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.