As much as Major League Gaming has grown, the style has mostly stuck to its roots.
It's dark. Hoodies galore. Tons of backpacks. Headphones around the neck. There's always that one obnoxious guy that burns your retinas with his extra small pink t-shirt. But he's the exception.
Well, until a bright orange OchoCinco jersey walks by. Or Bernie Kosar in an oversized throwback and jeans. Is Puckett dressed as Felix Jones?
Yes sir! The Madden Challenge has debuted at MLG. And it brought its big numbered, bright colored jerseys with it. Every XXL that walks by represents the coming of pro sports gaming.
If you can't see 'em, you can hear 'em. There is no chatter through headsets. These dudes just yell in your face. When you're down 14 with two minutes to go, you can't hide behind your screen, pull your cable and collect the DNF. You have to take it like a man while some guy named Jet renames your defense the 4-3 Paper Company.
At least you'd be losing to the best that "Madden" has to offer. He placed first at the Madden Challenge of MLG Dallas. He starred on ESPN's "Madden Nation" reality show. And he doesn't just beat you, he tries to blow you out and make you cry.
Did I mention he's got the best name in sports since God Shammgod?
Without further ado, we bring to you Jet Steele.
TheBuckStuff: You're officially the first Madden Challenge champ at MLG. You beat your practice buddy, the infamous and properly named Problem. Be honest. Who normally wins?
Jet Steele: (Laughs) We play online a bunch and it's pretty even. But in person, especially this year, he's whooped me pretty badly.
TBS: Is he just better on the sticks?
Jet Steele: Well, here's how it goes. We have this "Madden" crew called the G-Code. It's Problem, Secret, HouseShoe and myself. I normally make the offense with Secret and HouseShoe, while Problem makes the defense. He gets to play against us every night to practice his defense, so he gets the most reps. He's got an advantage.
TBS: How did you beat him in Dallas?
Jet Steele: The first game we played in the Finals, he had me beat and I knew it. I just kept playing to practice for the tie-breaker. He had already lost to Chow, and I remembered what Chow ran. A 3-3-5 defense. When the second game comes around, I ran that D on the first play and he throws me a pick. Kicked a field goal and that was it.
TBS: I thought you won because it was the first tournament of the year.
Jet Steele: (Laughs) Yeah, I've won the first tournament every year I've played. I don't know what it is. They call me "One and Done." In the hotel room the night before, I wasn't the best. A lot of people fold under pressure. I don't. I just figure it's a video game. I played quarterback under the lights. I can handle the pressure.
TBS: Do real players have an advantage on the virtual grid?
Jet Steele: I believe so. Like I said, I played quarterback and I'm the best offensive player in this game. Don't get me wrong half the kids in "Madden" haven't played a down of football in their life.
TBS: Give me an example of how it's helped you.
Jet Steele: Problem blitzes the house every year. He also takes away your first read. By the time you get to your second read, you're getting pressure. Guys can't handle that. But in real life, they come 10 times faster than the video game. I've been there. I can hit that second read.
TBS: You and the aforementioned Problem are the first two locked for Miami's Finals, which pretty much confirms G-Code is the crème-de-la-crème when it comes to "Madden." How'd this powerhouse start?
Jet Steele: Secret and I live next to each other in Tampa, and we knew each other before "Madden." Problem he just always gave us problems. He was the only West Coast guy so he was alone out there, but we became cool after playin' a lot together. HouseShoe came to Tampa once, so we got in touch and stayed in touch. When we'd go to tournaments, we kid around and call ourselves G-Code because it was in a rap song. Been that way since.
TBS: Unfortunately, a crew doesn't mean you won't have to play each other at some point, especially since you just beat the hell out of everyone else. HouseShoe finished eighth in Dallas, but lost to Problem
Jet Steele: HouseShoe doesn't even have a game system or a game. He goes to a friend's house like once a month and plays the game and he's as good as anyone else. We tell him what to do and he does it to a "T." Offensive audibles, defense, everything.
TBS: Amazing. Why wasn't Secret in the Top 8? Billy's one of the most well-known dudes in "Madden." Everyone was a little bit surprised.
Jet Steele: He got a lot of bad luck, fumbled a lot and lost early. These tournaments are double elimination, but the Losers Bracket seems harder than the Winners Bracket. You have to play so many more games against so many more people. Billy is stubborn and he can be a sore loser. He's easily one of the best, but he had bad luck and lost his focus.
Jet's 'Madden 10' Tips
"You want something simple as a rookie. Use the Falcons. Use the Pass Balance playbook. Come out in Gun, 4 wide, so they have to have fast DBs. Audible to Goalline RB Off Tackle, and give it to Turner. He's the best RB in the game because he doesn't cough it up. I'm telling you that one play right there."
"On defense, use 3-4 Over with Sting Pinch. It's just a blitz. Put your linebacker right over the tackles. He'll come right through A-Gap. This makes them run shotgun. It's not the best run stopper, but it's not the worst either, and it's a great pass defense."
TBS: I get pissed when I fumble against some 12 year-old online who throws on every possession and goes for 4th and 90. I can't imagine an unlucky fumble in a Major League Gaming event with serious cash on the line. How do you deal with it?
Jet Steele: That's why I use the Falcons. Michael Turner has a 98 carry. Adrian Peterson is rated higher, but he has a 78 carry. He's going to cough it up. A lot of guys use the Steelers because most of their defense has 90+ hit power, so they'll make you cough it up.
TBS: Everyone learned your Turner theory the hard way in Dallas, but now they've got you scouted. How will you change?
Jet Steele: I probably won't be playing with the Falcons in Anaheim. But Secret and I have made the best offense in "Madden" for four straight years. People take our video, they sell our strategy online for money, they ain't stupid but it doesn't really matter. There isn't another crew out there with four payers as good as us. That's just the way it is.
TBS: Who is your biggest rival?
Jet Steele: It's really just the other guys in G-Code. It was Prodigy for awhile, then Chow. Last year, Chow beat me in the finals, but I broke him out in MLG. I didn't play Prodigy, but he knows what would have happened. He had already lost, so I blew out his crew. All three in a row. I think I got him back anyway.
TBS: Talk about the switch to MLG this year.
Jet Steele: Nobody really knows what to think yet, but everyone is so excited. You see these kids signin' autographs and getting' paid salaries. MLG looks out for players. And it's funny because MLG thought the last tournament was good. Don't get me wrong, it was a great turnout. But they have no idea how good we're about to get. The first tournament was a week and a half after the game came out. It was so soon. Come Anaheim, you'll see good players getting' blown out.
TBS: How are the Finals different?
Jet Steele: It used to be a free trip, you get to take someone with you, you get a chance to win cash. If you don't win cash, you have a good time anyway. But this year in Miami, win one game. $10k. Win three, guaranteed $50k. And it's only eight people total. It's not hard.
TBS: All this easy cash, is "Madden" a full time job?
Jet Steele: There is a lot of talk about sponsors, but they aren't offering anything that big yet. I'm going to college. I'm getting my degree in December. But what if I can ride this out? Play "Madden" for a living? I can't see why I wouldn't give that a shot for awhile.
TBS: The "Halo" guys are doing it...;
Jet Steele: "Halo" pays $50k a year. "Madden" isn't as big as "Halo." "Halo" is international. Kids in Japan don't love "Madden," but they love "Halo." But Americans do love football You can put on a "Madden" TV show and people will understand immediately. You watch "Halo," you don't understand. But if you haven't played "Madden," you still understand football.
TBS: Speaking of TV shows, you were on one yourself. Tell us about it. It was on a pretty awesome network...;
Jet Steele: I was on ESPN's third season of "Madden Nation." It was cool, but it was still a TV show. You know, there were a bunch of rules. They picked your team and your playbook, so the tournament was hard to win. I got stuck with Ravens and they had a slow running back. But I had a blast. I met Samari Rolle!
TBS: Do people recognize you from the show?
Jet Steele: One night I was at the bar, drinkin' a little bit, and they call my name for karaoke. There was a plasma TV on stage that was showing "Madden Nation" while I'm singing. They recognized me then. Other times, people would recognize me and say stuff like, "I know you from somewhere." I'd tell em', "You either know me as Chamberlain High School's quarterback or shooting guard or the "Madden" show. And my name stands out. Jet Steele. I'm easier to remember.
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