Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PSP D1: The Finale

Aight, off to classification and what the heck it has to do with "fixing" D1. (If you are lost after the recap see posts below.)
To recap: the problem with D1 is bigger than D1, D1's weakness is a warning of other structural defects. Given a locked Pro division (NXL) then D1 is and should be the epitome of competition for most teams and players or at least reaching D1 is a prerequisite to having any shot at getting a pro spot. So why is the division always virtually empty and how in the hell is it there are more pro ranked players playing in the PSP than D1 players?
Problem 1: too many pro ranked, unranked pro and semi-pro players participating in D1 and making the jump from D2 to D1 an unnaturally big step up. Even if this is merely perception it doesn't matter, it is inhibiting team movement.
Problem 2: D3 is a catch-all bracket that is also considered the entry level to Xball and current rules push players (and teams) through up regardless of results in order to have spots for the next wave of new teams coming in.
Problem 3: That leaves D2 being unbalanced with "real" D2 teams and a bunch of non-competitive teams where the answer to solving D1's deficiencies is to push even more players (teams) up.
Problem 4: somewhere in this system the league is losing teams and my view is these teams are opting out based on lack of a competitive category to play in and/or being pushed into a situation they aren't ready for or are unwilling to compete in.
Fix 1: add a real entry level Xball division, D4.
Fix 2: make entries identical from D3- D1. Same service, same price, no direct financial impediment to moving up.
Fix: 3: perhaps jigger with the prize structure a bit.
Fix 4: make player classification more fluid and take team into account in the process.
There's lots said in the current system about moving players up but very little about moving down. The system is currently loaded toward pushing players up the divisional ranks but the only provisions for moving down allow players who were ranked pro before 2005 to now be considered D1 although a reading of 2.1.3.4.2 leaves it somewhat unclear because there is some sort of provision to be ranked as low as D2 but goes back to reviewing rosters in pro/am 5-man and 10-man without giving any dates but in any case once a pro you stay pro for 4 years. In essence once you gain a D1 or higher ranking that's what you are, period. Which MIGHT be okay if the league wasn't hellbent on generating D1 players artifically.
One of the problems is that there is no accounting for results. For example, if you play D3 3 or more events you --as a player--will be ranked D2 to begin the following season. Doesn't matter if your team finished 3rd or 30th or if you played on a different roster each event. This makes no sense whatsoever. The only place results are accounted for is in D2 and the goal is to push more teams up to D1. (I say teams but teams are really irrelevant to this system because it is players who are being re-ranked according to team results--but in every other situation team results don't matter. Huh?) After Chicago there are potentially 8 or 9 D2 teams that depending on the final two events could be compelled to move up to D1. Is the fifth best team in D2 really in a position to compete against a current D1 team carrying pros and semi-pros? If the classifications mean anything then the answer is no and the solution isn't to force teams up and then make them tear their current rosters apart trying to remain competitive in a new division they don't belong in. That is a recipe for chasing teams out of the league altogether.
What is required is a system that allows predictable movement up & DOWN by rule for all players and the only justification for compulsory reclassification of players is competitive balance. Once classification has been sorted out and a D4 entry level added with entry fees becoming a neutral factor then teams and players will naturally find a place to fit and the best and most committed teams will move up the ranks naturally (and have ranks to move up.)
Sorted. (Yeah, I know, no details of restructuring classification but what's important here is the rationale for making changes--and of course, I do have the changes, just no reason to post them up after another ridiculously long post.)

10 comments:

raehl said...

The fundamental issue with your reasoning here is the apparent assumption that classification rules can make teams competitive.

Short of having no more than 5 teams per division, they can't. In any given division, only the top teams are going to be competitive. The rest will not.

There is nothing you can do to change the fact that most paintball players don't want to be on a mediocre team in a top division. When players get moved up from D2 to D1, they split up and become the D1 players on a bunch of other D2 teams.

Adding a D4 won't fix anything. Instead of having new players in D3 and 8 teams in D1 and everyone else in D2, you'll just end up with new players in D4, 8 teams in D1, 8 teams in D2, and everyone else in D3.

You've missed the real problem. The real problem is that there are a couple teams in D1 that are far better financed than the rest of them. And because you've missed that issue, you've missed why there are so many more players in D2 and Pro than in D1:

Paintball is expensive. National-level paintball is really expensive. D2 players have jobs or rich parents and play no matter how good they are and have no desire to lose worse in D1.

Pro players are extremely talented, but most can't pay their own way. So if they don't have a Pro team paying for them to play, they can't afford to play at all. So the few D1 teams that can afford to pay for poor talent to play get them, and the rest have to make due with the players who can buy their own airfare.

D1 is small for the same reason NPPL Semi-Pro is small: There are very few teams/players who are good enough to play there AND can afford to play there given the current sponsorship (or lack thereof) situation.

And going back to the expensive part, there is one other aspect that you're missing: At the D1 level, teams are setting out to play the whole season. At D2, only 11 of 65 teams played every event last year. Only 21 of 65 played 4 or more. At D3, only 12 of 125 played all 5 and only 23 played 4 or more. D1 had 9. Playing all season is expensive.

D1 had 9, D2 had 11, and D3 had 13. So when you get down to it, the real issue is that teams that are not playing the whole season just don't play D1... for obvious reasons. When 9 out of 33 teams that play the whole season are already in D1, where do more D1 teams come from? Teams who can't play a whole season as it is are not going to play D1, and teams who are paying the whole season are already where they should be - 9, 11 and 13 is about as good as it's going to get.

raehl said...

And, I realize I have made a typical long post. So let me make the short point:

The reason nobody is in D1 is because ex-Pros who were able to play Pro because Pro teams paid for them to play simply can not afford to play D1 for teams who can not afford to pay them to play, and the players in D2 who CAN afford to pay their own way to play are not good enough for D1.

That leaves a couple teams in D1 who can afford to pay players (RNT, somewhat Vicious and Damage) and teams with moderate financing, players with jobs/parents, and a dream.

No amount of rule changes will create more sponsorship dollars or create more talented players with money.

Baca Loco said...

I'll answer the second first--'cus it's shorter. Your evaluation of D1 teams is woefully underinformed. There are not now nor have there been at any time paid players, regardless of rank, on Damage D1. Idk about Vicious but in RNT's case everyone seems to be observing a Code of Silence.
Beyond that your argument here undermines the rules for D2 movement. You claim here it's more about finances and series committment yet the PSP roster and class rules at present force D2 teams into D1 for the avowed purpose of trying to populate D1--at least that was a claim you made at Chicago in mine and Lane's presence at one point. So either the rules are misguided (as I suggest) or your explanation here for the dearth of D1 teams is mistaken, otherwise intentionally pushing D2 teams into D1 knowing full well they can't compete isn't just a poor business model.
I'm all in favor of a good argument but you might want to aim for a smidgen of consistency in the process. ;)
And while this may seem a poor way to welcome someone to the blog--welcome--it's a well known fact my social skills are decidely lacking.

raehl said...

I don't mean 'paid' as in walking away with money in their pockets. I mean 'paid' as in some significant percentage of expenses covered, whether it be gear, paint, help with travel, etc; i.e., not paying their own way.

And your comment about the rule being 'misguided' misses what I said. Under the rules PSP has now, PSP has a fairly even mix of teams in each division that play all five events. That's about the best that can be asked for. When moving up the top teams in D2, PSP is moving up teams that *HAVE* proven they can afford to compete at that level because they ARE some of the teams that *DID* compete for the whole season the previous year. I didn't say there were *NO* teams that could move up to D1, I said there were *NO MORE* teams than are already being moved up.

So there is not a problem to begin with, as the mix of teams in each division is about as good as one could expect, and even if it WAS a problem, there's no place to get more teams to move to D1.

You're trying to have it both ways - you argue that on the one hand D1 is 'broken' because there are too few teams, and then argue on the other that moving teams up at the end of the season is a bad idea and PSP should fill up D1 by creating a D4 and moving more teams down. Right, moving more teams down is going to get more teams moved up? Now THAT is an inconsistent argument.

Besides, why should PSP care if D1 is small? I don't think the real purpose behind the D2 to D1 promotion rule is to get people to play D1. It's to stop people from sandbagging D2. If people won't play unless they get to sandbag D2 year after year, there's nothing anyone is going to do about that.

The one thing I DO agree with you on is that perhaps the entry fees between D2 and D1 should be more balanced.

And thanks for the welcome. I wouldn't expect anything less than trial by fire from you.

Baca Loco said...

Before I get started let me say none of this is aimed at disparaging APPA in anyway. In fact, without APPA the changes I'm suggesting probably wouldn't be possible.
Wish I had a quote function here.
1–("The fundamental issue...) Taking your exaggeration to its logical conclusion why have any divisions at all? PSP should play one big divisional bracket. Classification rules aren't intended to make non-competitive teams competitive but they should be written to make each division as competitive as possible.
2–(There is nothing you can do...)So the league has no option but to promote successful D2 teams into oblivion? Excellent way to run a business. And as for where the freshly minted D1 players go a rudimentary examination of the numbers dismisses your claim. Some fraction may end up with D2 teams but only a fraction.
3–("Adding a D4 won't...) Geez Louise, Chris, this is way below your usual standard. You set-up an alternative as if all the rules related to moving up in class somehow disappear if the current rules are changed or modified. It's not even an argument, it's just silly. The only thing you do here is validate my position on the current system by admitting the result of the current rules packs D2. Thanks.
4–("You've missed the real problem...) See response to second comment.
5–("D1 is small for the same reason...") NPPL semi-pro hasn't always been as small as PSP D1 and your claim is insufficiently supported. NPPL declining numbers are across the board and have a history that suggests a different problem. D1's history is a static one while the lower divisions have grown.
Sponsorship may be a legitimate consideration but is it any reason not to try and find a better way?
6–("And going back to the expensive part...) Here you're using an incorrect ratio but it does beg the question: Why are so few teams competing across the season? You say expense, which is a reasonable claim and certainly a factor but is it the only or determinative factor? How many teams don't finish because they aren't ultimately competitive or want to avoid being forced up into the next division? A better way of looking at who starts and finishes a season is the ratio of complete seasons to the initial pool of potential full seasons; ie: which teams begin the season and how many of them finished it. Teams that enter at events within the season for whatever reason never intended to compete across the season.
Using the numbers to assume series commitment is as good as it's going to get is almost a tautology. The same numbers might just as easily demonstrate my claim that there is a better way to use the rules to both support and build the league because the PSP is losing too many teams over the season.

Baca Loco said...

**That's about the best that can be asked for.
Here is where we fundamentally disagree.

**When moving up the top teams in D2, PSP is moving up teams that *HAVE* proven they can afford to compete at that level because they ARE some of the teams that *DID* compete for the whole season the previous year.
Which is fine as far as it goes but my issue with it is simple: It isn't about the competition, it's about trying to populate D1 and IT ISN'T WORKING. All it's accomplished is to elevate players out of the league and break up some teams.

**So there is not a problem to begin with, as the mix of teams in each division is about as good as one could expect, and even if it WAS a problem, there's no place to get more teams to move to D1.
You get more teams for D1 over time by a) removing the barriers to teams choosing to play D1 and b) by making playing D1 sufficiently desirable to attract more teams. I'm not suggesting D1 will somehow magically end up with 30 teams, particularly in the near term, but the current rules mean it will never be more than it is now.

**You're trying to have it both ways - you argue that on the one hand D1 is 'broken' because there are too few teams, and then argue on the other that moving teams up at the end of the season is a bad idea and PSP should fill up D1
No, I'm saying moving upwards of 7 or 8 D2 teams into D1 given the current rules is counterproductive.

**--by creating a D4 and moving more teams down. Right, moving more teams down is going to get more teams moved up? Now THAT is an inconsistent argument.
Except of course nobody is moving anybody DOWN. The suggestion is that a new D4 be the entry level to Xball that D3 serves as and the change is aimed at a) relieving the “necessity” of pushing D3 teams into D2 whether or not they belong as a matter of competitive balance and b) in creating another competitive division you give more teams more opportunity to both succeed and develop and c) you take the pressure off pushing too many D2 teams into D1 and at the end of the day you can institute rules designed to improve the league and not simply live with rules you hope keep everything from coming apart.

**Besides, why should PSP care if D1 is small? I don't think the real purpose behind the D2 to D1 promotion rule is to get people to play D1. It's to stop people from sandbagging D2. If people won't play unless they get to sandbag D2 year after year, there's nothing anyone is going to do about that.
If the D2 teams being “promoted” competed over the course of a season with a legal roster then sandbagging has nothing to do with it. And PSP should care because they are ostensibly in the business of offering the premier national tournament paintball competition.

raehl said...

I don't claim there are perfect solutions. I just don't know of any better solutions.

PERSONALLY, I would be totally fine with just one XBall division, or only one division with prizes. But, in practice, there seems to be a balance between letting every team win by having a division for each team and having one big division. Like most all things, the answer is usually somewhere 'in the middle'. And three divisions seems to be a good size - the talent that is way above D2 is in D1 (even if there is only a small amount of it), everyone else can play in D2, and there's D3 for very new or occasional teams. The divisions get up to 40-60 teams at the big events but have a healthy 20-30 teams at the smaller events. More divisions would simply split things up too much, and less not enough.

We're going to have to agree to disagree on most of those items, but I would like to comment on the last one: Being in the business of offering the premier national tournament paintball competition doesn't mean PSP should care about whether there are 8 or 20 teams in D1. How is running the premiere event in any way negatively impacted because D1 has 8 teams instead of 20 teams?

raehl said...

Here's something to think about. In Chicago, 9 of the 16 Pro player spots in D1 went unfilled. You'd think, with 4 teams dropping from the NXL there would be piles of Pro players looking for a team. So why are not many showing up on these D1 teams?

magbma said...

Vicious does not pay anyone to be on their team. They work hard to maintain their sponsorships, and they ref their local tournaments to generate cash. They won d3, then won D2 and went on to play D1 this year. This was a natural progression for a PSP team. This was the PSP system working for 1 team. The top few 2007 teams were pushed to D1 and it made for a very copmpetitive D2 this year.

Everyone like to win. Unless you are a really good D2 team, it is hard to make the jump to D1 and beat teams that stay in D1 and don't move to pro, but they will have pro players on their D1 roster. These teams are playing by the rules. Many people accuse them of sandbagging, but they have no place to go. Making the jump to pro takes money and having the financing to make the jump is not available for most teams. You also have to have the talent, and an open spot.

Paintball teams are at a crossroads, you are seing more teams struggle financially this year than the few previous years. Unless you are trying to win the series, which is more of a pride issue than a cash issue, you will not be able to play all of the tournaments.

D1 is like playing for a college team, you will either make the jump to pro or you usually just quit playing the game at a national level. D2 is like playing high school varsity and you have to decide if you have what it takes to move to the next level. Too bad there are no real scholarships in paintball to defray the costs of the sport.

The problem is that there are 12 teams in pro paintball which does not give the really good teams much of a chance to get out of the D1 bracket. It will also make it hard for the up and coming D2 teams to compete at a level where teams can stay for years.

Ask for some feedback from current D1 teams. Money is a big issue in this years D1 bracket. It can easily cost a team that has to fly to an event around $9-10,000 to go to a tournament without a good paint sponsorship. If you play D1 and shell out that amount of cash, you are playing because you love the game and have the funds, or your goal is to go pro. How many current D1 or up and coming D2 teams fall into those catagories?

Baca Loco said...

Chris--I'm more than satisfied agreeing to disagree. At the point where we are agreeing about much of anything I'll start worrying.
RE: question about the league. It depends on whether I'm right or wrong. A brief examination of the history of the divisions shows growth across the board except for D1. So why is it D1 never grew proportionally? Is it just Xball? Maybe so, but maybe not.
My view is things are gonna get harder for national competition before it gets easier and if last year was the first year the league made any money it better at least maintain that level. And right now I think things could be improved.

RE: pros on D1. A few reasons. With respect to Magbma most D1 teams aren't able or willing to pay players, either by my definition or yours. Most teams, even the pros, prefer locally available players as well. (Even if local means within your home state or thereabouts.) Beyond that some pros' egos won't let them play "down" and some guys with pro rankings don't have the skills to match.
One thing that hasn't been addressed in all this is the role of 'team' in this process. Some players are simply good. Others are good within a particular context and most good teams do not have top to bottom good or great players. They have players that work in the context of that team and unfortunately there is no way at present to give that any consideration at all.

Magbma--thanks for kicking in your 2 cents. One of the reasons I got into this is because right now everything about classification and promotion is driving teams and players out of the game. Obviously there will always be some attrition but it seems like a no-brainer to see if there are ways to improve what the league is doing.