Friday, March 26, 2010


Today was supposed to be a Pro*file but I wanted to do this instead--sorry, Johnny. (One more day, buddy.) I'm thinking (hoping) this one might hit a nerve or two. That's not why I'm doing it but I wouldn't mind if it went that way.

I'm curious as to what makes a person a fan. I don't mean the usual stuff; schools, alma maters, hometowns, city or state pride or family tradition. I get all those. And I'm not talking about the Johnny-Come-Lately fanboys or the bandwagon jumpers. Not just any kind of fan. More specifically a fan of a paintball team. What makes a person a fan of a paintball team?

I sorta understand idolizing certain players. When they play for successful teams or their names appear (appeared) routinely in all the magazines and are featured in gear catalogs or advertisements it's easy to see that name recognition alone plays a role. Then there's word of mouth and those featured on paintball DVDs. And I suppose the same applies to teams at least in some measure but liking a player is different from favoring a team. (Don't argue with me, it is. It just is.)

But here's where I get lost. Most paintball fans seldom if ever actually see their "favorites" actually play and compete. How can you be a fan under those circumstances? And when rosters routinely change you're no longer, necessarily, a fan of the same players even if the team name goes on. How does a paintball team merit fans? I'm seriously interested in how y'all might explain paintball fandom. The one thing I know it isn't about is good paintball. (Which holds true in other sports as well.) The reason is most fans, dare I say most players, have--at best--only a passing acquaintance with the qualities of performance excellence. What I mean is most fans don't know good when they see it. They know flashy. They only see the highlight reel. How does the self-identified fan choose one team over another when they have so little to go on? How does that work?

What is the strange alchemy that creates the paintball fan?


Mike said...

For myself, it's being Canadian and supporting the home team.
I'd consider myself a huge Impact fan. I know the entire roster up and down that they have had since they were semi pro. I would agree and say you are correct in saying that most fans are ignorant in the sense that they don't witness enough play of their favorite team to have an informed opinion. I'd consider myself among that type of fan however it isn't possible to go to events for me... I watch the matches on webcast, I watch all the videos/interviews on youtube etc. and based on that can say I idolize several players who are more under the radar and lesser known...
IMO being a fan of a paintball team is about respecting and understanding what makes your team a good professional paintball team, and unique.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of the Legion because they are the only team that approaches the game the way they do.

Baca Loco said...

Which would be how?

Reiner Schafer said...

When you start in any competitive sport, it's more or less expected of you to have some knowledge of the better players and the better teams. Paintball is no different. When you are a young wannabe paintbal player, you have to have something to talk about. You need to be able to drop a few names. Eventually you have opinions, or at least pretend to have opinions and favourites. Then you get to the point where you defend those opinions about your favourites. Now you're a fan. You have to be, otherwise you'd be a hypocrite.

Don Saavedra said...

I approach watching a professional paintball match the same way I approach any other sporting event: I try to pick someone to root for and invest emotionally so that the ride of watching becomes more fun. Especially when "my team" wins. Do that enough, over time you invest enough in one team that you rise and fall as they do. Invest enough and you start to become familiar enough with individual players, etc.

But watching all sports is more fun when you pick a side and then get obnoxious about it.

sdawg said...

X-factor is in San Marcos near where I live (why aren't they named San Marcos X-factor? Truth in advertising, people!). I've been to two of their clinics, and thought they were nice guys. So, I'm a fan. Although, they seemed to be doing better when The Threat was around.

When I started following competitive paintball in 2006, I was confused as to why the New York Aces and Atlanta Predators weren't in the "NPPL." They seemed like pretty good teams! Or why there were two different leagues (wtf was the "PSP?). Or what the fuss was all about this "Oliver Lang" chap going to the "Ironmen" from "Dynasty." I hadn't seen him in the Smarts Parts tournament!

OK, now four years later, I'm a paintball geek to am embarrassing extreme, and it seems like only a few teams are still around from four years ago. How am I supposed to become a fan of a team, when it seems like the only constant are the personalities? The aforementioned personalities seem to get themselves shuffled around between the few pro teams that have existed over the past four years, enabling their Paintball Lifestyle. I'm not sure what it would mean to be a fan of a team, I guess it would be like being a fan of a brand name.

Oh. Wait.

Crusificton said...

I think part of the fandom can be simply broken down to regional teams. Everyone likes to see their hometeams win, even it's as large as he Florida Marlins or as specific as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Same state, same sport, encompass different audiences.

I think the PSP webcast last year really helped fuel fan development just as it has in previous years with the NPPL. Except the view was a superior this year.

If you're on the east coast I think it's easier to want to support a team from that region than a West coast team. You may love Dynasty and the Ironmen, but you may also really enjoy to see Damage and the former "All-Americans" win.

I know it's easy being from Florida to like hearing that Tampa Bay Damage is doing well, while some other teams are meaningless to me. I'll probably never go to Omaha or Oakland so I could care less if those teams win. In those cases as you've said: magazines and DVD personalities are key to developing fans.

houdini said...

Could it be merely they simply like the team logo/jersey? Coming from outside of the US there's no chance of state/country pride being a factor from over here (well not yet anyway) so you need to look at what access people have to Pro Teams... DVDs featuring teams, YouTube, PB Mags - the more exposure teams have the more likely some fan boy/girl will eventually start following that team simply through familiarity. Having those Pro teams come to your neck of the woods also helps... players from Dynasty, Ironmen, XSV and Joy Division have all been over to Asia either doing clinics or playing.

Track records also carry a lot of weight. Most fan/atics can't be winners themselves so they do the next best thing and follow a team with a winning track record... of course there will be always also fans that follow the underdogs but I doubt the fan bases for these teams are as large as the teams that have been around longer and who have invested more in building a team brand backed up with consistency on the field.

I think the true fan would like to think they follow a team because they can relate to the players/team in some sort of way, whether it's the playing style, the tenacity, the attitude or the true grit...

Then again I could be wrong and they could just like the team logo/jersey : )

One huge thing that pro paintball lacks is a fan base of non-paintball playing people. Only TV coverage and a dedicated editorial space in the newspaper sports section each week will help this...

Reiner Schafer said...

houdini, you are right, about the last paragraph anyway. Even the majority of the paintball playing public (woodsballers) aren't going to contribute to the fan base for competitive paintball teams. The fans for competitive paintball teams are pretty much limited to lusting wannabe competitive players, with only a few exceptions.

Anonymous said...

I am in my 50's and have tried to be a fan of Tournament Paintball. The problem is that nobody cares about the fans. Unlike other sports, the ref never reports to the crowd what the penalty was for, the announcer only guesses what it was for. Without the fans being informed what is happening on the field, there won't be any outside interest

anonachris said...

Yep, that's our problem. Millions of fans will come pouring in if we could get the refs to announce a penalty to 300 people sitting in the audience watching along, most of whom already are fans :)

What makes a person a Yankees fan instead of a Mets fan? Or a Cubs vs. a Sox fan? Like you point out, it's not pure talent. It's not winning success, alone either.

I'd say it comes down to marketing and fan appeal.

You're going to root for a team if you identify with them in some way. You can identify with a player/team because:
They're nice guys and you respect it
They're bad boys and that's cool
You've interacted with them or know someone who has
You're from the same area and root for your own
And finally, I'd add in a bit of marketing. It's hard to be a fan of a team that at least isn't out there talking about itself (or even better getting other people to talk about it). This is done through exploits on or off the field.

I'm sure there could be more added to the list.

J-Bird said...

i "grew up" around the trauma camp -- got to interact a ton with them only living an hour away, and i had a few friends who played on the gridlock squads, so i became a pretty fierce fan back in the day for them. even got to scrimmage them way back in the day when they were XSF a few times :P

reiner -- im pretty offended by your comment: " are pretty much limited to lusting wannabe competitive players." Isint that what every 10 year old pop-warner football player is ? Or every highschool basketball player who doesnt have the natural ability to play in the NBA, but still shoot 5 hours of hoops a day? You wouldnt dare call those people "lusting wannabe's" would you? I mean, i'm a player who knows he will never be pro, doesnt have the money to play on a consistent basis, let alone a full season with a competitive team, but still loves following the pro teams, news, gossip, and is really more into paintball for the community i guess i'm a "lusting wannabe."

Get off your horse.

i think teams like XSV and NE hurricanes are getting it more right: having web updates and such, but im still waiting for pro teams to start giving practice reports.

suck ass wannabeanonachris said...

Uh... get off your offensive-mobile. He's a bit condescending with the wannabee term, but only if you want to get offended by it. Basically everyone that plays tournaments is a wannabee pro. We wanna be the best. We wanna beat the other guy. And if you wanna be the winner on the field enough times you're going to wanna be pro. Even if you don't necessarily vocalize it or think it through.

But I get where you're coming from. No self respecting tournament player wants to be called a wannabee. Just like Johnny Newbie probably doesn't like being called a suck-ass newb. even though he's likely a newb that sucks ass at paintball.

Maybe the industry needs to print up some jerseys to we can properly label ourselves. We can have jerseys printed that say Pro, Wannabee, and Suck Ass. But I guess we'd also need Suck Ass Wannabee too.

Reiner Schafer said...

J-Bird, I'm sorry you were offended by the term I used. I didn't really mean it in a derrogatory way, although I see that someone might take it that way. The point is competitive paintball fans are competitive paintball players, with very few exceptions.

Case in point, my wife is a big hockey fan, probably moreso than I am. I played hockey, lived and breathed it until I was 17. She's never played hockey. But she was/is exposed to it. I bet well over half the hockey fans out there have never played any hockey. That would be true for other sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and numerous others. Yes, the "lusting wannabes" are fans of those sports, but there are many others as well.

Missy Q said...

The easiest way possible to create fans is through marketing. It's one of the things a team should consider when choosing a sponsor.
Unfortunately teams don't consider it, because they can't see past the immediate monetary benefits of "what are we getting?"
Dynasty were heavily marketed, especially by Angel, and everyone knew the roster. Ironmen are marketed solidly by Dye, and everyone knows their roster.

The Russians (2009 WC Champs)are not marketed at all, and no-one really knows their names, other the couple of US players.

Following Phoenix, Damage look the best team this year, but unless someone actually tries to find out who all the players are, how else will they become invested and become a fan?

Is it uncool to promote your team? Is that part of the issue? Because marketing the team is relatively easy. How about we start by providing a roster to the announcer at the events, so that he knows who's on the team and doesn't have to rely on the 2-3 faces he recognises from 'back in the day'. I'm sure there are players that think "I did great in that match, why don't I ever get credit?", but these players don't introduce themselves to anyone. Hence, no-one knows who they are... Teams/Players need to be talked about in order to gain fans.

So my guess is: What makes a person a fan is the 'facilitation of fans' by the team or its sponsors, by promoting itself, or by securing promotion through said sponsorship.
It doesn't 'just happen' very often.

Baca Loco said...

There is no doubt some validity to your view. It has and it can work that way--at least in some measure. (A related idea is my motive for doing Pro*files.) Even so, I don't think it's all or exclusively a manufactured phemonenon.

Missy Q said...

No, you're right, eventually it isn't, because it self-perpetuates, and credit also has to be given for good performancesm, however it would be a lot easier and a lot quicker with some help. Besides, someone can play great, but if no-one knows his name how will people talk about it?
I was actually thinking about this during the Phoenix event - Why don't teams introduce their new players, the ones that no-one knows, and get people talking about them. I keep coming back to the same thing - The players/coaches are awkward about doing it.
I think the coach mentality requires a driving 'type a' personality, which means that these are not the ideal people for 'sales' work, but your team Damage in particular need a higher profile. I have idea's if you want them.