stack of chips. Run us through the weekend.
Neighbor: First we beat Ambush then lost to Carbon. Mentally, I fell out of it. This is true of me and I'm sure it's true to most Pros, but I just wanted to win. No 2nd place, no 3rd place. And after Carbon, I wasn't confident we could run the Losers Bracket and beat Str8. So I got down on myself and even my teammates. I was very, very frustrated. In my head, I was trying to live up to the hype, and that was making me more frustrated. But I learned a lot from it. It was a very draining weekend, physically.
TBS: How is your relationship with your old teammates at FB?
Neighbor: I haven't spoken to OGRE 1. He's been in Australia. I haven't really talked to OGRE 2 either. Just played Halo together online, so I guess we're Halo friends, if that makes sense. I'm still good friends with StrongSide and have been playing with him a lot. We just scrimmed against his team and it's fun being around him again.
TBS: Ok, enough Soap Opera. You won Pro's Choice for Best Overall Player. First off, Congrats! How does it feel?
Neighbor: Pretty good. It's great to have the respect of your peers. Three years ago, I would never imagined this would happen, to be rated at the top. But I put in a lot of hard work and it's nice to see it pay off.
TBS: And to be top 3 in so many categories, very impressive. All these honors, one has to think... steroids. Reponse?
Neighbor: No steroids. You'll have to take that up with the Players Association.
TBS: It's as if you have no holes in your game, but I know that isn't true. Even LeBron has to work on his 3-ball. Spill the beans... what's your Achilles heel?
Neighbor: Mental game. I get down on myself a lot. When I was a golfer, the mental game was so important and it never bothered me. I had mentors, I read books. I thought I would be good for Halo. But after a loss, I get down on myself. That's why guys like Walshy and T-Squared are so valuable, they help you stay up. That's true of any supportive teammate.
TBS: That's your only nick?
Neighbor: I guess it's my only nick. I mean, I think I'm good at everything else. Like the other top players, I think I'm the best, and they think they same. You should think that.
TBS: This all made me wonder about some topics that weren't covered in the Pro's Choice. And since you won Best Overall, I'm going to let you hand out these awards. Who throws the most ridiculous sticky nades?
Neighbor: StrongSide. No question. Teaming with him and playing against him so much, I know, it's very frustrating. I don't know how he does it. I guess it's a gift from God.
TBS: Best Warthog Driving Skills?
Neighbor: Probably Elamite. I remember playing with him, and he was pretty amazing with the Warthog. Always hits the breaks just right. Great Warthog control. (Laughs)
TBS: Best How-The-Heck-Did-You-Do-That Guy?
Neighbor: Legit. Very few players every make me say "How the heck did you do that," but he does. Especially in tournament play. Against Ambush in Orlando, he pulls the most ridiculous Overkill I've ever seen. Two head shots with the sniper, finished a guy off with BR, then no-scoped some guy for the Over. I stood up in my chair in the middle of the game.
TBS: Best Smack Talk?
Neighbor: Elamite. You wouldn't think so, but he is the only person that gets under my skin.
TBS: Where do you land here? I've seen you have a few tea parties with a few corpses now and again...
Neighbor: (Laughs) Best way is to not talk. I like to stare at a guy I just beat and either wink or smile to get under their skin.
TBS: You actually wink at dudes during competition? (Laughs)
Neighbor: I used to have this rivalry with Halo God, and we both sat on the far left, so we could see each other. I used to wink at him, and I know it got under his skin.
TBS: Ok, last one... Best at Killing Neighbor?
Neighbor: I'd say Elamite or Legit. They are the only two people that I get nervous against in battle. I've played against them so many times, so I don't know why. But there is something about those two.
TBS: Tell us about how you landed on Team Instinct.
Neighbor: I got lucky. After Vegas, I was going to team with TD. It was going to be me, SK, Hysteria, and we were going to ask Roy. When I started talking to Roy, he was asking about me coming to Instinct. I couldn't be happier. They just finished 2nd in Vegas and I think I can help them improve upon that.
TBS: What LANs do you have scheduled prior to Meadowlands?
Neighbor: One more. We just talked about it. We'd love to scrim Carbon, if they are up to it. We'd all fly out to my house in Washington. Everyone would get to see where I live, plus it would be great for team chemistry.
TBS: You going to take them dog-sledding or what?
Neighbor: We'll probably hit the links so I can beat them at something. The team is going bowling tonight, and I've only bowled like twice in my life, so I'll probably get destroyed. I know I'll get destroyed. I requested bumpers though, and they said that was cool.
TBS: Wasn't that kind of them? Speaking of them, tell us what it's like playing with Old Man Walsh.
Neighbor: Old Man Walsh. It's fun. He's a funny guy. One thing I really like about him is how after games, he is able to break down what happened and we can learn from it. Although lately, we've probably been over-analyzing a bit and were struggling at times. But we agreed to just play and have fun, and since then we've been destroying.
TBS: Roy won MVP of the 2008 season, and you won Pro's Choice Best Overall. Sounds like an All-Star team. But it also sounds like some competition between the two of you. How long before you two come to blows? And who would win in a fist fight?
Neighbor: We are the most competitive teammates you could imagine. And for the record, our current 1v1 record is 3-1 in my favor. We play all the time before practice. And, also, for the record, it's almost always his host. (Laughs) But seriously, it's not like during the games we're yelling, "I have more kills than you," or "If I was you, I would have finished that guy off," but we're very competitive. And I would easily win in a fist fight.
TBS: I appreciate you taking time today to answer some questions. The last thing I want to do is put you in my shoes. This could be a preview of years to come, when you're are old and decrepit but hanging on to MLG as a broadcaster. If you were me, who would you interview next?
TBS: Who? I actually don't know who that is...
Neighbor: Totz, from Status Quo, StrongSide's team. He's an up-and-comer, and I think he's going to be very good.
TBS: And give me three questions to ask Totz. Whatever you want. Don't let me down here!
Neighbor: Ok, ask him 1) Did you really lose to Neighbor and Roy in 1v1 even though they were playing on 10 sensitivity?; 2) What are your MLG goals/where do you want to be in two years?; and 3) Do you really think you are going to win Vegas this year? And last, I actually have a question for you. Don't you think MLG should have an MLG Seattle? (Saying loud enough for Ray Lau, MLG Pro Manager to hear)
TBS: Of course! I love the Great Northwest. Besides, it seems like they are playing favorites to OGRE 2 with MLG Columbus. How is that fair?
Neighbor: Seriously! C'mon Ray?? Don't you have pull??
TBS: Ray's got pull...
Visit us every Thursday at 4 p.m. ET for a new MLG Pro Sitdown. Next week, we're going to try and track down Totz. And be sure to hit up TheBuckStuff on Xbox Live with your feedback!