VFTD was going to post the first Pro*file today but (as per usual) I've been distracted by the sudden exit of the AXBL a week (or so) after they released their 2010 schedule (and the usual suspects began complaining about this and that--but, of course, that's paintball.) [Team numbers appear to have been on the decline for whatever that's worth and there was a petulant quality to their au revoir. On the other hand I hear the AXBL didn't really make much of a profit and, as seems to be the case these days, it all breaks down to the cash to be had, or not, in paint. Go figure.] Anyway, I am not here to praise or bury the AXBL, it had some laudable qualities and some parochial qualities and in some respects I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did.Let's talk xball--and I'm not talking 'bout that format-formerly-known-as-xball for pansies either. Last bastion of "real" xball, that's what the AXBL was. (Yeah, I know they still play it in the CXBL but that's Canada so it doesn't really count.) Of course it wasn't exactly the same as "real" xball. The rules were a bit different and they played with a ROF limit. Everybody knows "real" xball was "real" semi-auto. Trust me, I'm the ultimate fan of true xball and I would love to see it make a come back. And who knows? Maybe one day it will. In the meantime I'm not sure if 7 or 8 "real" xball matches a season is worth it. The NXL tried that too--we played a few more matches too--but it's just more fun to win events on the way to World Cup.
I'm also a fan of local and regional tourney ball as the appropriate developmental scene for competitive paintball and the AXBL seemed to do that pretty well. And it was clever to take advantage of the Canada/America thing to have a season ending league championship in each league and then a North American slugfest. As a result a regional league played bigger than it was and promoted a certain pride of competition. But wouldn't it be better if it really was a North American championship? Or even bigger than that? If an opportunity existed to compete at a local or regional level during the year in order to earn a spot in a real championship that included the top regional teams in identical leagues from around the country and beyond?
That's the hope and promise of the new alignment between a number of regional leagues and the PSP. Okay, so maybe it isn't "real" xball. It's still pretty damn good. And a season of competition has a lot of winners and losers on the road to a local title and, who knows, a real honest-to-goodness championship that proves who the best divisional teams really are.
The AXBL will be missed but bigger and better is in sight. But it ain't all cookies and milk. Fact is there probably won't be a place for everybody. Oh, not teams and players--I mean promoters and local leagues. Making the move the PSP and the affiliated regionals have undertaken has risks but if it succeeds it will marginalize all the other grassroots series and events. Why play local without the opportunity to prove yourself on a national scale when it's readily available to anyone with the desire to be their best? Fingers crossed. It could be a bumpy ride.
UPDATE: Looking for an immediate alternative to the AXBL? Check out the NYPL.