Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paintball & Media, part 1

The long VFTD nightmare is over. The paintball media series begins! Feel free to breath a collective sigh of relief. Whaddya mean you forgot it was coming? Well it is so count your lucky stars. Oh yeah, and it's coming in at least--at least--five installments! So there. (Okay, probably more like three but the threat of five had you going, didn't it? Admit it.)

Today's installment looks back for a quick review of paintball's relationship with media (and what media was) prior to the I.T. revolution and the explosion of web based communications. Primarily we's talking magazines. (Sure, video was around (getting started) and *gasp* even some television programming existed but neither filled the role magazines did.) The typical mag offered a little of all things paintball; gossip, technical info (kinda), news, how-to's, general paintball information and, to a greater or lesser degree, all wrapped in an entertaining package loaded with photographs.
Of more immediate interest (to me) is the factoid that the paintball magazine was both celebrity driven and the star maker. Mix in an advertising base that was almost exclusively pbindustry and the result was often front to back paintball cheerleading. The result was a largely uncritical monthly promo for the competitive side of the game and the manufacturers who (seemingly) made it possible. (Yes, I know there are still a couple mags out there but they a) follow the formula, and b) only have a fraction of the impact the galaxy of unchallenged paintball mags once did.)
It was also the primary portal for the non-paintballers entrance into the world of paintball.

Warning: Quasi-related Tangential Thought. (If you have ADD or ADHD please skip over this part and come back to it later. Otherwise the focus shift could leave you disoriented and confused. More so than normal that is.)
Maybe the (partial) cause of one of paintball's current "problems" is its relative ubiquity. There was a time, not all that long ago, when paintball was routinely "discovered" by non-ballers as if it were some mystery shrouded underground happening. Today, certainly in America, nearly everybody has heard of paintball even if their actual knowledge of the game remains vague. And that supposed familiarity has killed the thrill of discovery.

Back to the post. Whatever the journalistic faults the old mags may have had they filled a need, not only for the players but also for the game. And that need has not been filled by any of the follow-up media that has developed in recent years. (Not even VFTD, which is less about reaching outside the game than it is devoted to inside the game.) Sure, some aspects have been duplicated, often intentionally, and some media outlets provide some of the same functions--at least hypothetically--hang on, I smell a Monday Poll--but the majority of the current paintball-related media is inward oriented, targeting paintballers. I know, you're gonna say, d'oh!, what do you think the magazines were doing but the mags had a more far-reaching effect that is missing today. And desperately needs to be re-captured. More next time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

As the season draws to a close so too this series of posts. It doesn't mean the crisis is past--far from it--but it does mean VFTD will find a new way to illustrate it in the coming months. This is your opportunity to take an active role or, continue to do what you usually do, and sit quietly on the sidelines.

Game Within The Post #1
Explain in comments why this series of posts was called Major League Paintball Held Hostage. You may use the search site function to see if I explained why in an early post. (I may have but I can't remember anymore. A potential winning answer need not be the "correct" answer.)

Game Within The Post #2
Offer (preferably) clever and witty suggestions as to what this post series should be called next season.

One winner will be chosen to receive a free so-far-unreleased team T-shirt. (And if the winner will be at Cup or Vegas I'll be happy to bring it along and deliver it in person.)

The official registration (and payment) deadline passed last night for the PSP's World Cup event. The tally this morning was 287 teams paid but a look at the teams list suggests to me that the final number of competing teams will be over 300. (And means 80+ teams paid on Monday. Or tried to.) If so it would mean a smaller percentage decline for Cup than was generally experienced this season at the other events. Such a result would seem to vindicate the move to 4 seasonal events and prove that the move from Disney to Fantasy of Flight didn't significantly impact the turnout.
Still undetermined is the status of 5 pro teams listed as pending or unpaid. 2 are Smart Parts teams and two are rumored to be likely bubble teams for the future.

Registration remains open for the NPPL 3.0's Vegas championships. Not counting the (restored to) 16 pro teams there are 89 teams registered and 35 paid across both 7-man and 5-man divisions. Not only will final turnout numbers be interesting I'm curious how the Riviera will respond to the turnout and what sort of expectations they have, if any.

In Millennium Land there has been the typical post event moaning but it is confined largely to items of marginal importance and likely will not amount to anything--as usual. With the Sarsilmaz Cup event now less than a month away registration in the open divisions (D2 & M5) remains modest to non-existent with 1 team registered in D2 and 3 in M5. And this despite local Turkish sponsors bumping up the prize packages in those divisions in the hopes of encouraging more participation. (Could there be a better lesson demonstrated for the locked division teams? I don't see how.)
Meanwhile the MS has hit on another way to part teams from their money; practice. As some teams routinely come in early and try to get in some last minute practice the Mil will be making two of the event fields available the day before the tourney starts. And for the modest sum of 200 Euros you can have an hour of practice--assuming another team also signs up for that time. Now 200 Euros strikes me as a bit steep for an hour of field time but maybe it's not. And maybe the Millennium bosses work in soup kitchens feeding the poor when they aren't helping tournament paintball.

Last weekend's Grand Tour event in Riga Latvia saw 14 teams participate in two divisions. With one event left on the season schedule (in Greece) the GT have announced a drop in the price of ID cards--to encourage local team participation--and a modification of the roster rules (probably designed to make it easier for teams that have played prior events to play this one.) Too little, too late?

UPDATE: The winner has been announced in the comments.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Monday Poll

Everybody enjoys predicting winners so it should come as no surprise that VFTD does too. However since predicting the winners among the competing teams is already a commonplace this will be your opportunity to pick a different sort of winner. While at first blush this may look a lot like Another Cynical VFTD Game on deeper reflection you will see that it is, perhaps, just a wee bit more than that. (So yes, it is Another--type of--Cynical VFTD Game but one with potentially serious ramifications.) This week's Monday Poll will be predicting World Cup Winners and in two weeks the follow up poll will be identifying World Cup Losers and between the two we will at least have an idea of how the (literate) paintballin' public views this year's premier competitive event. Btw, with missing week in between feel free to offer suggestions for the Losers options prior to the official poll. Sound like fun? Vote anyway.

UPDATE: You may pick more than one winner in the poll.

If you are unfamiliar with Another Cynical VFTD Game do a site search for past games. As you might predict participation was not overwhelming--which may be why you haven't heard of them before.

Monday Poll in Review
If you are easily stunned (amazed) (or dumbfounded) you might want to sit down before proceeding. Though odds are you are seated already. No, not at the result of last week's poll. That is readily apparent and we already know you can read, if not the the writing on the wall, the digitized characters on this blog. Rather, at my view of those results.
Given the scenario in which you were a pro team owner you were asked to vote for the league you would participate in based on what you believed best served your team and ownership interests. 77% voted PSP and 22% voted NPPL and 1% got lost in the unregistered fractions. Even so the disparity was nearly 4 to 1 in favor of the PSP and frankly I am (and was) stunned by that result.

Mostly I chalked it up to ignorance. Not the sort of "ignorant" one might interchange descriptively with say, "moron" for example but the sort of ignorant that is, well, ignorant. Unaware. Insufficiently informed to make considered or rational judgments perhaps. If you're wondering where this effort to avoid being too insulting is going I'm about to advocate on behalf of the NPPL. (And it isn't a place I expected to find myself.)

And I'm going to do it on the basis of one thing and one thing alone; self-determination. Factory team costs can be justified (rationalized), independents can't. In the past a generous sponsorship system gave hard-working teams the hope that their efforts would be rewarded and would remove many of the financial burdens of competing. That is less and less true even as the cost of competing at the upper echelons has increased. The bill for the pro dream has always been footed by somebody. Today's independents play the game and compete for largely the same reasons every other tournament team plays the game. The only difference is the price tag--and at some point that price tag overwhelms the desire to play, to compete, to win and the team owner(s) comes to his senses. Now you may say that's more or less the way things have always been and I won't disagree with you but take a look at where it's brought us. If you want to know the fate of the pro division look at D1.

Conceptually it's a no-brainer. Ask yourself a simple question: Is my team better off if I'm an owner or a customer?

Or put it another way. Is my commitment to the league matched by the league's commitment to my team? (Btw, I'm not arguing the merits in particular. I'm not saying this NPPL is hands down better than this PSP. In lots of important ways it isn't but at the same time what sort of future does the PSP offer a pro team owner? Other than an opportunity to play at their [the PSP's] discretion and by their seemingly ever-changing rules & format.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brave New Paintball World: The Revival

One of these years my timing is going to be right. At least that's my rationalisation and I'm sticking with it. Besides, any excuse to palm off old material on y'all saves me a bit of effort and what else could a lazy slacker ask for? Think of it as the same thing cable television series do when they run out of fresh ideas or production budget problems arise. Produce flashback episodes made up of clips of old shows tied together with some really lame premise. Hang on, that doesn't sound very promising, does it?

My lame premise is that big time competitive paintball is broke (and broken) but that acknowledging that fact is coming slowly for many. (Btw, this is a revival because I posted some of this same material last year and the dead tree archive contributions to this post date back to 2004 but don't let that put you off. Give it a read and I think you'll be surprised by how relevant it still sounds.)
That irrational exuberance and living beyond our means masked the defects for a while but the new reality has revealed the truth. And if this new reality gets any realer things can and will go from bad to worse very (very) quickly.
If you are up to speed on the VFTD 'Pro Circuit' concept feel free to keep reading. If you've no idea what I'm talking about or would like a brief refresher go here. And if you'd like to get a fuller picture check out Brave New Paintball World and '(Almost) Everything Tournament Paintball Needs to Know.

Before getting in any deeper I'd like to thank regular reader, Frank, for the nudge that got this post, well, posted. Now is probably the best time of the year for this sort of post as we approach the off season and the people making decisions about the futures of their leagues are gearing up to do just that--make decisions about the direction and future of their league.

If you've been following the activity of the two national leagues you're probably aware that the PSP appears to be moving in a direction consistent with some of the Pro Circuit ideas. And so they are, what with the developing UCP and a growing interest in working with local and regional tournament promoters. It could be an incremental move in that direction or it could be a move to secure the format and build a grassroots feeder system to help keep the national series healthy. Or, I suppose, it could be both. As a practical matter I'm not sure it matters largely because I expect circumstances to intervene. The economy isn't going to significantly improve, not for any period of time and those suggesting it will are really crossing their fingers and hoping growth might squeak ahead of debt deleveraging and show a positive number--but that isn't going to happen. And if we can't expect a future that looks more like the past than the present competitive paintball would be wise to plan accordingly. (Btw, I'm not saying the Pro Circuit is the only way forward--even if I'm secretly thinking it--what I am saying is that for the foreseeable future the old model probably can't be sustained despite the outstanding job Lane & Co. have done with the PSP to date. Just, of course, an opinion but if you were to take it as a prediction I'd stand by it.)

Which brings us to the other guys, call them the USPL or NPPL 3.0. What have they got to lose? Honestly? They didn't make any money. How much they stand to lose is mostly conjecture but it isn't (I'm reasonably certain) on the scale of past losses. Can they do the same again next year? Sure. But on what basis would such a decision be made? Will there be more or less 7-man teams next year? Can the NPPL really compete for 5-man teams with the PSP? The one thing the NPPL 3.0 has going for it is the pro teams call the shots, they have their fate in their own hands.
They are sufficiently lean and unburdened to be able to swiftly change direction. If the pro owners pooled their annual "entry fees" (which they are intending to do again for next season) and focused on running a Pro Circuit style event series how big a risk would it really be? If they tied their events to existing regional events venues like Pev's (per the DC Challenge) what are the real costs of the Pros playing independently versus the NPPL trying to generate national scale multi-divisional events? Now I'm not convinced NPPL 3.0 can succeed as a 7-man league but they are positioned to make a radical change if they're willing to take the risk.

Pie in the sky. Pipe dream. Impractical. Unrealistic. Oh, not the pro circuit. The status quo. See you right here, same time, same bat channel next year and we can do this all over again. Again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

World Cup '09: The Corner is the Key

It's the home stretch and just about everybody will be using the next two weekends to finish their preparations for this year's World Cup competition. So instead of the generic How-To I was planning I decided to focus on playing the snake on this year's layout.

So why is the corner the key? If it isn't clear already it soon will be. Keep reading.

There are two ways to get into the snake, off the break or as a secondary (or even tertiary) move. OTB is higher risk, higher potential reward but some teams won't have the speed to consistently succeed and even if you have the players to try if you do it too often you become predictable and the other guys will simply focus on killing the snake runner so realistically the move to the snake for the likely majority of most points will be a secondary move and this is where the corner comes into play. (Hang on, I need to catch my breath. That was one long sentence. Whew.) The corner, as the widest wire side prop other than the snake, can shoot outside in. This is a significant advantage that allows the corner to dominate edges in order to free up a secondary move--into the snake. Particularly when uncontested by a mirror. On this field the corner player can also be the one making the move into the snake. But what the corner gives it can also take away. It's great if you're in the corner, not so great if the other guy is so it's equally important that you plan to deny the corner to your opponents. Which is where the diagram comes in. (Click to enlarge.)

Green lines give an idea of the angles available to a corner player able to wrap. The red lanes are OTB lanes. The home shooter (A) has 3 clear options although A2 is a dotted line because it may be an obstructed and/or blind lane depending on precise bunker placement. The result is that the home shooter can lane a snake runner but has no uncompromised lane on a corner runner--particularly one running low and directly to the corner. Which is what position B is all about. B is protected from the home shooter and can minimize exposure using the upfield dorito. B has a pair of excellent options with B2 capable of contesting both snake or corner runner depending on the corner runner's path. However, since B can be countered effectively if you use it too often and all the lanes are fairly narrow it's important to have C in reserve. C has the most open lane choices and can be used as either a change-up or as an additional laner if A & B are ineffective.

So, you're denying the opponent the corner and you're working hard to make it work for you but this was supposed to be about snake play, wasn't it? (Yep, I went back to the beginning just to make sure.) The first goal was getting into the snake. Now we make it pay off and the pay off is simple. Get to that fifty Temple (Aztec) as fast as you can and past it if possible. Sure, there are some shots from S1 and S2 but don't let that distract you. You want to use the snake to dominate. The fifty Temple allows you to play a fifty the same way you want to play the corner--except now you're at the fifty! And if you had a shot or two back at S1 how much better and more effective will the shots from the fifty be? You also want to apply as much pressure as possible on your opponents. The danger posed by a super aggressive snake player will force the other team to react to that player by turning guns off other lanes, tucking in super tight or pushing them into high risk moves. All things everybody else on your team can take advantage of.

Control the corner and press your snake attack. Don't let your snake player become distracted. Push him up the snake so fast and so aggressively that you force the other team to react. And when they do their instinctive, automatic reactions become your opportunity.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

The crisis continues. What else is new? These updates are beginning to bore me. Beginning? Yeah, I know, you were bored with them ages ago but that's because of your short attention span. Which really isn't your fault. Mommy was day tripping and listening to Jefferson Airplane when you were a bun in the oven. You find channel surfing relaxing, don't you? Silly Season is almost upon us and right now all I want to do is take a nap.

It's home stretch time for the PSP with official registration closing in less than a week on the 28th. There are 364 teams registered--that total has been creeping up all along (a good sign)--but with only 165 teams paid as of this morning. I say only only because I'm a little nervous about the final numbers. Sure, tons of peeps don't pay until the last minute (and sometimes beyond) but with so many teams still in limbo it's impossible to predict how it will turn out though the bigger the registration number the better for the final attendance figures.

USPL / NPPL 3.0's deadline is two plus weeks out so they have a little more time to play with. As of this morning registration (not including the pros) stands at 78 with 24 teams paid between 7-man, 5-man and pump categories.

In Euroland the Grand Tour is limping home with what is being billed as the final event. No doubt they mean final event of the season but I'm wondering if it won't prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy instead. The Pros GT season is complete and the Thessaloniki Greece event scheduled for same weekend as the NPPL championship currently has 6 teams registered across 3 divisions.

Last weekend saw the Millennium Series host their annual Campaign Cup event in the England on a grassy patch somewhere near Basildon which is not too far away from London depending on your definition of not-too-far-away. While there appear to be mixed reviews from some of the participants it seems the event ran smoothly, on time and on a decent if not outstanding surface. And as VFTD noted before with the second largest team turnout of the season. That leaves the MS Kids with one remaining event about a month from now in Turkey. This venue has proved to be controversial from the first. So much so that the prize packages for the open divisions ( D2 & M5) have been increased to encourage participation. So far it doesn't seem to be working as there are only 4 teams listed as registered in the two open divisions. Still, there is more than enough time to fill out the divisions as the UK event blossomed late as well. Also of note rumor has it there are some locked division teams that will struggle to make this event or won't make this event which could leave their status with the MS in jeopardy. Something to keep an eye on.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Monday Poll

Today's poll puts you in control of a pro paintball team. No need to thank me. What do you mean you had no idea there were so many headaches involved? Quit whining. You'll get used to it. Pull up your big boy pants and be a man.
Here's the situation you are dealing with today. There are two leagues your team can play in. Your circumstances demand you choose one or the other.

One of the leagues is new to the national scene (though built on a previous brand) and struggling to attract teams in the am divisions. It plays a format that evolved from traditional competitive paintball but appears to be losing grassroots local support. The option to buy in exists. The buy in cost is similar to the sum of your entry fees in the other league. It would give your team an ownership stake in the league and a voice in determining your future as a team. (As an owner you may have liability issues so read the fine print.) This league controls the premier venue in competitive paintball. While roster sizes are similar and the number of events are identical the consensus seems to be it's less expensive to operate a team in this league as well. (Mostly a result of reduced paint usage but that's really a matter of how a team practices.)

The other league is clearly dominant right now. It plays a format that mitigates officiating errors and appears to be gaining local support all around the country--and even internationally. This league controls the most famous event in the world. This league offers prizes in the pro division (and the other one doesn't) but those prizes have been shrinking in recent years and the details of the format have also changed repeatedly. This league's pro competitors are regarded by a greater percentage of the competitive paintball world as "real" pros. However, their relationship with the league is no different than any other teams, they are paying customers only. (Leaving out that league ownership and pro team ownership overlap in a select few instances.)

There you have it, Mr. Pro Team Owner. The future is in your hands. What do you do? Who do you choose?

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll wanted to know why you play competitive paintball. The top answer according to the poll, the Competition, garnered only 26% of the total vote followed by the other double digit responses; Intensity (15%) Fun (11%) & Desire to be the Best (10%). All the rest--Camaraderie, Challenge, Adrenaline Rush, Love Shooting Peeps & Suck At Real Sports--were between 5 - 7%. Nothing really remarkable here but it is interesting to see what motivates people to play and compete. One commenter suggested the poll should have included "the scene" (which I can see) and in retrospect I probably should have also included something like 'Because I'm Good At It' although that's sort of what I was getting at with the 'Suck at Real Sports' option.

Formula for Success?

I've got a new idea for the NPPL 3.0. Okay, it isn't a new idea, it's an old idea but it's old enough that it will seem like a new idea to plenty of little tourney ballers. To be honest I'm not convinced it's a good idea but the way I figure it NPPL 3.0 can use all the ideas it can get. Hey, I'm as big a fan of the power of positive thinking as the next guy, wait--check that, no I'm not. Even so, no harm no foul but sometimes even the Little Engine That Thought It Could can't. And a pocket full of happy thoughts won't pay the bills. But I digress.

My new old idea is simply this: divisional teams get a pro opponent in their prelim bracket or in addition to their prelim bracket. Back in the day the prelims had mixed divisional play and plenty of lower division teams liked it that way. It wasn't until we started taking lower divisional play seriously and treating it like it mattered competitively that mixed prelims were abandoned as unfair even if random. If you're competing in D2 you should win or lose--move on or get knocked out--based on your results against your peers and not because you drew the Russian Legion as your Pro opponent. Even so I still occasionally hear peeps wax nostalgic and wish for a return to the old way of doing things.

What do you think? Would the NPPL 3.0 draw more teams, your team, if you knew you'd get to play against a pro team?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Burning Question

What does it mean when more vendors than dealers show up at PB Extravaganza? PB Not-So-Extravaganza? Maybe it ought to have a different name. How 'bout PB Flopapalooza? It has a Z too.

(Disclaimer: I hear that Extravaganza wasn't anything like the commercial success industry was surely hoping for although DYE made the biggest splash. But was that because of Extravaganza or because of the concerted media effort?)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Making the Team

Before I get started on this post topic I want to address posts that haven't yet appeared. (Are you still with me? I didn't think so.) There will be 5 posts coming in the next couple of weeks on the topic of paintball media. (The first was coming today until I decided to do this one at the last minute.) There will also be at least two posts on the PSTA. (I didn't pursue the phone interviews I need to do because of Extravaganza going on this week.) There will also be an xball How-To coming up as I haven't done any nuts & bolts stuff in a while. So there you go. [Btw, the way this works is now that I've told you what to expect--some of which you were already waiting on--it buys me a little more time to procrastinate. Because I am--a lazy slacker.]

In yesterday's spur of the moment post about rugby on Spike TV--rugby for crying out loud--the comments reminded me of my favorite idea for promoting competitive paintball on TV. An idea I originally pitched 3 or 4 years ago in the pages of PGi magazine. An idea I unashamedly stole and modified for paintball because it's already been done and it works.

The concept is simple: making the team. The show opens by briefly setting the stage; tryouts for a brand new D1 team are about to begin. A short action montage with voice over puts the tryouts in context. First couple of shows introduce characters who may or may not make the team and in the process of the tryouts you also introduce the fundamentals of the game. Later, after some number of players have been chosen--a number that needs to be whittled down to a final roster--that process begins to reveal how the game is played--even though the focus remains on the players. The larger idea is that putting names and faces and personalities on the game is the best way to draw in ballers & non-ballers alike. They don't have to play, they just have to have a rudimentary understanding of the game and get caught up in rooting for their favorites to succeed. Once the final team is formed you move on to the actual events and throughout the process one step leads to the next progressively and naturally. Having worked so hard and beat out the other potential players the drama is now in the team's success or failure on the field of competition and all the action in the pits and the scene surrounding every event. And you began with D1 because it's more accessible to the average player and it offers the option of continuing with the team for additional seasons either as they struggle to make the grade or take on new challenges in the semi-pro and/or pro divisions.

It's practically perfect. The show format personalizes the competition, educates in a non-pedantic way and makes competitive paintball accessible and the potential drama visceral. And, best of all perhaps, there's no reason you couldn't do a variation of the same thing with a scenario team.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Here We Go Again

Spike will be airing the NRL playoffs and championship match starting tomorrow night. NRL is, of course, the National Rugby League but if you’ve never heard of it before don’t be too surprised. It’s not our National Rugby League (although there are a couple of U.S.-based rugby leagues. Who knew?) It’s coming to America from Australia. (How can they do that? I thought we had a monopoly on calling our leagues national. It’s very confusing.)

Rugby is apparently quite popular in Australia but how many people in the 100 million homes Spike reaches even know what rugby is much less how it’s played, what the rules are or, least likely of all, find it captivating sports entertainment? Heck, is it more popular in Australia than Australian Rules Football? Inquiring minds want to know because once upon a time during the dark ages of cable sports ESPN used to broadcast Aussie Rules Football in the middle of the night.

I suppose paintballers should have realized–and when I say paintballers I mean me–the position competitive paintball was in when you could watch Major League Lacrosse on basic cable. But rugby? C’mon! That’s like putting soccer on TV! Oh, wait, they do actually put soccer on TV, don’t they? I mean what does rugby have that paintball doesn’t? Other than stuff like an actual league, national federations, fans and somebody who talked some Spike executive into putting them on American TV. Other than that.

I’m gonna DVR it not because I’m particularly interested in rugby but I do want to see the commercials.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ask the Coach

Here, at last, and without further ado--who, after all, needs more ado?--is Episode 5 of 'Ask the Coach' entitled, Stylin'

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

The PSP has 354 teams registered for World Cup not counting the pro teams so far unlisted, 4 or 5 so far, and no Joy Division yet either. The last reduced entry date has come and gone so the price is fixed until end of registration. It is a waiting game for the next two weeks--or so--to see what the final numbers will be. At present 148 teams are paid. A final paid number in the 270 - 285 range would be consistent with the general decline this year from last seen at previous events.

Over at the USPL presents the NPPL 3.0 registrations, not counting the pro team owners, is at 69 with 20 teams paid. Friends on Facebook are swell but they don't pay the bills, competing teams do.

One bright spot, depending on your point of view, is the strong showing of late in D2 & M5 registrations for Campaign as there are now 24 teams in D2 and 42 in M5 with a particularly large turnout of UK teams in M5. As of today this will be the second largest event of the season just behind Malaga.

The Grand Tour has announced the Pro results for the season. I don't know if that was the plan all along or the result of no pro teams registering for the upcoming Riga Latvia event. (The info could be on the website somewhere as I confess I didn't look very hard.) Registrations for Riga stand at 13 teams across 3 divisions of play.

The long and short this week is that the status of World Cup is still an unknown as is the outcome for the NPPL 3.0's Vegas event. Hanging in the balance are a successful season--one that doesn't lose money--and hard decisions about the future. In Euroland does Campaign turn the season around for the MS? And can the Grand Tour possibly carry over to next year after what must be seen as a very disappointing inaugural season? Time will tell.

In Memorium

Paintball has lost a fixture of the national tournament scene with the passing of Harley Rideout. He was a modern day cowboy, a campfire storyteller--if a ring of lawn chairs around a cooler counts (and it does)--and a man of generous spirit who befriended everyone he met. He will be missed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Monday Poll

What's the attraction of tournament paintball? I know, it ain't just one thing, d'oh. But this is a poll dammit and you have to pick one. So, either pick one of the options listed or post your number one reason in comments and tell me what an idiot I am for forgetting to add that one to the poll. Simple, so I expect most of you to be able to handle voting this week and I'm no longer accepting the lazy slacker excuse. It's a given that you're a lazy slacker. So what? So am I. You can still click a mouse. Now do it.

Monday Poll in Review
It wasn't even close. Last week's poll was about rigidly following rules or interpreting rules in order to honor the rules' intent. (The margin was 70% versus 30% favoring upholding the spirit, if not the letter, of rules.) It was also, in one respect, less than that because it was also about a specific situation. The result is I'm not convinced y'all would always favor the idea of interpreting rules--only that in this general case you do.
In some respects however it is potentially troubling. And, as an avowed paintball anarchist I find it ironic that I'm advocating rules of any sort but there you go. We don't have a game without rules and in some necessary instances those rules extend off the field. And that's where interpreting rules, any rules, makes me a little uneasy. Thing is, "interpreting rules" in essence makes them flexible or unfixed--and an unfixed rule is less a rule than a guideline or an option, if you like. Take it from an anarchist that's not a good thing in a rule. On the other hand rules are intended to serve specific functions and if a given rule, as written, doesn't or can't perform it's intended function (for whatever reason) isn't it only sensible to interpret the rule by its intent?

Oh yeah, I promised y'all an example last week didn't I? Honestly I'm a little surprised nobody stole my thunder on this one 'cus it ain't that hard. There is (presently) a team registered in D1 for Cup with 6 or 7 established pro players on it who are (by the letter of the rules) ranked such that they constitute a "legal" roster. According to last week's Monday Poll y'all voted in favor of the league re-ranking those players in accordance with their known status. Want to change your mind now or are you standing pat?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Enlistment(s) this Week

Is it still Friday on the other side of the international date line? (No, it's not but we can pretend, right?)
And since it's Friday that means it's time to acknowledge this week's recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army. Or, recruit, as the case may be. This week it's Frank. Thanks, Frank.

Today the internet, tomorrow--with your help--world paintball domination! Join today. Heck, join yesterday. It's easy. Even a lazy slacker like you can do it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Travails of a Wannabe Paintball Writer

Tired of all the sturm und drang going on in paintball? Me too. So how 'bout a story instead?

Shortly after the USPL announced its original schedule, complete with conference only events, I got an email from the editor of FaceFull inquiring as to my interest and availability in producing an event report for them for the DC Challenge. Since I always liked doing event reports I replied that I'd be happy to undertake the assignment. In this market environment such opportunities are rapidly dwindling. We didn't discuss things like payment or word count as they would sort themselves out later on. Paintball media tends (or tended) to be a bit more informal, shall we say, than many other forms of publication. Although not quite down to the level of neighborhood newsletters writing for paintball mags was often a bit less glamorous and lucrative than I suspect many people often think. Anyway, it sounded like fun to me. (Just wait, my ideas about fun get worse.)

Welp, in the meantime the DC Challenge was rescheduled and the whole notion of regional conference events got rolled back into national events and pretty soon a number of months had gone by without any contact between me and the magazine. The week before the event I dropped the editor a brief note looking for confirmation of the assignment--not really expecting to get it. Which I didn't.

For those of you who don't only look at the pictures (a minority I'd guess, present company excluded) you're well aware that Rich (Telford) handles all those sorts of duties for FaceFull. (He also, as it happens, does a terrific job of it, dammit.) So of course once the DC event became a national event that Rich would naturally attend FaceFull promptly forgot about poor old Baca. Which is just what I expected to happen. (And, alas, I'm almost always right.)

Before I go any further just to show there's no hard feelings here's a freebie. Good as Rich is in print he's better live. If FaceFull wants to enter the 21st century they ought to start doing sponsored Rich-hosted podcasts. (Or Rich could throw off the shackles of Old Media and do them himself--I suggest subversively.) Besides, (I'm starting the rumor) the wife ghosts all his written material anyway.

If you are now disillusioned by the notion that writing for a paintball mag isn't all champagne brunches and bikini-clad beach bunnies I'm gonna take another moment to drag your feet closer to the ground. The reason the FaceFull brush off didn't bother me in the least is because I knew it wasn't personal. And I knew it wasn't personal based on the criterion used to contact me in the first place. If you're thinking brilliant writing, think again. If you're thinking experience you're not even close. If you're thinking involved in the pro scene I scoff at your naivete. In some measure those things do matter (kinda, sorta, sometimes) but the priority is no out of pocket cost to the magazine. In essence if you are a warm body and you are present you are in the running. As it turned out it was likely for the best. If I'd been doing the piece I'd have felt obligated to hang around on Sunday--though I know of an event or three where the writer wasn't actually present--and I had a great time at the National Gallery of Art in DC instead. (See? I warned you about what I find fun.) Most of the team had never been to DC so they were up for the trip though nobody joined me mostly wandering off to the Air & Space or Natural History museums.

Here is where I confess to an ulterior motive. Thing is I've been cogitatin' on paintball media lately and its roll (and importance) in the development and popularity of the game and starting soon I'll be doing a series of related posts and this was my way of introducing the idea. It's an overlooked (or at least under-discussed) aspect of paintball's recipe for future success. And seriously, would most of the stars of pro paintball be half as popular as they are (or were) without a paintball media?

Btw, seen a Paintball Sports recently?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paintball Miscellany

First item up today is Turkish paintball. I received a response from my original commenter to the follow-up VFTD posted from Turgay Balkan. VFTD's principle interest is the MS's relationship with Turkey's premier small arms manufacturer, Sarsilmaz, and how it came about and its impact on the season ending event with respect to the Turkish Paintball Federation, etc. VFTD does not want to become a surrogate for a political squabble. In the follow-up (which VFTD will not be posting) the original commenter primarily defends the original comments as not anti- the federation while pointing to some numerical inconsistencies. Suffice it to say the dialogue has devolved from the larger issues paintball faces. If you're unclear on how all this got started check the links and look here.

Selected VFTD posts will be reposted in French for those of a French persuasion whose English is as poor as my French thanks to the translations of Frederic Rodrigues at Alternativ Sport. Look for AS on the sidebar. Merci, Fred.

Word from across the pond is that Draxxus will no longer be selling through a distributor and will move to direct sales in France.

On the subject of paint--Did you know? That with most of the cheap paint talk revolving around China that India and Korea are also in the paint manufacturing business? Lately, when it comes to paint it's getting harder and harder ... to guess the point of origin.

Coming soon--Episode 5 of 'Ask the Coach': Stylin'

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Domino Effect

(VFTD introduces short attention span blogging--)

Is nothing like the butterfly effect–you know, the absurdist notion that some random butterfly flaps its wings at a particular place and time and through some cosmically complex chain of cause and effect produces a tsunami on the other side of the world. That’s not where this is going. Although, I do have a simple solution. Kill all the butterflies. Problem solved. Nor am I talkin’ real dominoes. But the concept is named after the action and pattern created by falling dominoes. One falls and knocks the next one down and it falls and knocks the next one down and so on.

The domino effect I have on my mind today is the possible (probable?) absence of Smart Parts from the field of potential sponsors who support competitive paintball. And the specific domino I have in mind is Dynasty.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whither Kingman?

Remember the last Burning Question back in August? It brought up the possibility that some deal, larger than the exclusive distribution deal, was in the works between KEE and Kingman. And then Smart Parts news hit ...
Well, VFTD ain't letting it go that easy despite the fact they (whoever they are) are doing a good job keeping the lid on. VFTD's prior claim stands.
Word leaked out this past holiday weekend that some unspecified number of Kingman employees (mostly sales?) had their pay cut along with their commission percentages. Something is definitely going down. VFTD will keep you posted.

The Lane Wright Interview; part 3

This section concludes the Lane Wright interview. I'd like to thank Lane, one more time, for taking the time to do this and for sharing his thoughts on the PSP and competitive paintball. I have some ideas for future interviews but am all ears if y'all have any suggestions.

21. On the subject of lost sponsorship l’m going to segue to the pro teams. How much concern do you have that another round of sponsorship reductions to the top teams will further reduce the pro division?

I think the worst thing is that some of these guys still don’t see it coming. Again, some of the changes I made last year were based on what I saw coming for those teams, even if they didn’t. As I just mentioned, you can only make so many changes. At some point, I believe the inevitable fact is that some of these pro teams who refused to take control of their own destiny – in an INTELLIGENT manner, as opposed to an egotistical one – are going to fall to the wayside.

22. Will the continued operation of the USPL have an added effect by putting some teams in the position of choosing one or the other?

Is that a new question? I don’t think anybody needs to have that answered for them.

23. At what point does the pro division effectively cease to exist? Give me a number. And, while I’m at it, is the pro division all that relevant? Does the PSP get along famously if there is no pro division or a greatly reduced pro division?

I don’t know a number. Would I be happy with 6 pro teams? No way. But could it function? Absolutely. And if the right teams with the right financing and leadership were left, it would be some absolutely kick ass paintball getting played.

I definitely believe there is a need for a pinnacle. While some foolhardy people still want to have Internet discussions about the ROF of D3 tournament paintball, I believe the bulk of players and teams are driven by trying to be the best. The pro teams give them a goal. Does it have to be the pro teams we have in place now? I don’t think so. Do they have to be called “Pro”? I don’t think so. But yes, we need an elite group atop the classification chart, in my opinion.

24. Have you or the league given any thought to how the league might work to help maintain the pro division? Obviously the league comes first but, for the sake of argument let’s say the pro division is deemed important to the league, is there anything the league can do?

There has to be something the league can do. I don’t know what it is. It’s really going to depend on what comes from talks with teams and sponsors at the end of the season. Identifying the actual situation we are going to be faced with will be key in deciding what to do.

As I mercifully draw this interview to a close I do want to ask a couple of non-specific sorts of questions.

25. Do you expect a .50 caliber paintball to be introduced into the tourney market any time soon?

To one degree or another, yes. Richmond certainly isn’t back just to hang out.

26. If so any ideas on how the PSP would handle the prospect of two calibers in play?

I don’t see where the complications would be. So long as the new sized ball can be proven to be safe, load up and fire away.

27. What do you think of the .50 caliber paintball concept in general?

I don’t think about things like that. It’s a paintball. This game is all about people having fun and being competitive. The size of the ball isn’t a big concern to me.

28. It seems that industry has decided that tourney paintball was the tail wagging the dog. How much impact do you think tournament paintball has on paintball as a whole?

The industry is struggling. Tournament paintball has never “wagged” any more than it should have. If someone thinks the tail is wagging the dog, they are confused. They need to adjust their idea of what is a dog and what is a tail.
With that said, the people running these companies make decisions based on the numbers they see in front of them. Too many of us who aren’t running these companies think we know what’s going on and we don’t. People running these businesses run the damn business the best they can. People who sit and claim that guys who played pro ball shouldn’t be running businesses are just pissed because they aren’t running the business. Guys who rose to the top of a business did it the same way they went to the top of playing paintball. The guys who aren’t running the businesses are not running them for the same reason they didn’t rise to the top as a player. Probably in a majority of cases, they made excuses and placed blame on others.
Off my rant and onto the question.
Tournament paintball is the top of the competition. Paintball, even in scenarios games and rec games is competition. Tournament paintball is at the top of the pyramid. PSP is at the top of the top pyramid.
It’s not like bicycle racing. 75% of people who ride bikes are not doing it in any competitive way what so ever. In paintball, 95% of anyone who plays is involved in a competition. Even at the introductory level, it is competition.
To the highest level of competition is relevant, I believe, to all levels of play.

29. And, as president of the top tournament circuit in the world, how much responsibility do you feel for the overall vitality of the sport?

Way more than I feel I am able to handle at times.
I don’t get too caught up in that crap. People come down on me because I’m not “professional”. I’m as professional as I need to be. If people need a smile, a haircut, and suit to make them feel they are better at their job, so be it. I don’t. I am who I am. I’m not gonna pretend. It’s has its draw backs. I’m OK with it.
Anyway. So long as I do what I think is right, do it the right, way, and do it for the right reasons, I’ll be completely satisfied with myself and my role in paintball.

30. If you could have the floor for 10 minutes in a room with the USPL owners, what would your message be?

It depends on whether I had my knife with me or not.
The question you want to ask is whether I think them starting a new league was right or not.
No. I don’t. I honestly personally think it was irresponsible. It was bad timing and uncalled for. That’s my opinion.
There are guys over there that I know. We have issues. I think I’m right and they think they’re right. That’s a fact of living on the planet with other people. And I accept it.
There are some guys over there that I don’t know. Tom Fore. I’m not sure I would recognize him if he walked up to me. I don’t know him. But he has an opinion and a belief and he’s putting his time, effort, and money into it. God bless him. Rob Montero. I feel sure that I have never spoken to him in my life. But from what I hear, he’s a good guy trying to make things better for the sport. My hat is off to him.
I love our country. I love the chances that we have here. I love the opportunity. I love the fact that if you have balls and want to roll the dice, you can start up a business of your own and try to make it great. That’s what those guys did. And on that side of it, I couldn’t love America if I didn’t love that. I just don’t think it was the right thing or the right time, for this sport. It is time for everyone to come together and cooperate. We (paintball) may not make it. Times are really tough. If we bomb, then we bomb. If we fade away and die a slow death, then it’s obvious we could have done less selfish things along the way and would have made it. If we fade out, because of divisive decisions by people within our sport, it’s a damn shame.

31. And to close on a positive note: Name one thing you hate about tournament paintball.

The only things I hate about paintball are whiners, haters, and people who point fingers but are never willing to help. And that isn’t paintball. I hate that about people in all walks of life.

There are some things that I dislike, however -
People who get smoked every match 5-0, 5-2, 5-2, 5-1 – and blame the refs.
People who have been in the sport for 4 years and think they know it all.
Players who think they are even in the same atmosphere as NBA, MLB, NFL players.
Anonymous internet posts.
The immaturity of the industry.
Manufacturers selling to end users and the plethora of store owners who are so inept that they force manufactures to sell to end users to survive.
There’s more if you’d like.

But there are things I love about this sport too.
I love watching a kid pull off a big move.
I love that through this sport I have had the opportunity to go from an impoverished kid in the projects to traveling the world and making friends along the way.
I enjoy the fact that people can stand proud in our little world and say they are the best at what they do even if they aren’t 6’3” 240# athletes.
I love watching a team of kids who are nervous as can be and then realizing they can compete.
I love being able to see that something I provide gives people the same glazed over look of joy that I had 15 years ago coming to the “big events”.
I love the fact that I have weaseled my way into a position that has an intellectual giant like Baca Loco interested in interviewing a guy with “with the IQ of a field mouse” like me.
I love my staff. People don’t begin to give them the credit they deserve. Keely, Geoff, Tim, Tony, Dan, Burt, Fatty, the crew – they are absolutely awesome to work with. Jenny at home behind the scenes has made a world of difference in this business and in turn tournament paintball. The refs that come out in all weather sleep in cheap hotels and get paid very meager wages all because they want to make a difference. I respect those guys so much.
And I love Robbo, Missy Q, and Geoff Waterman.

Thanks, Lane. We'll have to do it again sometime.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

This is the home stretch, kids. In some respects the whole season hinges on what happens now. PSP needs a solid WC despite a venue change. The USPL needs an Act of God (or maybe Elvis) to demonstrate they are even a player in the major league game but Vegas is a great place to make a stand. The MS still has two events remaining and it appears that without locked divisions they would be hemorrhaging teams (as even SPL & D1 are down over last year and the MS imposed maximums of 32 teams per division.) And the Grand Tour is, so far, not so grand as they carry a pro division of mostly Eastern Euro teams and not much else. As we approach the off season (and another round of changes) you'd need a reliable crystal ball or Doc Brown's flux capacitor equipped Delorean to know how it's all gonna shake out.

Registration for the PSP's World Cup sits at 341 this morning while paid entries stands at 124. Today is an entry deadline with prices going up tomorrow until close of registration on September 26th.

Registration for the USPL's Vegas World Championships is currently at 46 not counting the pro teams with 5 teams paid. One month from today remains to register and pay for an opportunity to compete on The Strip in Las Vegas. There was some talk that Ron Kilbourne would return for the Vegas event with a Bushwackers squad but they are not currently listed among the pro teams.

Over in MillenniumLand there must be some subdued rejoicing as D2 & D3 (M5) have finally begun to show signs of life --or at least numbers with 16 teams registered in D2 and 34 teams in D3 (M5) up from 7 and 18 last week respectively. Hardly a landmark turnout but a huge improvement over just a week ago.

Still no registrations listed in D2 & M5 for Turkey yet though.

And the next Grand Tour stop, Riga Latvia, is separated from the Budapest event by less than a month. Perhaps as a consequence they have no pro registrations yet and only 10 registrations total across the other 3 divisions.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Monday Poll

Since this is the Labor Day holiday I intend to keep my labor to a minimum. Like always but today I have an excuse. Today's poll question however needs a fairly extensive set-up as it's based on a hypothetical situation. (But still a realistic one as you will see.) Since the PSP (using the APPA system) hasn't had access to all competitive player rankings it has (in the past) ranked incoming players either by rule or, in some rare cases, based on knowledge outside the system. We know that some Euro teams from the MS have historically played down and since they didn't win much if anything nobody really cared. We also know that players from the 7-man league have ended up PSP rankings that don't match with their 7-man rankings usually to the detriment of the PSP--what with some 7-man pros carrying D2 or D1 PSP rankings and so on. All, I might add, in accordance with the rules. The result has been that rules intended to govern PSP play haven't always been able to account for circumstances outside PSP control. So here's your poll question for the week: Should the ranking rules be followed to the letter or should additional information be taken into account sometimes if the result is truer to the intent of the rules? Yes or No.

Next week, after the poll, I'll give you an example.

UPDATE: Have modified the poll so as not to frustrate Faction's limited faculties. Original 10 votes will be included in final tally next week.

Monday Poll in Review
Lots of votes on this one. Interestingly the same division of votes seemed to hold from day to day until the end of the poll which ended in a to 2-to-1 split favoring PSP's World Cup at Fantasy of Flight over the USPL (NPPL 3.0) championships on The Strip in Vegas. Given the actual split between the leagues this season has favored the PSP by more than 2-to-1 it would seem that the venues account for the difference in the voting. Peeps at least like the idea of playing on The Strip. Of course when push comes to shove and real cash money is involved I guess we'll see how it shakes out. Although, any substantive increase for the USPL in team numbers particularly given the late venue announcement and its unfavorable position directly following WC would signal, it seems to me, that the venue is a clear winner.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Lane Wright Interview; part 2

Following is the Lane Wright interview. It doesn’t cover all the questions submitted nor even all the questions I wanted to ask him. With respect to the questions I avoided those that were purely speculative or hypothetical, for the most part. Or fluffy. Definitely no fluff. Or any fishing or baseball questions. In general I focused on Lane’s role with the PSP and secondarily, tourney paintball. This interview was handled as a series of questions submitted by email with a follow-up via phone for clarifications and to harass Lane a little bit on those questions he preferred not to answer. I've broken up the interview into sections to accomodate the ADD crowd. All the questions and answers are included without additional comment.

11. There is a growing sentiment in some quarters that now is the time for the PSP to strengthen and expand regional relationships in the 5-man and Race to format (ie; NEPL,WCPPL, Vicious Series becoming their regions 'CFOA'). Do you share that broad sentiment? And is that something the PSP can and should do?

It’s in the works. But again, in these financially strained times, even cooperative minded people are having a hard time taking risks. For any relationship to work, both sides have to concede. Right now, it’s hard for people who are barely staying above water to concede anything – PSP included. But I am working with several other leagues to come up with a plan that works for us all.

12. Even if your time table is different how do we get there from where we are now? Is the idea of the UCP a part of this process?

I believe the UCP will ultimately play a huge part in the process. It can be the binding that ties it all together. If I “knew” how to get there, we would be there. I have ideas. I listen to others ideas. Several of us are trying to do a type of loose think tank deal and will meet after the season to attempt to put together a plan.

13. Okay, enough of that for now. Using the high-powered NFL sports model ... they are constantly tweaking rules and making adjustments to keep their sport current with the type of players who populate their game. Do you have a particular rule change(s) that you personally would like to see implemented within the PSP?

Personally, I think there are too many bunkers and the guns are still too fast. People who say slowing the guns down slows the game down are ignorant. Do I think those are things the PSP should jump up and do? No. But, personally, I think it would make the game a lot more intense. I want this to be a sport. Not guys out playing with their toys.

I think the scoring needs to be addressed. I won’t elaborate, but you know what we are dealing with. I am a big opponent of anything that makes the game slow. No harm intended, but as good as Strange’s results were some years ago, I couldn’t stand to see them play. It was mind numbing. We have a point structure now that makes teams HAVE to play a boring game. They’d be foolish not to in some cases. That has to be fixed.

Other than that, I’m not a big rules guy. I want to keep it fun. Keep it fast paced and exciting. And have good enough reffing for the best team to have the best chance to win. If all that happens, and my company finds a way to make it financially beneficial to work as hard as we do, then I’m happy.

14. And now for something completely different. Do you see the webcast as a viable income generator for the PSP and is there a long term strategy in place?

It’s a great idea at a terrible time.
The webcast is awesome. Its potential is limited only by finance. The web is the new TV. Chasing TV now is completely idiotic. Anyone chasing TV is looking for some type of self promotion or something, I just don’t get it.
Yes. I absolutely see the webcast as an income generator. I simply don’t know if we will be able to fund it long enough to get there.

15. If so, how’s it going to work?

Ideally we have so many people tuning in that Doritos beats my door down with a huge check to capture our audience. The problem is that in order for those views to be high, we need to make it free. We charged $5 at World Cup last year and lost 67% of the viewers from the free day. Those numbers have to be high. So we want to make it free to watch. The issue we have is that we can’t afford to keep it going without charging people. I guess we could afford to keep it going if we skimp out on quality. That’s not an option for me though.

It’s tough. I think it could be the eventual life blood of the league and the sport. I don’t know if I can figure out how to maintain it long enough for that to happen.

16. One of the coolest features of the webcast this year is the expanded role of player statistics. However, other than the broadcast fans and players don’t have access to them. Are there any plans to make them available for fans and players to follow throughout the season? To expand and perhaps include Semi-Pro? Or even expand the range of statistics kept?

There are big plans for the stats. That’s all I can say. HUGE plans for the stats. But I promise. It won’t come quick enough for most. We’re gonna do it right, not right now.

17. Switching to sponsorship questions you mentioned in a recent conversation that the PSP decision to restrict vendors to principally manufacturers hasn’t had the effect you expected. Does that mean the subject will be reconsidered in the off season? Could we see a return to past practices or something different, perhaps some sort of compromise policy?

It didn’t work. All it did was cost PSP about $50K this year in revenue. It is already being rescinded.

18. The Doritos name was on prominent display in Chicago. Can you tell us a little about this as it relates to potential sponsorhips going forward?

No. I cannot.

19. Given the important role in supporting the league sponsorship has had in the past does the PSP have any ideas for how to replace that income? What sort of priority will that subject have this coming off season?

It will absolutely have to be discussed. This business is here to provide tournaments for competitive paintball teams. That is the first and foremost objective and will be for as long as I am in charge of operations. But the fact is that the sponsor monies are NEEDED to make it happen. So their concerns have to be addressed. Right now, their concerns are that they can’t afford to sponsor us. Not that they don’t want to. They can’t!

That loss in revenue doesn’t equate to a loss in expense. That money has to come from somewhere if the operation is to continue as it has been. The other option is to scale back operational costs. Less refs, less expensive venues, changes to the format to make it more affordable to run, etc. Some of those things took place during the last off season because I do have my finger plugged into the industry. We lost a good deal of sponsorship money this year. I made changes to off-set that. At some point, the changes become too much and the only option is to charge more.

There may be another option with the feeder/affiliate league thing I am working on. It could be a revenue generator for PSP. That’s not something that I have total control over, so I am certainly not counting on it.

20. If there are no replacement dollars for lost sponsorship what does the PSP do? Would the league consider raising entry fees?

It has to be considered. No one WANTS to charge people more money. If there are increases it is because that is what was needed to make ends meet. Period.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Lane Wright Interview; part 1

Following is the Lane Wright interview. It doesn’t cover all the questions submitted nor even all the questions I wanted to ask him. With respect to the questions I avoided those that were purely speculative or hypothetical, for the most part. Or fluffy. Definitely no fluff. Or any fishing or baseball questions. In general I focused on Lane’s role with the PSP and secondarily, tourney paintball. This interview was handled as a series of questions submitted by email with a follow-up via phone for clarifications and to harass Lane a little bit on those questions he preferred not to answer. I've broken up the interview into sections to accomodate the ADD crowd. All the questions and answers are included without additional comment.

Hey Lane
Thanks for taking the time to respond to a few questions from VFTD and its readers. This is a first for VFTD and I’d love to make it a regular–perhaps annual event. However, enough of the small talk as this is supposed to be a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails interview though I’m not gonna try and slip in any gotcha type questions. There is no avoiding some topics however.

1. Let’s begin with the recent news about Smart Parts. Will this have an effect on the PSP?

I am sure it will have an effect. They are one of our larger sponsors. Losing a sponsor will always have an effect on a business that needs sponsor money to sustain itself. At the moment though, I am more concerned with my personal friends dealing with a terrible situation. And secondly, dealing with the reality of the economy as it applies to our industry. PSP will move on. I’m concerned for Adam and his employees and the rest of the industry.

2. What about SP’s presence as a premier sponsor and vendor?

I believe those days are gone for the near future. They have to do what is right for their business and the people who still depend on them to provide for their families. That is and should be their first priority.

3. Moving on let’s go to rules and specifically the ROF. The PSP dropped the ROF in 2008 and again for the 2009 season. You publicly indicated that industry manufacturers (PSP sponsors) were a big part of the drive for this drop. The hope was that a "trickle down" effect to local fields would help make the game more attractive to potential players. With a season and a half gone by, have you had any feedback from these industry leaders to confirm that this is indeed happening? Is the plan working as it was hoped it would?

I have indeed had positive feedback from people. This was never intended to be a quick fix. It didn’t get broken in a year and it won’t get fixed in a year. If I didn’t think it was a positive move, we would undo the changes.

4. Here we are at the end of the season and there’s a relatively recent thread on the Nation speculating about more changes to ROF. Is more change to the ROF rules coming? And if no plans currently exist is the option open for future change?

There had been no discussion what so ever about ROF changes. That was a typical Internet rumor that went wild. Once it gets going, I have to respond. But like so many things that turn into “big issues” this one started from absolutely nothing.

5. While the subject is rules let’s talk about the classification rules for a minute. How do you view the function of the classification rules? What do you want them to accomplish?

Classification rules are meant to provide the wide array of teams interested in competing at our tournaments a relatively protected competitive grouping. I want the rules to accomplish the goal the rules are meant to accomplish.

6. As you know I’ve criticized, not so much the concept of classification, but it’s current application. If one function of the classification rules is to move players up to fill the upper divisional ranks; is it working? Shouldn’t we be seeing those divisions begin to fill out and add team numbers? And if we’re not–and we aren’t--why not?

The goal is not to move players into higher classifications. That ends up being a function of the system, but it isn’t the intended purpose. The classification rules have been in a constant state of flux. Some people see that as being a bad thing. I understand their position. I see it as PSP trying to adapt the rules to the current situations - as they arise or as we see them coming. I think that if we simply set out rules and never adjusted them, people would say we were arrogant and didn’t listen to the players. No matter what the rules are, no matter where the line is drawn, someone will always be the worst team in D1, or the worst player in D2. That doesn’t mean they aren’t classified correctly. The Lions are the worst team in the NFL. But they are indeed a professional team.
In my opinion, one of the main reasons we are not seeing the top classification fill is based on finance and philosophy.
The teams are not getting the financing needed to survive as they have in the past. The teams and players are not willing to adjust how they operate and instead go away, either as a whole or player by player.
And philosophical thing is that players/teams no longer have the burning desire to move to the highest level. They have begun to look at this as some type of business for them, I guess. It’s ridiculous. When D2 teams are talking about ROI on a purely monetary level it is crazy. This sport is nowhere near that level. So many teams today seem to be perfectly happy with mediocrity. They are perfectly OK with being a good D2 team. I can’t let them get their personal kicks out of outclassing a division because it plugs up the lower end. With no place for new teams to come in and compete, we are doomed. All of us.
There are many reasons for the assumed failing of pro teams. I don’t think classifications rules are anywhere near the top of the list.
Until our sport is mature enough to have contracts, drafts, and a governing body that recognizes that the league as a whole is bigger than the entities that comprise it, we will deal with rising and falling pro ranks. And no, money doesn’t come before those things. That’s idealistic and wishful thinking by anyone who says it does.

7. Any chance the league will reconsider the utility of using the classification rules for redistribution purposes in the off season? And, yes, that was a loaded question and if you disagree with the premise, on what basis do you disagree?

I don’t even understand the question. I certainly can’t answer it.

8. Moving on, a related subject is the UCP (Universal Classification Program). I think there’s probably more than a little confusion over just what the UCP is, and what’s it’s supposed to do. Care to take a crack at a brief explanation?

The UCP is the first crack at trying to set up a system of classification for all tournament play. It is a huge complicated task. It is needed. It isn’t going to be easy. We took the first step this year. We created a system. As the year went on, it became apparent that our first draft wasn’t perfect. No one is forced to use the UCP system. People who run their own events can do whatever they want with their classification rules. Some people acted like we forced them to do something and that is very bothersome to me. We took a stab at something that we saw was needed. We made an educated and experienced attempt at doing it right. We will make adjustments during the off season and try to make it better. And we will keep following that procedure.

9. In places where categories of play overlap the local, regional and national tournament scenes is there a concern that the result will be competition for teams between UCP members and hierarchies instead of cooperative integration?

Yes. It doesn’t have to be that way if people will look at the big picture and be cooperative. Too many people in our sport think about tomorrow and next week and apparently have no intention of being around in 5 years. I don’t always succeed. But I always try to thing about long term ramifications. I’d rather bite the bullet today, knowing that 5 years from now I will prosper. Paintball seems to be full of people who don’t like to think that way. If certain people stick together, certain people who run key leagues around the country and think long term, we can make this transition and be a much better sporting industry in the future. It will work. Not for everyone, but for those who are willing to look at the long term big picture. It has to happen and we have to do what it takes to make it happen - even if that means giving a little ground today.

10. Do you think the UCP needs to provide exclusive relationships with the local and regional groups based on territories or is it viewed as flexible enough to bring in everyone under its banner?

I don’t know the answer to that. It is a great question. I am concerned with it. Obviously, the simple answer is yes. Establish regions, find the guy capable of doing the best job in a region, and go at it with him as the man in that area. I hope there is another way to do it. We’ll see.

Back On Track

For world domination! VFTD would like to welcome our latest enlistee to the Deadbox Puppet Army, Andy Piper.
Andy is a lean, mean fighting machine who has forsaken the donut for the triathlon and his long (not lost) years in paintball across the pond make him an ideal recruit. Glad to have you on board, Andy.

(VFTD will soon be releasing, to members only, a demonstration video of the secret handshake for those army members who have yet to be initiated.)

You too can join the DPA (and receive the secret handshake video) simply by following the simple directions for "followers" on the sidebar. After all, who doesn't want a piece of world domination? And, you know, the next step after the secret handshake is the exclusive T-shirt and the autographed photo of the fearless commander-in-chief or Olga Kurylenko, your choice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Smart Parts & competitive paintball

I realize that Smart Parts is probably the most polarizing name in paintball and I have no intention of trying to sway anyone's opinion one way or the other. I am not going to offer any partisan position, pro or con. I am not going to speculate on a final outcome to this news or deliver some sort of editorial trying to sum up what Smart Parts has meant to paintball. For starters I don't know that the company is done. Any number of options still exist so any eulogizing is premature. And according to a PR released today over at ProPaintball the company is open for business and moving forward and the actions taken, while difficult, were necessary in this tough economy. Nor do I wish to appear callous with respect to the real hardships this action has and will bring some people. But I think it's fair to discuss how this news may affect pro paintball specifically and competitive paintball in general.

But first, I want to say one thing about the Gardner brothers that may offer a different (or fuller) perspective to some. I know Adam and Bill. I wouldn't call us friends, more like paintball acquaintances. I was, for some years, associated with teams sponsored by Smart Parts and in all my dealings with the brothers they were professional, straight-forward and honorable. And beyond that I always thought that when it was within their power they were also generous, maybe not magnanimously so, but generous nonetheless. Make of it what you will. I would be remiss, particularly now, if I didn't take a moment to publicly express my gratitude.

With respect to the PSP I don't think this news or its ramifications will have a direct impact on the operation of the league. (But I did ask Lane about it in the upcoming interview anyway for his take.) While there shouldn't be any immediate effect on the PSP this does drive home the reality that the league must be able to stand of its own accord and the days when Smart Parts or Dye would dump money into the league to stop the bleeding are past. Call the magic number for WC 275 and you might begin to see that none of this is inevitable. The league should be fine for now but what the league will need in the future is not some year-to-year subsistence existence but enough profit to protect it.
Here's a job for Chris Raehl: do a calculation of where scale sees decreasing profits. I'm sure the league has a handle on how big an event needs to be see some profit but I'm guessing nobody has looked too closely at the other end of that spectrum and I'm also pretty sure there is a point where an event is too big.

Regarding the impact on pro paintball start with a list of sponsored teams and put Philly and Dynasty at the top of that list. Nor does it end there but think for a moment how large an impact those two teams alone have had on the history of pro paintball. We are closing in on another off season and the expectation prior to this news was another round of sponsorship reductions. While there is no telling how severe the sponsorship cutbacks might be at Smart Parts it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume there will be changes and not for the better--at least with respect to the needs of the pro teams. Any move that might force Dynasty to seek alternative sponsorship will result almost certainly in pushing some other pro teams aside and likely, out the door. And any serious cuts to the Americans program will necessarily reduce their effectiveness on the field. On a smaller scale variations of the same will reverberate around the competitive paintball landscape in the off season.

And I'm also wondering if this might precipitate some sort of domino effect among potential sponsors with respect to the leagues. I'm not sure I see it but this industry isn't noted for its wisdom or prudential habits. Even if the PSP retains the team numbers could a conceivable shift in pro strength to the other league begin to shore up the NPPL 3.0 and attract renewed industry interest? Hey, what isn't possible in this crazy game? Follow the paint. (Will .50 cal arrive too late?)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mr. Curious Strikes Again

A rock just came through Mr. C's living room window with a note attached to the offending brick. Word rapidly spreading is that Smart Parts has laid off upwards of 90% of their work force. If true, it doesn't look good for one of paintball's mainstay industries and one of competitive paintball's most loyal supporters. Perhaps this is one reason VFTD didn't receive any official response to this week's earlier rumors from Mr. Curious concerning SP.

No word as to what this move portends but the speculation is rampant and not particularly optimistic about any final resolution.

More as it comes through the window.

UPDATE: Sean Scott of SP (& GI Milsim) has confirmed the layoffs though the exact numbers, reasons and possible ramifications were not covered. For all the haters, particularly those involved in tourney paintball, now might be a good time to consider what this could mean to all of us.

DC Challenge Breakout

As promised here's another post on 7-man play focusing on the breakout. However, this time the object isn't so much to describe a breakout and the options available but to discuss the differences between success and failure.

The breakout given in the diagram is an aggressive breakout as it takes the fifty castle on the D-side and nearly the fifty on the snake side. In both cases it's accomplished the same way most of the time. It begins by running the corners deep along the baseline and challenging opponent shooters to reach those runners. At the same time the snake and castle runners are headed upfield using a can and rocket respectively to shield them until they cut low across the shooters lanes. If the shooters have elevated their guns to reach the corner runners and followed them out to the corners the snake and castle runners will go underneath their lanes.

We used variations of this breakout most games and only lost the snake runner once. Even so it wasn't as successful as it ought to have been because we failed to support and protect the leading players and we failed to consolidate those early advantages.

The follow-up, on this particular breakout, is where most of our variations were. The snake side MC (stubby can) began shooting inside cross field to counter D-side rotations though the distances and lack of holding a lane made it largely ineffectual for most of the teams most of the time it could, and did, delay movement occasionally. The stubby player then moves to the snake side can to help press the snake or quickly cuts upfield to the temple and/or brick in order to more effectively deny D-side rotations. One of the home shooters then had the option to fill as needed. The other home shooter had the option of taking the MT (rocket) on the D-side or the small dorito in preparation of making a wire side rotation. (Although a rotation from the rocket to D2 was also a common move.)

At any rate the virtue of an aggressive breakout is it puts players in a position to eliminate careless opponents and/or deny secondaries to teams that employed a more conservative breakout. This ability to deny secondaries holds the opposing team in position (as the typical game plan in that case is to deploy players sequentially.)

The points I wanted to make however are these: An aggressive breakout doesn't make an aggressive team and an aggressive breakout can easily leave a team overextended. (For those who are curious my team's issues with good 7-man play revolve around extreme differences in 7-man experience and variations in style of play. Thus it's very important we maintain as much consistency as possible and practice time in order to smooth over and resolve the differences prior to competition. And, the lack of those options is the reason for my ulcers and thinning hair. Maybe next year.)

Don't get me wrong, the aggro breakout can win games and win them quickly but it's about more than position. It's about using that potentially temporary advantage as a unit, as a team, to gain greater control over the field, support and protect the leading elements, and consolidate the advantage you gained with the aggro breakout. That is the difference between an aggro breakout and an aggro team.

Where the aggro breakout can get you in trouble is when it fails to eliminate opposing players quickly and where the team employing the aggro breakout leaves its leading element hanging. Elimination of those players re-opens the field and can result in a reversal of field position depending on how the leading element players were eliminated. Obviously, all this is easier said than done. Even so, an aggro breakout does not an aggro team make.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

Gonna do a little reverse order action today and start with the Eurokids.

Grand Tour Budapest is this weekend and the final number participating looks to be around 31. If so that's down around 25% from the earlier numbers originally registered. Maybe if the GT decentralizes next year but tries to maintain their basic concept they could have two or three leagues operating in smaller territories with a centralized championship to close out their season. Don't know if that would be more appealing but I also don't know how they can continue on the meager turnouts they've scored.

Over in MillenniumLand it's beginning to look like the only thing holding the league together is the locked divisions and pre-payments. Campaign Cup is still nearly a month away but the unlocked divisional numbers aren't looking great--except in comparison to the Sarsilmaz Cup numbers which currently stand at zero according to the MS website. Campaign Cup has 7 D2 teams registered and 18 M5 teams signed up. Plenty of time to turn that around as the late crowd jump in last minute but I've got a feeling that isn't likely to happen this time around. Call it a hunch. Call it my natural pessimism. Call it what you like.
Is the fledgling UK Federation supporting Campaign or are they staying out of it and focusing on their primary interest; the (re)development of UK competitive paintball? Would it make any difference?

World Cup numbers stand at 318 registered not including any unregistered pro teams. Rumors abound about some pro teams missing Cup--er, not showing up--so I'm not counting anybody at this point not officially registered. (Though the word too is that Joy Division is set to replace at least one potential absentee.) Anyway, it's also about time to start keeping track of paid teams and that number is presently at 88. Let's see how that number does the next couple of weeks.

While the USPL morphs into NPPL 3.0 or perhaps turns into the NPPL presents the USPL or something else altogether the early numbers for Vegas are impossible to judge. There are 35 teams registered, not including any pro teams, and five weeks until registration closes leading up to the event. Nobody has put an event on the strip before. It is a fantasy venue but will that be enough? The next three or four weeks will tell us. (Among other things the Vegas venue will cost the league more in terms of infrastructure--bringing in the fields, netting, etc. set-up and take down and so on--so it's a gamble of sorts but ain't that what Vegas is all about?)
I have a lot of thoughts regarding this league and I will be doing the year in review sometime shortly after the season is over.
Until then I do have a bone to toss y'all. Word is the Naughty Dogs are set to buy in and join the league next season.

Let's Talk Turkey

Some weeks ago VFTD posted--nearly in its entirety--an email from a Turkish paintball player regarding Turkish paintball and the MS's Sarsilmaz Cup event. Given that the Millennium kids (as the top Euro promoters) were aligning themselves with a Turkish armaments company and all.
The attached email is posted with permission and offers a different take on the circumstances of Turkish paintball. VFTD is happy to post different viewpoints and allow y'all to decide for yourselves what you think about all things competitive paintball. While one might reasonably applaud the assistance of the federation in supporting Turkish paintball the bigger picture remains a concern here at VFTD, and the direct association of paintball markers with real guns problematic, perhaps not in Turkey but certainly elsewhere in the wide world of paintball.


Hi Baca

First of all sorry for my lazzy english as my native language is Turkish It is possible for me to make some grammatical mistakes :)

I just want to give you some information about Turkish paintball community and what Turkish federation did for the paintball in Turkey.. You published someone's letter about federation and paintball in Turkey. First of all this anonymous person was right. There is no Turkish paintball federation in Turkey. However paintball is one the major branch of Turkish Shooting Federation. Your anonymous writer claimed that paintball community had to listen their parent federation. This is totally wrong and this man tried to cheat you about this issue. Let me explain the historical background of Paintball in Turkey..
In 2003 there is only 2 team in Turkey this is total amount for scenario teams and speedball teams. In 2006 we have still 4 teams. However after federation involved to the community the number of teams has dramatically increased and now we have 20+ active team and 5 of them play at international tournament.. Last year Team PSX won 2 event in centurio and finished 3rd place in total at Div2. This year Team Noname leading the M5 division after 3 tournament, and team Joker is in the 7nd place in division 2.
Federation organize TPL (Turkish paintball league) and they distribute paintballs for free. Teams didn't pay for paintball and they can use unlimited amount of paintball. Federation distributed almost 2000 boxes of paintball in a season. With the help of federation we organized Oliver Lang clinic again for free. Everything is free included food, paints, etc. And this season also federation give 5 boxes of paintball to each team at each tournament. And also federation cover the expenses of top three teams of TPL at the international tournaments.
So it is impossible for me to accept the critics of this anonymous person. Federation did great things. they spend big amount of money aprrx. 400 000 Euro( this including almost 3000 boxes of paintball, brand new compressor, millennium supair set, refs expenses, Oliver lang clinic, Ulrich stahr ref clinic etc etc.
We are very excited about millennium series Antalya event and I'm sure that, this will be one of the greatest tournament ever. I know that plane ticket are expensive but I guarantee that this will worth every money you pay. Hotel is great, field is great. With the all inclusive concept you drink, you eat as much as you can.
When it comes to name issue. As you mentioned before Sarsilmaz is the biggest financial supporter of federation and also owner of the company is also head of the federation. This person support financially paintball and also last event of millennium will be held at Antalya with the help of him. So there is nothing wrong here. Federation decide to call this event "Sarsilmaz" to honor him because of his support.
As you mentioned before NPPL sponsored by US army. Paintball is a new sport in world. Even pro players suffered from lackage of sponsorship.. I mean paintball need money and if those kind of guys want to sponsor paintball in this way or other, we couldn't refuse them.
I'm not here to convience you about this issue. My problem is; this guy tried to cheat paintball community by using your popularity and solemnity.
Everybody claimed that they want to spread paintball everywhere, but when it come to real everybody started to criticize. Don't be malicious and give us one chance to change your believe about this community. Antalya will be the only event where european team and asian teams compete against each other. So please ignore the politics and enjoy this opportunity.

Turgay Balkan