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Battling For A Good Cause

Cardinals take on soldiers in video games with "Pros vs. GI Joes"


Defensive back Justin Bethel signs an autograph for a soldier Tuesday.

For a couple hours Tuesday, the Cardinals' meeting room became a battle zone.

And although the fighting was done on a video game console, the competition was intense.

Three Cardinals – Justin Bethel, Brian Hoyer and Steven Baker – and about 20 soldiers and their families competed against soldiers based in Afghanistan and Germany in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 via XBox Live as part of the fourth annual Pro vs. G.I. Joe program.

"It was really crazy," Bethel said. "You're playing Call of Duty with the people who it's about. That's not something you can do every day. I'm glad I got the opportunity."

The soldiers, based at Papago Park Military Reservation, had an opportunity to mingle and talk football with the players as groups of four engaged in virtual warfare. The deployed troops were playing from the USO Warrior Center in Landstuhl, Germany and a USO center in Afghanistan.

The Cardinals played alongside troops but their main competition came from children.

"The kids look forward to this type of thing," Lt. Col. Bill Waddington said.

The kids didn't leave empty handed. They received Cardinals hats and copies of the game. While most of the children were proficient at the game, the players gave them a run for their money.

Hoyer said he played Call of Duty often earlier this season when he was out of a football for a couple of months. But Tuesday, the quarterback said his skills were a little rusty.

It took Baker a little while to get used to playing on an XBox. He has a PlayStation back home.

But all three Cardinals enjoyed playing the troops deployed more than anything.

"It's pretty cool," Hoyer said. "I think they have a little more practice than I do. I didn't do as well as I normally do."

Conceived by Greg Zinone and his wife about five years ago as a way to give back to the troops, Pro vs. G.I. Joe travels the country pitting athletes against troops in video game play.

"What we do special is we create a relaxed environment. It's video games," Zinone explained. "The players, they're just hanging out. The troops, it doesn't matter what you rank is, what your status is on the football field. It's just something the guys love doing and it's something the troops love doing.

"The troops get to bring their families down here and it's a great relaxed experience for everybody."

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