Saturday, January 31, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 30

There's a thread in the PSP forum over at the Nation dealing with D1 players looking for places to play. Since that is a red flag issue for me I was gonna jump in with both feet--but decided not to. Not because I've changed my mind about the PSP classification rules or because somebody came up with a great argument I hadn't thought of. What held me back was some confusing if very incomplete data. It looks, on first blush, as if last year's D2 as a whole has largely disappeared. Of course some or even many of last year's teams may simply not be playing Phoenix but I limited my comparison list to teams that played at least 3 events last year and so far you can count them on one hand. What I mean is I was looking for D2 teams that stayed D2 and are registered for Phoenix. (I'll go back a few years and see what the numbers suggest about an expected rate of continuity sometime soon. Anecdotally it seems like more teams have carried over one year to the next in much greater numbers than early data for '09 projects. Not a good thing.)
Anyway, the case I was going to make was twofold; 11 (or 12) teams had rosters reclassed D1 by this year's classification rules and so far 4 of them have made the move to D1 with some TPA players moving to Status. That leaves 6 (or 7) rosters of D1 players on the outs. The second point is that a team like Zero Tolerance (the former team of some of the players in the thread) played all 5 events last year and finished: 8th, 11th, 10th, 11th and 11th and fit the classification criteria to be moved to D1 on those results. No disrespect to that team or those players but in no rational merit-based competitive environment is that a D1 team and those players D1 players (except in the PSP where they are attempting to repopulate the divisions with lower skill levels.)

What I can't say (for now) is that any of these players would have continued playing if they'd been left in D2 where they belong but if the player base is trending toward greater and faster turnover that is another reason for the league to focus on stability and continuity instead of the current restructuring scheme. Anyway, same old, same old.

I'll sign off with a question for you to ponder: Who (or what) is the future of competitive paintball if we're putting kids on a 2 - 4 year cycle from start to finish? And where did the team captains, leaders and organizers of today come from? Hint: these are, to my mind anyway, related questions. (And ones I'll be dealing with sometime soon.)

Update: Countdown is C minus 2 and counting.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 29

The countdown for Phoenix will begin Monday (of registered and PAID teams) so today is C minus 3. And counting.

USPL quickly tossed out some new info--a left coast regional in San Jose and floated the idea of a Miami season ender--to give everyone something other than the paint surcharge rumor to talk about.

Besides, peeps are far more interested in who will end up on the PSP pro rosters as the word on some of the players slowly starts to leak (and teams are forced to start making the hard decisions.)

Are the teams and players that contract with photographers to cover their event participation usually unserious teams? On a slow Friday I'm marginally interested in the answer. I ask the question that way because I guess I tend to lean toward that explanation. Not for any good reason really ... but apparently lacking sentimentality it never occurs to me at the time. That, and it's bad ju-ju to let the magic box steal your soul.

UPDATE: A little light housekeeping and as I've given Frederica the day off ...
Paintball on the Web at the bottom of the sidebar has added, a new site dedicated to paintball related video, and removed the NXL and pbreserve sites as there is, for now, no more NXL and pbreserve is now ProPaintball. VFTD is glad to add any paintball site(s) to the list. Just drop me a line with the link.

Enlistments for the Week

This week's recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army (What is the DPA?) are an elite pair and it is VFTD's great pleasure to welcome you both.

First up is, Isaiah, a young man who has been to the top of the competitive paintball mountain and is making the move to real life. (Whatever that is.) Thanks for being here, Iz.

Next is Jeff Stein of the New England Hurricanes and one of paintball's more outspoken owners. A good thing in the opinion of VFTD. Hey, Jeff.

Until next week.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 28

"The PSP is pleased to announce that for the 2009 Season all of our events will host an exclusive manufacturers' tradeshow. In an effort to respond to the overwhelming request of our industry's manufacturers and sponsors, companies will now only be able to represent their own brands within the tradeshow."

The above is a partial quote from a PSP press release sent out this morning. I'm sure some of you received it, too. It appears to be a more moderate version of what the Millennium is doing this year. (If you missed those posts and are interested look here and here for some background.) It is also a form of protectionism. In the last couple of seasons vendor sales have been soft. So soft almost nobody has made any profits in the process. (And more than a few have struggled to break even.) Soft sales encouraged a few vendors to offer mainstream products at cut rate prices well below msrp and map pricing and that in turn further eroded an already weak sales environment. Given that situation this move appears (there's that word again) to make some sense. However --
There's more to it than that. The PSP is changing the model of what sponsorship is and what it receives in return. What was a vendors village of diverse retailers is to be a manufacturers tradeshow with the proviso the manufacturers are selling retail. The result is that manufacturers prices are protected and they become the only game in town. Which means potentially higher prices to the customer--assuming there are any. Customers, that is.
Is this really a good idea? Probably not. Will it work? Depends on what you (or I) mean by work. Will it protect the manufacturers and their appointed reps? Yes, but that only means at the event site for the duration of the event. Will it garner sufficient sales to be worthwhile? Guess we will see. Will it, by the end of the year, turn World Cup into a legit tradeshow (with direct sales on the side)? If it does will the PSTA still need Paintball Extravaganza? (And what about Mary?)
Other problems remain but aren't really the PSP's problem. One of them is manufacturers competing against retailers for retail business. Another is manufacturers selling to retailers who don't uphold manufacturers guidelines.

Mr. Curious wants to know

How is it Mr. Miller remains the Vice-Chairman or Co-Chair (or even the Comfy Chair) of the PSTA when he isn't in the industry anymore having received his gold watch and hearty handshake from Procaps towards the end of '08? Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just curious.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 27

I wonder if VFTD can get Ted Koppel to do daily podcast updates for MLP held hostage? (That one dated me, didn't it?)

Okay, PSP has announced prizes for '09. If you're up in arms over this, seriously, what did you expect? And if you haven't seen it yet and don't know what to do with your arms go check it out at (Link in sidebar, Paintball on the Web)

ProPaintball is reporting that the USPL is planning a surcharge on cases of paint sold at their events. (Or should that be our events? I get so confused sometimes.) If accurate all I can say is Paintball has a lot of leading feet and not all of them have been shot yet but not because peeps ain't trying. (Work on that for a second and you'll get it.) Promote marginally cheaper entry fees and then find ways to make it up with extra charges. That's the ticket!
Though I have no reason to doubt the report I do have an alternate theory that fits the evidence--if a couple of the details were misunderstood. It could be a clever "sponsorship" formula for paint manufacturers instead as once described to me. At least I thought it was clever. A lot cleverer (if that's a word) than charging your customers a paint surcharge.

UPDATE: In the comments section of the report at ProPaintball FrankdaTank opens mouth and inserts ... he reassures all the readers that nothing is set in stone. Could a six figure PR job be far behind? Camille follows up and states categorically the info is wrong. That, boys and girls, is how you do it. Off to bed without their dinner tonight for the ProPaintball kids.

I can't quite let go of the Craig Miller interview over at 68 Caliber 2.0 just yet. (I'd apologize but you should know by now I get fixated on stuff in completely arbitrary ways.) I am, however, gonna limit myself to two observations: 1. If you follow the explanations for how the PSTA got started you discover that paintball's Big Boyz sat down in a room and decided the best way to move forward was for paintball's Big Boyz to run the show because it might create internal divisions down the road if paintball's Big Boyz weren't in charge. (Which I find uproariously funny.) 2. One of the benefits of aligning with SGMA is the Industry Shipment reports which provide unique info and began in 2006. And it has only taken until 2009 to figure out how to begin an initiative to invite wider industry participation. At this rate the PSTA might start answering their phone in 2011. Gotta love those all volunteer committees. What a hoot.

Lastly, working (but not very hard) on a post called 'The Iron Law of Tournament Logistics' which will post whenever I finish it. (See, no more broken promises.) I mention it because it has some relevance given the laundry list of PSP changes this year and the nascent efforts of the USPL to figure out how to operate a hopefully successful league.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 26

It's nearly time to start a daily check on teams registered and PAID for Phoenix. The clock is also winding down on the PSP with respect to the actual number of pro teams competing. Once the countdown begins the reality of this hostage crisis will take on a whole other level of immediacy--which is why I'm putting it off.

For an interview with Craig Miller of the PSTA (and whatever Procaps is calling itself this week) check out the latest at 68 Caliber 2.0. (Link is in the Paintblog roll.) Warning: it's long and not terribly exciting. Okay, it's tedious and dull but only because the "answers" are of the sort that sound like something but really aren't much of anything. That, by the way, is just my opinion. Your view may vary.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 25

Three, make that four, brief items on the agenda for today and (at least) one of them is just plain silly. You decide which one is the silly one.

The Millennium Series announces the new official standard of 44 bunkers to produce a MS field layout. The 44 coinciding with the new PSP standard even though all the bunkers across both standards aren't identical--yet. One more step down the UPBF pathway, a cheaper base package price for Adrenaline Games and a new upgrade kit for '09. Every base covered.

For those of you who find posting comments too taxing VFTD has the Reax option which offers some minimal feedback on your opinions of what's shaking here at VFTD. Mostly y'all are such slackers you don't bother with those either and that's okay 'cus truth be told your opinion is completely optional and I'm not losing any sleep over it. I think more reader participation is a positive thing but whatever. This is about the dud reax to the latest Enlistment post. Some comedian added a second dud--and that was amusing. I still want to know what exactly the problem is. VFTD doesn't grade for spelling or grammar so come on, Capt. Dud, you can do it.
(I'm trying out a bit of reverse psychology. Let's see how it works.)

VFTD would like to congratulate the kids at on the upscale move and wish them all success. I'd also like to encourage the lazy slugs that always used the link at pbreserve to visit VFTD to suffer through the mind-numbingly difficult process of adding VFTD to their favorites. I know y'all can do it.

VFTD's past objections to organizing something like the UPBF was not about rejecting a universal standard, it was about promoting the right standard. (Something reasonable people can disagree about certainly.) My concern with the UPBF and now the UCP (Universal Classification Program)is that the PSP will end up being locked into the current format--ostensibly a response to economic reality--as it's accepted by regional and international series and we will all end up playing in perpetuity this rather watered down version of its-not-called-xball-anymore. I was given some assurance that that wasn't going to happen and that the focus needed to be on getting thru the coming difficult times. I do not doubt the sincerity of those assurances nor the reality of the tough times. I am, however, afraid that once the current format and system become accepted on a widespread basis the option of making changes diminishes drastically simply because it then begins to affect so many more leagues, teams and players. Its own momentum will make it nearly impossible to change course once it gets going. On the plus side it will also be that much harder to shrink the game any further. I suppose that's some consolation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 24

It's your lucky day 'cus I'm feeling benevolent. That and I'm totally burned out on this classification & ranking thing. No more harping. I've had my say. We'll see what happens. Hopefully it'll work out.
I do have a couple of kinda, sorta related items for comment today. And there's nothing you can do about it. There's no restraining order against blogging. Yet.
What do you suppose the average age of a competitive paintballer is today? What was it ten years ago? Whatever you think the number is today's baller is considerably younger, isn't he? (Or for all eleven of you gals, she.) Keep that in mind for this next part.
What is the life cycle of a good tourney baller these days? If the player is good (or plays on a good team) and competes at the national level the player can expect to move up one division a year. And every division up means fewer teams and fewer slots for players to play--at least that's what it's always meant in the past. (And the current system ain't helping.) So the higher you go the greater the likelihood you play yourself out of the game. And this, by the way, is irrespective of the merits of the system used. (I know--been here, done this.) Keep that in mind for this next part.

Regarding the UCP's (Universal Classification Program) national championship concept is the PSP sowing the seeds of their own irrelevance? I think they are. Here's how: In trying to organize a regional system based on the Race format and using the UCP to promote a national championship formula they will end up competing against the lower divisions at the regional level and they will be at a distinct disadvantage. There are reasons that when I suggested a series of similar ideas here and here that I proposed a Pro Circuit. If your regional ranking is consistent with the national ranking and you can compete regionally and qualify for the national championship at the end of the year (World Cup) what advantage is it to compete in a national circuit that is more expensive across the board? So the PSP wants to set-up a regional but identical system to their own and don't see that they will be competing with the regions? Now throw in the factoid that if your team stays regional they stay out of the PSP's classification system (as it currently stands.) Win, win to play regionally. Of course even if the PSP closes the classification loopholes there's still no apparent reason for lower division teams to play the national circuit. Are the soccer fields of Phoenix, the grass and gravel of MAO and the rock hard ground of Bollingbrook so exotic that teams will pay thousands more to compete there instead of their regionals? Could happen.

Btw, expect the new issue of WELT soon. Don't have a date for you but I hear it's on the way. My latest is sure to outrage. All I ask is if you plan on coming over with torches and pitchforks you call ahead. It's common courtesy. And be sure to see who JB is having his cuppa with this month. Here's a hint--it's a baller. That and loads more coming soon at the extremely low price of absolutely free. So keep your eyes peeled. (Not really. That would hurt.) For the new issue of WELT.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Enlistment this Week

Yeah, this is scheduled for Fridays. The list was so long it took an extra day to compile. So without further ado--
A big shout out to Tim Cerruti of the freshly minted Scottsdale Elevation and a student at VFTD's old alma mater, Arizona State. Whoop-de-freaking-doo. (I'll have to work on my school spirit.) Thanks, Tim.

Until next week.

UPDATE: Okay, Captain Dud, how 'bout a hint? Is it 'cus the post is a day late? Or you got something agin Cerruti or ASU? Enquiring minds want to know. It's one thing to vote thumbs down on a regular posting but dissing the Army is a fighting vote. So let's hear it. Or are you skeered?

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 23

VFTD also held hostage, Day 23. I know, I'm whining and yes, I disgust myself so no need to kick me while I'm down. Rumor has it JT will be/has signed up to sponsor the PSP this year in a big way. Don't know if that grapevine report is accurate or not but if I were you I wouldn't drop everything and call my broker just yet. There may be a floor for other industries and commodities but I think paintball has a basement.

APPA's front page has a link posted to the PSP's Universal Classification Program in preliminary form (as well as a graphic representation.) I hate to do it to y'all and I won't take it badly if you don't stop by tomorrow 'cus I'm gonna post some observations and questions regarding the UCP and its relation to the PSP's classification and ranking system. I may also have a go-round or three with Raehl in the comments to the Logan's Run Finale for those with masochistic urges and a desire for punishment.

Saw a tentative WCPPL schedule (of 5 or 6 events) the other day and they've scheduled around the USPL west coast events but added together it's gonna be 9 or 10 7-man events on the Left Coast this season. I know the kids were up in arms over losing 7-man (for a month or two) but when it comes time to pay the entry are they gonna love it enough to support both leagues?

Stay vigilant. Or take a nap. What could it hurt?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Burning Question

How long will it be before we see teams entering the pro ranks with players who expect to have to pay something in order to play?

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 22

Event dates have been reported for the '09 USPL season over at Junior Brown's site.
1 - Surf City Open, Huntington Beach, CA - April 3 – 5
2 - Washington DC - May 15 – 17
3 - West Coast - June 12 – 14, 2009
4 - Boston - July 31 – August 2
5 - West Coast - August 28 – 30, 2009
6 - West Coast - October 2 – 4, 2009
The locations for the two Eastern Conf. events were well chosen given they are the only two areas east of the Mississippi where 7-man may still have a pulse as far as I know. Any chance that the spirit of the NPPL will live on and we can hold the Boston event in the parking lot of a high school football stadium? Since we're economizing and all. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.) It looks like an HB finale is probably off the calendar--which is almost certainly an acknowledgement of reality. So where to have the last event?

Rumor has it that Bart Y. (Impact) offered to pay entries for teams other than his own--which is a very generous offer indeed. If true it's hard to fault a willingness to put your money on the line to keep pro teams in the game and support the new league, except ...
How is that gonna work? Pro team payments are essentially franchise fees so if Bart is paying for teams other than his own is he receiving "extra" franchises or are these teams "buying in" without having to pay what everyone else is paying? I imagine the easy answer is they will pay Bart back at some point. Not my problem but no matter how it shakes out it creates a situation from the get go where not everyone is equal no matter how you try to spin it. At least it's a well traveled road in paintball. Of course that may be better than not having a team or two if it comes down to that.

Have the Bushwackers really signed on as a PSP pro team? Were they able to because Bart covered their USPL fees? Did they strike a separate deal with the PSP? And does this mean there are other pro team announcements to come? (Hard to run a division of 13, though it could also mean the loss of a different team, I suppose, like ... Aftershock?) Don't know, just speculating.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Logan's Run: The Finish Line

My differences with the classification and ranking system isn't that the concept is defective but that the present implementation is faulty. Clearly the PSP disagrees and beyond that has a purpose in the way the system currently functions (and will purportedly function in the future.) My objection is two-fold; the current system is unnecessarily coercive and, in the end it won't work as intended. First thing I looked at was the points system (which isn't bad but in some respects is a blunt instrument.) It would be possible to add to the present calculations and it would be possible to put a different points system in place but how the numbers are figured isn't the real problem. And making that change wouldn't automatically fix things. So while I think there's some room for improvement there it's not a big deal.
As discussed in 'The Pear or the Pyramid' post one of my objections is demographic. I don't think you can re-make the ranks to reflect what you want them to look like without losing teams & players if what you want is 'unnatural'. It appears to me the idea is to remedy the dearth of upper division teams by redistributing the lower division teams in the sense that what we now consider D2 level talent becomes D1 and so on. Which also begs the question what happens to legitimate semi-pro talent when their division is populated by D1 talent? Or is that just a big mixer? It also presupposes the plan will work but that assumes there otherwise isn't enough real D1/semi-pro talent out there and it also assumes that there are no other causal factors inhibiting teams at the upper levels. My view is there are substantial causal factors inhibiting upper level team growth and dumbing down the divisions solves nothing. (And, of course there are plenty of D1/Pro (semi-pro) ranked players in the system who aren't competing so the issue isn't lack of players.)
I also think some of the changes made to the system this year tacitly acknowledge my views. The (marginal) relaxation of D3 classification rules and the inclusion of D3/D4 Intro are plainly moves made to encourage more D3 level participation both by "new" teams and by D3 teams that may have intentionally limited their participation in the past to avoid being moved up to D2. And as soon as you accept this premise it must follow that it applies, to one degree or another, across all the divisions. [This also begins to support the idea that coercive measures are in some respects counterproductive.]
Even if one were to argue that self-selection (teams choosing to participate) tends to skew the expected numbers towards a higher baseline of ability across the board all the limited numbers available suggest that doesn't really matter. A quick examination of where teams place themselves produces the (broadly) expected ratios, ie; they's mostly D2 & D3.
My objection to coercion is practical. It's simply not terribly effective and when coupled with a restructuring policy that will not work cannot achieve its intended result.
Another objection I have to strip mining the (presumed) upper ranks of the lower divisions is that it offers no continuity, no normative standard to be achieved or measured against (and understood) by the incoming teams. For example, if the top 4 teams are moved up the expectation is that the teams that finished 5 - 8 should be at or near the top the following season. This won't be universally true but it gives all the other teams a way of measuring their progress and/or ability.

There are two options in dealing with the present system; simply reign in its excesses and move up only those players/teams that must move in order to sustain the competitive balance of the division or, include a more flexible means for players to move down as well as up in order to be responsive to some of the current system's excesses. The first option is easiest but undercuts the PSP's restructuring of divisions plan. The second is harder to order by rule but can be done. (I don't know what impact it would have given the current system but in any system it should provide greater opportunity without disrupting competitive balance any more than occurs now with the allowances of limited upper division players on lower division rosters.)
For example, a simple change might be – every team that wins an event moves up and in addition any team that has more than one top 4 finish moves up. For '09 that would still move up 6 teams in D3 and 7 teams in D2 but it would only be winning teams and/or teams that showed the consistent ability to finish near the top. (Btw, it will be interesting to see how many of the D2 teams forced to move up actually ever play a D1 event. The going rate recently is about 50% which also seems to fly in the face of the PSP's goals here.)
As for players dropping ranks I have worked out a system. It has a pro floor and a floor for all other players. It takes into account the "success" of players in the ranks and has measures to limit possible abuses. It is predicated on my belief that some measure of flexibility with respect to rank will allow wider participation without harming competitive balance by keeping more players actively in the mix of pursuing competitive opportunities at appropriate levels of play. (Should any established league or ranking system have an interest I'll be happy to provide the details.)

The alternative is a completely redesigned classification & ranking system. Even so, it would necessarily look something like the current one and still wouldn't be able to address the populations of the divisions that the PSP is apparently trying to manipulate with the present system. In order to "fix" divisional disparities one must do two basic things; identify the causes and determine a methodology for dealing with the problem. For example, the PSP sees a dearth of upper division teams and their methodology is coercion and their identified cause is not enough upper division teams (which is a tautology) and their fix is to turn D2 teams into D1 teams and presto, plenty of d1 teams. (Or maybe not.)
My view is classification and ranking can't address the issue alone. Classification and ranking is only about the competitive integrity of the divisions. Other concerns require other answers. If coercion isn't the answer, what is? I'm thinking incentives. Give teams a reason or reasons to do what you'd like them to do. Here's a start: tie entry fees to paintball played. Since D2 and D1 now both play Race 2-5 their entries should be the same. Now there are no series prizes. Change that and award a D1 series prize package along with event prizes. These changes begin to reward excellence (higher division play) and motivate teams to move up if they think they can compete and at the same time removes the disincentive of higher entry fees for higher division play. There are, I'm sure, plenty of creative ways to achieve the desired goals. My choice would be to institute elements of all the options mentioned.

There you have it, kids.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 21

The Logan's Run finale will be posted today. Get out the reading glasses, get comfortable and grab a beer 'cus it's gonna take awhile to read. I realize many of you have Attention Deficit Disorder and I'm pushing your limits with this one but sometimes it takes what it takes. And this was one of those times. It's not like I'm twisting your arm--but if it would help, I will.
Btw, if any of you people have any--what do you mean, you people?--have any ideas for topics drop me a line. I've got a couple of things in the queue but who knows when I'll run out or you will have a really good idea. Could happen. (Yep, the joke was lame. The set-up was weak. Still, I had to do it 'cus it makes me laugh.)

If you hate the new ROF restrictions this may be the place for
you to vent and meet like-minded ballers--though I'm pretty sure it isn't a dating service. (Huh? Just another bad gag. I'm feeling it today.) I'm not signing up but it doesn't mean you shouldn't decide for yourself. I'm also not sure about the whole martial look to the site, what's up with that? Maybe it wasn't intentional but I automatically thinks woodsball when I see something like that related to paintball. Last time I checked none of the D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge types were sweating ROF. Anyway, take a look and see what you think.

Oh yeah, the link is in the pic.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 20

Ahem. Seems the '09 PSP rulebook is nowhere to be found yet. Nor have any updates on major changes been released to date. Just thought I'd mention it in case it got left on a desk somewhere or somebody forgot to hit the publish button or ... You know, these things happen sometimes and a little reminder never hurt anybody.

UPDATE: It worked again! Guess I should'a posted this last weekend. PSP update now available at

I'd really like to tell you about Paint Club. I'm guessing Paint Club is jumping up and down (figuratively, of course) anxious as hell to tell you too but it turns out there's this crazy rule. Nobody talks about Paint Club–so there you go. (Link is the photo. Click at your own risk.) I mean, am I the only one who noticed the homosexual subtext in the original, Fight Club? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) C'mon, pink soap on the shower room floor? Do I need to draw you a picture? [Yikes! If that created an unwanted mental picture, VFTD apologizes without accepting any responsibility for your imagination. Pervert.]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 19

Boy, oh boy. What have I gotten myself into with this hostage business? If nothing else it's starting to drive me crazy. (Crazier?)
If you didn't check out the PIG's interview with the Chuckster give it a read--preferably between the lines. If franchise holding pro players are out at the beach putting up poles and netting and tents I think the new USPL could make a few extra bucks selling tickets. And if pros are squeegeeing bunkers on Saturday for the D3 kids I'm buying a ticket! What with enriching amateur teams and mentoring divisional teams and doing the event prep work I hope the pro teams have time to play. (No, this isn't a violation of my self-imposed moratorium from yesterday--these are merely observations, not judgments. Lighten up.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 18

Did you know the USPL will not be awarding a pro prize package? What, after all, is the point of spending your own money to give yourself a prize? (Or something like that.) And before that, at San Diego's NPPL curtain closer the pro teams were entertaining the idea of doing away with the pro prize money in exchange for entry reductions.
Why do I bring it up?
Because I thought, ah-ha!, here's a subject where VFTD can make real inroads in alienating some of the readers--that would be you--and then I'll get to see what it's like to be the PSP. Actually it's because (apparently) the PSP hasn't announced the prize packages yet and it's generating some anxiety. I'm kinda torn when it comes to prizes. On one hand I remember a time when winning some stuff--back then it was stuff, not cash--actually helped finance the next event. On the other hand I think prizes ought to be about rewarding the best and incentivizing teams to seek improvement. I'm not opposed to awarding prizes in the lower divisions but at the national level the competition is really about being the best and the teams that make the move into the national arena are focused on being the best they can be, not winning a bigger prize. Or ought to be. (Easy for me to say.) Of course back in the day we took it for granted we could win bigger prizes more easily playing local than we could in the lower divisions at the national level.

The great state of Cali is so far in the red that as of February 1st numerous routine payments the state makes will be discontinued to meet the immediate shortfall. By as early as March that may not be enough to keep to the state from becoming insolvent, going bust, broke. Belly up. Once those payments stop, what's next? How quickly does it all start to come apart? The wheels on the Cali bus go round and round. Faster and faster 'cus there's no money left to fix the brakes. Could there be a better time to expect 150+ 7-man teams to come to HB?

UPDATE: With today's (Tuesday) announcement that HB will be limited to 130 teams it's all good. I mean, like, that's way less.

With the above comment(s) VFTD is taking a moratorium on nay-saying the USPL. It should be eminently clear at this point I have serious reservations about the wisdom of the whole project even if I'm selfishly glad for another opportunity to pursue 7-man.

Logan's Run: The PSP Perspective

This isn't the big finish either. Obviously. (But it's still coming.)

Having been frightened out of my wits when the jack-booted thugs of tourney ball bashed my door down in the middle of the night and threatened to, you know, be really upset with me if I didn't knock it off I promised to make everything right. So that's why I'm giving y'all the PSP side of things.
Naw. Not really. It's one thing to disagree with people over a particular policy and another thing to ascribe heartless and evil motives to the people responsible for the disputed policy. I don't think (and have never thought) the PSP guys were laughing over displacing orphans or putting widows on the street. It's a caricature of reality. Among other things, now more than ever, they need and want as many peeps as possible playing their game. Nobody is maliciously pushing people away.

What the PSP has been doing in increments is trying to restructure how the divisions function and who populates those divisions. They started on that course awhile ago with the hope it would ultimately provide a stable future for the game and allow a more seamless integration with local/regional leagues. Back last July when I was going on about D1's status as the odd division out and what it meant to D1 ranked players I made a couple of suggestions. I suggested the addition of a D4 xball and/or a semi-pro/open bracket to address some of the issues I thought were problems. I am not for a second saying the PSP was paying any attention to our happy little blog–only that they too saw a situation they thought could be improved upon and they tried to make things better. Are trying to make things better. The D3/D4 Intro addresses the uncertainty of the transitional players coming into the league by providing an opportunity to experience the format without ranking/classification repercussions–and that is a good thing. Semi-pro addressed the issue of how to accommodate the most experienced players without being unfair to the up-and-comers–again, a good thing. The fact that there have been some unexpected bumps along the road and that other issues have arisen is simply (and unfortunately) the way it's turned out so far, not part of some scheme.
I think it's fair to criticize (or raise questions or pursue dialogue) when substantive issues are potentially at stake but I also think it's important to acknowledge the positives and remember that we are all in this thing together.
The PSP now has a divisional structure that I think can be the framework from which all competitive paintball can align. As I mentioned to one of the PSP guys yesterday in a related context the devil is in the details. What's the best way to get the results everybody wants? It's a process and not always a happy or a pretty one.

Next time (for real 'cus I'm almost as tired of this subject as all y'all are) I'll close it out with some alternative ideas.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Logan's Run: The Human Face

This is not the final post in the series. It is not the alternative options or additional measures I promised. Those are still coming, just not today. (If you haven't seen the other posts in the series they've all been posted this month.)
Today I want to tell y'all the story of a single player. Today the player came to me and wanted to know if he could take a year off paintball and still compete in the future. That's what he asked but not what he wanted to know. He wanted to know what to do and he wanted to know if his "career" as a competitive paintball player was over. As soon as he appears on a Phoenix roster the PSP will rank him as a semi-pro player. Just like all last year's NXL players who won't be on a pro roster this year because of the roster reductions. Last year in January this player came to an open tryout with 2 events of D3 experience (so maybe the PSP thinks he was a D2 player. It's hard to keep track.) He showed promise. He had the right attitude. And the desire.
Yesterday (along with his remaining teammates from last season) he was told that his team wasn't gonna be carried over this year. (The plan was to keep the team but a series of unexpected changes forced the change of plan.) Last season they did well and finished with enough points to be moved up. Last year no division existed for them to move up to. There's only one team with 2 spots that he can play on without long distance travel for practice and that just isn't possible or realistic. Tomorrow or next week he may be an ex-competitive paintball player. All before his 19th birthday.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 17

Once there was the NPPL. Then there was the new NPPL and after that the new, new NPPL. And once upon a time there was the USPL, and now there's a new USPL. And once again we are reminded why Paintball is as it is. For the rest of the story check out the latest over at 68 Caliber 2.0 (the link is in the paintblog list.)
I hope you find it interesting. Many of you will perhaps also find the story a little confusing because it pre-dates your involvement in competitive paintball. Read it anyway. Others of you chose sides long ago which colors your recollection and opinion. Which is fine. And normal. In recommending this piece I'm not advocating anything. I'm simply enjoying the irony.

I'm purposefully avoiding the current PSP semi-pro brouhaha being waged at the Nation since I don't have anything useful to add at the moment and any shots I took at anybody would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Not sporting.

A quick (positive) word on behalf of the PSP. The Phoenix layout is very good and builds on last year's conceptual improvements. Don't let those corners fool you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 16

It's getting old, isn't it? The whole held hostage thing. I agree but that's sorta the point. We are in the pre-season of the most uncertain major league season in years if not in the brief history of major league seasons and it's supposed to begin to weigh on y'all after awhile. Most of us only pay attention or care when we're directly involved--and that's totally understandable. Paintball ought'a be fun. Who wants to struggle all the time? But who said you have to struggle to participate? I don't know about you but I'm having a good time. The guys who have it hard are the ones making the decisions that count.

Okay, true confession time. When the PSP's new rulebook comes out if something doesn't work particularly well or you don't like it you can hold me at least partially responsible 'cus I was there. Not everyone agreed about everything but in general most of what came out of the meeting found broad consensus. A lot of the stuff that wasn't relevant anymore was/will be removed and other details were/will be updated. We also agreed on a way to look at difficult situations--the guiding principle was/is to let the players and teams decide the outcome on the field as much as possible. That doesn't mean less penalties will be called but it does mean that anytime we could have gone one way or another we erred toward the notion of deciding the game on the field. For example, the 90 second rule was reduced to 60 seconds to correspond with the new penalty times and it will also mean the same 60 second rule will apply in OT periods instead of any major penalty in OT immediately ending the game an awarding the point to the other team. (If you can serve the penalty and survive you keep playing.) As the penalties apply in the lower divisions the intent is similar though it will play out a bit differently given the calls are 1-4-1's and 2-4-1's in most circumstances. I think it's fair and better. And Tim S. will be directing his refs in how to deal with the rule changes in fact and in spirit. It should be clearer when you see an official rulebook. If anyone has any questions I'll be happy to give you an UNOFFICIAL answer--if I know it.

Btw, there were things that weren't on the agenda--like classifications & rosters.

I'm thinking of making a list once Phoenix and HB roll around of all the pro players not on a roster this year but I'll need help. Also thinking of trying to keep track of the "disappeared" among the D1 ranks. One reason we can do it is because APPA actually has the data available. Anybody got any ideas how to find similar stats for 7-man players? (Though I'm of the opinion paintball lost a lot of the 7-man grassroots over the last couple of years and not so much the higher profile player.) Either way, I'd like to hear from y'all on this. Where are players going and why?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 15

An official press release has hit the Nation in the News section (too lazy to link and they don't need my help) so take a look if you're interested. It's a distinct improvement over the tourneyspeak of the last unofficial release that was showing up on assorted team websites and places like PBReserve (link in sidebar). This one isn't heavy on detail but it's not intelligence insulting either and I did enjoy the conclusion where it nattered on about setting rules, standards and guidelines for safe, competitive paintball tournaments worldwide. It's good to have goals but how 'bout getting past the first event before taking on the world?
Still nothing concrete on format (beyond being 7-man) except the conferences will populate the regional events and it makes me wonder if that means mixed prelims of some sort like the old days. Just a guess 'cus I don't know. I suppose you could run an event with an 8 team pro bracket. Kinda.

UPDATE: To add some necessary clarity. As of right now apparently the pro division is 16 teams divided into Eastern and Western conferences. One supposes evenly divided, so 8 teams per conference. Hence my guess. But it could as easily be a 7 game prelim going directly to a semi-final. (Was that helpful or just more confusing?)

There is developing a faction within the industry looking to fight the idea of the latest ROF restrictions. In a form letter one of the arguments made is that ROF restrictions don't trickle down to the local level so it's a waste of time BUT another argument is that such restrictions stifle innovation and technological development. I'm open to either argument but not both simultaneously. If the restrictions have no impact they aren't stifling anything. Perhaps a better argument is that the restrictions may impact tournament play at the local level and as a consequence may reduce the level of bidness interest in innovation and tech development.
Anyway, the bigger picture is that I'm beginning to think this is an issue that isn't going to go away anytime soon and could easily re-enter the format wars depending on what the USPL does.

Enlistments for the Week

It's international week! Another Friday has rolled around and VFTD is pleased to greet and introduce the latest recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army.
First up this week is SSRoman. Welcome.
Next in line is Jimmy of TWP. Jimmy comes to us from Sweden and TWP appears to be a field site. Unfortunately I learned all my Swedish from the chef on Sesame Street. Fortunately Jimmy is better educated.
Following Jimmy is 'xr8sk' which I imagine means something but I'm too old and unhip to have a clue. xr8sk joins from down under, Australia, and the linked web page is the for AXL, Aussieland's xball league.
Our final recruit this week is Caranthir from Malaysia who has a terminal case of the paintball jones and his own paintblog (which will be added to the sidebar blogroll.)

Until next week.

UPDATE: Ed made the move to join today and since I enjoyed his self-titled TV show of a few years ago so much I decided not to make him wait a week. Greetings, Ed. And great show.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Pear or the Pyramid: Logan's Run, part 3

It occurred to me that maybe I ought to take a moment and explain why I think all this enforced upward movement through the divisions matters. (If I already have feel free to skip this part and chalk it up to a vitamin deficiency or something when I was kid. We were barely civilized back then what with no video games or cable TV. Small wonder I turned out this way.) As you know if you've been following along I'm concerned that the present system pushes players up the ranks and then out of the game. (There is always some degree of attrition but shouldn't we be attempting to limit that attrition?) It also pushes some players without the ability into ranks where they can't compete. This process will, over time, "dumb down" the game by falsely rewarding players with ranks they don't deserve which in turn tends to make the divisional distinctions less useful and negates in some respects the idea of earning a higher ranking.

The PSP has in mind a league (the pool of all players) that looks like a pear (perhaps a Bartlett): a modest peak representing the elite pros and near semi-pros and a bulbous body with something like equal measures in D1 and D3 with the largest group massed in D2. I don't know what the appeal of this model is but I'm pretty certain it can only be attained by unnaturally altering the normal state of things in a competitive environment; hence the present system. [If I'm describing the Pear Model incorrectly let me know.] Here's why I think this: any endeavor predicated on merit, in this case the skill set of a competitive paintball player, tends to chart out in the famous (or infamous) bell-shaped graph. All this means is that the vast majority of players fall between the upper middle to lower middle in their ability to play the game. (Since we's talking 'bout paintball.) Additionally, the norm is that there will be, statistically, about the same numbers of progressively worse and progressively better players in diminishing numbers the further the graph moves from the center, both left and right. What our bell-shaped graph tells us is that the largest percentage of players will naturally fall into the middle zones. (Which may account for the Pear Model thinking going on except it's missing a step.)
What the Pear Model fails to account for is a league structure which has a floor, a self-selecting floor. Formerly xball began at D3. That is the floor. Players and teams choose to compete at that level and based on historic numbers I think it's safe to suggest that the volume of 5-man players and teams competing "below" D3 xball positions the average D3 player somewhere in the middle perhaps slightly above the absolute middle. [Of course we can't fully account for experience and the developmental arc each player goes thru but we assume those variables are expressed in improving results. And when teams of players prove they are well above the average in their division they need to move up–so perhaps the real disagreement is where and how to assess when teams/players reach that point.]
With a floor (an entry level) the league doesn't reflect the whole of the bell graph, only a portion of it beginning somewhere in the middle-ish. Nor does it concern itself with the progressively worse player, only the progressively better players. That result starts with a wide base and narrows as it rises because the numbers of players with better and better skill sets progressively shrinks as you move away from the middle. The end result might be considered a Pyramid Model. If the Pyramid Model is a superior representation of what the pool of all players' skill levels looks like within the league it's possible to make some simple assumptions about divisions. The largest division will be the floor division, in this case D3. And each division moving up should be smaller until the peak is reached. An important additional question is where those divisional breaks ought to be. In any event there will necessarily be players at the edges with marginal skill sets for the level they are competing in. Another interesting question is what is the necessary ratio between succeeding divisions to assure maintenance of the player pool the next division up.
The only way the Pear Model works is if the majority of incoming players are at best lower middle when they begin competing in the league. I think that is far more likely to be an accurate assessment on the local and regional level than on the national level. What the current classification system will eventually result in is a large scale shift in the skill level within the divisions. For example a future D1 will have the average or slightly higher than average skill set of the current D2 and so on. Which in turns lowers the skill threshold to compete up the ladder into Semi-pro and potentially pro. At which point pro risks being elite largely by virtue of being restricted.
Lots of other factors are involved and have significant influences so I don't think we can draw too much from this part of the discussion over classification except to say anytime we fail to see the norm represented in our divisions it likely means there's something wrong somewhere in the system.

Okay, that got all esoteric and stuff. My principle interest isn't to debate the perfect ratio between divisions but to provide the fairest possible competitive environment to the most players possible–and I'm sure that's what the PSP or any other league wants too. How to calculate the best way to achieve that goal is an interesting question. (To me anyway.) I'll try to keep it simple next time when I conclude this series of posts with a proposed "fix" for the current system and an alternative system as well.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 14

Are you a PSP fan? Does it seem like I spend most of my time picking on your boys? Let me explain. I don't go after the defenseless and I (usually) don't do it without a purpose. When I criticize any of the major leagues or industry players I figure it goes with the territory as the movers and shakers of competitive paintball and that they can handle it. If they weren't influential what would be the point? I'm never gonna dog the reffing at Commando Joe's rookie 3-man, for example. Besides, VFTD is just a happy little blog.
Right now there's no there there when discussing the NPL. Makes it hard. And the MS is like a mute masochist all dressed up in his leather suit with surfeit of zippers frustrated at his inability to beg for the humiliation he so desires. Eventually the league will have to say something (after the PSP tells them what it is) and VFTD will take it from there. In the meantime relax and have some fun.

While I don't have anything to say about the NPL I do have a few (more) questions. With Pro teams only participating at some of the regional events how does the league intend to structure events when most of the pros don't show up? Are the pro owners signing contracts that obligate them to any and all debts the league may incur while operating beyond their buy-in? Is the league really gonna sell pro spots to anyone with the cash? If there are plenty of interested 7-man teams why couldn't Pure Promotions or Pacific get them to attend and how is the NPL gonna do better? When can we expect the basic info to be released regarding registration, entries, officiating, rules, etc. for HB?

Stay vigilant.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 13

Gonna keep this one short and sweet 'cus it's late. Look for final ROF numbers to be 10.5 bps and 12.5 bps with timer values of .95 and .80 respectively.

Stay vigilant.

Promoting Mediocrity: Logan's Run cont.

Remember the alternatives to the PSP's classification system I promised? Yeah, yeah, it's still coming but maybe not today.
The place where the PSP and I diverge is that I think they're crazy and I know I'm right. But that's not very helpful, is it? Let's try this another way. (Btw, I use PSP instead of individual names to smear the innocent and the guilty alike.)

The PSP has a vision of how and why players should move through the ranks and what that ought to look like conceptually. I'm mostly convinced that conception isn't possible and that in the process major league paintball will push some of the most dedicated players out of the game. It isn't intentional. Nor is it ill-considered. But I could be wrong.
It's numbers time! PSP says it is only promoting 15% of D3 players with the new classification rules. Which in raw numbers is accurate. 122 teams of D3 players played at least one event so if 20 teams are moved up it's 15%. Here's some more numbers. If a single team playing a single event equals 1 event experience unit then all D3 teams in 2008 earned 217 experience units. So, did the 15% being promoted play 15% of the D3 paintball in '08? Not even close, they played 36% of all the D3 paintball in '08. And the 15% being promoted constitute around 48% of all teams that played more than one event. As a practical matter PSP is promoting 36% of all the D3 experience and nearly 50% of all D3 teams that demonstrate the desire and capacity to play multiple events.
The next relevant number is 55. 55 is the mean average score given the range of 10 - 100. In any given single event if there is an odd number of competing teams there will be an equal number of teams above and below 55. And if you multiple 55 by 3 you get the score required to be promoted to D2, 165. That means if you play 3 events and are the perfect middle score the PSP deems you are good enough to be D2. In my world it means you are the very definition of an average D3 team.
There is one more way to look at the numbers. At NEO the NCPA All Stars scored a 67 and finished 12th. At WC Misfit Toyz scored 67 and finished 24th. What this means is the seed points assigned are purely a relational function of the total number of participants. This also means the scores do not reflect a consistent value team to team, event to event. Btw, assuming a static roster the NCPA All-Stars will be promoted to D2 with a best event score over the course of the season of 67.
Is the PSP really only promoting 15%? Or is it 36%? Or closer to 50%? Are they promoting the stable core out of D3 only to wonder later on why D3 is suddenly struggling? Or will that just be the bad economy? What happens up and down the league when you keep promoting ordinary teams?

More next time.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Pony plays Euroland. Or at least wants to play Euroland. Mr. Curious wants to know if that means Pony is still a stud or is he being put out to pasture? (Hopefully it means Pony is 100% healthy.)

VFTD: bringing you the best in obscure movie references and bad animal jokes since 2008.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 12

No need to get on my case about the follow up post to Logan's Run, PSP Style. It's coming tomorrow and I (for once) have a damn good excuse. I spent the last two days in the belly of the beast and lived to talk about it. And you, my friends, are the beneficiaries of my big adventure. Okay, it wasn't quite the belly of the beast but it was the PSP's super secret rulebook meeting. Okay, it wasn't actually super secret but I did have to spend two days in the same room as Chris Raehl. And I came out unscathed. Except for the occasional outburst of unmanly blubbering.
Anyway, tomorrow you get the follow-up post plus bonus coverage of the Race 2 format. (This way everybody wins and what could be better than that? Until then who knows how many antacids Lane will munch waiting to see what I say?)

Today, in the spirit of Pravda, the NPL has released a statement that rivals the Millennium Series stalwarts in its capacity to use words to communicate absolutely nothing of any consequence. If the ability to say nothing in agreeably banal generalities is the mark of major league paintball expertise the new league is in good hands. For those interested in wasting a couple more minutes of their life check the statement out at PBReserve.
I know, I'm harshing your mellow but I can't help it. I want to go play some more 7-man but I'm not delusional. Right now it's all fanfare and excitement and Huntington Beach. Hurrah! What happens if (when) that event tanks? Teams that can ill afford it will have sold the family cow for a handful of magic beans and competitive paintball will have taken another hit.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 11

Do you want to know what you can do to save major league paintball? Compete. Play the game. Enjoy the game. Share the love.

(What you have just read was my semi-annual moment of sentimental weakness. VFTD's regular content will return tomorrow.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 10

I got nothing. Zero, nada bupkiss, nothing. Spent yesterday and today with first practices of the season. The kids on the next field over were trying out for some PSP teams at 10 bps and I am more convinced than ever it will give players a real opportunity to play and develop real skills. If the divisional kids step up to the challenge it's gonna demand the same from the referees. Oh, boy. This could get ugly, fast.

What are the chances the NPL will be 'Presented by Spyder'? Doesn't quite rate as a Burning Question but given the cash Kingman has chucked at assorted Spyder Cup(s) this would be a better deal, wouldn't it? How could it be a worse deal?

Stay vigilant.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 9

Monday & Tuesday could end up being big days. Big push from Chuck and the Boyz to solidify commitments for the new 7-man league. Long distance glad-handing, conference calls. The usual. Meanwhile PSP (and a cast of thousands) will be working on finalizing the new rulebook to take into account this year's changes with penalties, etc. Won't really be thousands but the PSP will be bringing in some non-league folks to broaden the viewpoints and offer opinions.
If the New World Order works out will the Millennium only speak when the PSP's hand is up its ... ? Curious minds want to know.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Truth Is Out There

I was reviewing end of the year blog stats last night and was struck (again) by some of the far-flung places that visit VFTD. (Far-flung from my perspective at any rate. Which is, I suppose, an admission of a sort of parochialism and a U.S.-centric view point. Oh well, as Popeye would say, I y'am what I y'am.)
Anyway, I find it compelling that paintball is the thing we share in common and I'm fascinated by all the paintball going on in, er, far-flung places. So, if you'd ever be interested in dropping me a line about goings on in your part of the paintball world I'd enjoy hearing about it. The same of course holds true for less far-flung places as well. Anywhere competitive paintball is played. Hope to hear from you.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 8

Remain vigilant.
Word is one of PBIndustry's major players -- and one that would likely be on Everybody's short list -- was not a party to the request to reduce ROF. That doesn't mean there weren't enough others to make it happen but it does suggest that there is/was no unanimity among those potentially most affected.

UPDATE: Check out the kids at PBReserve (link on the sidebar) for the latest on the USPA/NPL--a letter from Chuck who wants everyone to be happy. Be very happy. Chuck didn't send his letter to VFTD. Was it something I said?

Enlistments for the Week

The Deadbox Puppet Army is proud to welcome the latest recruits. VFTD appreciates everyone who takes the time and effort to enlist.
First up this past week is Kim from Twisted Games of Texas Paintball -- which looks like a cool place.
Next up is LB. I admit to a bias but LB is one of the best players you don't know and is without doubt one of the most versatile players I've had the pleasure to work with. Don't think this will buy you any slack though, LB, 'cus it won't.
Closing out this week's announcements is Monstur. I'd make a joke about the spelling but I took a close look at his avatar and it kinda freaked me out.
Thanks again. Until next week.

Logan's Run: PSP Style

The basics of the PSP classification rules have been released--or should that be unleashed? I am hoping against hope and looking towards the heavens while silently whispering please, please, please, please let there be something more coming that will mitigate the inevitable result of this system. But I'm not optimistic.
Okay, but what does that have to do with Logan's Run? Or even, what is Logan's Run? The answer to either of those questions should make the connection clear. Logan's Run is a sci-fi novel (then movie) that falls into the sub-genre of apocalyptic or dystopian future stories. In Logan's Run overpopulation is addressed by killing off people when they reach a certain age. It is sold as a social good and turned into a celebration. The previous classification rules did much the same, though instead of killing players the rules simply pushed (many, most, a whole bunch of?) players out of competitive paintball once they reached D1 ranking. The new rules, at least the stuff released so far, appears to be doing much the same but at semi-pro instead. For some background on the subject see previous posts here, here & here.

As it stands the classification rules only push players up the rankings. The rules take no account of, and are incapable of taking into account, the teams the players play on except for the results those teams achieve. Teams are not moved up in the rankings, only players. The classification rules cannot make adjustment for individual players except to assume any player who ever plays above his/her current rank should automatically receive extra ranking points. All the assumptions assume experience equals ability. The system also assumes that if the league doesn't compel upward movement that it won't happen. Since none of those things are universally true any result based on those assumptions is bound to be, let us say charitably, sub-optimum. Or wrong-headed and counterproductive.
I had hopes that with the new divisions the league would follow through and go all the way towards establishing classification rules they don't have to fiddle every year or so. These are not those rules. By last season's rule book 42 D3 teams must play D2 in '09. (Of course it isn't really teams moving up, it's their rosters but for the sake of brevity assume I mean qualifying players when I say teams.) 10 D2 teams must move up to D1 and if D1 used the same formula as D2 it would move 5 teams to semi-pro. (There were no rules established for D1 players to move up because there was no place for them to automatically go last year.) The old problem was that far too many of the players ranked D1 never ended up playing. Not just playing D1 but playing, period. And mass compulsory movement of D3 teams meant variations of the same when players were pushed beyond their skill level and experience before they were ready. The past problems will not be addressed simply by adding divisions to move through as long as the rules themselves aren't reconsidered (and then CHANGED.) And of course the only effort ever made to address what to do with pro ranked players was last year's mid-season pick'em. It might as well be a lottery. Wouldn't it be interesting to take the limited number of pro registered in APPA (since the NXL was outside APPA for a couple of years or more) and see where they all are today. But you already know where most of them are, don't you? Playing a different game.

D3 intro is a positive step. The new cumulative point total to push D3 players into D2 if used on last season's teams would move nearly 50% of all teams that played 2 or more events. That's simply too many and unnecessary. The reality is the great mass of teams in the middle are D3 teams by virtue of their ability and if this is the method the PSP intends to use they are not preserving the competitive balance–-they are social engineering. (One might even suggest they are trying to push teams up into more expensive brackets.) The same applies to both D2 & D1 as well. And where the resistance has been before-–moving up to D1 it will simply be exchanged for resistance to move into semi-pro. The classification rules will create a glut of semi-pro players with no place to play. This will happen even if the PSP were to open up semi-pro to more teams. But as of right now the limitation is 24 total pro and semi-pro teams in whatever combination and that is a logistical limitation. The end result gives players one extra level to pass through before the rules push them out and create the bottleneck to pro rosters discussed in Semi-pro dilemma. I will keep track of the carry-over this season and if the league wanted I imagine the APPA database is flexible enough to track this sort of thing so at least the league could see how many peeps it's pushing aside.

Next time I will offer a couple of alternatives to the current classification system. (May not be until next Monday as practice starts this weekend. We'll see.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage UPDATE

On Day 6 VFTD wondered when the layout would be released. The answer turned out to be today. Click through the PSP link down on the sidebar in the Paintball on the Web list to take a look.
The X has been removed from xball. Apparently it's the half X as has been used by Chris & the college kids in the NCPA for a few years. It should improve spectator vision of the field and it will alter play some but shouldn't be a significant change.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 7

Haha! PSP makes a liar out of me double quick with the release of classification rules. I wonder what would happen if I said, "The PSP will NOT rescind the changes made to the races and match times."
Seriously, the basic classification info had to come out in order to open registration--I was just betting on it not happening in a timely fashion. And I'm hoping that the info released isn't the full extent of the new classification rules. Analysis to come later. (I'd like to say today but I don't always manage this blog in a timely fashion either.)
Warning: Stockholm Syndrome is taking effect. Watch the forums. The weak-minded are beginning to succumb.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Burning Question

Whatever happened to Bart Walkerdine?
My guess is the SPCA scooped him up off the mean streets of Huntington Beach and after waiting the requisite adoption period had him put to sleep.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 6

Do not expect any PSP breakthroughs this week. It won't happen. I am wondering about release of the Phoenix layout however. Rumor was there was to be a different release schedule this year. Hmm. We'll see.
Could see some movement though from teams regarding where they will be playing within the next week or so. That would be helpful.
With respect (it's just an expression) to the new 7-man dealio I'd hate to be the league treasurer and be responsible for collecting from the pro teams/owners. I can practically hear them now: Can I make installment payments? What'll you give me for last year's guns? I'm an owner. Do I really have to pay? Here's a promissory note. It's the same as cash. Oh, no. The sponsor is gonna cover that. Not us.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 5

Nothing special to report. Waiting word of more pro player cuts. Once practices begin in earnest the word will leak out. PSP still has some work to do. The prospect does exist for the PSP adding more pro teams with an equal reduction in semi-pro. [See prior post.] When will the MS announce their move to 10 bps (among other coming New World Order alignments)? Still nothing on the other league though the latest GPS coordinates put it somewhere between Shangri-La and HB.

Semi-Pro Dilemma: Gateway or Stranglehold?

In Cali where the teams are as incestuous as the Ptolemaic line of Egyptian Pharaohs it may not matter but in the real world it's gonna have an impact. An impact not unlike a neutron bomb--it'll kill all the teams but leave the players alive. Kinda of like the current D1 and up classification rules (which we can only hope will see some serious revision in '09.)
Here's the deal: The changes made at the top of the PSP food chain are intended to be versatile and perform a number of roles. The reduced rosters are economical and exclusive in the hopes of helping teams reduce costs and firmly establish the pro players as the elite of the sport. The reduced races and match times are economical and logistically economical in furthering the cost reduction effort and allowing the PSP to utilize the former NXL field and refs more efficiently with the addition of a semi-pro division. Semi-pro provides a place for previously disenfranchised (by the classification rules) players a place to play as well as being the gateway to pro status.
Gateway to what? Huh? The plan is to restrict player movement into the pro ranks by limiting the pool of eligible players to those with at least a year of semi-pro experience. The notion is this will help validate the status of the pro ranked player to only those truly deserving--whatever that means. And keep out the three week riff-raff. You know, the guys who get picked up for whatever reason, make a few practices, go to an event but don't stick. They are dragging the whole pro mystique down--and they are more or less out of luck if they want to keep playing tourney ball.
The problem arises when you start thinking about how this will actually play out. You see, the PSP wants the pros to be elite. They also want the pro division to reflect as much of the country as possible as well. They'd also like stability and continuity. (And a much healthier bank account but who wouldn't?)
How stable is an 8 man roster? How many injuries or sudden emergencies does it take to cripple a team's ability to compete? How does a pro team with 8 players replace lost players or players who have lost it? Particularly during the season. Easy. They raid the semi-pro bracket or they install a sister or farm team in the semi-pro bracket. Of course that presumes either a regionally local semi-pro team you can steal players from (one that won't be too bothered in the process) or else finding a player you now have to bring in from outside--with all the associated expenses. If you've got a semi-pro farm team you're fine but how is being pushed into operating two teams more economical than last year's roster limit? Damage goes from a comfortable 11 man roster to contemplating adding another team. I can practically smell the savings.
Longer term what happens with the normal player attrition to relatively isolated pro teams? Where does X-Factor get new players if there is no semi-pro team in Texas? You may be saving a few bucks today but in the future an X-Factor would cease to be a Texas team or even a team period. Pay now or pay later (with interest.) Or perhaps the semi-pro teams are intended to replace the worn out pro teams who would end up in that position because the current plan pushed them into breaking up and disappearing. [Fact is the league wants stability and elite status pros so they don't want to kill teams off after their utility ends, but ... ]
In any event the only new pros going to anybody's team come from the semi-pro ranks which creates a bottleneck not only in the upward movement of talent, it also creates a bottleneck in the development of that talent and none, zero, nada, zip concern has been given to the future distribution of that talent. It isn't a gateway to pro level play, it's a choke hold on pro paintball, period.
Wait, let's see about making the bottleneck even worse by having 16 pro teams and only 8 semi-pro. (Which is a distinct if uncertain possibility.) Every problem that exists with the original plan is multiplied by a pro heavy ratio of teams and if any of the pro teams also control any of the remaining semi-pro teams the league will have simply exchanged one concern over unequal advantage into a different concern over unequal advantage. (As it stands now regardless of roster size dollars remains the great divider just as it does in other pro sports where the Yankees can afford [maybe] to pay three guys more than the entire rosters of most of the other pro baseball teams.) And it will also create an unnatural scarcity among pro players that will push pro teams to buy talent instead of develop talent. In any event the nature of the pro game has certain inherent costs given what the league is attempting to establish that cannot be avoided.
This is not just a team issue. It is a league issue because the league's decisions have been the driving force behind the present (and future) circumstances. So far the most creative answers involve playing less paintball -- and in the long run that isn't going to be good for anybody.

UPDATE: For the short attention span crowd see if this makes sense. The PSP intends to limit player eligibility to play on a pro team to players with at least one year semi-pro experience. So new pro players can only come from an existing semi-pro roster as soon as this plan is implemented. Say, the beginning of 2010 season? With short pro rosters there is no way to stock or develop back-ups and in fact there is no way to even prepare for emergencies or injuries. This year if your roster takes a hit you play short until you can replace that player. Either way it's gonna be a new guy unless you have a farm team or sister team. Last year the pros had rosters capable of holding a couple of extra players. This year it's add a second team or go raiding. Next year it's have a second team--is that really an economical move over a slightly larger roster? -- or steal a semi-pro player from an established semi-pro team. Longer term, in a 12 team league there are 96 pro players. In a 12 team semi-pro division there are between 96 - 110 players. If 4 of the pro teams have sister semi-pro teams that means the total pool of possible replacement pro players for the remaining 8 pro teams is 64 - 80. That's all. Then think about what happens to a Midwest or Texas or Florida or New England pro team that has no regional semi-pro team nearby. It means anytime those pro teams need new players they can only replace losses from the semi-pros and pretty soon large chunks of rosters are from all over assuming you can pull players away from their previous team. And since the number of players available to fill pro spots is artificially restricted it puts a premium on those players. In the end this plan will force teams to start second teams or pay players from out of their area or disband. None of which sounds like it's going to improve the bottom line of the pro teams.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Did'ja Miss WELT #8?

If you did here's just a fraction of what you missed. Click on the title link and go check out the rest. You'll hate yourself if you don't.
I'm not a Hater
I'm not a hater. Really I'm not. Just misunderstood. Oh sure, if you're at the other end of the field all I want you to do is die. I know it sounds bad but it's not like it's permanent or anything. But if you get blown up, lit up and pissed off I'm okay with that. Something for the next guy in your place to think about. But it's nothing personal. Honest.
Seriously, I'm really not a hater. Off the field I'm a swell guy. Ask anybody. Well, almost anybody. Just because I don't smile, offer to shake your hand or wish you good luck before we play doesn't make me a hater. It just means I'm not a hypocrite. I don't want you to have good luck even if you're gonna need all the luck in the world. On the field we're not enemies but we aren't friends either. On the field you're the guy who wants to take something away from me and I'm the guy who is gonna do his best to see you fail. But that doesn't make me a hater.
After the game I may apologize for those shots to the neck but I'm not really sorry. (That's not completely true. I am sincerely sorry if you're a friend of mine but I ain't sorry I did it.) Doesn't mean I'm a hater. You got bunkered. Live with it. If you're gonna be mad be mad at your guy who didn't back you up. Truth is I'm coming over the top as up close and personal as possible and that patch of bare skin is just begging for it. It's screaming shoot me and there's no way this guy tries to spin–so that's what I do. And you know what? It usually works.
It ain't my fault if the referee doesn't make the call you wanted or even the one you (and half the peeps watching) are positive was the right call. Did I get that second kill after I was hit? Could be. But it is what it is. Doesn't make me a hater. If it happens fast enough who can say exactly who shot who first? And if you haven't figured out yet that the refs favor the aggressor consider this a necessary lesson learned. While you're at it ...
Quit your whining. You did not get overshot, you didn't stop coming. What do you expect if you try to run my boy down and don't stop when I shoot you? When you stop running I stop shooting. See how that works? I'm not a hater, it's your own fault you look like an avalanche of paint fell on you. If you didn't know the score before you do now. You were determined to make that move count and I was determined to make you pay the price. That ain't hate, that's paintball the way the big boys play it. And the extra five or six to the back? You earned those too.
What's a few bonusballs among competitors? If that puts you off your game then it did what it was supposed to. It ain't me being a hater. It's intimidation–and maybe even a little bit of respect. Not that I'll ever admit it.
Look, I know this brand of paintball isn't for everybody. But when the stakes are high, when the competition is tight, when the difference between winning and losing is razor thin this is the way the game is played. It ain't about hate, it's about winning.

If you enjoyed that (or hated it) check out WELT #9 (coming soon) for 'Moonbats, Drillbits & Semi-auto' along with tons of other kewl stuff.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 4

You didn't really think I was gonna let this go, did you? Of course not. Good news of incipient sanity in the PSP as Lane announces a pull back on the roster restrictions in the meat & potatoes divisions. Meanwhile PSP Phoenix registration has been delayed until Friday to finalize classification issues, etc. which means they's on the clock.
Despite some progress the crisis continues. Since the New World Order (UPBF) is on the agenda and apparently moving forward VFTD is including the MS goings on as part of the crisis. Given the MS's history of dithering and delay this could string out the hostage situation well into the future. Otherwise I'm tempted to keep this going until there is definitive word on the status of the new 7-man venture (and maybe up through an HB event to see if it is a success.) The same applies to Phoenix Open. Major League Paintball will remain a hostage of circumstance at least until we know if the first hurdles of the season will be cleared successfully.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

PSP Under Fire

First, the PSP can do whatever they like with their league. And you can do whatever you like with your entertainment dollar. Second, the PSP (along with PBIndustry) apparently has real concerns regarding their continuing survival. I think it's probably fair to say most serious ballers don't want either the league or PBIndustry to collapse but it isn't our responsibility--it sure as hell isn't my responsibility anyway, maybe you think it's yours. That said, I'm gonna try not to pass judgment on the motives of the PSP when discussing the (possible) reasons why certain decisions were made. (And for my next trick I'll be juggling razor sharp hatchets blindfolded.)

Let's begin with ROF: The game play and player development value of the reduced ROF was discussed here & here. For the lower divisions this is a positive. Less so at semi- and pro. However, it will NOT reduce paint usage. It may have some trickle down impact on the local scene(s) but that's really an issue of enforcement and simple common sense. Both of which seem to be scarce commodities in the Paintball. Overall: net plus (but not for the reasons it was done.)
For those of you who think there is no point to "complaining" about decisions made, think again. When PBReserve posted the 12, 10, 8 bps rumor it wasn't a rumor, it was the decision that had been made--and as you can plainly see unmade by the time of the first formal announcement.
Also, a prediction: by the end of the year the reduced ROF will be touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread and a possible cure for cancer despite the fact there will be no way to validate any of the claims made--and if there is no discernable 'improvement' at the local level it will be seen as a reason for further reductions (in some quarters) instead of the obvious conclusion that it's nearly irrelevant. [If PBIndustry is concerned about grass roots playership they have a self-interested obligation to meet the challenge where it exists instead of strong-arming the PSP to take ineffectual action.]

Next: reduced races & shrinking game times. Whether intended or not the concept of a race to a max number of points within a limited match time is simply a game duration modifier. If the race to is too high it is irrelevant as match time will expire before it's reached. Lowering the race however is a means of reducing match time without changing the clock time. If you've been a regular for awhile you will recall the notion of reduced cost/paint savings was addressed in passing here & here. And that the key to any significant "savings" resides in the duration of match play. The reduced races is where reduced paint consumption will occur, if at all. The other by-product is of course less paintball. This is also a price increase no matter how it is spun. Overall: (perhaps a necessary) minus
One final thought on reduced races. For those of you going from race to 5 to race to 4 why do you think that's being done? Could it have anything to do with aligning formats more closely with the Millennium as part of the PSP's plan to sit atop the UPBF (the acronym for the coming New World Order, an international paintball federation featuring a dessicated form of what used to be called xball.) Or are they just chipping away at match durations in order to fit a more profitable schedule of event logistics? Or both? It will be interesting to see how closely the MS rules coincide with all the PSP changes. Keep an eye on ROF in particular.

Roster restrictions. I understand the rationale in reducing pro rosters. I don't like it but I understand it. (It will reduce team expenses over carrying 11 guys, d'oh!, but it doesn't address the ongoing competitive imbalances created by organizations; ie, support personnel. Yes, there are roster limits for staff too but they aren't relevant without any enforcement effort.)
Roster restrictions will compel existing teams and programs to cut players. It will raise the per player cost of competing. And it may impact things like sponsor discounts on volume. This change will effect the league's bread-and-butter teams most if it sticks and that is not a recipe for success. Additionally, the reasoning behind the change is both ill-conceived and offensive. The working assumption is that if you disenfranchise a bunch of regular tourney players they will reform into new teams. On the local tourney level that might work. On the national circuit the issue isn't too few unattached players--there are lots of those who have been disenfranchised by the classification rules--the problem is too few managers to put teams together and handle the logistics, etc. of competing on a national level. That's the ill-conceived part. The offensive part is that the league is making rules not based on improving the sport but as a measure to manipulate the players. Overall: major minus

New penalty structure. The change is primarily a money-saving move that has been determined to be both needed and unlikely to have a significant impact on the play of the game. We'll see. I have never been a fan of the disproportionate impact some penalties have had on match results; primarily majors. I don't like the notion that a 2-4-1 can carry over to the next point except in instances were the penalized team still won the prior point. Otherwise it's just a matter of decent officiating--as it's always been. There are some unanswered questions remaining regarding issues like procedural penalties (as the obvious example). What happens when a player removes his goggles early or doesn't have a jersey tucked in or has a hot gun? I imagine the new rulebook will deal with all those considerations but until we know the full extent of the rule changes related to calling penalties it's hard to judge the full effect. Overall: incomplete

New divisions of play. The VFTD case for new divisions was discussed here and here. On that basis I have no objections. If the result is restructured classification rules that make the league more competitive top to bottom while also encouraging the participation of players across the classification spectrum while reducing the compulsory nature of some of the rules--I'll be one hundred percent in favor. In the meantime it's a good start and a hopeful sign that the classification issues have been seriously reconsidered and will be modified. Overall: (tentative) major plus

Unchanged entry fees. Well, after you reduce the amount of paintball and restrict the rosters you have already raised the 'cost' of competing. Apparently all the economizing isn't aimed at helping the player out. What this one really comes down to was it absolutely necessary for the PSP to make the changes they made? If you believe that you're probably willing (if able) to absorb some added cost. If you don't believe it then it may not matter even if the cost is still within reach. I guess we will see. In any event the league hasn't helped its cause in the way all this has been handled--but then nobody has ever accused the PSP of being masters of public relations. When Raehl is your chief apologist .... Overall: (slight) minus?

Bonus analysis: I'm sure you've all noticed that Pro entry is down this year while everybody else has stayed the same--and if you play a lower division I'd guess that's not sitting too well. So here's another way of looking at it. Once upon a time pro xball was 25 minute halves. Then it was reduced to 20. Then to 15 with a race, first to 7 and then to 9. Did the entry price go down? No, in fact there were unstated admin fees that stacked another grand onto each event's total entry cost--so it was really 6K, not 5. This year Pro is reduced again, to 10 minute halves and back to a race to 7. That is a further 33% time reduction and reduced race. The entry was reduced 20% (unless they've also removed the admin fee.) Another way of looking at it was the Pro teams paid more than twice what anybody else did for years even as their game was regularly reduced. Now I'm not suggesting that makes the other circumstances okay--only that nobody cared all the years the Pro teams were getting jacked up.

That'll have to do for now. There's more to be covered as it becomes known and--who knows--there may be some 'adjustments' to the changes already announced.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 3

Not only is there a LOT of information still to be released related to classification rules and procedural penalties for a start but there is also the matter of the fledgling 7-man league. Right now the appeal of that league--being more of a fantasy at the moment than a concrete reality--is dividing the undecideds among the pro teams. At some point coming soon those teams will have to make a commitment to one league or the other and those decisions will impact both the future of those teams and the league(s).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 2

The PSP delivers ROF, format, penalty and roster info the same day VFTD begins the hostage crisis countdown. Coincidence?

Not so fast. It's not time to declare victory. This isn't over. For starters all the necessary info hasn't been released yet. Nor has it been reviewed for freshness. (Did the sell by date expire even before it was released?) Let's hear about the UPBF. And, oh yeah, there's that other league in the making. Is it for real or what?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage, Day 1

The holidays are over. Most of the bowl games have been played. It's 2009 and the first PSP event is less than 7 weeks away and if it weren't for the endless dribble of rumors and second or third hand leaks nobody would have any idea what to expect for the upcoming season. Beginning today VFTD will post a daily reminder to highlight the plight of the tourney baller.

Enlistments for the Week

First up this week is TBD-Mike. Mike is a very special recruit. He's a student at Embry-Riddle, in fact he's an excellent student, a future Naval aviator and astronaut who has had to put paintball aside to pursue his dreams. Good luck, Mikey.

Mick from T-Square Paintball (& paintblog) joined the DPA this week. Hey, Mick. I'm guessing there's a bunch of right angles and straight lines at your place.