Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Incident & The Rule Book

The best video record of the incident (that I'm aware of) can be seen here. Check it out. It's less entertaining than one might have hoped for. In fact it's little more than business as usual except for the names of the prime movers. A bit of controversy and a little drama aren't necessarily bad things for sports--unless it highlights an endemic problem and the sport in question is trying to establish its legitimacy as a sport.
My interest is not in the penalties assessed (except as they pertain to the rule book) nor in the personalities involved. I am not interested (in this post) in whether or not the refs got the call(s) right or not--though it appears they did not. What needs to be kept in mind is that the rule book defines the game we play and the refs adjudicate the process. That is, knowing the rules (oops!), they observe and assure the players play the game within the parameters set out by the rules and/or otherwise assign appropriate penalties for violations of the rules.
One problem competitive paintball has had from the very beginning is that certain of the rules were often written not in bright lines with clear boundaries but in such a way that the promoters could do whatever they wanted whenever they felt the need and use the rules as justification. And one problem the NPPL refs consistently struggle with is a lack of institutional control, a non-functioning hierarchy of authority and no independence whatsoever. Along with generally poor knowledge of the rules.
My question for the NPPL is which rules were applied to 'the incident'? And who made the decisions? And, while I'm at it, why wasn't anything done earlier that might have defused the situation?
As to which rules applied see below. All the relevant portions of all the relevant rules are there. Let's take a look. Neither of the prime movers was penalized under 21.06. How do I know? Because 21.06 also identifies the penalties that violations are subject to; 23.04 & 23.05, which are one game and 3-game suspensions. Nor were the prime movers subject to 21.07 because the penalty is a season long ejection.
Instead we are told each prime mover was given a 6 game suspension. Who handed out those suspensions? It's supposed to be the Head Referee. If it was he doesn't know his own rules and if it wasn't--that's another violation. From the first game of the day the two prime movers had been yapping at each other. (There's other video that shows some of the silliness.) There is no verbal abuse category for a 6 game suspension. There was physical contact but it didn't rise to the level of a so-called headbutt and it was initiated by one player, not both. It was physical contact that resulted in no injury to either party. By rule that's a 3 game suspension.
So again I ask: Which rules applied to the incident? Who made the suspension call? And why wasn't anything done earlier to defuse the situation?

The NPPL currently has an Ultimate Ref who is a nice but ineffectual guy. A Lead Ref who is incompetent and favors friends whether they are competent or not. The league has allowed back refs fired for incompetence and bias and the league rep chose to use his authority over the refs to target another pro team. The rules are meaningless if the designated enforcers of the rules don't know them, can't or won't enforce them or try to manipulate them to whatever end. Is this the new direction the NPPL is going?

21.06 Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Players will be eliminated if they engage in unsportsmanlike like conduct and will be subject to further penalties, see Rules 23.04 and 23.05. Unsportsmanlike conduct may include, but is not limited to:
Verbally abusing any players, spectators or Referees.

21.07 Embarrassing, Dangerous or Destructive Behavior. Teams and players participating in an NPPL sanctioned tournament shall not engage in conduct that would bring the NPPL, the promoter or any sponsor into disrepute. During any tournament weekend, players must not: ... harass or intimidate any individuals; provoke a physical altercation or otherwise incite violence, ... Any player caught violating this rule will be ejected for a full season. See Rule 23.06.

Suspensions, Disqualifications, Fine
23.01 Issuing Suspensions and Disqualifications. All Suspensions will be issued by the Head Referee of each field and kept track by the Commissioner. All Disqualifications will be issued by the Commissioner.

23.05 Three-Game Suspension. Players may be suspended, causing the team to play short for three games for the following infractions:
(2) Physical contact. Physical contact during or after play that does not result in injury (e.g., shove, grab, shoulder-bump).
(3) Verbal abuse.

23.06 Six-Game Suspension. Players will be ejected and the team will play short for six games for the following:
(2) Physical contact. Physical contact during or after play (e.g., spit, punch or kick).

23.07 One-Year Suspension. Any player or team that violates Rule 21.07 shall be prohibited from competing in any NPPL tournament for a period of up to one year from the date of the infraction.


Don Saavedra said...

Tournament Paintball needs angles and heels and its transformation will be complete.

Kevin said...

This is a perfect example of why competitive paintball isn't ready for prime time yet. How do you think Matty Marshall is going to explain that call on ESPN 3? It's not a good sign when the announcer's only response is "I don't understand why that call was made".

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is NPPL's failure to write rules they can actually enforce. How long did it take them to figure out that you can't enforce a rule which is "Your gun must be semi-auto, and if a judge doesn't like the way your gun is shooting then you forfeit the game and get tossed from the tournament"?

Who in their right mind thought a FULL SEASON SUSPENSION for intimidating someone was going to be enforceable?

If the rules specify penalties that are disproportionate to the crime, then the officials have no good options - they can enforce a rule that sucks, or they can suck at enforcing the rules.

Of course, fixing it would involve caring about doing things right, which it is obvious no one running NPPL cares about until it effects them personally.

sdawg said...

It's also hard to enforce the "intimidation rule" on someone who seems to be a major player in organizing the tournament series and who was featured almost as much as the bikini-contest girls on the NPPL Facebook page.

aforementioned major player is now retiring (again), to which the rest of the paintball world is likely to say good riddance.

Don Saavedra said...


Be careful assigning motivation to others. You frankly don't know how much the people running the NPPL "care." They certainly aren't there for the money.

That isn't to excuse or condone many of the things we are finding wrong with national tournament execution... but when you start putting thoughts in to other people's heads, you go down a stupid road.

Anonymous said...

If they cared, they wouldn't allow the season to start with that travesty of a rule book.

If they cared, they wouldn't run the divisional field with 6 refs.

If they cared, Dan Perez wouldn't be at events.

Do they care about getting themselves on TV? Sure. Do they care if the divisional teams are getting what they are paying for? No.

You don't have to be able to read minds to see that the actions are that of those who simply do not care.

Anonymous said...

sdawg hit it on the head.

Don Saavedra said...

Well, anon, why go half-ass on us? If you know so much about what they don't care about, I figure that also means you know what they DO care about.

Please. Share.

Anonymous said...

Don, why do you get all passive-aggressive when fucked up things in NPPL are written down? I find it cute and sad at the same time.

Anonymous said...

This brings to mind the Joy incident,and some claim thats why they stopped playing the NPPL due to refing and a ultimate ref call..... I see many disheartened players that have played a local or reginal event that get bias refing... the story is the same at the local, reginal and national level... The rules need to be the same for all and I think we lose players and respect for the sport as long as the reffing is substandard or bias. I want to make it clear I have refed natioal and local ,,, its not an easy job. Are we one step away from a scripted outcome on the field?? as the winner is already predetermined or do we get a great core of refs who give a damn, that can adjudicate and maintain great paintball completion.... " The best game in town is an honest one" I for one would like to see a stonger refing core.. reffing in some ways is the back bone of the game... On the flip side please thow out a few good thing about paintball it all cant be bad... love this game let move forward and get involved ..What can i do to help???
Steve Grundy / Annandale Paintball

Anonymous said...

What everyone can do to help, is to force these leagues to write a rulebook and a case book together with the referees that are enforceable and clear. We talk about actions of single referees when the leagues, mainly NPPL and Millennium have rulebooks that are absolute trash and then wonder why calls are out of place.

Sad fact is, that leagues do not want clear rules as then they could not hide behind obscure words and meanings when things goes sour. Writing a well laid out rulebook for a sport like this is not a hard task, hence their intentions are obvious.

When we look at the rules of each league, problems are two folded. First, the base rule book is just plain bad and has rules they are not enforcing or willing to enforce. Second, they do not have a case book or case book is written inside the core rules. When talking about sport rules you always have two books, rules and cases. They are two completely different things that guide the sport around. Case book supplements the rule book for specific situations that paintball leagues absolutely need.

Anonymous said...


Well, they don't care about having fields that are actually wide enough to play on. They don't care about having a registration system that does anything more than collect money. They don't care if the scores are posted online in a timely manner. They don't care if they have dead players running around the field acting like asses.

They DO care about bikini contests and getting their picture taken with the contestants, and they do care about any chance to get themselves on television.

They don't care if their attempts to get themselves on television do more harm than good.

It's nice they let you hang around and feel important Don, but blindly defending them just makes you the latest sucker.

Chris said...

"One problem competitive paintball has had from the very beginning is that certain of the rules were often written not in bright lines with clear boundaries but in such a way that the promoters could do whatever they wanted whenever they felt the need and use the rules as justification. And one problem the NPPL refs consistently struggle with is a lack of institutional control, a non-functioning hierarchy of authority and no independence whatsoever. Along with generally poor knowledge of the rules."

This sounds really familiar to me, although its worded much better then I could ever hope to......

Don Saavedra said...

I'm not defending anybody. What I find a problem with is you guys all pretending you know what's going on in their heads and assuming a motivation that I do not find in my dealings with the folks mentioned.

I am not defending this BS in the slightest. But I don't pretend at telepathy. You want my actual opinion on this, I'm happy to give it. The NPPL is too many cooks and egos that make it impossible to have anything but a spoiled pot. The incompetance (and, yes, that's what it inevitably is) is mostly due to a power structure that is not clear and a, largely, volunteer workforce that is never empowered to do the jobs assigned to them.

However, not once in the times I have been privileged enough to see the inner workings (few and far between as they have been), have I seen people who just don't care. Burned out, for sure in some cases (partly due to dumbasses like you guys who think they can read minds). Don't care? I'm not willing to leap to that conclusion.

In the end, even this socialist pinko liberal thinks that the Free Market can be a powerful tool to instigating change. Change that might hurt some very good people, but change that is necessary if the consumer is not being served by the business: tournament players seeking a fair and level playing field and a reasonable return on their dollar. I don't think the NPPL is doing what it needs to survive. You guys agree. So... put your money where your mouth is and stop going! Or go to the other guys. OR, do what I did, sell your gear and then sit on a high horse on the internet and act all important and shit.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying, they care more about their own power and egos than having a good product.

Guess that makes sense. If a good product was more important than their own power/ego, they'd just play PSP.

Don Saavedra said...

That's not even close to what I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

Don, as always, great perspective and I know what you're saying.

I don't know Frank and I don't know Ollie. Frank was shot way before he got to Ollie, as a matter of fact you can see that Ollie shot him for a second time in the same spot if you look closely. But regardless of who got who first, since we all know what split second timing these incidents come down to; I'm still in shock as to how after Frank was called dead, he kept running his mouth off. Uh, well as long as I can remember, and my first tournament was in 1997, DEAD MEN DO NOT TALK. That should have been a 1 for 1 right there. And then the dude still stayed on the field and kept harassing a 'live' player. That's insane, nothing less than a RED flag should have been thrown. You guys actually accuse Ollie of 'headbutting' Frank? F that, I would have shot Franks ass a few more times since he's on the field like a live player. He would have never been in a position to be contacted if he had been in the deadbox, bad call or not. The refs have no juevos, or what I can say is: I think the refs were afraid of Frank. Neither one being good, thus resulting in the outcome we got.


Anonymous said...

The refs are not afraid of Frank. The refs are afraid, and not in a physical safety manner, of irking the teams who have influence over ref hiring.

Refs who don't let the Pro players give them crap have already been run off by the league, either by simply not inviting them back at all or by making the reffing environment so poor the good refs just don't want to work the NPPL events anymore.

The NPPL reffing situation is such a good thing for certain players/teams it's hard not to think it's intentional. Frank and Ollie are penalty magnets in PSP but top players in NPPL, and it's tough to think the difference is just the format.