Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Oh, I know, all the refs know peeps and have played on teams, blah, blah, blah. The point isn't to disqualify anybody from being a ref. It is to use that information in considering which fields to assign which refs to and to have available should any post event evaluation prove necessary. Such a move would also serve to reassure teams that the leagues were taking every possible measure to provide the most impartial officiating possible.
I'd also be interested in knowing what process, if any, exists for evaluating the on field effort of the refs. In the PSP and NPPL is it just Tim S. and Dave Z. trying to evaluate the quality of the officiating post event or is it even done? I have no idea but I am curious.
I do know -- in a slight change of pace -- that in recording penalties called in the NXL that data has accumulated on which refs called which penalties and that the league has no intention (zero, zip, nada) of EVER making that information available. I wonder why that is?
Now some of y'all no doubt are curious about the same things I'm curious about but others of y'all think I've got no business questioning much of anything related to what the leagues do and that I ought to be grateful for all the improvements the leagues have made in recent years. Hey, at least I'm not advocating feeding indigent children to poor people.
UPDATE: Now it's me and Mashadow. (Really bad gag, I know, and I'd apologise for it except I'm shameless.) It's building. Can you hear it? If I'm not mistaken that is the sound of momentum.
UPDATE II: Greetings to Dok the Unmerciful. (Okay, I added the unmerciful part but it just sounded right to me.)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It cost the league a substantial chunk of change to launch. A chunk they won't likely recover for a while but it was/is a worthwhile investment in the game and the league. Awesome job, Pat, Matty and everybody else. (Now I gots to figure out a way to attend events AND see the show.)
It will be interesting to see what comes out of all the recorded data in post production. Perhaps a multi-disc NXL set of World Cup '08? A Sunday Finals?
Great as it was there were a couple of "problems" I've heard about from a few peeps. One was drop out, losing the feed. I don't know how extensive that issue was nor how often it may have reoccurred but obviously it's important to limit the occurrences. The other thing I'd like to see is some sort of full field shot – if not an overhead shot (which seems like it would be hard to do given the normal set-up) perhaps something set up from opposite back corners? With a split screen you could see the whole breakout and it would, I think, make it easier to put each point into perspective. Just a thought.
Does the possible appearance of the mini-jumbotron (Is that like jumbo shrimp?) mean we might see a field layout with the X on, say, the D-wire? [There's discussion already about using the digital scoreboard display from the webshow on site broadcast to a big screen. Cool huh?] I know Damien has a few really unusual designs tucked away. Just saying.
Prediction: PSTA will be a highly exclusive PBIndustry club that uses its reach and influence to maintain as much marketplace control as possible. What'dya mean I didn't need to whack a goose to see that one coming?
Here's the thing. So far the PSTA doesn't appear to be set-up to take new members and so far the PSTA's "outreach" has been to Paintball Extravaganza. And interestingly enough PE is a project aimed at gathering all manner of PB retailers together in one place. Also interesting is that PE is the baby of the only guy on the PSTA board nobody ever heard of before (or at least isn't a well known, high profile PB bigwig). And what would an exclusive group of PB manufacturers like more than to meet, greet and sell to as large a gathering of PB retailers in one place at one time as possible? While acing out all that pesky competition?
Of course I could be completely wrong even though I did read Tarot Made Easy and had Madame Zelda assisting me with the tea leaves interpretation. In fact, I would like to be wrong. If you think I am wrong about this please set me straight. Here's a good place to start. It's been such a long time since I was wrong I've forgotten what it feels like.
If it weren't so pathetic it would be hilarious.
**Warning: totally unconnected segue** If the wacky and whack goings on in big time paintball make you want to tear your hair out take a deep cleansing breath and relax. By all means join the revolution but don't let it eat you up. Pull up a chair and kick back while you fight the power. With decisions on the horizon like some of the ones being currently considered it may not be too long before we're all singing hello to the new boss same as the old boss.
Back to the previously scheduled post.
As posted by our friends over at pbreserve (and confirmed) with regards to gats it seems the Millennium Series crowd are contemplating top to bottom league sponsorship rules and restrictions that would mean no product could be sold at an MS event if the manufacturer wasn't a sponsor of the league. This policy is already in place with respect to paint. And, as with the paint used, the MS is also considering restricting equipment used in the competition to the gear of league sponsors only as well.
Before having a good laugh over that insanity let's look at the paint situation and how it may lead into the latest derangement. The MS artificially restricts team access to paint by charging the paint producers usurious rates in order to sell at events. That reduces the teams sources of paint and creates a different price structure than might otherwise exist. Now they think they may want to do that to every other bit of gear as well but what will be the likely result? How many vendors are retail outlets? Are they supposed to only bring stock that everyone else plus the manufacturer will have? And how much are they supposed to pay for the privilege of competing with how many other sellers all selling the same stuff? And what is the likelihood of the MS getting battery manufacturers or battle swab makers to sponsor their event series? Most of the small or specialty equipment makers can't justify a vendor's booth much less a league sponsorship. The certain result of any such league restrictions is to freeze out all but the largest manufacturers. (So I can see why some of them might be in favor of this.) And we haven't even gotten to how it will affect team participation. As it currently operates no team in its right mind should have anything to do with the MS much less acquiesce to having some league dictate to them what gear they can and can't use. In the upper divisions they already pay a licensing fee to have a spot and then pay entries on top of that. If most Euros are so easily separated from their cash I'll need to start selling "pristine wetland parcels" in Florida to our foreign neighbors and charge a premium for letting them in on such a unique opportunity.
The best part of this is of course that variations of the same discussions are happening on our side of the pond, too and I bet you can guess by whom.
On the bright side, if the MS were to do this it would be an engraved invitation to start a competing league. And if anyone was greedy or stupid enough to try it over here it would be ritual seppuku, the public suicide of a paintball league.
[*] PBIlluminati refers to the small group of PB elites who have a piece of everything paintball and as a consequence have a hand in making nearly every important paintball decision.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The boundary of (any) sport is its rulebook and the frontline guardians of sport are the officials. Puts a bit of a twist on things, doesn't it? [If you're not sure what I mean it's this: the rules define what is and isn't part of the play of the game and the refs enforce those rules. It also means the willful failure to play by the rules is disrespecting the game. It also means the refs deserve our respect for their role--but it also means they have to treat their role with respect too. More on this in a minute.]
The place where competitive paintball gets into trouble is accountability. Here's how it shakes out: the players are accountable and nobody else is. If that doesn't sound right to you then pay close attention to this next part. On the field the players are accountable to the rules as enforced by the officials. Off the field they are accountable to sponsors, team management, each other. Failures of enforcement (on and off the field) aren't a lack of accountability. All the power and discretion reside with somebody other than the player.
Here's where the guardians of the sport stuff fits. The refs, the leagues and ownership are the ones responsible for maintaining the integrity of the game and none of them is accountable in any obvious way. The refs owe the game their best most impartial effort. The leagues owe their customers and the game fair oversight of their officials and it's the owners responsibility to see it all happens. Sure, the leagues may say they do their best to put good refs on the field but what does that really mean and can anybody offer up an example of how that works as a practical matter? You and I both know the leagues will almost inevitably back their refs against any accusations and whatever actions might be taken aren't made public. And who holds the owners accountable for their obligation to the game? They're making decisions about everything from format, to rosters, to time, to number of officials, and on and on. Every decision made or unmade can alter the game. How seriously is that responsibility taken?
Now I'm not saying all players are noble and virtuous and all the others are power mad and corrupt. Not at all. What I am saying is both sides need to respect the game, not just the players. In fact the refs, the leagues, the owners need to respect it more keeping in mind that part of their job is to protect the integrity of the game by actually doing the best job possible--not just giving it lip service. Or worse, thinking it's their game to do with as they please. That means that not only their attitude matters but also their competence and personal integrity. It seems like it's fair game to routinely call the players out--and it is when they are in the wrong--but out of line to call out the refs, the leagues or the owners. Or PBIndustry. (Which is frequently the same thing.)
Uncle Ben gave Peter Parker the creed he lives by (C'mon, you may not read Spiderman comix but you've seen the movie) when he told Peter that with great power comes great responsibility and in the realm of competitive paintball ALL the power is held by peeps other than the players. If you accept Uncle Ben's formulation that puts the players, regardless of their behavior, out of the loop and puts ALL the responsibility, in ascending order, on the refs, the leagues, the owners.
My purpose here isn't to suggest anyone indulge in wholesale blaming of refs, leagues and owners now for the perceived ills of the game instead of the usual blame the player. My purpose is to remind those who do have the power that they are indeed responsible for whatever becomes of the game precisely because we have no way to hold them accountable except by refusing to participate. And if they won't hold themselves to a high standard they've no right to expect it from anyone else–and further if it all comes crashing down they will have no one to blame but themselves.
One unintended consequence of the new webcast--which was a breakout event (and which I'll have more on shortly)--is that virtually EVERYTHING that happens on the field during a match is both broadcast and recorded. One example along the lines I'm thinking was the enforcement of a rule I call The Weathervane. I call it The Weathervane because a weather vane tells you which way the wind is blowing. The Weathervane is a no talking after elimination rule that assesses a minor penalty for an infraction. At Cup enforcement seemed to be predicated on which jersey a player was wearing -- or not wearing -- as the case may be. And I feel completely comfortable saying so BECAUSE there is a visual record of the event.
It's also given me an idea. I always video record our matches for instructional purposes and it has occurred to me there are other things I might want to videotape for evidentiary purposes in the future.
Did I hear somebody say instant replay? (Red flag tossing NFL style)
Or was it strange new accountability perhaps?
I wrote the attached column for PB2X last year with my son and this moment in mind. This isn't the end, just a new beginning.
VIEW FROM THE DEADBOX
A couple of weeks ago I met an Old Skool Bad Company player at a pump tournament playing with a former teammate of mine. He was low key but mentioned almost immediately he was from the time "when BC was good. Fourth in the world." I remembered when BC was a team to be feared but I didn’t recall his name, if I had ever even heard it before. There was a time though, not really all that long ago, when he was a player at the top of the game.
There was also a time when paintball celebrated the local hero, the guy who was the undisputed king of his field. The guy everyone hoped to best one day and in the meantime wanted to play with. Sometimes he was captain of the field team and other times just the player everyone else looked up to. It was good to be the king.
Today it’s surprising how well known many of the top players really are. At least it’s surprising to me. My son has played pro for some years now. The first few with Strange. In that time he’s had his share of attention but nothing like the hoopla of an Ollie Lang so it used to be surprising when time after time in unusual circumstances people would know him. Or more correctly know about him. Chance conversations with strangers that turned to paintball have on numerous occasions led to their excitement at meeting somebody who knows Matt as they or their kids or friends know him, like him, etc. And isn’t a local phenomenon. It has happened all over the place. From the left coast to the east. From rural podunk fields a thousand miles from home to conversations begun over non-paintball related business. And while I still find it extraordinary–and not a little gratifying (hey, he’s my kid, after all)–I’ve accepted that somehow a lot of people involved in paintball one way or another really do get into it in a serious way and that at another level the sport of paintball is reaching more people in ways that are hard to quantify or follow but nevertheless exist. And if it’s happening to him it must be happening to other pro players as well.
Ratchet that awareness up a couple of notches for the international superstars of the game who are sometimes better known for their antics and personalities than their play but known nonetheless. In recent years more players has meant more interest and more media–magazines, DVDs, internet video clips, personal accessibility thru dedicated paintball websites, forums and places like MySpace–and that outreach has made today’s players much bigger stars than the giants of yesteryear. They are sought after at events, pointed out by name and admired by a generation of hopeful up-and-comers who, more and more, want to be just like them. Sorta. What they want isn’t necessarily to be great players, it’s to be paintball celebrities.
But, but ...
Paintball celebrity and a token will get you a ride on the bus. Just ask the guy who used to be a world famous baller. I know a guy, a very entertaining and easy-going guy who once stood atop Paintball’s Olympus as one of the most recognizable and popular names in the game. It’s been awhile since he was a household name and though well-liked and well-known by his generation of players–and still a legend–I doubt if 50% of today’s tourney kids would know his name.
Glory is fleeting. Sic transit gloria mundi. That’s Latin by the way. The language of ancient Rome, long dead and gone. More accurately read as: Thus passes the glory of this world. It is spoken repeatedly as a reminder at the coronation of incoming Popes not to be overwhelmed by the pomp, prestige and power of their changing status. In ancient Rome a similar sentiment was whispered to those who were honored with a Triumph–kinda like a big parade celebrating you, your wealth and success. Bottom line: Fame isn’t forever. It’s transitory. Even illusory. In paintball glory is also brief. Oh sure, there’s lots of well-known, even famous–if you’re prepared to assign ‘fame’ status to some peeps that a fraction of a percent of humanity might recognize if they’re wearing their team jersey–but how many of you can name, much less recognize a half dozen paintball superstars of say, oh, seven years ago? Or even name the whole current Dynasty roster–and everybody knows who those guys are, right? (Of course some of you no-lifers can name the entire roster but you are the exceptions.)
In a celebrity driven society where anybody can have at least Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame by blubbering about their dysfunctional family on Dr. Phil or exposing their petty animosities on Judge Judy or their inability to sing to a national audience or their willingness to simply make spectacles of themselves on any random reality show–except the Amazing Race which is, you know, amazing–to the spoiled little rich girl who is famous for being famous and having a sex tape on the internet the whole idea of fame has become so debased as to be nearly meaningless. Where stories of chance meetings with actors or athletes or other celebrities become self-referential stories about the storyteller. Look at me. Pay attention to me. Bask in the reflected glow of the glow I’m reflecting from knowing so and so. Whoop-de-freaking-do.
Who are you?
It has been my (mostly) good fortune to have met and, in many instances, gotten to know at some level a number of big time players, both actual players and movers and shakers, in tournament paintball over the years. I have also been extremely lucky in that I’ve managed to loiter around the back door of some of the big happenings in recent paintball and relate my view to all of you. I have also met lots of ordinary ballers like you and me. I spent my playing days struggling in the middle ranks like most everyone else. And even the difficult times were mostly good times–because of a handful of friends it was shared with. Winning is a special reward and delivers a lot of satisfaction and a wall of trophies is nice but over time you will discover it’s the shared experiences, on and off the field, that mean the most. I know, it’s terribly corny but it’s true.
When it’s all said and done that is what is going to matter. Trust me on this. No matter how famous paintball may make you–and seriously, if it hasn’t made me famous what chance do you really have? Fortunately I have so far also avoided all the negatives of ballin’ celebrity; no admiring fans, no envious stares, no attracting unwanted attention, nobody making wearying demands on my time like asking for autographs and definitely nobody gushing about how memorable this or that time spent with me was. Of course it could also be my routinely angry, sullen expression or my uncanny resemblance to The Thing or the fact I’m older than dirt and just happen to believe that excessive bathing is unhygienic.
Today’s fame is tomorrow’s blank stares. The person standing in front of you isn’t about to ask for your autograph, he’s waiting for you to get out the way because there is always the next guy, the new superstar. And the best you’re ever gonna get from those adoring throngs is a passing recollection and a bit part in their memories of when they played the game. You’re unlikely to ever share a story over a drink or laugh with their friends so enjoy that fame while you can. In what, two years, five years maybe you won’t be the latest, coolest, hippest superstar anymore and in ten years it’s likely the majority of tourney players will have started playing long after you stopped playing (or stopped being a high profile player) and the best you’re likely to manage is "hey, you’re that guy."
If paintballin’ glory comes your way I’m not saying don’t enjoy it. I am saying, keep it in perspective. Here today, gone tomorrow. And while there’s definitely nothing wrong with taking pride in accomplishment if that’s all you take away from your time in paintball you will have missed out. I know most of you have attention deficit disorder (why after all, would our schools, health professionals and giant pharmaceuticals lie to us?) so I’ll give it to you in a nutshell. Fame really is fleeting. The hype doesn’t last and in the ways that count it isn’t even real. Play for pride, enjoy the ride, cherish your friends and don’t let it go to your head.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I'm frequently amused by the ongoing "debate" over what is the superior format as it usually devolves into robots vs. ninjas. You know, Xball versus 7-man from the proponents of 7-man. The Xball side usually musters the effective rebuttal, "Is not." And so it goes.
I'm not interested in arguing the relative merits of the formats, so I won't. But I do have one word for all you robots and ninjas.
You see, when competitive paintball left the woods it eventually left some things behind, like crawling. Oh, not right away and not altogether but what an Old Skooler thinks of when he thinks crawling in a paintball context isn't the crawling most of you know. And the distinction is instructive.
The introduction of hyperball began the intentional move out of the woods. Even so early hyperball fields were specifically designed to incorporate elements of play that acknowledged the then accepted skill set of competition paintball--and it included crawling. In time airball altered the game some more--but again, where do you think the notion of a snake came from? Crawling. So, in a sense we still incorporate crawling as an accepted (and valued) skill in competition paintball but it isn't really anything like it once was. As the competition environment changed so did the skill and its utility.
There are more than a few insights to be drawn from the example of crawling as it applies to the whole robots versus ninjas debate. I'll leave you to think on it and next week I'll get into in depth until I make you cry, 'Uncle.'
Not exactly a revelation I know but unlike the excesses of irrational exuberance--which are, by implication, largely self-inflicted--this time around there may be no good answer. Any tournament but particularly the large scale events have to calculate virtually every feature from a projected scale long before the actual event which means they are always balancing between too much and too little. Too little fails to maximize the event's potential and too much eats up gross receipts with unnecessary expenses.
Now you might be thinking, and not unreasonably, well, if that's the way the process always works what's the big deal?
The big deal this time is that there is no good data to help guide the needed decisions. Even with the irrational exuberance there were legit reasons, or seemingly legit, reasons for decisions made. This time I doubt last year's numbers are a worthwhile guide to projecting next year's potential. Nor the last 5 years trend numbers. And just where in paintball's history is anything that will help project a downturn of uncertain dimension? It ain't there. Toss into the mix the widely divergent current views of just how severe the recession will be and it's duration and preparing for next year is a crap shoot at best. If you reduce the series to 4 events you reduce costs but you also increase the importance of each event and suddenly there is even less room for making a mistake. (Of course you also increase scarcity... )
And all the required calculations are further complicated by the present condition of each league which alters their considerations this way and that.
There will be no off season this year for anyone but the players. Getting it wrong this time around will likely spell disaster--at least for the current order.
If you were expecting some wondrous insights I apologise--mostly this post was just me working out some general anxieties, a minor exercise in temporary catharsis--so I can go to Cup tomorrow and forget about all this junk for a while.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Here's where you come in. Commenting on this post poses no risk at all and, who knows, might someday even be to your benefit.
My question to y'all is what do you think of the idea--and how open do you think dedicated teams might be to the idea?
(Leaving out for the time being my actual fitness to accomplish this particular goal. Which isn't irrelevant but I do have a modest record of some success in this area.)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I also thought I'd get ahead of the curve and offer up some predictions early--before the Cup crowd of Paintball Illuminati gather to chart our collective futures (think of this moment in time as the few days leading up to the activation of Skynet)--and save yourselves all the anxiety of waiting for the inevitable rumors and half-truths to start circulating.
The following is a prediction. It is not based on advance information I've been made privy to or disinformation either. It is an educated guess.
8 teams. The league might manage 10 but I'm having a hard time seeing how right now. Some very important decisions are going to made between Cup and, say, Christmas. There's a new variable in the mix I hadn't previously considered (which was stupid on my part because the precursors were there some time ago.) Anyway, I won't name teams as I can't be positive and speculation along those lines would be grossly unfair. 5 or 6 teams are virtually a lock and the shake-out will come from the others and the couple (or so) teams that currently are thinking they want in.
In a previous post I suggested in passing that I hoped the PSP managed '09 with no more than a 30% decline. I'm afraid that may have been too optimistic. Unfortunately there is also no way to implement the Pro Circuit between now and the start of next year--assuming the highly unlikely event of the PBIlluminati actually considering such a change. And without the Pro Circuit alternative methods of supporting the NXL would almost certainly conflict with the operation of the PSP. If the option to restructure the NXL isn't on the table then I hope the simpler course of cutting costs will be seriously considered--and which might add up to 10 teams but there is still a huge complication in the offing. (If you're a newcomer check out the Pro Circuit posts in the Archives to see what it's all about.)
More likely might be a reduced season schedule. Given that one way of looking at dropping one event would be a cost reduction of 20% for teams (and something less for the PSP) intending to compete for a series. And for everybody else a one or two event option would remain. The calculation for the PSP then becomes how many teams do we need over 4 events and when and where are the events held? The other question is how does a 4 event season impact league income from sponsors, etc?
One more prediction: the webshow will not have enough paying customers to make the PSP happy this time around--and if World Cup can't draw the numbers they want then what? Regardless, this is a project that ought to be pursued. Easy for me to say but even so. (I'll have more on the webshow and the Big Picture once I find out what all the PSP has in mind. )
Trade off number one is image. (I was tempted to say integrity but who am I kidding?) But seriously, it's one thing to sell the dark side on the down low and another thing altogether to push everybody's face in it. [If you missed the Clockwork Orange post check the archives or just go down a few posts.] Sure, football can be brutal and violent but you don't see the NFL announcing the fact in flashing neon lights, do you?
Trade off number two is the transitory nature of such a campaign. It gets old fast and so does the target market. When the gimmick is to push-the-envelope of pseudo outlaw cred everybody plays the one up game. Let's call it Madonna Syndrome. She's started her career playing teeny bopper streetwalker and had to constantly up the ante once everybody got used to the old provocations. Eventually she's getting crucified nightly on stage and everyone yawns. It's not a sustainable strategy. The other thing is the target group changes even faster. Even with delayed (or extended) adolescence the teenage male demographic isn't exactly renowned for its attention span or brand loyalty. It's nearly enough to make you think a good sized chunk of Paintball is get rich quick scam artists looking to turn a fast buck.
Okay, that topic is officially done to death.
Is it agg yet?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Update: turns out the audio piece is likely part of a video trailer that will be posted sometime today on the PSP website. Check it out.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Jungle, the rec paintball companion mag to Facefull, is an even better title. Is "jungle" any kind of synonym for woods when translated into French? I don't know but it seems unlikely. Maybe it makes perfect sense to our Brazilian friends in the Amazon basin but otherwise no PC'er in the English-speaking world would be caught dead using the word jungle--it's insensitive to, er, jungles, as the word has pejorative implications if you're a sophisticated urban elitist. As such it always brings a smile to my face.
I only got a few pages into the digital issue when I ran across an item about this happy blog. It reminded me that like all mass media there is an endless demand for content. And, I must say, I've no objection to helping out. Particularly as the Facefull folks chose not to warn everyone to avoid the VIEW at all costs. Generous of them. Don't know if it will bring many new readers as paintball and literacy don't exactly go hand in hand. (Present company excluded of course.)
On the subject of paintball magazines and media a friend of mine called me recently and wanted my opinion on the state of his sanity. You see, he owns a successful team that hasn't attracted much attention at all and lately he's heard a rumor or two suggesting his team is being blackballed. We got into it in more detail than I'm gonna pass along but the upshot was nobody is out to get him or his team--but then again, nobody is banging down his door to tell his story either. Sadly the explanation doesn't involve an international conspiracy of Jennifer Garner look-a-like robot women. (A guy can hope, can't he?) The simple truth is that paintball doesn't have the resources to search out diverse content nor attract diverse talents. And beyond that paintball tends to be sorta repetitive after a while. Snap-shooting made easy? Make moves like a Pro? For the third time this year? Or my personal pet peeve; the event report. Randomly check any event report and see how amazingly generic it usually is. Most of the time you can change place names and winning teams and never know the difference between them. Explains some of the stuff you've seen in print before though, doesn't it? In my friend's situation mix in more attention given lately to the rec side and shrinking page counts and the whole thing loses its sinister edge. The last thing I suggested to him applies to anyone looking for some paintball publicity--don't wait for it to come knocking on your door. Odds are, it won't. If you've got a story to tell then you've got a story you need to sell.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Paintball has made great strides in recent years as demonstrated by our TV successes. Today Paintball shares airtime on ESPN 2 with events like World’s Strongest Man, the National Spelling Bee, pro bowling from places like Akron, Ohio, championship dominos, the LPGA and the Outdoor Games which features lumberjacks, log rolling, axes and chainsaws. Look out arena football and major league lacrosse. Life is good. The sky’s the limit. But it could be better. And it follows from our success that the methods used have proven to be effective. Paintball has made great strides in the right direction with girls, girls, girls, homegrown paintballin’ celebs and tangential associations with popular music and performers. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in order to bump our sport’s profile even higher in the public consciousness. We can build on our current efforts but girls and paintball celebs will only take us so far. It’s time to learn from other more successful sports.
What is needed is a plan for expanding public perception and awareness. If you’re thinking more and better paintball action presented in a coherent and entertaining way you’re still thinking inside the box. It’s not about the Game, it’s about appearances. It’s about popularity and appealing to the non-ballin’ public. After all, we’ve already got the players hooked. It’s the mass of uninterested, non-players we’re after now.
Connecting with the public
What’s the first thing you see and who gets face time at major sporting events? No, not the athletes, dufus. It’s the A-list celebrities, doh. So clearly the first thing Paintball needs is to attract the jet set crowd. Celebrities deliver instant credibility and cache. Celebrities would make being seen hanging out at paintball events the cool thing to do. How do we grab them? Celebrities love goodie bags full of free gifts so if Paintball starts handing out the freebies while doing some obsequious fawning we should be golden. (We already do sponsorships so it isn’t that much of a stretch, right?) I say bribe the shallow and narcissistic starlet du jour if that’s what it takes. Forget your pride and dignity, it’s all about the Game and you do what needs doing if you really care. Or maybe not. As we all know that kind of money doesn’t exist in paintball which is why we need to get this mainstreaming business going pronto. If we can’t buy celebrity attention we must be prepared to take it to the next level to encourage celebrity participation.
Here’s a few ideas: hold their pets hostage to their tourney appearances, threaten to torch their agents’ offices, break into their Beverly Hills plastic surgeon’s office and steal their 'before' photos or hook their genitals up to car batteries until they beg to attend paintball events. If that’s too extreme for you pansies try hiring some dog whisperer to the stars who is willing to swear celebrity pooches prefer paintball to chasing frisbees. Or get some unscrupulous cat psychic who insists there’s an epidemic of feline depression that can only be filled by extreme paintball action. Maybe find some feng shui guru to design the grandstand field for ultimate harmony or get a radical psychologist to promote paintball instead of the mass medicating of their brats. And if we get really desperate we could hire a Dyan Cannon and Jack Nicholson look-a-like to sit courtside. Nobody ever sees them anymore anyway except at Laker games.
Our very own superstars also need to begin making the necessary sacrifices to reach a wider audience. After all, what do sports heroes do? Whatever it takes. Where are the illegitimate kids? Pro basketball has hundreds of ‘em. What about drug busts? Do a stretch in lockup for the good of the Game. The least you could do is confess to steroid use or maybe take a couple cycles of hgh. And where are the weepy public apologies and trips to the rehab clinics? Or the candid expose type photos in the weekender sections of the newspaper’s society section? How about a drunken fight or two at least? Even better, a drunken fight or two between teammates. After a few Nick Nolte-esque Smoking Gun style mug shots released to the media Paintball will be on top of the world. Paintball made these peeps who are they are today and while it may not be a popular stand to take, by golly, they owe the sport something in return. It’s called giving back.
Okay, we’ve got a plan for building a celebrity fan base but that’s only half the program.
Keeping it real
Mainstream sports thrive on rivalries. Yankees versus the Red Sox. Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins. The Lakers versus the Celtics. Michigan versus Ohio State and Notre Dame versus pretty much anybody ‘cus everybody hates Notre Dame, right? The point is these rivalries transcend the sports fan’s normal interest simply because they are told the teams involved have a long history of competition and a rabid hatred for each other. This a another area where our superstars are letting us down. Sure, they yap a bit and talk a lot of smack and bonusball each other during games but that’s just not good enough. What with the anonymity of goggles and the lack of a focal point most of the best confrontations don’t get the big audience. It’s time to get serious. What’s needed are public calling outs, bitter denunciations, mocking, trash-talking media interviews and the occasional pit clearing brawl. But no slapping. I realize this is gonna require some special training to give the fisticuffs some verisimilitude but if Paintball is serious we must take every available measure. Just think of it, fines for misconduct and routine public pronouncements from the commissioner’s office attempting to quell all manner of outrageous gossip and innuendo. Can the sports pages and talk radio be far behind?
Now we’re making progress!
Roll the dice
What do other successful sports have going for them that Paintball doesn’t? Here’s a hint: What’s the other hot, hot, hot fad "sport" right now? Poker on TV. Why is poker a TV success? I like to call it the three-legged stool of success; celebrities, gambling and freaks. We’ve got the celebrity angle covered already. And Paintball is blessed with more freaks than a carnival sideshow. (Of course there’s also a fair amount of crossover between celebrities and freaks so all those twofers are a bonus.) But gambling is where the successful mainstream sports have the big advantage over Paintball. Legal and illegal betting makes the sports world tick. When there’s money riding on the outcome–your money–sport takes on a whole new level of intensity and interest. When a match of also rans might normally elicit a yawn at best consider what the opportunity to cash in on a team’s mediocrity means. Unwarranted attention and emotion expended without regard to the match’s consequences in a purely sporting sense because peeps are winning or losing big on the result. This is the beauty of gambling on sports. It makes each match, each point, each penalty matter. It magnifies every contest all out of normal proportion and the big winner is ... Paintball! Imagine the action outside the NXL arena during an event. Betting windows open for action taking bets on individual match outcomes, working combos on the daily results, picking the division winners, the Sunday match-ups–the list is almost endless. Talk about your crowds. Paintball will need arenas just for the gamblers. We’ll also need oddsmakers, expert touts, record books for following the teams and players, websites for off track betting and more. A whole new sub-industry. Can garbage collection and linen services be far behind? You want more paintball on TV? Show them the money!
There you have it, kids. A blueprint for future success. Paintball has the leadership in place that can make this happen. Men of vision and determination who will leave no stone unturned in the quest to mainstream Paintball. Now is the time for the rest of us to stand and be counted, to step up to the challenge facing us and willingly take our places beside our leaders and with one voice affirm our commitment to helping Paintball achieve the level of recognition, admiration and support it deserves. Together we can lift Paintball into the Sports stratosphere and beyond, using the traditional recipe to sporting success; celebrity involvement, grossly offensive and anti-social public behavior by our athletes and gambling. What are we waiting for?
Instead of doing a recap and an outline for laying a foundation–-which was the original plan–-I'm simply gonna suggest a few sign posts for PBI to consider keeping in mind as the process moves forward. What should happen and what should the development of the PSTA look like if it's on track? (And by 'on track' I'm taking some liberties since I mean on track as I think it ought to be. You may, of course, have a different opinion. Which is, as has already been established in the sidebar of this blog, a position you may want to reconsider.)
Signs Your Industry Trade Assoc. May Actually Serve Your Whole Industry
1. trade assoc. has a defined and enumerated mission statement and/or purpose
2. operation and function of the trade assoc. is transparent (and I don't mean invisible.)
3. open to all legitimate members of the industry
4. provides an opportunity and methodology to give voice to all the members
5. actions taken / choices made are consistent with the association's charter / mission / purpose
Right. That'll get the party started. And by all means, if you've got any additional ideas, feel free to post 'em up in comments.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Disclaimer: I'm using Severe here as it's current as today's mass email promotion and because the symbology might as well be a two-by-four upside the head. They aren't alone. As a product it's perfectly good paint. That's not the issue.
Paintball is rife with little Alex DeFarges (the Malcolm McDowell character pictured in the promotion) and everybody these days wrings their hands and bemoans the destructive (usually adolescent) behavior permeating tournament paintball. (And slowly leaking into every facet of paintball.) Newsflash, kids! If you'd like to pass out some blame start by looking in the mirror. Your marketing and promotion encourages anti-social and borderline violent behavior and y'all have been doing it for years. You know, the whole reaping and sowing thing?
I know, I know, you're self-righteously not having any. Dishing out culpability to PBI(ndustry) because of the outlaw rebel fantasy marketing seems over the top. You aren't responsible, you say. It's like saying video games make kids violent in real life. Maybe so. And if everyone was more or less well-adjusted a bit of bad boy fantasy would probably be harmless. But PBI isn't operating in a cultural or social vacuum. At worst what's happened is that a grown-up fantasy (that grown-ups don't take seriously) has served to feed a pre-existing beast and at best has done absolutely nothing to discourage the worst instincts of a lot of little pukes.
Beyond the facts on the ground it's also demonstrative of a couple of other PBI failings; namely rampant self-destructive me-too-ism. Ever wonder why nearly every marketing scheme is a variation on the same themes? Or why every year's new line of hip, cool, trendy T-shirts look just like everybody else? Cus it's paintball's predictable ripoff of other extreme sports gimmicks. It's fear and lack of creativity. And while everybody talks a good game and PBI is suddenly interested in actually promoting the game what is it outsiders see? Is the bigger problem ungrateful smack-talkin' bonusballing mouthbreathers or an industry-wide campaign in recent years to promote a gun related activity by aggrandizing angry, anti-social outlaw narcissism.
All that from one e-advert. Damn, I'm good. Alienated yet?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The revolution is coming.
Enough of that.
I've got a plan. It's a cunning plan. (VFTD e-prize to anyone who can identify the reference.) Here it is: Everyone coming to Cup bring a video camera and go crazy. Tape everything. Follow paintball celebs everywhere. Shoot your team's matches. Tape the pits. Interview the refs. Follow Keely everywhere she goes. Review the event live as you participate. Rate the vendors, the food, the omnipresent Disney simulacrums spying on everyone. Take your cameras to Old Town and Downtown Disney. Everywhere you go. That's the first step.
Step two is upload edited or unedited tape to YouTube.
Not only would it be hilarious to see during Cup--it would be like being surrounded by Japanese tourists--and for once there would be at least a partial video record of the thousand and one stories that happen at every World Cup.
What are you waiting for? Get your battery chargers ready and stock up on tape.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The past is littered with failed attempts but attempts at what? Were they really sincere efforts to engage PBI in a united effort? If they were and failed from apathy perhaps the current environment will have grabbed PBI's attention.
Do you recall from a couple years ago when the NPPL and the PSP were sounding off about world league federations? Did you like the sound of it? Where is it today? PSP even included federation talk on their website. Where is it today? My point isn't that PBI has had lots of good ideas but failed to follow through–my point is that all the federation talk wasn't what it seemed to be. The purpose was to compete with the other guy. The accomplishment of the stated goal was incidental. You oldsters will remember the space race of the 50's and 60's. The results have had a widespread impact on all sorts of things but the primary motivation was a competition between superpowers. Same with the world federation talk. And as soon as one side lost the other lost interest.
Which brings us back to the freshly minted PSTA and their scheduled shindig with the PB Extravaganza Dealer Trade Show. Is this the beginning of a unified face for paintball or is it just another B-to-B event? In the comments to Part One pbi man invoked SGMA and gave out the PSTA's website so anyone interested could follow up. SGMA (Sporting Goods Manufacturers Assoc.) is primarily a relationship (to retail) and lobbying entity. Will they have a useful contribution to make? I expect they will. But if the PSTA ends up being a mini-SGMA it will have forfeited an opportunity. If that's all that happens it will be an improvement over the present but there are other ways it could go. Why isn't the PSTA prepared to sign up, right now, today, all legitimate members of PBI and welcome them on board? And they already have a Board of Directors? As a natural cynic that looks like the recipe for exclusivity, not inclusivity but hopefully I'm mistaken. It could be I'm just impatient.
Anyway, if you'd like more info check out Warpig and send any queries you have to the PSTA .
Additionally the latest PR from the PSP wants y'all to know Paintball Events Unlimited LLC (you will see them at the Warpig presser) and Paintball Extravaganza (them too) will have a booth at Cup. Maybe you unacknowledged members of PBI should ask them if they want you to join them or be their customers. Just saying.
And if you'd like to do a comparison check out the WPC site.
Could be now is the time to start heating up that tar.
[Update: my html sucks but all the links are now working as intended.]
And the big finish–
Part Four: Making Moves
UPDATE: I've changed it to Sign Posts
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Didn't watch the presidential debate. Didn't need to. It's the Commie or the Crank. And they call this democracy? On the other hand there is a silver lining to the current economic crisis. Whoever gets elected is gonna be severely constrained in the amount of additional damage they can do. That's today's happy thought. And, no, it's not off topic 'cus I'm gonna tie it all in to paintball.
The experts in Washington (who bear a remarkable resemblance to the cretins responsible for the credit crisis) have assured us that a 700 billion dollar infusion of liquidity into the market will get the wheels of industry rolling again. Yeah, right.
The whispered word from a smoke filled windowless room in the aforementioned Holiday Inn Express (cha-ching!) is Paintball could be facing its own liquidity issue, as in paint. It's said the margins are so small these days and with costs everywhere in the system fluctuating almost daily and the dollar in the dumper it's putting a major squeeze on the manufacturers. Are we due for more consolidation in paint production? How do you feel about shooting Chinese paint? (And did you know the subject of Chinese paint makes peeps in some sectors seethe with rage? It does.)
If you're disappointed in the lack of details keep in mind paint is the life blood of the game and its availability, price and quality have a big impact. Paint is the canary in the coal mine of paintball fitness. (Wow! That metaphor made even me cringe.)
With the first post up less than 6 hours it was suggested to me that I must be looking to be run outta paintball on a rail after being liberally tarred and feathered. I want to say categorically that wasn't the plan. So save your tar and feathers and don't bother going to Home Depot and picking up that rail.
Once upon a time there were 3 paintball fields located around a major metropolitan area. (Everybody loves a story, right? Well, you're getting one anyway. This one is more of a fable really–a story with a moral. And pay close attention because there will be a quiz at the end.) 2 of the 3 fields were model operations. The third was a fly-by-night, next thing to pirate paintball, make some quick cash dealio. Imagine you own one of the model operations. Now imagine that in the next year 1000 people who have never played paintball before will play one of those 3 local fields. Here's the twist: You get to decide which field they play at it except it can't be yours. What do you do?
The single overriding characteristic of all paintball that drives every aspect of the endeavor at every level is the player. Singular. Yes, it's an aggregate of players that eventually makes the difference between success and failure in a given circumstance but thinking about the players as a group is misleading. The thing that matters is a quality all players share. The player plays the game when and where the player chooses to play. The player is a free consumer of paintball. I know, no duh, but think about it for a second. Besides the obvious it means the player can't be coerced and the paintball market in total is made up of the pool of players. I know, another no brainer when you stop to think about it but it's important nonetheless. For PBIndustry (everybody with fields, stores, factories and the materiel components of events) this means they are all selling to the same pool of players--and, the players are a freely self-identifying association.
So how did you divvy up the 1000 players? If you sent any of them to Blackbeard over at Pirate Paintball–BZAAPPP! You lose. Thanks for playing and don't let the door hit you on the way out. As an isolated situation it may seem like a tough call no matter what choice is made but it really isn't. The 1000 players aren't yours. (Yet.) So those players don't affect your bottom line. (Today.) But if you send them to pirate paintball for bloody welts, eye patches and machine gun massacres what percentage ever play again? And how many haven't-tried-it-yet players do they sour afterwards because of their experience? Now if you sent them all to the other model operator you know the 1000 players were far more likely to have a positive, safe, fun day of paintball. And the likelihood is a much higher percentage become repeat customers. And as repeats you now have an opportunity to compete for their business.
The other guy's loss isn't your gain. Players choose. The first goal all PBI hold in common is getting the non-player to choose to play. When they become a player is the time you compete for the choices they make.
A couple of factors have blinded PBIndustry to the merits of operating in common. Manufacturers tend to be wholesalers primarily dealing with retailers so are one further remove from the player and are in day-to-day competition with the other manufacturers for market share and indirect sales. (Let's skip what happens when manufacturers become retailers for now.) Retailers are local and tend to see the other guy's success as their loss. And of course when things were good there's little incentive to make that extra effort and take on extra work.
Additionally, the calculation everybody is determined to make is where do I lose on this proposition. Not what do I gain, but what's it gonna cost me? What advantage am I giving up? I'm not gonna argue cost or rate of return or shrinking margins. What I will say is this: operating in common where it serves everyone's interest doesn't alter the competitive environment except to acknowledge that everybody's life blood is the player base and building and sustaining that base is something that none of y'all can do as effectively alone as cooperatively.
To date the bulk of the energies expended by PBIndustry have been aimed at selling to more of the existing players than the next guy. Which, on its face, isn't unreasonable. What it does however is cede a significant avenue of potential growth to random happenstance or at best the skill of each local field and store. Grow the player pool and there's more market for everybody. Which is another no brainer and not news to anybody. And yet--
Part Three: been there done that & the (next wave) Paintball Sports Trade Assoc.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Warning: Conceptual Stuff ahead. Boring and uncool. Devoid of rumor and gossip.
PBIndustry as a whole has failed to act on significant opportunities to improve the economic environment in the past and the time is rapidly approaching when this failure could have dire consequences and ought to be addressed. I can't tell you why this failure has occurred and it's all the more baffling because PBI(ndustry) is well aware of the concept I'm about to promote and aspects of its utility and yet only a few piecemeal efforts seem to have been made.
The idea is simple. That PBI shares a large proportion of all things paintball in common and it would be beneficial to PBI to acknowledge that fact and then act on it.
It begins with Standards & Practices. (See prior posts for related commentary, search by label) S&P is shorthand for a system of general agreements consented to by PBI (broadly) and accepted as beneficial to paintball and all its participants. S&P has internal and external applications as well as overlapping applications.
Here's an example: goggles. PBI that makes and sells goggles compete over looks, comfort and ease of use--not safety. There is an industry standard for safety set by the ASTM. There are liability and practical reasons. Safety standards as judged by an impartial authority minimize liability and assure that no reputable PBI is poisoning the well with unsafe, inferior equipment. This is a common interest.
Why does this matter? It is going to become increasingly important that PBI take the necessary steps to implement S&P as the working foundation for building and maintaining (sustaining) the paintball marketplace. And by paintball marketplace I mean every aspect of the infrastructure that makes playing paintball possible.
The reason this is, in my view, a necessity is because a contraction is coming, not simply the previously unexpected plateau of a couple of years ago. [The contraction I'm referring to is a real decline in the Pool of All Players. (All Players is defined by raw numbers and frequency.) That contraction will be precipitated by a widespread economic contraction.] The duration of the contraction as it affects PBI may be influenced by actions PBI can begin to take now. And related to that is the experience of not being prepared to take an active role in the development and maintenance of the paintball marketplace which has already caused a few members of PBI to reconsider their future strategies and which I'm advocating should be held in common.
S&P is the first step because it begins the process of general agreements that will provide stability for the more wide ranging and proactive possibilities (which I'll get into in future installments.) It is, after a fashion, baby steps in cooperation, trust building and shared goals and values. S&P would also serve to provide a baseline universal guarantee to customers and create membership value within PBI. S&P would also be a hurdle to potential start-up PBI.
S&P would also begin the conversation about the future of paintball and include a wider circle of participants.
Part Two: productive competition and unproductive competition
Friday, October 3, 2008
The result is located just above the Archives well down the sidebar and as you can see I still reject "follower" so in it's place I've created the far more moderate and lovably ironic Deadbox Puppet Army. One good thing about it is that it's also a link to info about the member(s) which is a tasty bite of technological sweetness that only required a couple of mouse clicks. [Check out Numero Uno, the soldier of misfortune, PBAgenda.] While there will be no followers here there really won't be much of an army either. The Deadbox Puppet Army is for those of you who have a hard time following orders. Who have the urge to bite the hand that feeds you. Who aren't big on fads or fashion and who find the myriad of other paintball armies just a little bit sad. (No, kids, not your paintball army--those other guys paintball armies.)
No followers. No puppets. No army. Fans of the View, awesome. If that's you then you're welcome to join the fanarchy.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
While I applaud the effort and certainly don't mind the collateral promotion one of the reasons for starting this blog in particular was to offer a forum where intelligent conversation and debate is actually welcomed and not shouted down by the mob. (Doesn't mean there won't be any disagreement--there ought to be disagreements but ones conducted in a productive manner.) I know perfectly well why some you are reticent to post but this blog won't and can't fulfill its intended purpose if'n y'all are skeered to post even as anonymous.
Update: It's official. Hinman has released a public statement light on detail while being politically correct (in paintball terms). Ostensibly the issue was competing in two leagues became too heavy a commitment for a team of primarily young players with other real world commitments. And that may be completely true. Almost all of my guys have school and/or work issues too as, I'm sure, do members of nearly every team out there. Even so don't discount the cost of competing in this equation. I know I sound like Chicken Little here on the subject of failing pro teams but that only makes me annoying, not wrong.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Just got a look at the finals & divisional field layout and my first impression is that the round 1 field should have been the finals and divisional field. The reason is the round 1 field is almost certainly the easiest field to play in the sense it has most of the traditional xball features and the least demanding bunker placement which I think make it a better divisional layout though perhaps not ideal for an NXL final. The other two fields are deconstruction / reconstructions of that layout--or so it appears to me. It may not really matter as divisional teams are likely to simply ignore some of the complexities and just play the damn field.
Just an observation--not taking a shot. Overall, a solid progressive design.
Course, most folks are probably imagining this is just the PSP covering territory already covered by the NPPL and why wouldn't they? PSP hasn't made it clear that it is in the process of attempting a grander vision that doesn't stop when the last bonusball (or ten) explodes on the back of some unlucky head. Then again it may be wise to not raise too many expectations when they haven't done this before. And, whatever you do, don't infer anything from what I'm saying here. I know a bit of this and bit of that but exactly how this will roll out and how quickly and effectively it all ramps up even I wouldn't hazard to guess.
Let me say this--be cautiously excited. It has the potential to be an important step forward.