FORT KNOX, Ky. –
Army is planning to take it to the Navy today. And the Air Force, and the Marines, and the Brits, and yes, even you, too, Space Force.
On the eve of the 121st Army versus Navy football showdown, the U.S. Army eSports Team is battle ready for the Call of Duty Endowment Bowl, an online tournament featuring the popular video game of the same name. And much like the big-game bragging that precedes the Army’s pigskin pastime with the Navy, the CODE Bowl has no shortage of trash talk.
“None of the competition really frightens us at all,” boasted Staff Sgt. Nicholas “Dexy” MacKay in a publicity video recorded here Monday. “The only team we know that even comes close to posing a chance against us is the Air Force, and we’re going to molly wop them anyways.”
Mackay, an Army recruiter stationed in Tucson, Arizona, was on the team that won last year’s inaugural Code Bowl in California when only the Army represented the Department of Defense at the charity tournament. Word got out, and the field of competition quickly expanded. Nationally and internationally.
Answering the virtual Call of Duty from all the way across the Atlantic, gamers from the British Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force entered the CODE campaign. MacKay’s team knows little about England’s COD shooters.
“They’re kind of a wild card,” the Riverside, California, native admitted during a training break Thursday. Still, MacKay said without hesitation, “we would have heard of them before if they were any good. On top of that, we are just very confident in our abilities.”
There’s a good reason opponents can’t compete with the Army team, according to Sgt. Manuel “StudManny” Mejia. He, like MacKay and his two other teammates, is an 11 Bravo, the Army designator for an infantryman. This is the Army team’s big advantage with a first-person shooter platform like COD, Mejia said. The team fights on the screen the way it does in the field.
Being infantry NCOs “gives us a better understanding…we think about each other,” Mejia said. “We have to shoot and communicate (in real life). You’re doing the exact same thing in the game.”
The experience advantage actually started before the 21-year-old Mejia and 25-year-old MacKay enlisted. Both got their first taste of COD when they were 13. Mejia was so good at it as a teen that he began playing for money.
“You’re a stud, Manny,” he remembered a friend saying after seeing all the cash he was winning. His in-game name, StudManny, was born, and “ever since then it’s been stuck to me,” the Abilene, Texas, native said.
Ironically, Call of Duty almost prevented MacKay from joining the Army. His success had him seriously considering competing full time during his teen years. But true to the “multifaceted” meaning of his gamer name, Dexy (formed after a dictionary discovery of the word “dexterous”), MacKay decided there was too much else calling him to a life of service.
“I wanted to travel,” he said. “I wanted to broaden my horizons.”
Sgt. Michael “Tyrant” Layell and Sgt. David “Grave” Devin are the other infantry Soldiers who arrived here early this week to begin preparing for CODE Bowl II. Layell traveled from Fort Bliss, Texas, and Devin from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The team will participate remotely from here due to COVID-19 restrictions. They will not, however, be without their Swagg. Literally and figuratively.
Swagg is the handle of a civilian COD gamer well known in the streaming scene. Like last year, celebrity players have been selected to captain the military teams and provide a little color to the games. DrDisrespect captained last year, donned with red spandex, 1980s head banger’s hair (complete with mullet), and a Barney Miller mustache.
Swagg and eColiEspresso are the captains leading the Army this year. The virtual bullets start flying at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
HOW TO WATCH
Click here to watch the CODE Bowl live.