Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Measuring Up

In 'A Measuring Stick' I left off at standards. In order for standards to exist, in a meaningful sense, they need to be clearly defined and consistently maintained. In the context of competitive paintball the next question is; how?

Traditionally teams self-selected and it seldom created gaping disparities because serious teams wanted to move up and the occasional teams frequently fell comfortably into the middle of their regular division. Teams determined their fitness to move up by having some degree of consistent success and with little reward at stake teams played for pride and recognition. (Which could eventually lead to the real reward; sponsorship.) [That state was not universal but it was sufficiently the norm that things worked fine for years.]
(Btw, my context is national series events, not local, where so-called sandbagging is a major bugaboo. And a red herring. And ultimately was caused by the general response to the national series largely unintentional rape & pillage of local / regional tourney scenes. But that's a different topic.)

Between then and the introduction of the UCP concept more divisions were introduced, larger prize packages were assigned to those divisions and new rules were implemented to "fix" the problems created by–you guessed it–the new divisions, the prizes and some of those rules.
Conceptually, the UCP is a very good idea in that it seeks to integrate every level of play from the local to the national under a consistent and progressive standard. In practice there are two significant issues; the progression from local to national that looks so good on paper retains, in the overlapping of divisions, the same tensions that had the locals in competition with the national for teams and the current UCP classification rules do not measure up. For the moment it's the classification rules that are important. The league has decided it has an interest in trying to engineer the content of divisions beyond the boundary of competition. (One of the consequences of that has been to drive players up the ranks artificially with the result it has driven some number out of the game, probably prematurely.) The other consequences are the current fuzzy dividing lines between divisions and a programmatic dumbing down of the competition itself across multiple divisions that will, at some point, affect all the levels of competition. In moving too many players (teams) up the rules undermine the core of each division, particularly the lower divisions, so that new teams moving up are competing against a fluctuating standard year by year. And just like teams and players improve by playing better players and teams in practice divisions should provide a consistent standard of play. When they don't the new D3 teams, for example, are competing against a standard that the year before was maybe a top 20 team. Do that year after year and you are doing the opposite of encouraging excellence, you're assuring mediocrity is seen as improvement. And then you move it up the ranks when you pack D2 teams into a floundering D1 division year after year. Does anybody really think the end result is superior play?

Adding further contradictions is a league policy that ignores the idea of merit in that any team at any time is allowed to enter any division they want--with the possible exception of the Pro division. Along similar lines is the pricing policy of entry fees in some circumstances. (Mentioned in this week's MLP Held Hostage Weekly Update.) Is the idea to push teams to favor one bracket over another or participation on one day over another? Or both? Or does D3 pay more simply because the expectation is there's more D3 teams than anything else? Regardless it demonstrates that there is more going on than simply organizing an event, series or system to promote excellence in competitive paintball.

So what to do about it?

Find out next time as short attention span blogging presents; 'Measure of the Game.' (Seeing a pattern yet?)

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