At this rate it will take a year to do the Year in Review–and with absolutely no guarantees it will be worth the wait. (This is one of the problems with blogging. Some subjects require more thought and preparation than others while blogging generally encourages volume and brevity. And don’t get me started on tweeting. How incredibly gay is that? Twitter is the bastard stepchild of blogging and texting and carries the worst attributes of both. But I digress. Again.)
This installment of Year in Review is rating the venues, the logistics, the vendors and the vibe of the PSP. (Tomorrow the USPL/NPPL 2.0) I'm gonna be bad at this. I'm tired of the traveling road show and as long as my field is in order when we walk it it's all good. I don’t care about anything but winning and I tend to be single-minded so the only things that get my attention pertain to winning. The last time I made the rounds of the vendors actually interested in new gear WC was still at Paintball World. Most of the time I only pass any vendor because I have no other option. I’ll drop by a booth or display here and there but I’m looking up people and not gear or goodies. I usually hate whatever music is playing because it’s usually garbage. I enjoy the girl parade as much as the next guy but I tend to grind my teeth to avoid rolling my eyes when they start talking. (That, by the way, isn’t a chauvinist comment. My consternation has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with inane yammering. Show me the booth babe who knows who Yeats and Renoir were and trust me, I’ll be fascinated.) And beyond all that there is a huge gulf between how somebody experiences an MLP event for the first time or the forty first time. Keeping that in mind; here goes.
Phoenix--suitable location, hotels, restaurants, etc. Good accessibility and good grass. The facilities on site provide a sense of permanence and indoor plumbing. The latest theme (or scheme) logistically is to lay out the vendors in such a way as to force all the players to walk past them repeatedly. Unfortunately it did not result in waves of impulse buying (pun intended) but the number of vendors was generally so small this past season as to not be a major inconvenience--until World Cup. The mood is always good here because it's the start of the new year. Everyone is hopeful and happy to be competing again. And win or lose there remains something to play for after Phoenix. Grade B-
MAO--is the archetype of the PSP's back-to-basics it's all about the competition formulation. (It's a dedicated paintball site and cheaper.) Normally a part of the Paintball Central family of fields and stores the MAO site routinely hosts other tournament events the year round. It's a compact venue, which is a plus, but as a full time field the grass isn't always the best. Parking can get muddy and the gravel is a pain but still an improvement over more mud should it rain during an event. The Rock Hill area has good accessibility, hotels and the rest but isn't exactly party central after sundown and downtown Charlotte is at least 45 minutes away. This is a taking care of business event. Grade C-
Chicago--in recent years this has been held in the distant suburb of Bolingbrook on property adjoining a small water park. All the essential amenities are readily accessible here as well although things are perhaps a bit more spread out. (Our hotel of choice the last couple years has been a solid twenty minutes away but there are others that are closer.) Parking in a church lot is preferable to parking in the city's cornfield across the street and the layout in Chicago is particularly annoying as it compels you to drag your bags thru a virtual maze to reach your playing field. Even so, it's not horrible, just less convenient than Phoenix or MAO. Chicago does have a unique quality as it is usually the second largest event and gets the big Midwest turnout with a lot of partisan fans and the energy they bring. On the downside the ground is hard and the grass is thin but it plays well enough. It’s frequently really hot in late June and overall the venue is a bit cramped. Grade C-
World Cup--the Fantasy of Flight location was out in the sticks a bit but still only 25 minutes or so from Disney, Kissimmee and Old Town. Besides the location (that some didn't like much) the major complaints centered on the long and winding path through the vendors to get to the fields and the cross country hike to the registration area located in one of FoF's buildings well apart from the venue itself. (Reaching your field wasn't nearly as bad if you simply parked where you weren't supposed to. Fortune favors the bold.) With the lifting of the vendor restrictions by the league the turnout for Cup was the largest, by far, of the year (as Cup has traditionally been anyway) with lots of new gear lines and products being introduced to the public during the event. That, and the access restrictions that are part of the routine security measures created the unwelcome walks. However, for a first time in a new place the logistics were adequate. Cup is necessarily big and more spread out. Some of the fields were uneven and perhaps less than ideal but certainly, on the whole, no worse than the Disney fields. Grade C