This is gonna make perfect sense. No, really. It will. What do major league paintball and Formula One racing have in common? (The answer is not untold millions of dollars or enormous contracts for the leading figures. And it's not a chance to travel the world to compete though I will grant you a fortunate few can make the claim. Still, there remains a big difference from living the high life in Monte Carlo and driving a Monte Carlo.)
In football every game ball is as identical as the official manufacturer can manage to make them. In baseball every ball is, again, identical and produced by one manufacturer. Basketball, yeah, you guessed it. Identical. In most legit sports a conspicuous effort is made to assure that the equipment used doesn't confer any advantage to the competitors--particularly where a diversity of suppliers is allowed. Like golf or auto racing. But even where the technical rulebook looks like the Chicago white pages and a platoon of inspectors will practically tear apart the winning car to assure rules compliance the equipment varies. Perhaps most noticeably in Formula One where the latest engine management wizardry or chassis magic gives one team or another an obvious advantage that may last a season or more. Don't take my word for it though. Try this stat out. Of the 51 Constructor's championships awarded (since 1958) the same team also shared the Driver's title 40 times. Superior cars make good drivers better. Much better. This, of course, doesn't mean that great drivers can't succeed, only that it's an uphill battle when the competitive environment isn't equal.
At this point you're beginning to think you know what's coming next. You don't. (Unless you remember when I promoted this idea some many moons ago.) Sure, I could focus on the negatives--and have--just not this time.
The thing that makes the upper echelon of racing different is that the competition functions at a number of levels. It isn't exclusively about the drivers. Largely by necessity, as much of the money and motivation comes from the competition between various manufacturers (brands, chassis, motors, tires, etc.) vying for the right to claim they are the best, too. (Although it is somewhat ironic that F1 finally decided to go with a single tire manufacturer just a few years ago.) Given that competitive paintball finds itself in a similar circumstance--one unlikely to change anytime soon--it's time to make the best of it and improve the game at the same time. (When first suggested I want to say it was the then Pure Promotions version of the NPPL that briefly attempted to make it work but soon lost interest. My original column for PGi is in the Dead Tree Archive, somewhere, but I'm not sure which one it is. Yes, I looked but I couldn't find it. On the other hand I did enjoy revisiting some damn fine columns. Man, I used to be good.)
What the major leagues need to do is follow Formula One's lead. Expand the competition. Incorporate necessity and make it pay dividends. Increase the value of sponsorship. Take control. Encourage sponsorship diversity. Differentiate between competitors and vendors. Formalize the manufacturers pre-existing competition(s) by awarding event points and crowning season-ending series titles for manufacturers with the imprimatur of the greatest paintball league(s) in the world. For example, the PSP's 2011 Goggle of the Year. Categories could include guns, goggles, hoppers, packs & paint. Distinguish between Pro & Am.
Fleshing this out a little more the manufacturers competition is separate from vending. Pro teams may not use equipment of non-competing manufacturers. Manufacturers have always used the top tier of the sport to promote their products indirectly--which they can still do by supporting the top teams--but now have the option to also do so directly. Each event the latest numbers will be revealed to see where the manufacturers stand. The advantage to the league is they control the competition the same way they do the tournaments played under their aegis. The manufacturers competition is a value added for the manufacturers. The scoring system can protect & promote sponsorship relations between teams and manufacturers. Now is the ideal time to institute a manufacturers competition because of the influx of new paint producers looking to separate themselves from their comeptition and grab market share. A likely added bonus related to paint is greater consistency in the quality provided event to event. This should have happened a long time ago. It should happen now. Should either major league be interested in greater practical detail you know where to find me.
PS--manufacturer's awards wasn't my idea. I credited the source I got it from in the magazine column--which is why I was looking for it--but don't remember anymore. Anyway, it was a clever Brit and if any of y'all recall (or find the column) he deserves the credit.
UPDATE: It was Steve Bull. The column was "Brave New Paintball World" from 2004 reprinted on the blog in 2008--and found by Kine (who posted in comments.)