Podcast video topics and time stamps:
3:38 Transitioning from player to analyst
9:28 On developing his on-air persona
15:37 Have you found a duo in casting?
18:04 Balancing his personal and professional life
24:12 The best and worst of the Legends and Challengers at Kraków
32:50 Who will be in the Finals of Kraków Major 2017?
37:09 Why the Swiss system is "shit"
45:19 Hosts Colin, Ryan and Dennis won't stop talking
The Kraków Major 2017 is set to show the best CS:GO teams in the world going head to head, and to assist us in breaking down the tournament, theScore esports Podcast brought on Chad "SPUNJ" Burchill to discuss his transition to the analyst desk, which teams will succeed (and which won't) at the Major and the challenge of balancing his personal life with the hectic existence of a caster.
Previously the in-game leader and captain for Australian squad Renegades, SPUNJ retired from professional play in 2016. He's since been appearing more and more as an analyst at tournaments around the world. Having competed at numerous events during his time on Renegades, SPUNJ believes that strong relationships with tournament organizers helped to propel him from player to A-list analyst in less than a year.
"I was very lucky... I always had really good relationships with tournament organizers because I am 27 going on 28, so when I was a player I was still one of the elder players, so I treated events seriously. I was considered an adult by the tournament organizers, so I think they liked me in that regard anyway."
From there, everything fell into place.
"So then I got contacted by ESL to do the end of Pro League Season 4," SPUNJ continued. "When that happened it kind of spread that I was already going to be in Europe. So DreamHack contacted me for some stuff, I had some other offers come in for different events. So yeah, it just sort of snowballed out of there. It's a very stressful industry because you never really know — because we freelance — you never really know what's going to come up around the corner or if you make a mistake or if you upset the wrong person. But I've been very lucky to be really busy."
Working those tournaments helped him earn a coveted position as an analyst for The Kraków Major 2017, which will be the last Major of the year according to Valve. And while Majors are some of the best, and certainly biggest, events in the CS:GO circuit, SPUNJ thinks some changes should be made to the format.
"I think the Swiss system is shit," SPUNJ said. "I think we need diversity within our system, so having the Swiss system every now and again is fine, depends on the type of event."
And if the excuse for keeping Swiss is one of time and logistics, SPUNJ isn't buying it. "I want to have a 16-team, best of three, double-elim bracket," he said. "I don't give a f--k how long it takes. If you want the best Counter-Strike, the best matchups ... if you're clearly better in the map pool, you should be rewarded for that. This is a game of seven maps."
Even if some players are in favor of it, they shouldn't be the ones making the call, he said.
"I don't think that players should be the people to choose which format they get to play," he said. "It's pretty obvious to why that is. Because when I was a player, I would want as many opportunities to f--k up as I could but still make it. Of course I want the easiest way out, even if we have a slow start it's okay, we'll turn it around. I would want that every day of the week."
In terms of the teams competing in the tournament, the Australian analyst identified Virtus.pro and North as two squads in the Legends (invited) category that will need to step up if they have any hope of succeeding at Kraków.
For the teams that qualified the hard way, SPUNJ said Cloud9, for one, are in a good position to advance to Legend status.
And when it comes to outlying teams like FlipSid3 Tactics or BIG, they won't be able to use the same kind of surprise strategies they used in the Offline Qualifier to advance through the group stage, SPUNJ said.
"I think it's such a tall task for teams like PENTA, Vega and FlipSid3," he said. "But the format also... they're not going to get the same as what they would have had at the Major qualifiers. Which is where teams neglected to counterstrat them properly, teams may have not even known what to look for. So those three, to me, should not make it at all."
Having had an extremely busy series of months, attending event after event, SPUNJ admitted that he has had difficulty managing his personal life alongside his esports career. In particular, being away from home for extended periods of time has resulted in the end of his relationship with his girlfriend.
"Things had gotten pretty bad in my relationship, which was almost three years long," SPUNJ said. "Because when we first started dating I was playing and I was just going to an event now and again, and then I got into Renegades and we moved away and I was gone for extended periods of time. And then I started this and it turned out that I was going to be away... pretty much indefinitely. In the last couple on months it's kind of been very rocky due to me dropping the ball on... basically just being an idiot. Well, not being an idiot, just being a shit boyfriend. And things kind of came to a close, unfortunately, when I got home three weeks ago."
"It's always really hard to balance the two, in this lifestyle right," SPUNJ said. "I'm not complaining. I think I live one of the most privileged lives, getting to travel to all these amazing countries, always involved in something which I love. And I think it's amazing in that sense. But there's always sacrifices. The sacrifices might not be the same as someone who has to work a 16-hour day as a laborer to just make ends meet, we're quite privileged in that regard. But I think everything has its downfalls. Obviously that's sacrificing family and social time, is probably the biggest one."
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.