Friday, September 5, 2008

To Relegate or Not: Is That the Question?

(H/T to PBReserve) This talk isn't new, it's been on the table for awhile (as the article notes) but the fact it's getting out now is worth commenting on. (Yes, it's been in the background and people knew but until now nobody put it out there. Why now?) One answer is it's that time of the year where everybody starts thinking about next year and what comes next and the decision-making window is only open for so long. Is this intended to gauge the response of the pro teams or the response of the NPPL? That would be worth knowing.
There is a faction within the NPPL Pro division that has argued for the discontinuation of promo/relegation. There has also been some serious talk about some teams bailing (just not as publicly as over in the NXL.) Then you've got the 6 teams paid in the Semi-pro division for Houston (as of today.) Doesn't exactly make a strong case for bringing up fresh, hungry teams and talent, does it?
[btw, rumor has it Jersey Authority will be temporarily "relegating" a couple of their best players to M.O.D. in order to solidify their hold on a semi-pro promotion slot. Oops!]
The argument is the division needs continuity and to establish itself in the mold of American pro sports and more importantly the teams need both the security and the accompanying added value. Without promo/relegation a mid-tier team struggling for sponsorship can now offer assurances they are and will remain a pro team, one of a limited number. See how security adds value? This is not a small thing--especially to the teams.
Against this you have the perceived value of promo/relegation which is making all games played important and the contention it forces all the teams to compete even if they are out of the series running or unlikely to outright win an event. (Don't play for love of the game, play outta fear of relegation.) The reality is nobody in the pro bracket accepts losing games nonchalantly and nobody in the pro bracket gains anything from losing.
But-- (There's always a but, isn't there?)
The problem is that promo/relegation is only a mechanism for dropping and adding teams. And getting rid of it doesn't really achieve the result some think it will. The reason for this is because there is no formalized relationship between the teams and the league. This isn't a pressing issue today. And it won't be one tomorrow if the league fails. It will only be an issue if the league begins to succeed in a bigger way. In the meantime even without promo/relegation the status quo would remain and that arrangement pits the teams collectively against the league in the effort to build support and develop sponsorship.
However you look at it--glass half empty, glass half full--it's a step in the right direction, I think, if this rumor becomes reality.


original-anonymous said...

If this were to happen it sure would be nice to have a players union that repsented the teams and the players in a relationship with the league. This union could infact play a part in expansion teams and such.

Baca Loco said...

But it won't given the nature of the relationship between the league(s) and the teams. There is no unity on the team side and no compelling reason to accept it from the league side.
Which is one reason the nature of those relationships must also be changed for the present and future good of the game.
Coming soon: Changing the Pro Paradigm ;-)

raehl said...

I actually think promotion/relegation is one of the things NPPL has right, especially given the current climate. If there is actually a serious discussion about getting rid of relegation, I think it's more evidence that, as far as competition goes, there is either no one over at NPPL who 'gets it', or if there is, they are not being listened to.

Relegation provides a graceful way for teams to enter and exit the Pro division. In most cases, if you are well-financed, you'll do well and keep/earn a spot, and if you are not well-financed, you'll lose a spot. And in the cases where that doesn't quite work out, well-financed teams who want a spot can simply buy one off of a not-so-well financed team. That's nice because the league doesn't have to guess who is and isn't well-financed - if you can afford to buy a spot (and are willing to buy a spot) you are, by definition, well-financed.

But here's the REALLY important part about relegation: It's the only thing that prevents teams from 'spot-squatting'. If you get rid of relegation, while at the same time selling the dream of making it to the big time, you open up the option for teams to get a spot, and then just field 7 warm bodies. They can field 7 rec players from the local field if they want. Don't have to practice, just have to field a team and wait for the league to either become successful and cash out, or spend as little money as possible in the process. That is NOT the kind of teams NPPL needs.

In short, the difference is this:

Without relegation, it makes sense for a team to play Pro as long as they think they can finish out the season. With relegation, it only makes sense for a team to play Pro if they're confident they can finish the season AND compete with the other teams.

NPPL will have to decide whether having teams that can actually compete is more important than having as many teams as possible.

raehl said...

And to original-anonymous...

I'm not sure you've thought this through.

Relegation may be bad for team owners, but it is GOOD for good players. With relegation, team owners need to field competitive teams to keep their spots, so they have a financial incentive to attract the best players. And even if your team gets relegated, you, as a player, can simply go pimp yourself out to a team that still has a spot, who is going to want your talent.

If you take away relegation, team owners can't lose spots. And if they can't lose spots, they don't need talented players to keep their spots anymore. That's a big deal for not-quite-the-best Pro players; if you're not helping a team compete for the win, a team owner can lose just as well with a bunch of D3 players willing to pay their own way to be 'Pro' as they can with talented players who the team would have to finance.

Good players keep teams from getting relegated. Taking away relegation decreases the value of good players.

Baca Loco said...

As a purely logical exercise you can make the case you are making. As a matter of the reality on the ground, as it were, you are simply wrong.

Your assumption here is that the pro bracket(s) are sufficiently exclusive that there exists a set of not-yet-pros prepared to make the financial and other sacrifices necessary to compete. The reality is both leagues are looking at a declining pool of pro teams--period. It isn't a question of pro teams taking advantage of the situation or of GOOD players seeing their value increase. (I could easily fill 2 or 3 rosters with ex-pros who would be competitive. By your metric they must not be as GOOD as the players currently playing or else teams are intentionally choosing mediocrity. Both of which are nonsense.) The truth is paintball is on the cusp of the pro brackets collapsing. See how many GOOD players are in demand when there are no teams to want them.

In a primarily closed league environment regardless of how good you assess the accumulated players to be there will be losers and winners. All relegation does is exchange one group of players for another group.
You also assume there is both quantifiable value to these unattached GOOD players and that any "successful" team has the wherewithal to acquire such players or even that new "success" from some previously less successful team makes the acquisition of such players worthwhile--and in each of those assumptions you are mistaken.

Baca Loco said...

Case in point: Are you saying the Philly Americans aren't well financed or do you think they simply don't have good enough players?
It must be one or the other, right?

Paintball said...

Philly Americans have always been an X-Ball team, same as the NE Hurricanes have always been primarily a 7 man team. It's a matter of focus. SP in particular has no real reason to focus on 7 man as they're still heavily invested in PSP and X-Ball. said...

Dlightly off topic to "paintball"..

The team was known as the All Americans many years prior to this franchise/city naming system was implemented. I'm sure if you look back several years (check warpig b/c sadly thats the only historical reference we have..), was an NPPL team to begin with. AFAIK the team competed in ten man in the first paintball broadcast on espn during the 95/96 "world cup" airing.

original-anonymous said...

My approach isn't to take advantage of some sort of unity between the pro teams, it is to create it.

Chris, as usual I couldn't disagree with you more. In a league or series someone has to end up being last, period. The way the leagues are with relegation suggest that teams can never step back and rebuild without the thought of being relegated. Or they have to create an additional team to develope talent, which also sucks money out of the organization (Not that i disagree with farm teams). So instead they have to over extend and pick up players and do things to keep themselves from getting relegated (IE the current frank connel issue). Is this really the atmosphere you think the professional level of our sport should operate within? Hard to create fans when your team changes COMPLETELY in the middle of the season.

My picket sign says "End Relegation".

Baca Loco said...

paintball you ignorant slut,
The point wasn't that Philly's focus is on xball. I asked the Philly question to demonstrate to Chris that his assessment was in error because Philly is one of the best funded pro teams and has a roster bought and paid for (unlike the majority of pro teams.) Their failure to be successful at 7-man had nothing to do with either their finances or the quality of their roster. D'oh!

raehl said...

First, no NPPL roster can change COMPLETELY in the middle of the season, unless NPPL has lost their balls and ignores the rules.

More generally, I don't think the professional level of our sport should operate in an atmosphere where winning isn't important.

Yes, someone has to end up last. But no one should be starting out the season playing for last. If your team doesn't think you can compete at the Pro level, then you should not be playing at the Pro level.

That's what relegation does. It filters out the teams who can't actually compete but just want to be Pro from the teams who actually can compete. And if teams don't want to compete because they think they are going to be relegated, fine, cut the number of teams in the Pro division to the point where the teams remaining ARE well-financed and ARE competitive.

Philly being able to add Frank to their roster is a separate issue - you can stop teams from changing their rosters by simply tightening the rules about when teams can change their rosters.

But I think Frank actually proves my point - with relegation, Philly has an incentive to field the best team they can to keep their spot. Take relegation away, they just have to show up. And while I might agree with you were paintball in a different place and a team made a pile more money on ticket sales and merchandising and other stuff the more they win, it's not like a 12th-of-18 paintball team is going to be seeing any payoff for the effort over just getting last - so if you've decided you're not competing for the top (which, if you're worried about relegation, is a decision you've made), you might as well just field the cheapest 7 players you can find.

And, finally, relegation doesn't mean teams can't play Pro if they lose. It just means they have to buy a spot again. It's basically prizes for lower-ranked teams: Place 1st through 15th and you win your spot back for next year. Taking away relegation is like giving everyone a prize just for putting 7 guys on the field 5 times. And there is NOTHING "professional" about that.

raehl said...

Baca, you've missed the point.

I never said well-financed teams won't lose. In a Pro division where all the teams are well-financed, a well-financed team IS going to lose. That's fine.

What I am saying is that with relegation, if you do not think you can compete, you won't waste your money playing, so only well-financed teams are even going to try.

If you take relegation away, now winning isn't important. You can have no intention of actually being a competitive Pro team, but make a speculative bet that if you just field 7 warm bodies, you'll at least have yourself a 'Pro' spot at the end of the season.

At the end of this season, 18 teams are going to have spots.
With relegation, they are going to have to decide whether they think they can compete next season - if they think they can, they'll play. And if they think they can't, they'll sell their spot to someone who doesn't have a spot but thinks they can compete.

Take relegation away, the teams with spots just have to decide if they think spots will be worth more next year. And if they do, then all they have to do is rent out their spot to whoever is willing to play - even if it's for $0 - and they keep their spot to try and sell later.

That is not, at all, good for having a competitive Pro division.

original-anonymous said...

baca slackin on his posts.. =)

Baca Loco said...

I have a life (kinda) and my postings aren't, for the most part, related to the latest web gossip. :-) Even so, some stuff coming soon.

If you can drum up a favorable relegation argument that has anything to do with reality I'm there.