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?)