Thursday, April 16, 2009

Paintball Sucks!

For the players, by the players. Say it with me. For the players, by the players. A simple slogan, it's ashes to one generation and the incoherent hope for change of another. The nebulous embodiment of what tournament paintball ought to be, could be, should be--if only. It's also the mantra of stoned nostalgia and the dazed and confused rallying cry of the terminally witless.

If I've lost you already you must have spent the last few years living in a refrigerator box in your parent's garage huddled fearfully in the dim flickering of a penlight, wrapped in attic insulation. Oh, wait, that was me. I know it sounds at best claustrophobic but after a while being surrounded by the dark, the warmth and the sound of your (or actually my) heart beating it becomes quite comforting.

Oh, yeah.

For the players, by the players. Shorthand for that Shangri-la of tourney ball, the event or series run by the players for the benefit of the players. What could possibly be better? Playing our game on our terms. For the players, by the players. If only we could get back there again... Oh, hang on, there is the USPL. It's by the players for the players, right?
If you have failed to grok where this is going I am about to shatter tournament paintball's most enduring illusion. (It's the latest act of my winning friends and influencing people world blog tour.)
It's a gimmick; a pipe dream at best and a con at worst.
You see, it's too abstract. Like a politician's promise. It doesn't really mean anything specific because it's not supposed to. It's meant to appeal to as wide a segment of the target audience as possible, meant to mean whatever you want it to mean. There's no there there because as soon as discreet decisions start being made someone is going to start disagreeing.
But we need a definition. The obvious one is a literal one. A league of players and teams run by the players and teams in the interest of the players and teams. By that definition it's never happened at all.
Back in the earliest days of the original NPPL it was an organization of teams, not promoters. And that original ideal didn't last. Once the “league” was incorporated instead of being the framework for ordering the idea it became the means that ultimately co-opted the dream and catalyzed power in the hands of a relative few. It isn't my intention to argue the merits of how the original ideal of the NPPL changed or why--only that it did. But even in the good old days member Pro teams had one vote and member Am teams had three-fifths of a vote. (For those of you with a modest knowledge of American history that three-fifths of a vote thing ought to ring a bell. I'm just saying.)
The PSP is the current state of evolution of the original NPPL. (More or less.) Some might argue that characterization but not because of 'for the players, by the players.' And, in their favor--to my way of thinking--the PSP isn't playing that card.
The Pure Promotions NPPL staked out some of the same rhetorical ground as the legendary NPPL and promoted some committees filled with selected player reps but those committees were limited to play of the game issues like rules. The practical result was the appearance of active player involvement. Now this isn't a terrible thing but it had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with running that incarnation of the league.
The Pacific Paintball NPPL mostly followed the Pure Promotions NPPL model with a Shawn Walker “rah-rah” twist but no substantive differences.
The USPL is a bit different but it ain't for the players, by the players either. It's for the owners by the owners who just happen to be teams, not players. At least (for now) all the USPL wants to do is operate a tournament series. And if they want to solicit opinions, ideas or encourage teams to feel connected to the league I think that's swell.
But please, enough with the for the players by the players.


anonachris said...

uh oh... angry phone call in 5, 4, 3, 2...

Spot on post. But generally you could make a beef with any marketing slogan anyone picks... You could pull up counter-factuals to any slogan and make the company seem "wrong".

So maybe the beef with "the players" bit is it's disingenuous in the fact that it's claiming you have some kind of shared decision making power, while you're really just the tool you've always been.

Well, not you... I mean, you as in us...well, not me, but you get it.

Martin said...

BTPFTP is a dream at best, and a nightmare in reality - especially on the scale that truely National events require.

You are never going to find a person or organisation to do it without attempting to turn a profit (which is good and commercial but against the socalist ideal that BTPFTP espouses)

One way around it is by having a board which runs the events reporting to a 'shareholder' base who are the owners. (ala PSP with Lane as CEO) ... but in this case the shareholder base are the teams.

Voting rights for the teams are decided based on number of events that teams have attended in the last 3 years (as run by the series) - with a complicated matrix to decide 'shareholding' which I won't get into via this post.

Anyway - agree with ya Baca. But there are many ways to skin a cat to TRY and make it work ;)

MissyQ said...

I would love to see a league that is actually for the players by the players. I would go to its first and only event. If I show up at 2.30 in the afternoon I might catch the first game, which is good, as I would probably have to ref it....
People want a product. They don't want to create it, fund it or deal with it between events, but they want it to fall within their budget, and most importantly, to be able to bitch about it and claim they could do it better had they had the chance. Given this chance, they would most likely fail. Such is life. If a league could in fact be run by 13yr old illiterates, then Dunayshun would have an event every weekend.