Here's a (related) curiosity. Earlier this summer I started to hear some 10-man chattering in the background; the usual what-ifs, how much fun that would be and even a hint or two that somebody might try to resurrect the format for real--and all of a sudden the smackbox at ProPaintball is full of 10-man ranting. Coincidence?
And a current thread in the CFOA forum at PBN that threw out the idea of introducing 7-man in the CFOA morphed into a complaints and suggestions thread. (If you are outta this loop the CFOA is in the same situation as the major leagues having peaked a few years ago.) The most common responses focus on cost, the idea of simplifying by focusing on 5-man and a return to the old CFOA divisions as it seems too many players are being classified out of a chance to compete. Regardless of the specifics or the merits of any complaint or suggestion, in one sense, the thread is really about what tourney ball ought to be like in order for the CFOA to continue and hopefully grow.
When the discussion turns towards how to fix tournament paintball the different answers tell us what the respondents think is the problem. One idea is that the disconnect from our roots in the woods isolates tourney ball from the majority of new players. If so the answer could be some transitional Old Skool type woodsball tournies to introduce the newbies and walk-ons to tourney play. For a while the hot solution was lowering the ROF as all that scary paint in the air discouraged newbies. As John's editorial, the 10-man talk and the CFOA suggestions thread demonstrate there's a group thinking that maybe returning the game to something close to what it was will bring lost players back and invite more new ones into the ranks of tournament players.
Before we try to decide what to do though let's take a closer look at what's different. How is tournament paintball in 2010 different from tournament ball in 2000, 2003 and 2006? On the national scene in 2000 there is only the NPPL. It's year 2 of the cow pasture World Cup. There's a mix of woods, Hyperball and Airball fields. (Correction: last woods year for WC was 1999. 2000 saw some woods fields still in play in Pittsburgh & Chicago.) Electronic markers are becoming more ubiquitous, burst fire capped at 9 bps. Viewloader Revolutions dominate. 296 teams compete in 5-man & 10-man formats. Each field is a different layout. The prelims feature mixed division play but the rules only recognize 3 divisions (Pro, Am A, Am B). However there are so many B teams registered Novice is added and the B's are split into 2 divisions. The whole event lasts a week.
2003 was the first year of the major league split. The PSP (old NPPL) introduced xball at WC '02 and offered 5-man, 10-man and xball. The first year NXL had 8 franchise teams and D1 xball was really a pro-am division. There are 348 teams competing. Overshooting complaints became common and the appearance of ROF & velocity ramping guns in the NXL force the league to begin examining ways to regulate marker performance. It was the first year the pros didn't ref the pros. The first time WC was held at Disney WWOS and there were no wooded fields in play. NXL xball matches were played in two 25 minute halves.
The new NPPL close their first season in Miami with 138 teams, the largest turnout of the season. (That means all you slackers claiming to have been at the first HB are also unrepentant liars. Ok, not all, just most.) The pro teams are playing for a spot in the soon to be locked at 18 team division. The format is 7-man and the league has ties with the MS that allows some ranking points to be scored playing MS event(s). The league tries to ban event sales of Ultra Evil because it stains. PMI prove other paint brands on sale are no different. The league says nevermind. Suspensions explode. Can you say (subjectively determined) major gun violations? The event is played over a long weekend; Friday through Sunday--but everyone comes in a day early to walk the fields.
2006 WC has 304 teams playing 5-man and xball at Disney's WWOS. There are three streets of vendors in the middle of the venue. 11 fields total in play--if I remember correctly. Ramping with a ROF cap of 15 has been in place since the beginning of '05 and it's the second season in the NXL for the Russian Legion. Xball begins play on Thursday with the 5-man to be played over the weekend.
The 2006 NPPL Commander's Cup event was held at the Orange County fairgrounds. There were 125 teams in attendance across 5 7-man divisions. HB opened the '06 NPPL season with 222 teams. Participation peaks at HB and steadily declines over the course of the season. It's a recurring pattern. 3 of the 5 events were held in the parking lots of NFL teams for the third year in a row. Semi-auto remained the core of the gun rules despite the wide availability of custom programmable boards and the failure of the "robot" to catch illegal modes of operation. The pros are only playing Saturday & Sunday on two show fields, otherwise the events run much as they have since the split. It was the last event with the original Super 7 promoter, Pure Promotions, who sell out just before HB '07 amid rumors they consistently lost money running the league.