Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Cost of Taking Care of Bidness

Last week's The Monday Poll results suggest the majority of tourney players pay somewhere between $1000 and $5000 for their annual paintball fix. At the high end something close to 20% pay as much as $10,000. (Ouch!) In continuing the discussion of the cost of competition VFTD is gonna take a look at how those costs break down over a season--which may give some a truer idea of what they're really spending.
I'ma break spending down into three basic categories; gear, practice and events. Gear is probably the one that has the most variation. The player who has been at this awhile isn't going to need as much stuff as the new kid getting started. Still, lots of factors play into the cost of gear. If your team has a new sponsor that likely means everyone has to buy that sponsor's package for the upcoming season and if it includes a gun we're already in the neighborhood of a $1000. (I am purposefully keeping costs both general and tending toward the frugal because the totals are going to add up quickly regardless.) New unis, packs and accessories--depending on the accessories--might only hit you up for between $300-$500. Even the long time players have regular miscellaneous expenses for new lenses, cleats, gloves, pads, pods and the occasional hopper, etc. If you're new and need a tourney quality gun (or don't like what you've got now) you could go used and get a solid capable gun for let's say $300. Or you could grab a top-of-the-line, new-in-its -case-killer for $1400. If you're a penny pincher you might manage to cover your annual gear costs for $400 to $500 bucks. If you're not it ain't that hard to spend between $1000-$2000 on gear alone.
Okay, practice is up next. While plenty of players are on field teams and get discounts or work for their local field in order to get reduced costs or freebies to play I'm assuming most players have to deal with the basic costs to practice. Field fee, paint, maybe air and the miscellaneous associated costs of gas for travel and a meal afterwards hanging out with teammates. And that's keeping it simple. If your travel requirements go beyond your local area the additional costs will add up quickly. For our purposes let's assume practice entails a single day with a doable drive to practice and back home. Under those conditions you might manage on around $75 but odds are the daily practice bill will be closer to the $100-$125 range so let's call it $100 bucks a day to practice.
Finally it's time for the events. Here's the payoff for the time and money already spent. At the local level the costs to compete fit the same basic categories as the more prominent events but almost certainly at a much lower price point with the possible exception of paint. For now we'll ignore that possibility. Otherwise there's entry fees, possible player registration fees, paint and travel costs similar to those of practice unless the event was far enough away that it was worthwhile to spend the night before the event in a local hotel. Depending on the format and division one is competing in it's possible to spend as little as $200 or as much as $500 to compete.
A national event has similar categories (and everyone is playing paintball) but that's where the similarity ends. Entry fees are considerably higher. Player registration is a given. Paint. Travel can vary as some hearty souls will road trip to distant events but most fly. So there's a plane ticket. Rental vehicles and hotel rooms plus the miscellaneous expenses for food, nights out, possible tolls, gas, parking at the airport and on and on. If you are one of ten players on a RaceTo-4 squad and all those costs apply odds are the total will be in the neighborhood of $1000--and could easily go higher--and probably will.
The other element that comes into play at events is that the paint tab is flexible. How much your team shoots will depend on a lot of different factors so you go into an event not knowing just what you will spend for paint. Which is another cost related consideration.
Now it's time for you to do the math. Where does your gear cost come in on the range discussed? How many days of practice will you have? And how many events will you play? Pick a number and multiple by the one time cost to see what your season long bill will be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gunfighting: Positions of Advantage/Disadvantage

Despite the importance of gunfighting in the modern competitive game it's an easy skill to practice. (Assuming of course one has some paint, a place to shoot it and someone to shoot it at.) It is an individual skill that easily integrates into the team conception of the game as long as the player understands his (her) role in a given point or play.
Rudimentary practice only requires some number of different inflatable props arrayed on a field and the previously mentioned somebody to shoot at (who will always be shooting back at you.) I recommend playing only one side of the prop at a time and shifting positions as needed in order to practice with both your right and left hand in the dominant position. The reason for this is that seldom in a game situation are you able to play both sides of a prop at will when gunfighting. I also recommend mixing up the props so that you are constantly challenging yourself to play both difficult to master props and positions but also to be comfortable and confident routinely gunfighting from positions of disadvantage relative to your opponent. As much as we would like to control when, where and how we engage an opponent the game frequently doesn't work out that way so it's important to practice for as many eventualities as possible.
For most practice situations the distance between the props being used should reflect the distances that occur most commonly in game situations. (Remembering that as the distances shrink is when we switch to a more traditional snapshot because as the distances close the confrontation takes precedence over other game elements like edge control and contain. Although if we have a teammate positioned to control our opponent direct confrontation may be delayed.)
Another related opportunity presents itself in this practice scenario; one of gauging effective distances. The contain aspect of gunfighting requires first edge control and then vision. Next comes the decision of where to focus attention. Normally this is a space between props, a distance that must be covered in order to get wide or shift sides, etc. Often unconsidered is just how effectively can the contain player get paint into the space being covered (and where to shoot to have the best chance of eliminating any player attempting to break contain.) As might be expected the reverse also applies. What is the likelihood of clearing this gap given where the contain shooter is positioned? A simple and practical way to get a good idea is to set up those situations and find out. It will turn out that if the distances are long (given the playing field parameters) if the contain shooter doesn't have paint in the air typical gaps can be crossed more often than not. Of course all that depends on the quickness of the player moving and the response and accuracy of the contain shooter but running this simple experiment will more often than not give less experienced players more confidence in their ability to move.

Next time, Gunfighting Objectives.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Monday Poll in Review

Last week The Monday Poll wanted to get some sense of the player demographic and, more importantly, compare that to how much the responding players pay to play over the course of a season. While we can only draw limited conclusions I think the results won't be too surprising to those who compete unless its at the high end and how demanding of both time and money the game has become.
Part One asked responders to self-identify their current ranking from Pro to D5. Part Two asked responders to choose the highest level of competition they have competed in this season and Part Three asked that they pick an approx. expenditure to indicate how much they well spend this season to compete.
Put them altogether and the results look like this: 30% compete in divisions typically only available at the national and international level of competition. The other 70% have access to competition from the local and regional level all the way up to the international level.
In the second category nearly 60% compete locally or regionally as their highest level of competition leaving around 40% competing at the national and international level. (I'm not using hard numbers because the number of respondents is low enough that the percentage values assigned are soft with a likely 2% or 3% margin of error.)
In the third category over 40% spend something less than $3000 a year which leaves well over 50% paying more than $3000 a year. (And of those spending less than $3000 only 6% are spending less than $1000 a season.) And that doesn't begin to give a real sense of the costs involved as nearly 20% pay over $7500 to sums exceeding $10,000 a year. (And something close to 30% are spending more than $5000 a year to compete.) When you consider that only 8% of respondents identified as pro players and only some percentage of them pay little or nothing to play the top 20% in costs must include a significant number of D1 and D2 players.
Not only do serious players have to commit a lot of time and effort to compete but the costs are fairly staggering particularly when one considers the age group range the majority fit within. Toss into the equation the fact that buying power (what your dollars will purchase) is down as much as 35% in the last decade according to some calculations and it's hard not to conclude that it's only going to get tougher to replenish the pool of competitive players going into the near future.

Next time, Breaking Down the Costs.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

O/T Sports

I'ma try something new. When I feel like it I'm gonna post on other sports in the news. Straight up, some non-paintball posts. A couple years ago in a The Monday Poll I asked your opinion of this and some other subjects for VFTD and the majority wanted to stick with paintball. Fair enough. This time I'm not asking, I'm just going ahead and doing what I want. Read or not as you choose. Don't tell me you don't like it, I don't care. But as always if you want to comment I encourage you to do so. It won't affect the number of paintball posts and all non-paintball posts will include the "O/T" indicator in the title.
Before I get started however here's a suggestion for the PBA. If interest in fantasy paintball is flagging start a regular fantasy feature on your website and start generating some comparative player stats and content about winning strategies and other ways to be successful. A big part of the fantasy sports experience is talking about it. You need to keep potential and regular players involved between events too.
Okay, finally to today's subject. The topic is pro football (of the pigskin variety.) And more specifically the NFL's announcement of a two game suspension for Raven's RB Ray Rice. Ray, as you may recall, played the knockout game with his then fiancee in a public place and has the grainy black and white video on YouTube to help keep the memory alive. Since they subsequently married he dodged most of the potential legal consequences. Only the action of the commissioner's office remained in doubt until today. While I'm a fence sitter on the issue of any league involvement--as opposed say to the team he plays for--it's clear that the league's interest in these matters is how they might affect the league's image and not really about what Rice did at all. Otherwise how do you explain indefinite or season long suspensions for knuckleheads who mostly failed league mandated drug testing? So far in 2014 14 players have been suspended by the NFL before Rice; 12 for drugs and/or alcohol and 2 for PEDs (performance enhancing drugs.) All received longer suspensions than Rice. Not only is the league more concerned with its image, it apparently isn't concerned with collateral violence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Death of the Snapshot

Okay, maybe the snapshot isn't quite dead yet (it's called hyperbole) as it still has a few uses in the competitive environment but it doesn't hold the exalted place it once did. The brutality and efficacy of gunfighting has made the snapshot largely obsolete. As has the evolution of the sport. When a critical component of the modern competitive game is edge control the snapshot fails to deliver. Focused almost exclusively on eliminating an opponent with the least possible risk of being eliminated in return the snapshot, and more importantly, its practitioners ignore other crucial elements of the game. The game in microcosm that the snapshot represents is a dual of survival. Ideally a battle of man against man. (Or boys or girls, etc.) Sometimes a mismatched battle but always a battle to elimination. (And for those unwilling to engage on those terms the tendency is to simply turn away from that confrontation in order to look and shoot somewhere else.) All of which might be more relevant if the game wasn't being played on tiny fields where the ability to move quickly and work the angles came at a premium. (Yes, angles have always mattered as have wires but when the field was 300 feet long and there were ten players to a side the risk/reward equation didn't balance on a knife's edge either.)
Today the gunfighter wishes to control his edge in order to do more than attempt to eliminate a particular opponent. The larger purpose is to control the field and contain your opponent while your teammates move into superior killing positions. (Which also dictates how one should play a particular position.)
Even so learning the snapshot isn't a waste of time. There are elements of the snapshot that will improve your gunfighting. Practice to deliver an accurate first shot. Present the least profile possible. And in those situations where you're outnumbered and about to get run down a skilled snapshot (and a calm mind) may help you take an opponent or two down first. (And if I'm being completely honest there are a few close quarter situations where an effective snapshot is relevant.) but the larger point remains that the snapshot is no longer the centerpiece of a player's individual skill set.

Next time, Gunfighting: Positions of Advantage/Disadvantage

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Monday Poll

The State of the Game survey isn't working out too well. I knew it wouldn't but even so I had hopes this time--or more correctly, that time--things would turn out differently and you slackers might get involved and discover you kinda enjoyed it. Wishful thinking, I know. Anyway I still have questions and you still have answers even if you're not inclined to take a minute or two to comment. Which leaves us with the return of The Monday Poll--which on occasion gets a decent response.
This Monday Poll is, drum roll please, for the first time anywhere, a three-parter--go big or go home--that is focused on competitive play. VFTD wants to know what division you compete at; whether you compete locally, regionally or nationally and how much you spend every season to make your paintball dreams a reality.
The top of the poll will list divisions of play. Pick only the highest level you compete at regularly. (For our Euro friends choose the division you would compete under in the PSP.) One answer only for part one.
Part two will list local, regional, national and international. Again, pick only one and choose the highest level applicable in the last year.
Part three will list ranges for money spent on paintball. Pick the one that comes closest to your annual spending. Consider everything you pay for to play when calculating your approximate expenditure.
There you have it. Three sections, three answers, one for each section. Surely clicking your mouse a couple three times isn't a huge inconvenience and not outside your aptitude--since you're already using a computer, tablet or phone.
Surprise me, blow this Monday Poll up. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

State of the Game Survey

Kinda. Sorta. There are no standardized questions to answer and VFTD isn't trying to collect data that can later be analyzed in any formal or systematic way. But I am curious--and a little concerned, truth be known, about the state of the game at the so-called grassroots level of competitive play. With the demise of the latest iteration of the NPPL and the "hiatus" (dirt nap) that the APL is taking PBN informs us of something called the UPL is offering 'big cash' and the coming soon to a paintball field near you XPL is offering 'real' xball (with as of yet no indication how many prelim matches a team will play.) But these are (future) events with national pretensions and not really what I'm interested in at the moment.
The thing is none of the national draw type events exist in anything like their current (or hoped for) state without the local and regional events to provide venues where teams can form and flourish. At least that's the conventional wisdom. But competitive paintball has reached a point where the top teams can compete only (mostly) at the national level because there aren't enough of them to fill divisions at the local or regional level of competition--and that seems in recent years to have included D2 as well leaving the locals at D3 and below. (Have we continued to add lower and lower divisions to encourage participation--and is it working?)

Which leaves me with a bunch of questions. (This is where you volunteer to help me out with answers or at least your opinion.)
Would there be more D2 teams coming up if there were more local places for them to compete and grow?
Is there a noticeable trend in competitive paintball in your area? Is the local scene (including any regionals) growing in your area? Is it stagnant? Or in decline? Where is the divisional cut off? At D2 and below or D3 and below? Does your local competition scene encourage or discourage higher ranked players from playing locally?

One reason I'm curious is because while everyone talks a good game about growing the sport it all seems pretty haphazard. Which doesn't mean progress isn't being made but it's difficult to know--hence our informal survey. The PSP's affiliate program was/is an effort, in part, to unify competitive paintball and standardize play but again, it's tough to quantify progress. But if y'all pass along what you know maybe we'll end up with a better idea of how our sport is really doing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Whose Penalty Is It Anyway?

I might as well admit right upfront that I'm hoping to take advantage of you--no, not just you--all y'all out there that comprise the readership of VFTD. To be honest it's a meager hope 'cus the lot of you are slackers but it's still worth a shot, and who knows, y'all might surprise me.
Here's the deal. I'm more than part way convinced one of the problems officiating competitive paintball is the options for what are considered appropriate penalties is severely limited. Pull a body or pull two bodies and on rare occasions suspend somebody for some predetermined period of time, mostly a few game minutes. Which might have been okay twenty years ago when there were more players on the field--the field was four acres of random woods--and the rulebook was a couple of hastily scribbled on pieces of ruled notebook paper. But is borderline ridiculous when a team gets a penalty because the kid grabbing empty pods steps on the field too soon.
Part of the issue is there need to be some regulatory rules--like keeping the pod kid off the field while a point is still live--but shouldn't there be a better way to handle that, penalty-wise? And there are plenty of other similar situations that pop up over the course of an event.
Here's where you come in. I need some ideas for alternatives to calling silly penalties but still maintain the necessary control over the play of the game. Got any bright, or not-so-bright ideas? Let's hear 'em.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Other World Cup

I am of course referring to the World Cup so recently concluded one nil to the rapturous accolades of all (or at least quite a few) and sundry. One nil and not even in sudden death or sudden victory--just the usual anti-climatic extra period. I won't argue with fans of the sport because it's a waste of time. Let's just agree to disagree. You like soccer and it puts me to sleep. (And yes, it will remain soccer on VFTD whatever you choose to call the wretched game.) In fact the finals put me to sleep. Literally. Most of the first half and exactly what did I miss? It's not that I can't or don't appreciate athletic skill or competition, even that displayed playing soccer--it's just that so much of it is pointless--and I mean that in every possible way. So much energy and effort expended for so damn little of consequence that flops routinely outnumber scoring chances. Soccer is the only sport I know where bad acting is a critical component of the offense.
But what is of interest to me in this culminating moment for the other World Cup is what it can tell us about competitive paintball. Not directly perhaps but in the things competitive paintball isn't. Playing some form of soccer doesn't require any particular environment though a nicely sodded pitch is preferred. Millions of children around the world practice the skills and play the game in empty lots and in the street. And in a pinch it doesn't even require a *real* soccer ball. It is the sport of the international masses and in many countries has little or no competition from other sports. Certainly no other sport is as accessible as soccer is. It is virtually free to play and can be practiced almost anywhere any time.
Competitive paintball on the other hand requires a specialized environment and uses loads of essential equipment including guns. It discriminates by age--although not ridiculously--and carries the ongoing expense of requiring both places to play and replacement of paintballs discharged and worn gear. The more serious the player the more expensive the sport is to play. And in recent years the competitive game has moved away from formats that a wider range of players could compete in toward an ever more demanding game while at the same time targeting as the prime player demographic those among the least able to afford to keep playing the sport. The simple fact is competitive paintball is a sport built on a leisure activity / hobby that is accessible only to relatively affluent populations with both the time and the money to undertake it. Everything about competitive paintball screams niche sport and we haven't even begun discussing how it's presented to the public.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baca's Mailbag: Reffing & Playing the Game

Mark said...
Minimizing the impact of that "third" team on the field would be a good start. I gotta say it is still pretty intolerable at times to watch a game where no one makes moves, and the only "excitement potential" is whether a penalty will be thrown. This can "appear" to open up the action as the opposing team wants to capitalize as well as save the penalty time for the next point, but it's at best artificially induced, and at worst arbitrary and on a whole makes the game look like the amateur-production it wishes to aspire beyond. 

Someone inevitably brings up the real pro sports in discussions such as these, and I'm the first to cringe when they do, but where they swallow their whistles and let the players play (dirty or not) in big moments, at least paintball has the advantage where the officials can (or used to) actively enter the fray and signal/pull eliminated players. 

And just how does a major on the Dallas layout equal a major on the MAO layout? If a paintball referee uses the same criteria for a major penalty how can a league abide by an average 3 point swing at one event and a 1 point swing at another? How does it look for a team to come up from the challengers bracket, then blow through their prelims in champions, then be suddenly plagued with penalties in the final game? No fanboy here, just how does it look (big picture-wise) as an aspiring serious sport?

I wanted to respond to Mark's comments and questions more comprehensively than "comments" allows so here we are. Partly because his remarks appear be directed at the PSP--though he doesn't say so directly--and is something I can discuss with some authority and partly because his remarks also reflect, or so it seems to me, a frustration common in tournament paintball wherever it is played and likely to be of general interest to this audience. I will respond to the first two paragraphs broadly in responding paragraphs and then answer the specific questions by order of appearance in Mark's remarks. Hope that's clear.

First I want to agree whole-heartedly with the spirit of Mark's first paragraph. I have seen my fair share of cringe-worthy calls and at times they had nothing to do with the accuracy of those calls according to the rules. But here is where I would diverge from Mark's position. Suggesting that calls made are "artificially induced" and/or "arbitrary" may simply be rhetorical devices but they're also unfair and unproductive. Artificially induced suggests 'made up' or nonexistent implying refs are making calls that don't exist and arbitrary implies randomness. I will agree there is, and must be, some degree of randomness but only because the refs aren't going to see everything and not because they're picking and choosing what to call or not call. If Mark's larger point is that he would like to see more consistency and less game-changing calls made I think everyone would agree including the refs. But it's important to understand for our part we have to assume good faith at a minimum or what's the point of making any effort to improve? And beyond that it isn't simply the refs, it's also the rules and how we understand and apply them. And in paintball it's also the fact that we don't have a lot of options in what the impact of a called penalty is so we're sometimes left with what seems like overkill and other times leniency. But on the plus side these are all issues that are being addressed. Nobody likes hearing that it's going to take time but at least in the PSP a comprehensive effort to improve is underway.

Given the first paragraph this one seems a little schizophrenic but whatever. It describes, whether intentionally or not, the tension that is a constant part of officiating. How non-subjective do we really want our refs to be? And do we write our rules accordingly? Or do we write them in black and white but give the refs some leeway in their interpretation? One school of thought says black and white across the board. Rules are cut and dry and enforcement ought to be as simple as implementing the rules 'cus we don't want our referees doing anything except enforcing the rules. Another school of thought might be called educated subjectivity which relies on straightforward rules but gives the refs some leeway in calling a game based on standardized training and an official interpretation of the rules in-house. On one side of that coin you get the calls by the book in each and every instance regardless and in the other you (hopefully) get a regulated game that takes more account of the game play than simple rules enforcement. The problem is you can't have both when one or the other suits.

Because the penalty remains the same.

The potential impact of a penalty may vary but that is a function of the teams playing and the layout they are playing on. One unintended consequence of "fast" field design is that it can produce an impact variance from penalties called.

While that particular situation hasn't occurred this season the implication is, if it had happened, or when something similar happened, "they was robbed!" Of course this assumes the only variable is the refs and also assumes either incompetence or some sorta conspiracy. None of which is true although granted refs sometimes make mistakes and sometimes see calls differently than you or I might see them.
As to the Big Picture implication nobody--especially the league--wants important matches to either swing on penalties or appear to have been decided by other than the play of the game on the field. But as I've tried to demonstrate it's a more complicated problem than do something about the referees. And if the reference is to the Heat-Impact match in Chicago that was both a little bad luck and self-inflicted. One of the Heat's majors was for tossing a hit pod (which should have been a gross major) and another was for a shoe hit--and given the brittleness of the paint in Chicago--could have easily happened with the player none the wiser.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rule of 9

Here's today's disclaimer. None of the content of today's post has--to my knowledge--been suggested or discussed or given any consideration whatsoever by the PSP--which means the contents of this post are not a trial balloon of any sort and that I am solely responsible for this content. (Being conspiracy-minded myself I am almost suspicious of my own disclaimer but have the advantage of knowing it's true. You are welcome to judge for yourself.)
When the PSP first began moving away from full on Xball in the direction of Race To the pro game was reduced to game clock or nine points, whichever happened first. The second season it was further reduced to the current standard of seven points. I mention this for two reasons. One, there's been some wistful talk of bringing back halves so that open-ended scoring opportunities will encourage more aggressive play and make the game more fun to watch. Two, that ain't never gonna happen. The reality is the only thing that will speed up points and generate more excitement is fields that compel teams into action--and--paint consumption [paint cost] is already the anvil on which tons of teams, including pro teams are being hammered into oblivion. Playing a game that of necessity requires an uncertain volume of more paint is a non-starter and with twenty pro teams locking up two fields there literally is no time for more so any significant change would mean well, significant change probably in the number of prelim matches played. Hey, the Eurokids already play only three. Is that the future you really want?
But what if the pro game were changed to RaceTo-9 again without altering the clock time? Would that be a viable compromise? Would it open up the games and encourage more aggressive play on the basis that each point is no longer quite so important? I don't know. But if the layouts push the play and the move to 9 reduces the pressure to win every point it might be a compromise everyone could live with. Or not.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Greatest ...

So I know I suggested there would be a poll allowing all you slackers to vote for the greatest competitive player ever--but I've changed my mind. First, while I was pleased to see more than a few OGs nominated I was equally amused by the inclusion of a few well known names that shouldn't have been nominated. But c'est la vie. Second, there weren't nearly enough players nominated from nearly enough participants and it got me thinking about how the poll would probably turn out. VFTD would whittle the list down to the appropriate nominations and then add a whole slew of additional names from across the eras of woodsball, concept field and Airball (xball) for consideration--and then post the poll for y'all to vote on--if you felt like it. At the end of the voting period the votes would be tallied--and not nearly enough of you would have bothered to vote in the first place--and even so I'd probably have to vacate the popular winner for the correct answer. So I've decided to skip all the work, the waiting, the lack of participation and get right to the pointy end and simply announce VFTD's Greatest Player of All Time.* ("All Time" referring to the finite period of time from the game's genesis up to the present with the stipulation that All Time may be re-defined at some future point in time to be all inclusive of the time up to that point in time.) [Normally that would have been included in the small print but since I'm trying to save myself a little time--and effort ... well, you know.]
Before making the announcement however I would like to offer a disclaimer or two plus some of the good and the bad about this player. He's a great ambassador for the game despite the fact there have been a few well-known (shall we say) less than stellar incidents across his colorful career. I had the privilege of briefly coaching this player. He's a tremendous team player--if the team plays to the player's strengths. The majority of competitive players playing today have not seen this player at his best. He is one of only a handful of players who have competed at the top of the sport across virtually every era--and is the one unique player whose game improved as competitive paintball moved out of the woods and forward to xball (and its modern variants.) As the only player whose game transcends the history of the sport I give you VFTD's "Greatest Player of All Time": Chris Lasoya.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Grass or Turf?

I know, this was settled some time ago and grass won hands down. But that was then and now is, well, now. And I think there's a case to be made for turf. As apparently do a growing number of fields that are laying down turf fields. Before making the case for turf however let's acknowledge the potential supremacy of grass as an ideal playing surface. Years ago at the San Bernardino event the grass was magnificent. I would have carpeted my home with it and happily slept on it. It was that good but it also set a standard that is seldom approached. (The Riverside event in August may come close as the new venue looks pretty great.) Unfortunately a well used grass surface doesn't stay pristine for long and while that isn't necessarily a tournament make or break concern the post-event condition of a temporary venue does matter if a league wants to use that space again. And let's also acknowledge that even the best of turf surfaces is likely to be less forgiving in some ways than grass. So why turf?
Because a properly prepared turf field provides a uniform and ready playing surface year round. No cycling the field around the property trying to keep the grass growing and the worn and rutted patches from becoming permanent. No mud or puddles of water on wet and rainy days--or even those dry days after a week of rain. A turf field is ready to go, no worse for wear. And the simple fact is there are so many grades of turf available (including used football fields) that creating a very playable and consistent surface isn't hard and can be done economically too considering the near permanence of a turf field compared to a grass field.
Yes but major league paintball has been there and done that--and it didn't work out too well. Again, that was then and this is now and there is so much more to the world of turf than slapping some indoor outdoor carpeting down on asphalt that past experiments are irrelevant. What isn't irrelevant is the cost consideration, It's all well and good for a local field to weigh the benefits versus the cost and decide on trying turf and another thing altogether for a league like the PSP to consider turf. I don't have any idea if it's even feasible but every event this season would have benefited from a controlled surface. (And a related reality is that the event dates are relatively fixed. There simply aren't a lot of alternative to the current schedule. The only real flexibility is in the location order of the events. And even if those choices were optimized around the likely weather there are no guarantees.) The likelihood is that the cost would be prohibitive but if turf is being ignored only because grass "won" in the past maybe it's time to reconsider. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Enough With The Begging Already

I realize we've become a culture that has developed a free lunch expectation but enough is enough. Granted, the first time it was amusing and clever. On that basis alone it gets a pass. But just that once. And if there's a gimmick, well okay, we can let that version slide too. At least a few times. And by gimmick I mean a Kickstarter kinda deal where there's some quid pro quo--where the contributor gets something for their contribution--other than warm fuzzy feelings. Or even like the inevitable and obnoxious PBS fund drives where you can buy grotesquely over-price Bruce Springsteen CDs and pat yourself on the back for helping public television at the same time. But seriously this business of paintball teams soliciting cash on social media has got to stop. Sure it's easy. And cheap. And if it works, even a little bit, then all to the good, right? Well, maybe not.
Are you familiar with the expression 'familiarity breeds contempt'? Paintball teams soliciting handouts are well along that road. How many street corners in your town have down on their luck folks flashing cardboard signs looking for handouts? Some are legit and some maybe not so legit but how can you tell? And when it occurred once in a while you were far more likely to give something than when everywhere you turn there's somebody with a hand out. Getting the picture yet? When everybody is doing it (in this case, begging for money) it quickly becomes counterproductive.
While I'm at it I might as well confess I'm suspicious of teams pushing charity tie-ins too. Unless every nickel raised goes to the charity it strikes me as just another tactic regardless of the worthiness of the charity being "supported." You want to support a charity, that's great. You want a pat on the head while diverting some percentage of donated funds to your paintball team, that's not so great. (I am not, btw, calling anybody out. I'm just saying.)
Last time I checked playing tournament paintball was not on the short list of life essentials. (I know, you can't live without paintball. Give up breathing for a week and let me know how that works out for you.) If you want to compete there's more to it than getting your grind on. For no matter how often some player touts his dedication by extolling the trials of the grind the real struggle is more often doing whatever it takes to get back on that field every weekend. It used to be called work. And has absolutely nothing to do with begging somebody else to support your hobby.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mid-season Grades: Champions

For Infamous and X-Factor their season grade (and self-respect) hinge on regaining Champions spots for Cup. Aftershock is not quite in that position although failing to get out of the Challengers bracket would be a grim disappointment given the promise they began the season with. Shock needs to be in the mix for Cup and Infamous and X-Factor need to be in the hunt for the Cup. Everything will be riding on their results in Cali. (Hey PBA! Y'all might want to schedule a couple of those matches.)
Slightly off topic let's discuss promotion & relegation for a minute since it has such a significant impact on the pro game. I'm fine with the possibility of event by event promotion and relegation but if the goal is to have the 10 best teams in the Champions bracket then the top Challengers should have to play--and beat--the bottom ranked Champions. As it stands a full 40% of Champions play against each other to see who goes down each event which doesn't prove anything. This year only Dynasty, Impact and Ironmen haven't faced a relegation game but with two events remaining there's still plenty of opportunity to stumble. I use stumble advisedly because for one or two of the relegation match teams each event their inclusion is often a matter of the narrowest margins and point differentials.
Impact receives a strong passing grade with their win in Chicago and finals appearance at MAO (and two more victories in Euroland). For a team thought to be rebuilding that's an impressive string of results and ought to serve as a reminder that a team, at its best, is more than the sum of its parts. And Impact has become a team in the best sense of the term. At this stage the only thing that could adversely effect their season would be relegation and while it seems unlikely if Art Chaos plays to their potential it makes everything that much more uncertain.
Dynasty also receives a passing grade on the strength of their early season results but some questions remain. Last year the team was gang-busters through Chicago and then faltered at Riverside and at Cup. Still a remarkable season overall it certainly didn't end as it had begun and I can't help wondering if the recent Chicago result wasn't the beginning of a repeating pattern. (Keep in mind their "struggle" last season was two consecutive 5th place finishes but even so it must have been a disappointment and not up to the standard they began the season with.)
Ironmen also receive a passing grade based on their results at Chicago and the fact they've dodged the relegation matches despite beginning the season with the merger of the Ironmen and Royalty into one team. That and their consistent improvement event to event suggests a team on the rise. The question remains how far can they go this season but if they continue to improve it will be a successful season even if wins continue to elude them.
Damage gets an incomplete for continuing to hang around the upper echelon but routinely coming up short. The team is too talented not to regularly vie for wins--and did get a win at Riverside last year along with a pair of seconds--but has yet to match that level of success. If it's possible to say a perennial top five team isn't reaching its potential Damage is that team.
Heat also gets an incomplete though they've rebounded nicely from being relegated at Dallas by making the finals in Chicago (and like Impact having a strong season in Europe competing in the MS.) As expected--at least by VFTD--it's taken a little while for the new players to fit in but there isn't any reason not to expect the Heat to continue improving. If they do and AC remains in the Champions World Cup could be both highly unpredictable and hugely entertaining come October.
Vicious also gets a passing grade predicated on making a Champions final for the first time and avoiding relegation even though they've been in relegation matches at MAO and Chicago. In the past they lost those matches so while the team continues to struggle to some degree they are also now winning important matches. If the upward arc continues they will establish themselves as a bona fide Champions team.
Upton 187 also receives a borderline passing grade for avoiding the relegation churn at MAO and Chicago after climbing out of Challengers to start the season in Dallas. Like Vicious the team has avoided relegation even though life in the Champions bracket is a struggle and that is improvement. The brackets for the next event will give 187 an opportunity to shine as their bracket will be considerably easier than the other bracket (of impending doom.)
[Edit added: Um, no, it won't. Somehow I switched Vicious and 187. Upton is smack dab in the middle of the half bracket of impending doom. Best of luck, boys.]
So many stories. So many possibilities. Three Champs in Challengers with room for only two--at most--to return to the Champs bracket. And the almost impossibly brutal prelim bracket half in Cali will see some favorites fall and potentially risk relegation at the worst possible time. Save your pennies. This will be an event you won't want to miss.