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.