About the kids, the real kids, before I continue with the Vegas event. Jake is 15. Keith is 17. The pro game can be a tough road for a kid. It's demanding and there are no excuses. Ever. Neither one of them has a spot because they are the greatest thing since sliced bread--but they do have skills and very few bad habits. They also have a wheelbarrow full of intangibles. And as a team we have a basic philosophy that values time spent together as a team which means no long distance players. (But what about J-Rab? I've known Justin for a while, as have some of our guys and since practice wasn't an issue for 7-man and I knew there wouldn't be any chemistry or ego issues it was a no-brainer really.) Back to the kids.
With Jacob we knew what we were getting before we made the decision to pick him up. Keith has been more of a positive surprise given that we picked him up out of necessity. Both of them are teachable. They are paintball smart. They are resilient. They are willing to fill a role. And they are grateful for the opportunity instead of assuming somehow it's what they deserve. (That comes later.) And they play without fear (for the most part). I didn't green light Jake's pick-up until I watched him practice the Russians for the first time. A couple of quick examples and then I'll move on. In Vegas Keith was our lead snake player. He's been practicing with us for Cup for about a month now but this was his first pro tournament experience and all the teams were focusing on killing that first snake player on Sunday. Saturday he'd had a lot of success making the snake (but not always staying alive). After every mistake he patiently listened to ways to play better. Sunday was a lot tougher. Part way through the day I took him aside to see how he was handling things and told him that even when he got shot he was still contributing to the team's success by setting the tone for how we wanted to compete. And by the end, in our third game in the finals against Blast he made the snake otb and pushed hard into their end of the snake with Bryan right behind him as the guys powered their way to a third consecutive NPPL victory.
In DC I had to sit Jake a large chunk of Sunday. He got off to a tough start and just couldn't seem to pull it together. He struggled with the decision but understood and took it like a man. Sunday in Vegas looked like it might turn out the same way but it didn't because Jake had taken the DC experience to heart. With more experience under his belt this time around he knew how to stay mentally tough and focused, not on the last game but on the next game.
After Saturday's relative ease Sunday was a wake-up call for everybody. All the teams knew how they wanted to play the field on Sunday and what they wanted to deny their opponent's which made for a few drawn out games with every contest, long or short, a furious pitched battle. Halfway thru nobody was dominating. We were in a position where if we won out our final three we assured a spot as we would also be delivering losses to some of our closest competition. Needless to say it didn't work out that way. We beat Impact for a little breathing room and then got swamped by Blast which left us closing out the day against Infamous and uncertain where we would stand when it was all said and done.
As the final decisive games were being played in the Quarters only Bart (from Impact) was trying to keep precise scores including the body count. (I'd given up for Vegas as it hadn't mattered all year. Oops.) As a result nobody was certain who was going through to the semis and who wasn't given there were five teams that went 4-3. Everyone in contention converged on the registration tent where the official scores were being tallied only to discover they were two games behind. Within minutes of our unruly mob showing up we had the official news. Impact, us, Avalanche & Blast were through and Arsenal was out. By 4 points. One body. With the total point spread from 1st to 5th being only 23 points. Impact played Blast and we played Avalanche in the semis with the series championship not settled until we moved to the finals and Impact didn't. The final was 3 hotly contested games under the lights as the day had run long--and the rest you know. The awards ceremonies tend to be kinda anti-climactic coming as they do, tacked on to the end of the event, usually after the majority are long gone so I'd like to thank everyone who stayed to cheer all the winners. Thanks!
One other thing. I hear from an unimpeachable source that Rich (of XSV & Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball magazine) did an impeccable job assisting Nicky the T with the webcast. And at one point commented tongue-in-cheek that we were doing well because the layout for Vegas was one of my designs. I wish. The truth is the design committee wouldn't pick one of my designs unless it had Rich's or Travis's name on it.
VFTD regulars will likely know I'm not a big fan of parking lot paintball but Vegas is growing on me. (Although I still worry about all the distractions.) And winning doesn't hurt but it's more than that. Whatever else might be said of this second season for NPPL 3.0 the league has learned and improved from its inaugural event until today with every indication they are poised to continue moving forward with a third season. Held together by a lot of voluntary effort and buoyed by the developing relationship with G4 the NPPL continues to overcome assorted obstacles. Next year promises to bring another Vegas and HB along with a second *special* HB event. Can they pull it off? Honestly I'm not convinced but I am astonished at the determination and effort that has kept NPPL 3.0 going to date and all credit to those members of the league who have put in all the work and effort.