Sadly this post isn't a two-leagues-enter-one-league-exits winner take all brawl. And Master Blaster is nowhere to be found. That would be a lot more fun than what this post is really about. So proceed at your own risk of disappointment, fully aware that boredom could be just a paragraph or two away.
No, no. No! Hang on. Wait a second. Let's have none of that! Forget that boredom talk, it's defeatist rubbish. (Sorry about that. A bit of left over negativity from The Pro Team Crack-Up, I suppose.)
This post is a voyage of discovery. Yeah, that's the ticket. An opportunity to examine the PSP from a different point of view and perhaps draw new conclusions. To glean fresh insights. Or deepen long held prejudices. Be inspired. Cry havoc. And loose the dogs of war! (Okay, I got a little carried away. Again. And, no, I'm not a manic depressive–most of my doctors agree--but I appreciate your concern.)
Let's begin with some factoids about the AXBL (which, for purposes of this post, includes the MXL). Each is a closed league comprised of 3 conferences/divisions of 7 teams (for '09) that totals 42 teams between the two leagues. There is a licensing (franchise) fee to acquire a team slot and entry fee/per player fees. One league is FPO and one isn't. The season was comprised of playing the other teams within your conference once (but will apparently be altered for '09) plus a league championship. (The AXBL has played original xball matches comprised of 2 - 25 minute halves while the MXL played 20 minute halves.) The teams are drawn primarily from New England, New York and Pennsylvania along with a few outliers. The leagues' sanctioned events are played over two-day weekends at pre-existing paintball field venues. Overall, the total cost to compete (including travel and related expenses) is significantly less for the majority of the teams than it would be to compete at say, D2, in the PSP.
This is just enough information to cause trouble as it allows for lots of possible arguments for or against without being able to settle any of them–and that's not the point. Suffice to say that each league has certain drawbacks and certain benefits and different teams and players can and will have a variety of reasons to choose one over the other. For example, AXBL offers potentially more on-field minutes played versus the PSP providing greater diversity of competition. Or AXBL cost versus PSP prestige.
What interests me is what appear to be AXBL strengths are, in one measure or another, PSP weaknesses. And if that's correct, what are the lessons to be drawn? I hasten to add there is no hard data here. There is little more than appearances and the inferences that might be reasonably drawn with an open mind. There are also some similarities. The AXBL has reduced each league by three spots this season. Some prices have gone up at the same time there will be less on-field paintball in the coming season. The AXBL went to a 4 event season over last year's 5. Issues of communication and refereeing cause friction between the league and the team owners. (Just like everywhere else.)
Here then is the critical item: Despite drawing a preponderance of its teams from a much smaller geographical area the AXBL has consistently maintained a full league. This year it will be 42 teams and in previous years it was 48. The AXBL has a stability the PSP doesn't and it has a structure that produces team owners. By broad definition here team owners are individuals or groups willing and able to take on the responsibilities of organizing and operating a paintball team.
Here's where you say, sure, okay but the PSP isn't exactly chopped liver and it's routinely dealing with much larger team numbers so what's the big deal?
Where the AXBL always knows who is competing the PSP is always guessing and has come to rely on part time team commitment. (A fact that plays havoc with the Iron Laws of Tournament Logistics.) Isn't that purely a property of running a more expensive national series? Maybe so but then tell me why the CFOA looks more like the PSP and shares many of the same concerns when they are a regional series. It's not because they are an expensive national series. Is it?
And what conclusions might we draw about the PSP's struggle over years to populate various upper level divisions, regardless of title; D1, Open, Semi-Pro where in the MXL the object of team owners is to advance to the AXBL? Where the PSP struggles the AXBL is organized, orderly and upwardly mobile by the consent and desire of the competing teams.
There have to be reasons for these stark differences, don't there?