Monday, August 31, 2009

Down & Dirty With Mr. Curious

It seems Mr. C was visiting an unfamiliar town recently and ended up wandering down and dark and twisting alley where he was accosted by a man in a trenchcoat. I know what you're thinking--shame on you--but it turns out much worse than you think. The dude in the trenchcoat was all outta knock-off Rolexes and Armani stretch pants. All he had was a couple of lousy paintball rumors he insisted were hot, hot, hot. And, well, you know the rest, don't you? Mr. Curious couldn't resist 'cus, like you, he's a paintball junkie and he was jonesing.
So he ponied up but now he wonders if he's been ripped off and decided to share with VFTD. VFTD has contacted our pal Sean Scott over at SP--did I forget to mention the rumors are about SP?--so we'll see if there's an official or unofficial response.

The back alley word is that SP has recently put their sales reps on notice--sell more stuff!--and that the company will not be sending support or their vendor set-ups out to any event for the remainder of the season.

Does this mean some of the mass of SP rumors this last few months might be correct? Who knows?

This Week Last Week What's The Difference?

Okay, so I'm behind again. Does it really matter when it comes to posting (and discussing) 7-man paintball? Really? Sure, maybe some of you are curious. May even find it vaguely interesting in an all things tourney sorta way but how much relevance does it really have? I mean, where were you? Not at Pev's is the winning answer for at least 99% of y'all.
Even so, I will do one more post (with field layout) on this 7-man business and make the basic point I was leading up to as it has some application across the tourney board. And because I said I would.
But I don't really want to. Largely because I don't want to spend another second thinking about 7-man right now. I'm not a happy camper. I'm a frustrated, angry camper and a lousy loser and the last think I want to do is spend time in that frame of mind. I realize you need to minimize your expectations when you don't routinely play a format or even practice it so the performing poorly part is not all that unexpected. It's the not practicing, not having a set roster not really trying to be successful part that pisses me off. And, yes, there are even reasons (or an explanation at least that is completely reasonable) for that but knowing why and accepting it are two different things and it just plain galls me. The only thing worse than losing is not really trying. (And I'm rapidly becoming convinced it has an unhelpful psychological effect across the board with the players too--which is a real issue compared to my ulcers and hair loss.)

Lane's interview will get going this week though there is no firm date on when it will be posted yet.

And I will have the inside story on the workings and goals of the PSTA coming (hopefully) sometime this week. As some regulars may recall I've been somewhat skeptical-not of the PSTA's stated goals--but it's past practices so this will be an opportunity for me to get past all that too. (Of course, I am by nature suspicious of any sort of power structure 'cus it's another way for The Man to hold you down. Fight the Power! Right on, Brothers.)

Otherwise, I'll post whatever comes up. Personally I like surprises.

The Monday Poll

So I'ma getting close to flogging this thing for more than it's worth but ideas are a little thin these days. What can I say? World Cup is coming up, football season is upon us and the real truth is I spend way too much time just plain pissed off when things aren't working very well. (More on that in the next post.)
Oh, you're wondering which thing I'm flogging today? The whole USPL (NPPL 3.0) versus the PSP thing. Does it seem to you like I'm flogging this dealio? Maybe not. Maybe it's just because I go round and round on this thing all the time. This week's question is: You can only play one. World Cup at Fantasy of Flight or the USPL Championships on The Strip in Vegas?

Btw, you got any ideas, however outlandish, for a Monday Poll, I'm all ears. Let's hear 'em.

Monday Poll in Review
Now this is a mystery of pure mathematics. How is that 8 people can vote "yes" thus being entitled to cast a second, qualifying vote but in the final poll there were 27 "qualifying" votes cast? While the raw numbers may not jibe the obvious answer is that many of you are confused or couldn't resist casting a second vote. Or that you failed to comprehend the nature of the poll and the "rules" for voting. Given that many of you are not native English speakers you are exempt from criticism but the rest of you toolboxes have no excuse. As a consequence of your disorderly voting we can best conclude from The Monday Poll that the great majority think the MS kids ought to compete at their MS ranking but dropping one division isn't really a big deal 'cus, you know, it's tough for the Eurokids to be competitive. Sound about right?
I suppose, given the fact I've made a mockery or two of my own poll on occasion I shouldn't hold it against you lot when you do the same. So no hard feelings. I would say my poor polls need all the help they can get so if you'd make just a little effort next time--that's all I ask.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Burning Question

First, apologies for not getting the West Coast Open breakout posted as promised. It's been a busier day than expected. Should have more time tomorrow. But I do have somehing interesting for you instead.

But before the burning question it seems the kids at ProPaintball have posted a rumor suggesting some meeting between the leagues. Don't think so. Yes, Chuck is here and yes, Lane is here but there hasn't been any meeting and no talks related to next year's scheduling. Still, it's a quality rumor.

And now, without further ado; the burning question: Is KEE about to buy Kingman? Rumor has it the deal will be finalized within 30 days.

CLARIFICATION: KEE isn't about to purchase the Kingman Group but some element of it or some holding of KG. Sorry about that. I shorthanded it before and was less than clear or precise.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

West Coast Open Breakout(s)

Here's last month's West Coast Open layout and the basic breakout concept we used. Looking at the primaries though doesn't really cover the actual breakouts used because of the options built into the basic breakout.

The red lines represent run options and were used at the players' discretion unless I otherwise requested a particular path be run. (I do this sometimes if I'm concerned about falling into an unintended routine or if I have an expectation of what the other team is more likely than not to do. Normally I prefer to accommodate the players' preferences simply because more comfortable players are often more confident players.) The dashed blue line reps what I tend to think of as a delayed primary option.

This relatively rudimentary breakout offers nearly everything you'd like in terms of flexibility while maximizing the number of guns up and rolling off the break. For example, in the group of four players playing snake side plus the forward center MT the variations possible make it very easy to mix up your breakouts while continuing to achieve your basic breakout goals. Any of the four positions can be held back as the home snake side laner. Two even can be kept back. This allows for a breakout that one times hits the snake and corner together. Or trails the corner while the snake is taken OTB. Or the corner taken directly and the snake taken incrementally by staging from the MC or Brick. Lots of different ways to shuffle those four basic positions in order to keep your opponent guessing. To a slightly lesser degree the same applies to the D-side as well. The end result should be guns up, eyes up and people in position to do damage or quickly threaten to do damage.

Btw, in practical terms this breakout was a failure pretty much all day but it really had zero to do with the breakout and its potential. It was a failure all day not because it didn't work--we seldom lost bodies off the break or gave up significant field position--but because of a failure to execute both individually and as a team effectively enough to be successful. (Only Arsenal thumped us and that was in part due to the unlikely combination of a gun going down at the same time a player suffered a brief fit of temporary blindness.) And that was largely due to a lack of practice and some attitude issues that have since (hopefully) been adjusted.

If there's any questions--this was very cursory--don't hesitate to ask. Sadly I actually enjoy talking about this stuff. Tomorrow I'll post the breakout that won a game in under a minute during the same event and explain a little bit about how and why the turnaround.

And on Saturday and Sunday I'll see about posting some breakouts and results from the DC Challenge.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PB Extravaganza vs. World Cup

This isn't as silly as it may sound. At least not to dealers, manufacturers and retailers. And given the timing it's actually an unavoidable conclusion. (Though I did hear thru the proverbial grapevine that Dave D. was/is unconcerned about the impact Extravaganza might have on Cup. Which strikes me as an error in judgment but it's not my dime on the line. And will almost certainly benefit his company, if not the PSP.)

Here's the thing: World Cup has long enjoyed a big turnout of vendors along with buyers and has been known as the place to be in order to get a first look at next year's gear. Extravaganza is going to undercut that role and it's going to put established industry leaders ahead of the curve in terms of selling the new lines and getting them into retail hands earlier than before. So as it stands Extravaganza makes sense for the established brands and it pre-empts the possibility of some flashy new gear stealing everybody's thunder. The big players get a release date they can take advantage of and first shot at the available dollars of the retailers. It's cheaper too. So if you're a paintball name brand with an ability to pipeline product to an established network Extravaganza in advance of Cup is a no-brainer that may even help undermine or keep out of play any of those snot-nosed start-up types or struggling companies looking to make their mark.

On the other hand if you're relatively new to the scene or are still trying to grow a market for your products you really need to go to Cup, don't you? Your issue is building customer interest and using that to get retailers to stock your products. You need to be seen by the end users, the players. You need to hopefully generate some buzz to help get your gear off the ground and into more players hands. In a tight economy retailers keep less inventory and only want to carry what they know will sell. That makes it doubly difficult to become an industry player or a bigger player.

The result is this positioning of Extravaganza puts both the little guy and the PSP in a bind. Does the little guy attend both because they can't afford to be left out of either one or does the small business have to pick and hope it chose wisely? Cup was the one event of the season where the new rules restricting vendors wasn't expected to have too deleterious an impact and now Extravaganza is stepping in to steal away some percentage of the expected Cup vendor turnout. We've already seen the threadbare vendor rollouts at this season's other events; if the same or something similar happens to Cup it will diminish the event and continue the process that is seeing a long established revenue stream for the league continue to dry up. Given prior claims for the essential nature of sponsor/vendor dollars to the league's overall health this is probably a bigger deal than it may seem at first blush. And is also emblematic of the league's need to find new ways to market itself in a changing environment with much less room for error.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

Let's begin with NPPL 3.0 and the DC Challenge coming up this weekend. APPA's (official?) numbers are 57 teams total, registered and paid. Given there were at least 90 teams registered with a couple of weeks left earlier in the month this is a disappointing outcome. Particularly as Chuck, Camille and the crew made a big push to offer added value and lots of extras. None of the modest turnouts is the result of poor planning or a failure to put in the time and effort. The Cali kids are working their butts off. Inevitably, or so it seems to me, the lack of greater success has to be the format. The ranks of loyal 7-man adherents just isn't there anymore. What other sensible conclusion is there?
If you're in the neighborhood come on out to Pev's place this weekend and check it out. You'll get a free pass to come back and play another and a paintball weekend is always a good weekend.
(Btw, there was a rumor going around a couple of weeks ago that at least one NPPL 3.0 owner had spent well into 6 figures this year. Just where all that supposed cash had gone was just part of the speculation largely because the number was so large it seemed inconceivable it was spent exclusively on his team. Anyway, I've no idea if there's any credence to the rumor--I hit the vaca trail right after hearing about it--but it's interesting nonetheless 'cus it leads to questions like is the league being propped up with cash infusions and if so, what does that mean for the owners group? How long can it last?
It reminds me of that old joke--How do you make a small fortune in paintball? Start with a big one.)

By my count PSP World Cup registration sits at 304 with 11 of the Pro teams not included and I can imagine a little nail biting going on. While there's still time for additional registrations (and there will likely be some) we're close to the point where it becomes a question of what percentage of registrants pay their entries. I've no idea what the norm is as that's a number I've never looked into but it needs to be high. If 75% of registrants paid it would mean a turnout around 225. 90% gets you 270 teams. So, realistically WC isn't out of the woods just yet and we haven't touched on vendor turnout at all. (Tomorrow's post will be PB Extravaganza vs. World Cup.) Of course the bottom line here is the bottom line and I'm not overly concerned about WC as a stand alone event. The issue is how much red ink does WC have to account for from prior events this season and is the webcast on the PSP books or is it being handled separately? Hey, we could ask Lane!
Regarding the foreign team count and where they are playing I think perhaps I jumped the gun a bit on our Euro friends. One, there aren't as many currently signed up as I first thought and Two, most of them aren't taking grossly unfair advantage. Interestingly in my cursory examination I found around two dozen non-North American teams registered and nearly half of them are from Central and South America. I do think Icon and Tontons ought to be playing semi-pro and not D1. (And that about half the currently registered semi-pro ought to be given the boot but ...) I don't really have a problem with any of the others playing out of division beyond the dissonance created between the supposed future goal and the current reality.

Over in Euroland the MS's Campaign Cup is less than a month away and in the unlocked divisions, D2 & D3, there are 7 and 19 teams registered, respectively. Not exactly storming the barricades to get a chance to play Millennium ball are they? In recent years it seems there's always post-Campaign talk about moving the event because the UK teams don't turn out in big numbers to compete and support the series. If anything like these numbers hold it's more than that this time around. Could it be peeps are finally voting with their checkbooks? Or is it perhaps a combination of the usual UK torpor mixed with continuing economic hardship that is keeping the more recreationally oriented players an teams away?

Further east the Grand Tour has 36 teams signed up for the Budapest event. Or is that the Buda or the Pest event? The event is less than two weeks out and will include a one-on-one challenge as well for those who wish to sign up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Monday Poll

I think I'ma keep this one simple and work my way back into the more complex polls. No point in overdoing it, right?
In keeping with my newly formed interest in Euro teams coming to Cup let's focus on that for this week's poll question and a few other questions besides. Should MS teams register to compete in the PSP at their MS ranking or is it okay to sandbag? Or is it sandbagging? Are you an insufferable elitist American or do the Eurokids really suck? And when they register below their MS rank are they admitting they suck? How many divisions down is okay? Shouldn't the MS help the PSP police player rankings.
Aren't we really talking about a kind of paintball apartheid here with the Eurokids accepting, no, asking for second class citizen status with us being all paternal and understanding of their inferiority? I thought competing against the best made you better. Does that only work when you aren't paying WC entry fees and flying across the pond to play?

Admittedly some tough questions but aren't they completely fair?

The poll will allow you more than one response. Please vote either yes or no and if you vote "yes" then feel free to vote for some limitation or no limitation on where the MS kids can play.

UPDATE: I see in early results reading comprehension remains a concern. Well, I can't make up for the failures of our educational system and blog about competitive paintball too. C'est la vie!

Monday Poll in Review
What poll? It's been so long I've forgotten what the last poll was about. No really. I wish. Okay, so it didn't work out so well for the obvious reasons and so far this year's numbers seem to suggest changes made and entry fees remain acceptable to the large majority. So we'll let it go--for now--until I can figure out a better way to discuss it in the future. (Suggestions are always welcome.)
I am dancing around my old bugaboo (again) of limited participation up the upper divisional ranks--27 teams signed up in D2 for WC--and I'm wondering (again) if cost isn't the primary limiter, at least right this minute, then what is? Are we really reduced to only 27 teams that believe they can compete at this level of play? And, yes, this means I remain convinced that dumbing down our upper ranks is exactly the wrong thing to do if the goal is to create strong, sustaining upper divisional brackets.

Some Paintball Related Observations

Right. It seems I picked the right time to be gone as not a whole lot seems to have gone down. I mean, y'all are still talking about the Todd / Dynasty thing. I've no idea how things work in the Dynasty camp but serious teams are all focused on winning and stuff happens and things change. This ride isn't forever, for anybody. It seems like this is a lesson in real life that seldom gets learned. Sounds to me like Todd has handled this deal with dignity and his characteristic humor and while I think it's fair game for everybody to talk about it never ceases to amaze me how heated some of y'all get. It's a game to you, it's real life for them. Good luck to them all.

And the Bushwacker news is kinda old too. The world keeps turning and the soap opera never ends. What I haven't heard is who takes the Wackers place in DC? (Maybe I ought to check my email.)

For the Eurokids--this is a bit dated--but I've heard from sources close to the MS board that they realized their error in judgment on this Turkey deal but signed contracts are signed contracts and so they've done what they always do--stop up their ears and hope it all goes away--and it appears they will get their wish. Again. The sources are inclined to think a large part of the problem is the league has lots of chiefs and no Indians (Is there a PC way to phrase that? Probably but screw it.) Given past performance I'm less inclined than the sources to give the MS any benefit of the doubt but it is the opinion held my peeps near the epicenter.

One recent development that does interest me is the number of Euro teams signing up for Cup. Sure there are always some but there are some bigger names this year if they bring their A rosters. And I'd like to know how the PSP is gonna accommodate Joy in the Pro div if the limit remains 13 teams. (I'm assuming they'll add one at some point.) Still, none of them are coming for sure until they've paid their entry far as I'm concerned. And what about this playing down business? I know the Eurokids are used to doing this but I thought the MS and PSP were working together to internationalize and standardize our game so shouldn't part of that process include recognizing each other's divisions? At a minimum? (Although I'm fine with them playing semi-pro.) But otherwise aren't they selling themselves short and aren't we saying it's okay for them because we all know they aren't really that good? If it were me, well, maybe I'm not that good, but by god, it's condescending.

Some Non-Paintball Travel Observations

You may, at first, find my observations somewhat closer to complaints but I assure they aren't. The issue came up while on vacation. My daughter, usually of a sunny if offbeat personality, became just a wee bit complaint prone so I decreed no more complaints but observations, on the other hand, were acceptable. So these observations will run the gamut from the possibly wry and witty to the perhaps bitter and sour but are not, under any circumstances, to be confused with complaints.

Okay, right off the top. No first tier civilization is possible without air conditioning and ice cubes. There it is. Not even France. And definitely not Italy. Don't bother trying to argue that one. Granted, August isn't the best month to travel places you know don't have air conditioning as a normal everyday part of living but that doesn't excuse the lack. And while I understand there are people who like warm beer, room temp water and barely chilled soda it rises above the level of mere taste when the only consistent source of ice you can find is in a hole in the wall shop that sells it in sheets of twenty cubes for 2 plus Euros each. Is that civilized? Not in my book.

Of course there was some air conditioning and some other sources of ice cubes but the impression is that the good stuff isn't for tourists or so valuable it needs to be rationed. All our hotels had air conditioning but only two of them allowed the guest to regulate how much or how little they required. And have you ever noticed that the more expensive and grander a hotel claims to be the less service you usually get? Over here if you want a free breakfast and free internet virtually every everyday hotel chain is accommodating but the more upscale the hotel the more they nickel and dime you for "extra" services. Same applies across the pond times two or three.

A lot (all) of restaurants, even those you'd think (or hope) were off the beaten path and away from the typical tourist crowd, include a service charge in their menu prices. Many advertise the fact as if it was an all inclusive deal intended to save you, the customer, from unscrupulous restaurateurs--like the guy next door. In fact, they (almost) all also charge a cover charge too that they fail to mention until the bill arrives (usually about the time you're desperate to escape having finished your meals ages ago) which, may or may not, actually be an itemized list of your purchases. Sometimes it's just a total. Despite the shenanigans the real problem with built in service charges is that it takes away any incentive to actually provide any service.

On the subject of eating it is apparently getting harder and harder to find anything that even pretends to be authentic fare cooked with a bit of pride and uniqueness unless you're willing and/or able to spend extravagant amounts for a meal. At least when it comes to tourist centers. Nearly every place has a "tourist" menu and serves the same basic slop because they have decided, en masse, that the silly tourists don't really want real food, or at least are too ignorant to know any better and couldn't possibly enjoy good food anyway. (It got so bad I finally decided you either needed to spend all your time trying to find good food or doing the usual museums, etc. thing 'cus you couldn't do both within a limited time frame.) (Last night I went to a local roadhouse-type steak joint and had a 20 oz. strip that was still an inch thick when it hit the table that I could cut with my fork. Not because I really really wanted it yesterday but just because I could. And it cost less than a piece of so called "bifteck" I had in an upscale Italian restaurant that had been so brutalized by a tenderizing mallet it looked like roadkill.)

Despite Mussolini being dead and gone all these years the trains still run on time in Italy and offer quality accommodations and travel comfort. The waterbuses in Venice were timely as well but that pretty much covers the extent of Italian efficiency far as I can tell. For example we had a first floor room, 137, in Venice that required going up two flights of stairs, down another and up and down two or three stairs in four other places. It was a Monty Python joke. The one place the inefficiency was problematic was in the operation of their museums. It seems there are two ways to get into the best of them. With a reserved time ticket or by standing in line and waiting to buy a day ticket from the ticket booth. What they don't tell you is that they only allow a few folks in at a time from the normal ticket line and they don't advertise where else one can buy tickets, like the reserved time and day tickets. I bought our Louvre tickets in advance because I'd read it could be difficult to get into the museum without reserved tickets (it wasn't) but was totally unprepared for the way the Italians seemingly worked to keep peeps out of their museums. Very frustrating.

There's more but that's enough as I'm feeling more mellow now.

Despite the observations it was an awesome trip and I would recommend visiting all the places we went to anyone and I intend to go back sometime in the hopefully not too distant future. So take the observations with a grain of salt but forewarned is forearmed. Although what you're gonna do with four arms is beyond me. Maybe join the circus.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baca is Back

Hey, kids. Have no fear, Baca is back--if just barely. (But more on that in a minute or three.) First, I'd like to thank you all ('cus if you're here reading you've been checking in and/or waiting around for the return of the routine madness) and I want y'all to know I appreciate it. And not in some slightly repulsive needy Sally Field "You really really like me" kinda way either. So, hey, it's good to be back.

I haven't read all the submitted for Lane questions yet but the ones I saw looked solid and I expect y'all have done a lot of the work for me--which is always a good thing. I'll get the interview in order within a couple of days and the harassment can begin!

Oh, yeah, and if you haven't done enough for me just yet I have another favor to ask. Thing is I'm completely out of the loop. I mean totally and completely out of the loop. I didn't spend any time on paintball at all. I haven't been secretly monitoring all the sites or keeping contact with the usual suspects or anything like it at all. In fact I have purposefully not even looked at ProPaintball or the Big Bullet to get a quick overview of what I missed. So, about that favor. What I was thinking is y'all could help fill me in on everything I've missed in the last couple of weeks. Anything of consequence you think I ought to know please post up in the comments and my growing rep as the ultimate lazy slacker will be nearly complete. (Yeah, I had intended to keep in touch with a comment or note here or there and managed okay while in Paris although the "free" internet turned out to be free only after figuring out the hotel's password--it wasn't rocket science--and elsewhere there either wasn't a suitable connection or it cost more than a decent beverage in a mediocre restaurant--which proved to be highway freaking robbery.)

At this point I've no idea what the rest of the week will look like but I have a couple of ideas. Turns out some illnesses on the team have kept us from any full 7-man practices for the upcoming DC Challenge--deja vu all over again--even after I dragged myself out of bed this morning willing to make the sacrifice of heading off to practice after being in Venice 30 hours ago and Paris yesterday morning but a quick phone call relieved me of the obligation as there was no real practice gonna happen. Anyway, here's the idea. Sometime during the week I review a couple of games from the West Coast Open by outlining our breakouts and the game results and then during and after the DC Challenge I post up our breakouts and then follow-up with how they worked or didn't (win or lose) 'cus it's all gonna happen on the fly and on the big stage too! Btw, don't try this at your next local tourney, leave it to the professionals--because this not the recommended way to competitive success.
No doubt there's some other stuff sitting around that can be whipped into post shape. And tomorrow there will be a new Monday Poll and all the rest so there you have it.

In closing I did have one paintball experience on vacation. Coming back through Customs at Dulles yesterday. One of the agents asked if my Dye T-shirt--repping the sponsors--was the paintball Dye and when I replied in the affirmative he blew off the Customs stuff and we had a brief chat about paintball and I invited him to come out to the DC Challenge this coming weekend and say, hey, so we'll see. Seems he's a DM guy and had some enthusiast questions. But it was cool and not totally unexpected. I've met all kinds of people all over who are into one sort of paintball or another. Just like you, mes amis, just like you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vaca for Baca

Baca needs a break. It’s vacation time! But no worries, kids, I’m not going all Kobe on ya. Baca’s not gonna start speaking about himself in the third person. And the break won’t be all that long even if it seems endless while I’m gone. Trust me, you’ll manage. Dry that eye, Little Soldier, and I’ll be back before you know it.

In the meantime start cranking out those questions for the VFTD Lane Wright Interview.

How long will I be gone? Look at the time stamp on The Monday Poll.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Lane Wright Interview

Lane is going to do the inaugural VFTD interview and I want to include y’all in the process. In comments post up the questions you’d like Lane to answer and I will include a few of the best. And when I say "best" that is potentially a very very broad category. Do I need to say "go crazy"?

For those wondering how did VFTD get Lane to do this interview--let’s just say it was easier to agree than to change his phone number--again. (The boring truth is no coercion was required. I’m thinking it was probably just a temporary lapse in judgment.)

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

Off in MillenniumLand they are a day (or two) late and a Euro short as the league makes a belated(?) effort to respond to widespread player grumbling over the more expensive than expected for a routine event costs associated with the Turkey event. Otherwise nobody seems particularly put out by the Sarmilaz business. (If you missed that check the stack of posts here from last week. D'oh!) Not even the Germans who recently dodged a legislative bullet. Is it really any wonder the MS does what it wants?

Registrations for PSP's World Cup are at 262 teams and counting. What else do you need to know? With the venue change and the dramatic effect that will have on the bottom line I think the numbers are beginning to look pretty good. Fingers crossed.

NPPL 3.0 (You remember the USPL don't you?) has the DC Challenge coming and the league is making a strong and concerted effort to get the teams and fans out. With a pro team sponsored cookout and free play passes to be handed out the league can't be faulted for not doing enough. At the same time registrations are upt to 90 teams ut paid entries is at a disappointing 30 so far. Less than 10 days left to get that entry in.

Over at the not so Grand Tour the Moscow venue was changed at the last minute in what was probably a response to the very small turnout as it appears only 22 teams participated with a big fat goose egg in the Pro division. Next up is the Budapest event and as a regular series event the 9 Pro teams that have been competing all year are back and the current registrations for the early September event stands at 32 (and counting?)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Monday Poll

We’s gonna cut a little close to the bone this week, boys and girls. By talking about value. Oh, I know, this is paintball and value has nothing to do with it--except when it does. We spend ridiculous amounts of time and money playing this silly game but somewhere in the love/hate equation value (or our individual perceptions of value) tips the scale on when enough is enough or too much is really too much, dammit.

How much are you willing to pay to play Xball? (Or Race 2, blah blah blah) Because there are a ton of variables involved in this I’m gonna set the game’s parameters and you’re gonna vote on the value you’re willing to assign it. Let’s begin with D2 Race2-5. As it is today. Today’s rules, today’s clock, etc. What I’m looking for is a sense of price sensitivity. (Sure there’s lots of other costs for each player involved and you ought to take them into account but what I want to know is when D2 Race2-5 hits the wall.) Currently $2600 is the minimum entry and $2900 is the maximum.

Monday Poll in Review

The initial conclusions I draw from the data (such as it is) is that the voters are xball centric generally and the results tells me it ain’t necessarily about results even when The Monday Poll–you people (Who you calling you people?)--says it is. As a group if a team plays xball it gets a passing grade from the majority. But if you are a 7-man team without a pro history, well, forgetaboutit. A significant majority isn’t prepared to consider those teams pro yet regardless.

Disclaimer: Cause some of you people can be sensitive about this sort of thing let me say in advance I have nothing but respect for all the competitors and that none of the following remarks should be taken to be in any way disrespectful. And if that ain’t good enough, well, you’re out of luck ‘cus the well of sensitivity has officially run dry.

Remember last week? Results was the overwhelming winner in how y’all determine whose really pro and who isn’t. Followed by a tie between major sponsorship and dedication. Then came reputation and making up the rest of the field was longevity, came up thru the ranks and having established players on the roster.
With that in mind let’s look at XSV. 25% say they shouldn’t be considered pro. That of course means 75% are still on board despite competing in semi-pro xball, mid-pack 7-man results lately and wholesale roster changes from their heyday.
Arsenal has won the last two 7-man events and 18% don’t choose to consider them pro. Now maybe that’s not too bad considering the bias toward xball but given the rest of the poll’s numbers results alone aren’t enough.
Blast won HB ‘08 and have done consistently well in the 7-man arena and yet 29% have booted them off the island. Does anybody remember last year’s win? Is it because this is a "new" Bob Long team compared to the old Ironmen or Assassins?
The Naughty Dogs have longevity and a history as a solid pro team with intermittent results the last two or three years and end up as the xball team with the highest not-a-pro-team vote at 29% matching Blast. (Still, 71% consider them a pro team so it isn’t the end of the world but in a comparison are we talking about results or a statute of limitations on results? Is it really more of a what have you done for me lately?) I can’t help thinking that with the demographic youth movement and the loss of much of the print media and feature advertising the larger hit the Dogs have taken is to their profile.
Aftershock weighs in at 11%--a comfortable number much closer to the dominant pro teams than the fringe but on what basis? I just finished arguing the youth movement doesn’t know the history but here Shock is anyway. One of the all time greats they may currently be seen as an up and comer (which they are) and a legitimately competitive team but there aren’t a lot of Sunday appearances in their recent past. Where are the results?
Impact sits at 10% which is a lot more respectable than it may seem at first glance but it does display a clear difference between how they are viewed as opposed to the top tier pro teams. In the last three years it’s hard to find teams with much better results and Impact plays both leagues and have always been competitive though results favor their 7-man efforts overall. Is it the Johnny-come-lately effect? Despite quality play and a run at a 7-man championship have they not been around long enough?
And then there’s Philly at 2% with a terrific ‘09 season but a recent past of failed 7-man efforts that apparently don’t matter at all to the voters. So on one hand if you’re only 7-man it detracts from this group of voters perceptions but doing poorly at 7-man is no big deal.
Bushwackers received 23% of the vote while playing in both leagues. A solid 7-man team that has struggled with the xball learning curve this season how does one account for their finish based on results?
Finally we have the example of X-Factor sitting at a minuscule 3%. Making a team to team comparison where is the difference between them and say Impact that accounts for the way the vote turned out?

I think there’s a lot more to name recognition and reputation than past polls took into consideration. It almost seems like once you make the "list" you’re good to go. And this from a more in touch, skewing more experience and insider audience. What would the numbers have looked like on PBN?
And perhaps more to the point in the current climate who gets the word out to the wider paintball audience and how much influence do they have on who will be accepted as Pro in the future?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Campaign Cup 09: Playing the Field

The snake side of this layout is nearly identical to the PSP's MAO '09 layout. (The only differences are a "missing" pair of beams and the placement of the Can(s) feeding the angled snake segments. The practical distinction comes in moving into the snake sometime after the break. At MAO a second angled beam connected the snake segment with the Can. Here, it is possible to contest any delayed move into the snake although the majority of contesting lanes can also be directly countered.

The objective in playing this snake ought to be a race into the middle segment in order to apply real pressure across the field and force your opponent to counter. It is important to contest the first move into the snake because it will prove more difficult to deny the next bump into the middle segment. At this point the difference in the position of the feed Can--compared to MAO's layout--allows a Can player to contest the move around the end Temple into the snake.

Okay, so how do you attack on this field? A good laning team will eat your lunch if you only try to make standard breakout primaries. (Though I confess I've no idea how many good laning teams there are at 10 bps there will be some at 12bps--and not purely as a function of the ROF.) The gray areas indicate zones where a home shooter can't shoot. This means, among other things, you can delay inside these zones and discount the home shooter temporarily.
The zone behind the pins is especially effective because it can only be directly contested by a player in a similar position. Positionally a player can shoot the snake gap and/or use your pins to edge the opponent's home shooter. And, as an inside gun you have the option to rotate outside or upfield with limited opposition early in the point. The gray mid-zone, behind the feed Can, offers a corner to Cake zone to work with the option cutting into your corner or up to the Can(s). This zone shooter can also edge off the home shooter. Making the corner play guns up allows you to zone the feed Can and/or Cake, round the corner and take the snake. And realistically it's the feed Can that can deny that option with an opponent playing tall and shooting down. Otherwise it's a simple matter of crawling into the snake. (Keep in mind that crossfield D-side shooters may be able to compromise some of these options some of the time--but that's when you push upfield on the D-side.

In practice find the zones and see what your options are. Roll your guns and see what you can make of these additions to your snake side attack.

One other item of possible interest. I expect more than a few teams will want to keep two home shooters much of the time and the opportunities to edge them off their lanes or eliminate them should be part of any game plan.

Finally, the key to executing any of the guns up breakout options is patience and commitment.

Have fun.

Pro field prelim layout

Commish Mineo sent it out today and I thought some of y'all might be interested in checking it out and comparing it to the finals (and divisional) layout. So, here you go.

Heard It Through The Grapevine

Hmmm, grapes.
The latest rumor related to the tempest in a teapot (so far) that is the curious relationship between the MS and Turkish small arms maker Sarsilmaz, is that some of the Millennium's big name sponsors aren't going to show for the event. Ostensibly the excuse will be logistics and the related costs but the whispered subtext is that nobody wants the "real" gun association. Particularly not right now.
Given the nature of paintball politics the opposite could as easily be true. The Sarsilmaz "taint" may simply be a good excuse not to have to deal with the logistics and costs of displaying at the event in Turkey.
VFTD has made direct inquiries and if any of the companies mentioned in this batch of rumors is willing to go on the record I'll let y'all know.

CLARIFICATION: When I say companies mentioned in this batch of rumors I mean companies named in the rumor and intentionally left out of this posting.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The View From Turkey

In response to yesterday's "Millennium Misstep?" post I received a lengthy email from an individual claiming to be a member of the Turkish tourney paintball scene. Independent of anything the person revealed I have confirmed the player's identity and relationship to paintball. That does not mean that VFTD endorses everything in the following email. I provide it as additional background information . There are claims that should be easy to refute if they are, in fact, untrue or incorrect. Otherwise I am satisfied they offer an alternative view of an important ands unfolding situation. As always don't hesitate to comment. In response to yesterday's post Houdini made an excellent observation: The U.S. military has sponsored events in the past. Is the Sarsilmaz situation all that different? (My paraphrase.)
In the interest of assuring the author's anonymity I removed five words and added three words in a single sentence that I was concerned might provide sufficient information to lead to the author's identity.

First of all, feel free to share this information with anyone as long as my name is not mentioned. I play paintball in Turkey and the views stated here are my own but I'm sure lots of problems would arise both for me and my team if it was known that it was me that said these things. What you will read is pretty much along the lines of what almost every paintball player here thinks but does not come out and say (at least not on a large scale).
There is no Turkish Paintball Federation. That is bullshit shoveled out by Millennium because they for obvious reasons don't want to put Turkish Hunting and Shooting Federation (THSF) on their site when announcing the final leg. The second 'disclaimer' statement by Millennium alleges that the Turkish Paintball Federation functions under the THSF and has to listen to their parent federation when making decisions. This is much more funny to us when we know that it is very far from the truth. Once again, there is no TPF and paintball is run by the THSF with just a technical committee including some players that gives them advice and makes decisions regarding the sport. So this whole image that is being portrayed of the poor little paintball federation having to succumb to the needs of the big bad all-controlling hunting and shooting federation is utter crap.
Unfortunately, there are many suck ups here in Turkey that are so happy that Millennium is being held in Turkey that they have started lobbying, trying to convince other players to go to these forums and convince people that its really not so bad. Not to mislead you, its great to have Millennium here and under different circumstances all of us would be delighted to get this chance. Yet some of us still feel the dilemma of being housed inside and controlled by a federation that represents pretty much everything that we have long as a community (both local and international) been fighting to clear paintball of. The prejudices of being a war game, the milsim markers mines and grenades, etc. are suddenly back in peoples' minds and it seems like paintball has been dealt a blow to regress it 10 years thanks to Millennium not being able to say 'no' when money is concerned.
After all, all it would take is Millennium standing firm that the Sarsilmaz association is a dealbreaker. You want to host the event? You can't call it Sarsilmaz. Its bad for paintball. That's all they needed to say. Instead they did what almost everyone has come to expect from them and obviously condemn. They filled their pockets, and looked the other way.
What isn't mentioned is that not only is Sarsilmaz a big supporter of the federation, the company also belongs to the president of the federation. So it is not just a company that is sponsoring the federation, in effect it IS the federation. When teams were going to international tournaments (Centurio Russia for example) they were given THSF attire with the Sarsilmaz name on them, and some players did not wear them at all, claiming to have forgotten them back home.
And another load of bullshit by Millennium: Sarsilmaz is not a sponsor of Millennium, and we have not received any assistance from the company. First of all, Sarsilmaz is not a sponsor? No shit! Obviously its not a sponsor, as if we don't know who sponsors the series. Secondly, Millennium might not have received any money directly from Sarsilmaz but we all know what kind of money is dished out by organizers to host the event and I can tell you that apart from the big federations like football, there are none that can generate that kind of money just to hand over for an event (as there are still lots of additional costs) without sponsors and outside support. So Sarsilmaz pays the federation, and they pay Millennium and technically Millennium is not getting any money from Sarsilmaz. Technically.
Anyway, just wanted to give you a bit of the local side of the story.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Millennium Misstep?

Too good to be true and yet, it is. Seems the MS kids have taken to calling the season ending event in Turkey the Sarsilmaz Cup. (You know, the event where the league gets hooked up and some proportion of the teams get jacked up.) A forum poster at the French paintball website Spirit of Paint sounded the alert and it certainly raises some interesting questions. (S-O-P has a translation option that will help all you lingual peeps who ain't lingual in Francais get up to speed.)

You remember the paintball ban that recently threatened Germany. don't you? And the politicians rationale that paintball simulated violence thus somehow, sorta, maybe encouraging the weak-minded and psychologically unstable? Even all the recent lawsuits mostly instigated by Heckler & Koch against various paintball, airsoft and arms manufacturers?

Here's where the Sarsilmaz hits the fan. Sarsilmaz is the number one small arms manufacturer in Turkey. And that's it. No alternative explanation. Other meaning. Or whatever. So while it isn't clear just how the Millennium and Sarsilmaz are associated the MS saw fit to treat them like a major sponsor by naming the event after them. Hey, that's better than an ordinary sponsor. How many Eclipse Cups have there been? Or Estratego Cups? (Hope that one doesn't turn out to be a bad example. ;-) )

To recap: Right after a serious scare (predicated on an assumed relationship between paintball and real violence) that could have set back European paintball enormously the premier tourney series promoter in Europe decides to align itself in some fashion with a large, well-known small arms manufacturers.

For what? Can't wait to hear how this gets spun.

Pre-post UPDATE: Mr. Barry Fuggle of the MS board has responded by saying that the Turkish Paintball Federation named the event. And the reason they chose to "reward" Sarsilmaz is because the Turkish Paintball Federation operates under the umbrella of the the Turkish Shooting & Hunting Federation and Sarsilmaz is a high profile federation supporter. Which is one way of saying, or so it seems to me, that the buck stops someplace else. It's not our fault.

So will the MS "blame" the Turkish PB Federation and then ignore the issue or will they do something besides cross their fingers and stick their heads in the sand? Again.


Yesterday the kids over at ProPaintball reported the rumor that the PSP is reconsidering its ROF regulations. Never say never when it comes to anything paintball but if a change is coming all the happy little campers out there expecting it to go up are likely to be disappointed. (I have inquired ... and should I hear anything I'll let y'all know.) In the meantime speculating is fun.

There are (seemingly) a lot of reasons to discount this rumor and only one reason I can think of--without working too hard--that would lend an upward move any credence. League and divisional uniformity. One ROF for all. And there was a group last year prior to the implementation of the current standards that wanted a single ROF standard. However, any change to a single standard would have to be a downward move, say to a universal 10.5 bps, in order to not undercut all the "reasons" given for making the move to tiered ROF last year. Those reasons included reduced paint usage, the trickle down effect to local fields, a less intimidating competition environment for younger (or newer) players and the notion that a lower ROF would push developing players to improve their basic gun skills and rely less on pure firepower. Left out of the talk most of the time was (and is) the momentum towards national and international standardization.

Without judging the validity of the reasons any significant change or move up in ROF would basically affirm that the league has decided they were mistaken before and that there have been no identifiable paint savings or satisfactory anecdotal evidence of lower ROF at local fields, etc. And I don't see that happening, do you? Of course all the reasons have only sounded reasonable and all the proposed benefits are either damn difficult or impossible to quantify--with perhaps the exception of some paint savings--but even there I doubt a case can be made that it's all about ROF when the league also changed match times and race totals. Which leaves us with the whole national and international standards business. The PSP is clearly interested in national standards --See the UCP--and having a leadership role in developing them and there has been more dialogue and movement toward international development of the game in the last year or so than ever before.

So I could see the PSP making a change. But not one that moves the ROF up.

UPDATE: Lane says there was no talk of making any change until the rumor hit the internet and the PSP has no intention of changing the current ROF regs.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

Dog days of summer, kids. Dog days of summer and nothing too exciting is going on so I'ma keep this one brief.

You may breath a sigh of relief as the WC finals and divisional field layout has been released. And for you snake fetishists, hey, it looks like a snake! But c'mon, PSP, where's the first round field layout for the pro field? It's discriminatory, I tell ya and I want it yesterday.
Registrations are up fairly substantially over last week hitting 226 this morning. The same again this coming week and the numbers would start to look promising (keeping in mind the target number is around 300 or so) although the PSP of course would love to see a final number as close to last year's 330+ as possible.
PSP appears to have raised the limit in the semi-pro bracket to 15 teams. Making room for a few more lower ranked thrill seekers or expecting a few "new" teams to compete? So far only a handful of international teams have registered. D4 & D3 xball are populating nicely but D2 looks a bit thin for a WC turnout.

Over at the USPL--or is it the NPPL 3.0?--(the NPPL logo holds pride of place on the USPL's front page) the kids are gearing up for the DC Challenge. Registration totals aren't up but those registered are beginning to get their entries in for the end of August event.
More hints of info are also being put up on the website with regards the 4th event of the season and championship finale. We knew it was looking like Vegas but there is now info narrowing it down to the Riviera hotel & casino--right in the heart of the action on the Strip. Apparently an announcement was planned for the Saturday of the WCO but hasn't yet happened that will hopefully round out the details. The sooner the league can make peeps aware of the prime venue the sooner they can start building those registrations which, realistically, is likely to be another challenge for the league as it appears to be scheduled for the weekend immediately following World Cup.

No changes to report in Millenniumland with unlocked division registrations the same as last week. But it's early days yet. It is nice to see the league responding to concerns from participating teams and players over the potential expense of the Turkey event by making camping available on the cheap for Campaign Cup. Just the sort of thing that keeps happy teams coming back again and again. Well, that and licensing fees, pre-payments and contractual obligations.

The Grand Tour has hit its mid-season Open pro event with the Moscow event this coming weekend but apparently somebody forgot to tell the pro teams and/or those who wanted to vie for the cash prizes as nobody is registered in the pro division for this event according to the Grand Tour website. I guess the MS got it right--if you want them to come make it compulsory. Looking at the rest of the registrations there are only 4 non-Russian teams currently registered as part of a season low field of 22 teams. My money (a couple of zlotys) is on Minsk United. Is that an awesome team name or what?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Monday Poll

This week VFTD continues forward with my single-minded, nearly pathological exploration of pro paintball. I mean, come on, it's a shaky concept of marginal substance that barely exists except as a convenient (and self-aggrandizing) referent. And yet--that's what everyone wants to be. And who wouldn't? (And, no, that was not ironic in any way. Ideas have power. Just keep in mind what Uncle Ben told Peter about using his power for good.)
To date the collective voice predicts the pro ranks will shrink next year to around 14 teams, or thereabouts. (The Collective Voice. Wow. If that doesn't sound like Orwellian doublespeak I don't know what does. Kinda creepy.) This past week the related topic was about the characteristics and/or qualities y'all recognize as the key element(s) in designating a team as pro.

With this week's Monday Poll VFTD gets down and dirty--and specific. The poll lists all the currently active pro teams and asks you to vote for those you don't think ought to be included in the pro ranks. Unlike past polls you will be able to vote for as many teams as you like. Well, not teams you like like but teams you don't think belong among the pro ranks. Got that? Get to voting.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll; What makes a pro team pro? was a runaway. Every option received at least one vote but no other choice came close to the big winner; results. You decided the proof was in the pudding. Without real pro teams, mostly, you decided the teams that got it done on the field were the most deserving. The second most votes was a tie between major sponsorship and dedication followed by reputation. Making up the rest of the field was longevity, came up thru the ranks and established players. Other was a mixed bag largely trying to synthesize choices into a more satisfactory response.

I think a bunch of y'all jumped on the comfortable, obvious bandwagon choice and voted accordingly but that if you made a personal list of teams you regarded as "pro" and tried to figure out why the answers might just surprise. And while I'm at what is the statute of limitations on "results"? When do "results" become ancient history? And even more basic than that, what constitutes "results"?

Given the lack of the one undeniable clear cut answer--pro teams are pro teams because they compete in professional leagues in which the players are paid to play--I think this week's poll will demonstrate a lot of muddled thinking is still going on. I'll explain what I'm thinking (right or wrong) along with the results next week.

UPDATE: I will refrain from suggesting somebody has lost their mind or even that somebody else is simply screwing around. Oh, yeah, I'm taking about the votes so far. If you've got a good reason for throwing a vote at the Ironmen or Philly or Dynasty I'd love to hear it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Expectations & Having Fun

Disclaimer: This isn’t about everyone who plays tourney ball. It is about everyone who aspires to be everything they can be and desires to stand on the podium.

There has been, for as long as I’ve been around this silly game, a clear dichotomy between serious competitors and those just having fun. And when I say this silly game I mean competitive paintball. The normal short-hand understanding of a team "having fun" is that they don’t expect to win or even really be in the mix and further, aren’t really trying or have so little belief in their own potential that "we’re just having fun" is the pre-excuse explanation for failure to perform. Yes, yes, I know some of you will object and also insist you’re all about having fun but are also completely and totally serious about competing. Maybe yes, maybe no. But I introduced the typical sense of the expression having fun so that I could suggest an alternative. (And it would be really confusing to offer a different definition without first providing the normal definition in the context of competitive paintball. "Normal," of course, being what I say it is.)

Another way of looking at "having fun" is to cast yourself in the role of underdog (Not bird, nor plane or even frog) or in an effort to remove the burden of expectations. For some players, teams and situations this is probably an acceptable, possibly even utilitarian option. How much easier is it to go out and just play knowing nobody expects anything from you? What’s really on the line when you’re just having fun? It stops being an option when other players and teams begin to acknowledge you as real competition. You can delude yourself about competing "for fun" until somebody else expects something from you. Like a level of performance that reflects your supposed ability. So here you are having worked for who knows how long to be part of the conversation and you’re still pretending you’re just about "having fun." At this point there is (there must be) a psychic disconnect for even the most dimwitted and/or least self-aware paintball players. Nobody chasing success can avoid expectations or just play to have fun.

At the same time if you don’t love playing the game and aren’t having fun maybe you should find something else to do. There is a real problem if you aren’t having fun playing but that’s not what this is about. This is about using having fun as an excuse. As a way of denying the reality of competition and as an intentional or unintentional method of refusing to come to grips with the fear of failure or the burdens of expectations.

My favorite way of describing how a successful team works is that it’s like a shark. Always hungry, always moving forward. The loss of either one means it’s beginning to die whether it knows it or not.

Next installment will be "Goals & Challenges." About coming to grips with expectations and learning how to win.