I was asked yesterday what I thought of an opinion piece posted on the website over at Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball. (Title is the link.) You may know it better as Facefull. The comments were made by, who else, Rich Telford. It is after all his wide world of paintball. And instead of simply answering the question it seemed blog worthy.
If you're hoping for fireworks you're going to have to set off your own or settle for disappointment. I was asked if I'd seen the piece and if so, what did I think? I have now read it. And it's hard to argue with. Most of it sounds like stuff I've been saying. It offers a suggested path. What's to criticize?
What I will do is piggyback on a couple of points. (I'm also assuming you've read Rich's comments so don't be a lazy slacker and take a minute to check them out.) There are 3 items I want to riff off of here. 1--Rich generously passes responsibility for the current state of the game around and while it's certainly true the facts is that some are more responsible than others. 2--Rich suggests the players need to support the members of the industry that support the pro teams and ignore those that don't. Some might read that as advocating a boycott of sorts--which is how I read it--and while I am agnostic on the utility I'm not shocked by the idea. Collective action in the collective interest (where it can be ascertained) is perfectly reasonable. (But is that in the collective interest?) 3--And finally Rich suggests if times are tough for the pros, and they surely are, it's also no picnic for the lower divisions. Which is true too, as far as it goes.
1--the current state of the game is the responsibility of an industry and major league promoters who have, at times, largely been one and the same. Did some high profile players have input at times? Sure, did their vote count for anything at all at crunch time? When the nature and direction of the game were on the line? Not so much. Without some control there isn't any real responsibility. The only responsibility teams and players bear is the result of an unwillingness to become embroiled in the politics of the game, either individually or collectively. In the present that's neither here nor there, I just want to be clear.
2--if the players and teams have proved incapable in the past of acting in concert in their own self-interest--and they have--I doubt much of anything will convince them to act individually for the collective good--even if they buy into the boycott idea. And then there's the disconnect between the pro teams and the not pro teams. Does the average player see a connection? Other than that's where some of them hope to one day be. It's not that I oppose a boycott or something like it, it's more that I've never seen any evidence to suggest it could be organized, formally or informally.
One reason the needed dollars aren't there is because they can't be justified. Budget cuts don't necessarily dictate which parts of the budget the cuts come from. When sponsorship dollars are targeted it means the value received from those sponsorship dollars is less certain than dollars spent elsewhere. Perhaps one thing teams need to do is figure out a better way to make their case. (Ironically, not unlike what Rich and XSV have been working toward for years. So who would know better what is possible in this environment and what isn't?) One good question for teams is how do we go about building value in our team? And an equally good question for sponsors is what do we lose if we fail to support the pro teams?
3--which kinda leads me to a comparo between the pro teams and the divisional teams. There are a couple of relevant differences. What passes for sponsorship in most divisional situations is really differing sorts of discounts. Are the basis for these discounts tied to pro sponsorship, or the lack thereof? Not so much. Any company that has a product line targeting the competitive part of the game probably offers some sort of discount options to teams, either directly or through retail stores and field shops. Are players really going to ignore those options in order to encourage other parts of the industry to give stuff to pros? Again, not so much, it seems to me. One place (among many) where the pros and divisional players share a common cause is in the costs both incur in order to compete. As divisional players move up ranks the costs of being competitive increase as well so for those players with dreams of playing pro must begin to confront the reality of what it takes off the field as well as on it.
Lastly, while decisions made by industry and promoters have brought us here I'm not pointing fingers and insisting on placing blame--the point is to accurately assess what is so we can all hopefully make wiser decisions as we move forward.