Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Word of the Joy Division retirement from the ranks of pro teams probably couldn't have come at a worse time for the Millennium Series and its premier division, the CPL. Each season the CPL relegates the two bottom teams back to the SPL while promoting the top two SPL teams. At least that's how it's supposed to work. Keeps everyone working hard, something to play for and so on. Except as I recall last season there were a few instances of teams who earned promotion who chose not to be promoted. The MS then had to go down the list until they got some takers to fill the open spots. (Though as I recall that didn't include any CPL spots ... but I could be misremembering.) Regardless, it's going to happen this season.
The two CPL teams to be relegated are the Ducks & Comin At Ya. According to the formula they should be replaced by Art Chaos Moscow and Outrage Valence. Assuming both teams accept promotion that will still leave holes In the Bullets, Joy & Menace spots. That means 5 of 16 CPL teams will turn over this season. Nearly a third. More interesting is the fact that Menace is looking to sell their spot as is (apparently) their right. Does the same apply to Joy & Bullets even though both have formally announced they are done competing? If Menace can sell its spot why not Bullets and Joy? (Maybe they can.) Does Menace have to sell before next year's license fees come due? What if there are no takers? For one thing the CPL pool gets diluted as the MS offers the open spots around to any SPL takers. Relegation & promotion are made a mockery of--and how can the league begin to justify charging a licensing fee for something nobody is willing to buy? (The answer to that remains the apathy of the Euroteams to stand up and refuse to be squeezed but that's a separate topic.)
Last year's Millennium scramble revealed the cracks in the structure. This year the cracks are fissures and the league doesn't have enough plaster to hide what's happening this time around.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Anyway, according to last week's poll there's a significant number of players the voters have little faith in--so who is most likely to replace lost pros? Which team is most likely to make the jump? Yeah, instead of multiple guess where y'all pick as many teams as you want this time you only pick the single most likely team. Then we'll see what you know, or think you know before word begins to leak out--'cus there are teams seriously making the calculation and considering the leap.
UPDATE: Wad'daya mean the TonTons are already pro? I just them at Cup playing D1.
Monday Poll in Review
Wow! 20 pro teams played some or all of the events in one or both of the two major leagues and you people gave only 7 of those teams better than a 75% of playing pro in 2011. Of those 7 none was over 80% (Red Legion & Vicious). The rest of the 7 were Damage (78%), Impact (76%), Dynasty (78%), Infamous (77%) & Ironmen (78%). Of the 13 remaining teams none exceeded 50% except for Aftershock (59%). The next closest sees 4 teams in the 40's; Blast (47%), Avalanche (43%), X-Factor (40%) & XSV (42%). Fortunately this vote appears to be more a referendum of name recognition and favoritism than anything else.
On the one hand it also looks poor for the NPPL crew as most of the lowest rated teams are also exclusively NPPL teams but again, that strikes me as more commentary of the voters connection and perceptions about those teams than anything else.
What if though we combined this poll with the discussion of NPPL team/owners boycotting the PSP. What if, instead of just Dynasty and Impact it was all the crossover teams with an ownership stake? According to this poll that would leave no more than 5 returning established pro teams and questions exist with at least two of those regarding their viability for 2011. Is 5 acknowledged pro teams enough to legitimize a pro division? Hey, I'm not advocating anything, I'm just asking. Realistically I expect both leagues to be down at the pro level in 2011.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Want to make real progress?
1--Go back to the past and don't release field layouts in advance--at least at the major league level. I know, I've been harping on this for a while now but that's because it will save money without changing the game, again. It's a crucial component for sustaining and growing the upper divisions and it could be the key to restoring the mental game as an important part of the best players' skill set. But if that's too big a leap for a single jump then move to two layouts per event. Release a layout early for the lower divisions but have a separate, unreleased layout, for the upper divisions. Hardly ideal, I can hear the whining already, but it's a workable compromise that would benefit those who need it the most without disrupting the routine of the majority of teams.
2--Standardize the bunker set. Right now xball is played on a 17,500 sq. ft. field and 7-man on an 18,000 sq. ft. field. The status quo is to xball's advantage at the moment but if the larger issue is what's best for competitive paintball then a standardized bunker set is a must. It would mean teams can play the format of their choice everywhere and would facilitate the transition of players and teams between formats and tourney tracks. (More on that coming.) And its universality would lay the foundation for international standards & format. It would even benefit the manufacturer(s) who would no longer have to make unique, limited sets for different series as any bunker set could be sent anywhere in the world.
3--The local tourney scene needs to be more (and less) than a single track leading to national level play. I am convinced that the paintball-related damage done to 5-man is primarily the result of trickle down MLP. As the bar to being competitive was raised first at the pro level in xball we have since seen some of the same demands & practices work their way down the divisions into 5-man. Where links to the big league were the strongest is also where the greatest declines have come. While there is nothing wrong with the national level track, particularly if the longer term goal is a restructuring of what MLP is (something closer to my Pro Circuit concept) there needs to be some intermediate opportunities at the local and regional level where players and teams can compete in a less demanding, less intense but still competitive environment. The majority of tourney ballers should be playing local and regional events. And our first goal needs to be re-establishing grassroots tourney play and let that larger pool of players self-select for the MLP track.4--even so, less is more. The risk of two tracks is too many events. MLP track events must be strictly limited--as must all other local & regional events whether they are part of a series or not. Too many events dilutes the value and desirability of any single event. (Easy to say, harder to do particularly when numerous promoters are competing against each other. [Though right now that's probably less a problem than in the past.]) I would also consider protecting the grassroots player by keeping them out of any classification database and keeping anyone already nationally classified out of the local events. This mostly assumes the regional already supports a MLP track.
5--MLP needs to stop cannibalizing the lower divisions. In 2006 D4 was added to the 5-man competition and D5 was added in 2009. The addition of D5 corresponded to a drop in prices and the move to Race 2-2 and the numbers competing continued to drop. What looked like a measure of 5-man consistency has been weaker than participation numbers might suggest and even those have been in decline over the last 5 years. Finally in 2010 5-man numbers dropped below Race 2-X numbers for the first time. A closer look shows a downward trend that was partially masked by the changes made that added new divisions and reduced entry. I'm not saying the move to draw D4 & D5 teams caused the decline in local teams that has occurred but I think it has contributed and will continue to undermine re-building the grassroots--particularly in the absence of tourney alternatives to the MLP track.
6--PBIndustry needs to get out of the discount sponsorship business. Part of re-building the grassroots will require local stores & fields to be involved and contribute to developing and supporting new teams. When the industry offers direct discount sales to players/teams it removes any incentive for the local retailer to get involved and in turn undermines the local retailer and network of relationships that they depend upon.
These suggestions won't fix every ill that ails competitive paintball but they would be a good start. After that the local and regional event promoters will still have to struggle with what works best for them and their customers but it's a start.
Friday, November 26, 2010
This week the Deadbox Puppet Army welcomes our newest recruits; steve (from annandale paintball), Mike, ScotchMonster (lock up the Johnny Walker) & Dale Ford of The Ford Report & Shooting Hot. Greetings. Success is just around the corner.
If you aren't part of the DPA you're part of the problem. Join today and be part of the future.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
One side of the argument says it's a no-brainer; the pro teams ought to stick with the PSP. That's where competitive paintball legitimacy exists. That's the league that promotes the most popular format. That's the league a modest majority of the industry support. The league that has active regional leagues promoting the same format. The league that has its bunker sets at most every local field that has an airball field. Etc.
The other side of the argument says do you put in all the years necessary and make all the sacrifices required only to be told what game you're going to play and get kicked to the curb at the whim of sponsors or the league--or, do you choose to take the risk, have a voice in your future and a stake in the game you play? And that's it. Pure and simple. Cut and dry.
In the past NPPL 1.0 (Pure Promotions) kinda, sorta promised (fingers crossed behind their backs) that a restricted pro division has some inherent value to the teams that earned a spot could trade on. At the same time the NXL didn't fool around. They sold franchises to team owners and tried to to take the shortcut to big money sports. (Not that other guys weren't doing that too.) Anyway, the point is that once that rabbit was out of the hat and paintball's elites began to think about the game as a sport and as a road that could carry them into the future there was no going back. And it's not like it was some crazy idea--okay, maybe it was some kinda crazy idea--but the further point is that the idea originated with the leagues, factory team owners and other elements of the paintball establishment.
So here we are. Two leagues. Lots of opinions about the merits of each but what we're talking about here is where does the future lie for the established pro teams? It's easy to say that any vision of greater success, real money--even just a taste, is a pipe dream in the current situation--and it probably is--but a voice, a say, a stake in something, even if it doesn't pan out, is a tangible something compared to nothing.
Look, I personally prefer xball--even in Race 2 form. I was against trying to jump start another NPPL attempt. I understand completely why the PSP thinks the pro teams are out of their minds. After all, it's the PSP that has taken all the risks, fought through the lean years and continues to deal on a daily basis with a laundry list of liabilities that must be accounted for before there's any talk of profit. But.
None of that matters. The nature of the game as it exists today means the quality of the pro teams playing give the league(s) validity. If all the NPPL pro teams boycotted the PSP are there enough established quality teams remaining to sustain a pro division?
Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
That means there's now a personal Facebook page and a View From The Deadbox page active and I invite y'all to check them out, put in a friend request, leave a comment, etc.
Also, a special thanks to Jarmo N. from Helsinki Cyclone for getting the VFTD page started.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Blenheim has no visible connection to PBIndustry. It is based off shore in the Caribbean and it provides a wide variety of what it calls post incorporation services along with a laundry list of other financial services.
The language of the suit--while not uncommon--leaves open the possibility of naming additional defendants as the process unfolds. In a related curiosity the suit names JT, K2 & KEE but there is no mention of Jarden despite the fact they are part of the chain of ownership that is alleged to have misused expired patents.
Now for the fun part. As a matter of pure speculation it appears that some element of PBIndustry has hired Blenheim to pursue this suit. (Here's a couple more free guesses. Whoever passed the info to TFR is likely the interested industry party. Two, TFR will strenuously deny it, which is fine as it's just a guess.) Is the action of Blenheim in filing this suit a matter of expertise or is Blenheim functioning as a blind? Whatever is going on it's an intriguing change of pace, don't you think?
UPDATE: The kids at the Big Bullet have an interesting take that may shed some more light on the Blenheim lawsuit.
UPDATE II: Two additional, similar lawsuits filed by Blenheim have come to light against Clark Recreation & International Innovation. Perhaps the way to characterize Blenheim is to compare them with The Crimson Permanent Assurance.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Which reminds me--where's the ProPaintball final power ranking for 2010? (Is that a self-interested question? I certainly hope so.) Listen up kids. First you vote until your poor little finger can't click your mouse anymore and then you go bug the ProPaintball kids. Vote, bug. Vote, bug.
Monday Poll in Review
I knew when I did it I shouldn't have included a couple of flippant options to last week's otherwise serious poll. Although for those of you who were joking about voluntarily stripping if this continues unresisted the time will come when it won't be a joke, or voluntary. And for those of you willing to do damn near anything to be safe here's a one question quiz for you: How many terrorists has the TSA caught? (Hint--the answer is 0.) The underwear bomber didn't slip thru security. He was allowed on board the flight he took by the intervention of U.S. embassy personnel despite the fact he had no passport and was on a watch list. The only positive from this poll is how many regular voters failed to vote. I'm taking that as a sign of discomfort with even having to think about this subject. However, if you're a MLP player you won't be able to dodge it for long.
Here are the numbers; 8% are willing to passively take it, 18% would refuse the scan and accept the patdown, 15% would refuse the patdown and accept the scan, 15% would consider alternative transportation, and 4% would reconsider playing the MLP event. 8% are prepared to protest, 24% will strip voluntarily and 28% want a copy of their girlfriend's scan. 18% will fly less often and 18% are happy to do as they're told.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Regulars know I am endlessly fascinated with how the paintball media landscape has changed (and is changing) and what those changes mean for paintball in general and competitive paintball in particular. And there's a fascinating example over at Paintball.com. It's the (supposed) leak of a rumor that Spyder might be getting a Walmart deal. (After all, Walmart deals, or the lack thereof, are all the rage right now, so why not?) Is it news or propaganda?
Now this may surprise you but I'm going to call it propaganda. (Of course if I hadn't it wouldn't be much of a post, would it?) According to Webster's propaganda is "the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person" and "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect"[.] No big lie required. Not even a modest deception or the attempt to deceive--even though that's how most people would define propaganda, as some sort of lie cloaked as the truth.
In the Paintball.com example the core info is called a rumor. Is it true? Could be but it doesn't matter one way or the other. Rumors, by definition, can have varying degrees of accuracy. Sometimes they are dead on, sometimes they aren't. The point of this post isn't about the rumor itself, it is about the presentation. It is about the rumor's source, the additional content provided and the existing relationships between Spyder, Paintball.com & Giant Paintball Parks. In fact, it appears an effort was made to distance those relationships in both what was said and what wasn't.
Look, I'm not going to break the item down line by line. Hit the link and go read it for yourself. Then ask yourself if the way the story was presented is misleading (and self-serving.) (A twofer.) The claim of unnamed insider sources sounds juicy, perhaps even journalistic, but it also means nobody actually has to take responsibility for it. It intimates Spyder was responsible for the expansion of paintball a decade ago. Then suggests the relationship between Spyder and Giant may have been crucial in the Walmart deal. [If there is a Walmart deal.] It also claims no one at Spyder was prepared to go on the record so they went to one of the owners of Giant Paintball Parks, Dennis Bukowski, for a comment. He can't confirm the rumor either of course but is thrilled at the prospect of how this could help launch 50 cal. The next paintball evolution. Paintball.com wants everyone to stay tuned for the latest.
What they apparently don't want you to know is that the deal between Spyder and Giant was a sweetheart deal for Giant to try and kickstart small ball at the local level or that the other owner of Giant is Gio D'Egidio who also happens to be COO of Paintball.com.
If the rumor is true and a deal is signed it's a "scoop" for Paintball.com and a front page of free promos for all the principles. If it isn't, well that's the nature of rumors but no one is at fault and the principles still get a front page of free promos by tossing the Walmart name around.
Am I being naive? This is hardly a first time occurrence. Don't situations like this one occur all the time in paintball between various business interests and the media simply as a function of the way things work? The first answer is no. The second answer is yes. And because the second answer is yes any media outlet staking any claim to independence and (dare I say, integrity) needs to be particularly scrupulous in their process. And instead of either demanding propaganda or conspiring with media PBIndustry should also look favorably on media independence. The general audience is already wary of advertising claims. As soon as they become cynical about the rest of the paintball media industry loses any effective way to reach their customers. And even fanboys grow up eventually.
Does this mean we can't be Facebook friends? I look forward to your comments and emails.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Chronology: Competitive paintball exploded.
This coincided with and/or was driven by the move out of the woods, electronic markers, concept fields, a rapidly expanding market of new players, traditional formats (10-man & 5-man) were still played and shrinking retail paint prices.
Industry got slammed when the growth spurt suddenly stopped. (The critical question here is did sales go flat immediately or did they decline against expected growth? And how long after the rapid growth did sales actually fall behind past sales peaks?) Elements of industry begin competing directly with traditional retail outlets.
This is also the era of corporatizing PBIndustry which brought different management philosophies & goals into play within the competitive environment. The leadership and value of competitive paintball was no longer assumed. Sponsorship turns a corner and begins to decline in real dollars.
Xball is conceived as the Sport of Paintball designed for a TV audience.
The TV Wars begin. The result is competing leagues (NPPL & PSP) driven by shifting priorities (and concomitant expenses) only indirectly related to putting on MLP events.
The pro ranks are divided by the NXL and the NPPL is the beneficiary of all the burgeoning 10-man teams unwilling, uninterested, unable to make the leap to Xball.
So what happened? Here goes.
PBIndustry was caught ill-prepared when the growth years suddenly stopped. For whatever reason even the incoming transnational corporates failed to manage the transitions successfully except (so far) KEE.
Xball succeeded in turning tournament paintball into sport. That success has had some unintended consequences.
The TV Wars squandered the enormous base of competing teams with redirected resources and in the NPPL's failure to sustain a profitable series.
The Sport of paintball raised the bar for everybody (eventually) and as a result has pushed out of competitive paintball some number of players unable--for various reasons--to meet its demands.
5-man paintball remained vital until the last year to 18 months.
Local and regional competitive paintball has also declined--although the declines appear to vary in different areas of the country.
The impact of the housing bubble was felt most severely initially in competitive paintball strongholds like Cali & Florida.
The general economy remains in an extended recession (at best).
What's important here. (Well, d'oh! all of it in one way or another but --)
One--Xball (Race 2) isn't going anywhere. Despite the fact I am convinced that Xball drove our demographic down and a lot of pre-existing tourney players to 7-man (and out of competition) there is a dedicated core willing to do what it takes to play competitive paintball as sport.
Two--5-man has been amazingly resilient until the last year. 5-man is the heart & lungs of tourney paintball. Through years of being second class competitors (back in the day) and rising entry fees the national scene continued to benefit from a robust 5-man turnout
Three--5-man began to decline on the local level before real weakness appeared in national events. This is the result of pressing to integrate bread & butter tourney ball into the national scheme and raising the bar to basic participation too high.
Four--There's a significant number of former tourney ballers not competing.
Five--If the rumors of operating in the black this season are true the NPPL has a pared down tournament formula that is more sustainable in this economic environment.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
While bigger than paintball--what isn't?--it is something that will end up affecting lots of people who do play MLP and I'm curious what, if anything, y'all intend to do about it. (Pick as many answers as apply.)
Did'ja know Homeland Security is purchasing 500 mobile naked xray units--for a start. Hey, if it's good enough for the herds at airports how many other places can they be installed for your safety? Malls. Sporting events. Schools.
The Monday Poll in Review
Last week's Monday Poll generated some interest--thanks to all who participated. VFTD wanted to know what you thought of changing the early release date of event layouts. Included in the list of optional answers was do not release the layout at all prior to an event. A policy advocated by VFTD as a cost savings measure. Also included were maintaining the status quo and a series of in-between choices. Surprisingly only 11% voted to keep things the way they are. Perhaps equally surprising only a slightly larger percentage (16%) were ready to halt release of the event layouts completely. The largest voting block clearly favored the most extreme compromise however as 38% voted to release the layout the day before only. That way teams would have more time to plan and prepare but would be unable to actually pre-play the layout. That means that 54% of all votes were in favor of teams not pre-playing event layouts while the remaining votes were divided over how much time should be given for pre-play covering the status quo (11%), 4 weekends (7%), 3 weekends (3%), 2 weekends (7%) & the weekend before the event received 15% of the vote.
It's clear that of those voting an overwhelming majority favored limits on pre-playing a competition layout and the 3 largest voting blocks (equalling 69% of the total) split the difference but still strongly favored very little to no pre-play. Time will tell what MLP thinks.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The WC numbers I mentioned the other day don't prove anything. May even have multiple likely sounding explanations but what I want to do is try and broaden the picture of competitive paintball we're all looking at. In 1997 WC had 67 10-man teams. In 1998 there were 80 10-man teams. In 1999 there were 87 10-man teams. In 2000 there were 117 10-man teams. In 2001 there were over 180 10-man teams and in 2002 there were more than 210 10-man teams. This is the period of time Cup left the woods, moved to Hyperball, then Airball. Electropneumatic guns became commonplace. Xball was introduced and the NPPL split.
In 2003/2004 the PSP offered both Xball & 10-man. In 2004 the new NPPL was averaging around 170 teams an event. 2005 was the first year Xball was the stand alone headliner at Cup with only 77 xball teams & 247 5-man teams. In 2005 the NPPL averaged around 200 teams an event and by the end of 2006 Pure Promotions was looking to bail. (Rumor had it both leagues were losing money. These were also the days of the Race 2-TV.) 2006 saw 131 xball teams & 235 5-man teams participate. 2007 was the peak for xball teams at 160 with a 10% drop in 5-man teams to 212. 2008 had 138 xball teams & 195 5-man teams. (In Pacific Paintball's worst year they had more teams competing on average per event than the latest incarnation of the USPL/NPPL.) 2009 saw xball decline to its second lowest stand alone total of 125 along with still shrinking 5-man total of 183. 2010 had 134 xball teams while 5-man fell off the table dropping to 118. There's some facts & figures. Here's some more.
Bottom drops out on years of streaking growth as industry sales go flat. Fall of 2006 the PMI/NPS merger is engineered creating KEE. Jarden buys K2 in 2007 after K2 struggles with the paintball division it began putting together with the Brass Eagle purchase in what, 2003. By 2006 unification talks between the the two major leagues isn't a whispered rumor but an annual event on the end of season calendar as an intransigent industry demands action yet refuses to back one league or the other despite claiming dire economic consequences.
Since I'm running long I'll leave the analysis of the data to y'all--for now. And I'll pick it up again first of next week.
Friday, November 12, 2010
If you're new around here and uncertain as to what the DPA is, that's easy. The DPA is intended to be an ironic poke at paintball's penchant for generating lookalike armies and the impulse for everybody to be individuals in large groups. (Can you say, agg?) If you were hoping to park your brain at the door and march in lockstep with your fellow puppets I'm afraid you will be disappointed. There won't be any of that here. We are all just simple victims of paintball, friends with a shared insanity--no strings attached.
UPDATE: Way to jump on the bandwagon, Warner. You too, Koker. But hey, it got you a VFTD mention and your DPA secret decoder ring is in the, er, mail. (I do want to warn you tho the post office frequently "loses" them. It's a conspiracy.)
If that's too hard at least hit the damned "Like" button on the sidebar. Even Stephen Hawking could manage that one.
While I'm at it I'd also like to thank the latest batch of Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Y'all make me look normal.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
There has also been a spirited defense of the status quo suggesting that there's a symbiotic relationship between MLP, the local tourney practice fields & other industry members and that breaking (or altering) the relationships may create something like a domino effect. My reply, in essence, is that it looks like everyone is circling the drain together and everybody is reliant on somebody else, who may or may not, have their best interests in mind when crunch time comes around. Besides, it creates other complications. For example, MLP agrees with the field manufacturer to modify the bunker set annually in order to help support the bunker maker and passes that cost on to the local fields. Layout release may help the local practice field but forcing them into annual upgrades doesn't.
Lastly, it was suggested competitive paintball might be organized by a standard league/Junior league division along with some number of tiered divisions of competition as is current practice. The idea being the standard league participant is protected with the goal of shifting the demographic because, in the example given, everyone 18 and younger played in the Juniors. The Juniors could be organized and operated with lower costs in mind while the Standard divisions would be populated with a larger number of self-sufficient players able to afford the competition. It makes for an interesting idea but it also highlights perhaps the core struggle going on; Is competitive paintball sport or customer service entertainment? It's struggling right now trying to be both. And why is it that the industry (and everyone else) have left the problem of resolving these growing pains issue in the hands of MLP alone? Or phrased another way: Why is MLP responsible for "fixing" everything that ails competitive paintball?
Tomorrow, crunching those WC numbers I gave you the other day--and a Mailbag over the weekend. (If you have a question or comment get them in now.)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Is the current relationship between (mostly) the PSP--there aren't enough NPPL fields out there to matter--and the local practice field(s) a positive one? Yes and no. Is dependency on an outside agent that has its own agenda a good place to be? More teams are more likely to schedule practices proximate to when events will be held but in some respects the PSP hold practice fields hostage to their schedule right now. There was a time when fields were only released 3 weeks prior to an event and the result was the majority of competing teams fit all their practice into that 3 week period. Because all they were doing was scrimmaging the layout. When given the opportunity to prepare for a specific layout anything else is pointless. Even with layouts released within a week or so of the prior event the schedule of events still impacts local practice habits. The longer the time between events the more practice sessions will tend to be distributed closer to the event. This is a result of two factors; a team wants to be most prepared just before the event and because of some limitation on how often a team can afford to practice.
Does maintaining the status quo do anything other than to assure that everybody eventually goes down together? Or pass off responsibility for what happens next to an agency that has its own survival to think about? On the other hand we already know what happens when teams don't have the next event's layout, they practice anyway. And how they practice is up to them.
In order to free up local practice fields one needs to disassociate practice from specific events as much as possible and reduce the cost of practice. And if practice can be conducted at a lower cost it should yield two positive outcomes; dedicated teams on a budget should be able to practice more often and players and prospective teams will be more likely to reform old teams and/or start new ones because the bar to competing has been lowered.
In the last two or three years lots of theories have been offered for the decline in competitive paintball participation. Everything from blazing gats killing newbies to the economy stupid. And each theory has its own proponents because most of them sound reasonable in one way or another and each of them connect with our assorted biases. And chances are many of them have some degree of validity but sorting out the percentages is a near impossibility. Instead I want to show y'all some numbers and let you make of them what you will--and I'll tell you tomorrow what I make of them.
All these numbers are World Cup numbers in the Xball Era. The most teams ever at WC was in 2002, the last year before xball became a regular option, with well over 400 teams. 2005 was the first year xball was the stand alone headliner at Cup with only 77 xball teams & 247 5-man teams. 2006 saw 131 xball teams & 235 5-man teams participate. 2007 was the peak for xball teams at 160 with a 10% drop in 5-man teams to 212. 2008 had 138 xball teams & 195 5-man teams. 2009 saw xball decline to its second lowest stand alone total of 125 along with still shrinking 5-man total of 183. 2010 had 134 xball teams while 5-man fell off the table dropping to 118. Make of them what you will.
To put all this into a different context here's an alternative option. Given that the PSP has not hesitated in the past to change the format in an attempt to preserve (and/or grow) participation what if they followed the Amodea Plan of slightly enlarging the field and adding a couple of larger bunkers in the back to make it easier for the older more financially stable player to compete along with all the broke ass bunker monkeys. (I'm putting this out there because John suggested it in an X3 editorial a few months ago and because I disagreed with it at the time.) Is another format change either less threatening or more likely to succeed than simply no longer releasing the event layout in advance? And if it is how does it impact cost of participation? Or maybe you'd like to see both?
Monday, November 8, 2010
Keeping with the idea that the off season is the best time to talk about changes that might be worth considering The Monday Poll this week wants to know what you think about releasing tournament field layouts. Regulars will know VFTD has long supported the idea that not releasing field layouts in advance would restore an element of competition lost in recent years and would, more importantly, substantially reduce paint usage in practice prior to events. However, what may sound good on a blog and what you, your team or other teams you know would really want to see happen may be two different things. Is that much change too much? How many teams would have any idea how to practice if it wasn't based on scrimmaging points? There's potentially a lot of ways this could go so what could be a better barometer of what y'all are thinking than a Monday Poll? Well sure, a professional survey would probably be better. As would a professionally run poll targeting only competition ballers but this is what there is so we're gonna have to make do.
Vote early, vote often and influence the future of competitive paintball. (It could happen.)
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Since most officiating related posts are critical I thought it might be worthwhile to be reminded why reffing--and making improvements--continues to be problematic. This is about reffing at the MLP level but may apply (in parts) across the board. Even though league-certified refs have a day of special training that's really no more than a basic foundation, a framework within which to understand the role. There's nothing like experience. Additionally, being familiar with the rulebook is not the same thing as knowing the rulebook and too few refs know the rulebook. Then there is the issue of refs discretion that tends to creep into the process when either the original rule is poorly conceived or institutional control becomes lax--or both. Beyond that field design can play a role in making the officials job difficult as can some zone theories of coverage responsibility and just plain poor communications.
I know what you're thinking--if this is my idea of cutting the refs some slack you'd hate to be them when I'm giving them grief. Au contraire, mon slacker frere. My point is that there are lots of pieces to the puzzle and it's very easy for things to not go as planned--or, more to the point, it's hard to operate efficiently and consistently particularly when you take into account how little time these crews of officials work together. Even on the pro field when you consider what officials in other sports go through the actual preparation and development time is marginal at best.
I'm not suggesting they can't do a better job. I'm saying that we need to acknowledge the limitations that currently exist in our sport and focus on things we can do to improve the situation instead of focusing on the failures that do occur. If there are limits--and there are--perhaps the best that can be done in the near term is to focus on things that can be done to make the job easier. And if we can't instantly endow the refs with more experience or assure regular, consistent crews maybe the areas to focus on are the rulebook and consistent practices when implementing the rules.
Next time a few suggestions.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
UPDATE: Almost forgot. There's a new picture on the sidebar below Baca's buisness card. In keeping with my ongoing one-sided feud with Catshack Reports I wanted everyone to know that VFTD is not Catshack approved. (It's also a link to the site.) and, yes, it's a silly joke. If you were a regular follower of VFTD on Twitter you would be used to the occasional litter joke--and worse. Paintball needs to be more fun so lighten up.
Friday, November 5, 2010
If you're into the social media thing please drop by. You're even welcome to point and laugh about how I insisted I'd never do this. I deserve it--but I do have a plan. It's a cunning plan and if it works it will be worth the loss of dignity. If you're not now is the time to get started, while VFTD is the focus of mocking attention.
To get started I'm working on a couple of things. First, I've set-up a TBD group for team members only. So far Jason is the only one on board. Since I know some of the rest of you can (and do) read (this site) you need to get on board. It'll be an easy way to keep in touch--for me. (Btw, there's also a team page on Facebook.) The other thing I'm trying to figure out is how to do a unique poll--the sort of thing I don't do on VFTD but still paintball-related. (Which reminds me, there will be a new The Monday Poll coming out on Monday you won't want to miss.)
The Facebook page will have some unique content and be less structured than the blog. It will also be the primary contact as I (slowly) move forward with my assorted coach-for-hire schemes.
So there you have it. Let the slings & arrows begin.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
That was then, this is now. The only element of the old formula that might apply is lining up industry behind a united front--and that isn't a given. In fact, the only way that works at all is because of the new old players in the game (Richmond at GI & Gino at Valken) plus the water ball kids from HydroTec. (I keep trying to tell anybody who will listen the old national level tournament premises are dead. I even try and help jump start the corpse 'cus I know nobody is paying attention.) The only reason any semblance of the old way still remains is because of inertia and a lack of innovation. Besides, industry could have picked a "winner" whenever they wanted except for the soap opera that is paintball behind corporate doors. (Another reason the league(s) need to step up and lead.
Is there a case to be made for a merger now? If there is I'm not seeing it. (For those keeping score at home I am, once again, beyond the Pale along with all the wild-eyed lunatics and Irishmen.) Both leagues are paddling hard and just keeping their head(s) above water. Or so says the word on the street. For starters, merger may or may not bring the others' liabilities along with it. For its efforts the PSP would get a Baker's Dozen or more new partners, a format dispute, the NPPL name and an instant replay of past grievances. For what? For its part the NPPL would take on some percentage of responsibility for PSP liabilities, collect a few seats at the decision-making table, hand over a defunct format along with the phone number of somebody at G4TV. I can see the NPPL kids buying into that but what does the PSP get--besides more headaches?
Enjoy the rumors. A MLP merger ain't gonna happen. (Unless some industry players move in--and why would they?)
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
There's a thread in the PSP WC forum regarding an incident (of sorts) in which the thread starter chides the league for its parochial behavior with respect to some anonymous highly credentialed fellow photographer. Normally this would elicit a yawn--at best--but I'm bored--nothing much else is going on--and criticizing the PSP (or the NPPL) is kinda my turf and while I'm willing to share there are standards to follow.
I'm going to post the majority of the original post sentence by sentence [uncorrected] and suggest you read the post in its entirety at PBN if you give a rodent's posterior. At that point I will entertain myself at this fellow's expense (and enlighten the knee jerk crowd while I'm at it.)
"One thing that I think you guys should highly consider not doing again is denying the President of the National Press Photographers Association and Professional NFL photographer,(who has the contacts with people at Fox sports) of getting a Pro fields pass when he has shot the past events with no problem."
Here is the NPPA. The other two relevant points are A) nobody was denied anything and B) the anonymous photographer has shot PSP events in the past. So he should known the process in advance. "He was working on a story for his friend who is the Fox Radio Announcer at the Fox HQ."
And this is meaningful how? A paintball story? A PSP story? To appear when and in what market?
"He tried contacting you guys weeks before the event but no reply, when he arrived at WC he was told he couldn't have a Pro Media pass, and If he wanted one he'd have to BUY one!"
Is the suggestion here that since he's a bigtime credentialed photographer that he--and his pal (the post writer)--should receive special treatment that other photographers don't get? Or that it's somehow in the league's interest to give this guy the VIP treatment? Based on what? From everything stated so far all we know is this guy has shown up before, had his fun, but where is any evidence it has contributed in any way, shape or form to the betterment of paintball or the PSP?
"PSP please think over this again if you want to try to get the sport of paintball to grow."
Yeah PSP, grant special favors to my friend, and me, that other photographers don't get.
"This is not good for our sport, when a rep for a highly respected press photographer association and representative comes looking to help out but you reject it."
What help exactly was on offer?
"He finally got a pro media pass on Sunday, when our friend Kirill from RL had him added to the team roster under their team media."
Interesting given that NPPA has a fairly strict code of ethics and #8 reads: Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
"I will end this rant now, when we finally got the passes all was well! The event was great and we had a blast!"
[Emphasis added] Looks to me like the real issue was the expectation of special treatment whether monetary or procedural. Since when does membership in a professional association confer unique privileges? And why aren't the other photographers who paid for their privileges up in arms over this abuse? And what, if anything, has the post writer or his credentialed pal ever done for paintball or the PSP?
What a joke. A tiny little passive aggressive joke.