Friday, July 29, 2011

The Economy & the Fate of Paintball

There's been almost endless talk about the economic state of the paintball industry for a number of years now and it's impact on everything from the local field to the tournament player and the decline in new playership. And I'm here to tell you it isn't even close to as bad as it could--almost certainly--will be in the not too distant future. Given the list of changes made to the game on the basis of economic reality I don't even want to think what could happen. But somebody has to give you the head's up so it might as well be me; Mr. Popularity. It's gonna get worse before it gets better. Get ready & get smart. It won't be the end of the world but it ain't gonna be pretty.

Okay. About the economy. Here's some basic numbers. Current (acknowledged) U.S. government debt is over 14 trillion dollars. To try and put that number into some perspective annual government revenues the last couple of years were about 2.1 trillion. So we owe about 7 times what we take in on an annual basis. Over the last two years we've also borrowed about 43 cents of every dollar spent. Which amounts to around 1.7 trillion for an annual expenditure of around 3.8 trillion despite the fact Congress has failed to pass an actual budget. If that doesn't sound too bad maybe breaking it down will help. Divide 1.7 trillion by 365 days and divide again by 24 (hours in a day) and that works out to the U.S. government borrowing over 190 million dollars an hour. Yep. An hour. Still not convinced of the magnitude of the insanity? Imagine you started a business the day Jesus was born and immediately began losing a million dollars a day. Your loses won't reach a trillion dollars until the year 2732.
Okay, this is gonna be real long if I keep going at this rate. Time to shorthand it. Don't worry about default if the debt ceiling isn't raised. (It will be.) Technically it ain't gonna happen--at least in the near term. Yes, the government will run out of money to pay for things it has chosen to take on as obligations but the only way it meets those obligations is by continuing massive borrowing. This year, depending on which government office's numbers you believe (no, they don't all agree) debt repayment will eat anywhere from approximately 17-20% of all revenues. That is with historic low interest rates. All the current blather over an extension of the debt ceiling is utterly irrelevant in the longer term--which may be as little as next week to a year or two, if that, because continued borrowing only digs the hole deeper. What matters is getting a handle on spending and addressing the need to cut deficit spending. (Sure, a failure to borrow more today would precipitate a crisis but it would be the sort of crisis that forced the government to spend less and make big, immediate cuts. More on that in a second.) (For those of you who insist the government can print money forever, well, yeah, they can but there are inevitable repercussions from doing so. Yes, the government could pay off almost any debt but it comes at a cost too. A brutal one at that for the average citizen. Wiki 'hyperinflation' or 'Wiemar Republic' or any of a number of financial collapses in Argentina in the last 60 years or so to see what happens.)
Here's the thing. We are already caught between a rock and a very hard place. GDP (gross domestic product) includes government spending. But 43% of all government spending isn't spending--it's the disbursement of IOUs. Last quarter's growth was first announced to be 1.8%. Yesterday that was revised to 0.4%. That means that there has been effectively no growth but it's worse than that. Remember 43% of government spending is debt disbursement and that amounts to around 12% of the calculated GDP. If deficit spending stopped tomorrow we would see that real GDP was well into negative numbers--and has been since 2008.
So if we stop the deficit spending cold turkey the economy takes a big hit that will drive further contraction (a shrinking tax base too) and produce considerable suffering likely for a few years. If we keep on the current course we will, sooner rather than later, reach the place where default is inevitable, the dollar will be virtually worthless and we will suffer the same pain, only worse and for longer--but we might be able to stretch the inevitable out a few years--max.
A middle course would be to make real and serious cuts in spending immediately--not the illusion of promising to do it 5 or 10 years down the road or halting the automatic increases and calling that cuts. And even that would create hardships but it might save the nation's credit rating, reassure international markets and help preserve what's left of the dollar.
What both parties are currently debating is a waste of time and breath. It's unserious and will see our rating downgraded almost immediately and the follow on from that could precipitate its own crisis--with, you guessed it, a similar outcome to the other scenarios. At some point the house of cards collapses. The only question is whether or not it's a controlled demolition or complete structural failure.
And it isn't just us. Euroland is in the boat next to ours and busy making their own mistakes. And conditions either here or there could send the cards tumbling for everyone. The window is open now and I would be very surprised if we got past 2013 before it all falls down. Happy happy joy joy

UPDATE: Sounds a lot what I suggested. From Moody's today--"Reductions of the magnitude now being proposed, if adopted, would likely lead Moody's to adopt a negative outlook on the AAA rating," the credit rating agency said in a new report. "The chances of a significant improvement in the long-term credit profile of the government coming from deficit reductions of the magnitude proposed in either plan are not high."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Future of Paintball?

No, probably not--the future of paintball, that is--but I wanted to grab your attention and shake you like a rag doll. No, you (yes, I mean you) didn't do anything--that I know of--to make me angry--but if instead I start talking about politicians, automatic weapons and steel-jacketed ammo the next thing I know jackboots will be kicking in my door and ruining what's left of a bad day.
Some days I decry the future of this stupid game and other days I mock the pitiful efforts made to save it and still other days I think I could have had a V8--and not one of the fruity ones either. Some of you will recall that a fairly concerted effort was once made to keep the milsim and paramilitary overtones of some elements of paintball out of the public eye like crazy uncle Harry locked in the basement when the neighbors dropped by for a visit. That day is over, both from the industry and at the retail level where a lot of paintball stores sell Airsoft side-by-side with their paintball gear. One upshot of that trend may have been the recent California bill aimed at toy guns that originally included paintball markers--and could again. While paintball dodged that bullet--this time--paintball is clearly headed down a path that will further entwine our game with guns of all sorts--and it won't be to paintball's betterment.
But that isn't what I want to rant about today. While paintball looks to relive the Vietnam experience (or D-Day or whatever) minus all the ugly and, you know, deadly parts for fun and recreation Hasbro & Nerf are flat ripping us off. No, I'm not kidding. Here's the deal: check it out. (Watch the short video.) Not convinced, try here. Or here. (Watch this video too.) Getting the picture? Hasbro has taken Nerf to the next level and they've done it by looking at tourney paintball and recreating a Nerf version currently aimed at kids. It's cheap. It's clean. It's easy to play and it might even be fun. And they've taken a giant step or two past that with an annual tour of event stops to play in regional events with a chance to win a trip to Disney's WWOS (Wide World of Sports)--you may have heard of it--for the annual championships and a chance for the winning team to take home 25 grr. The tour, btw, is the Dew Tour featuring a line-up of so-called extreme sports.
Dart tag regional events compete with the other sports on the Dew Tour with regional winners eligible for the championships in Orlando. They play inside inflated, netted arenas with inflatable bunkers, penalty boxes and referees and score points by capturing an opponent's nerf something and returning it to their Home base in a timed game that offers multiple breakouts. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, in paintball land after 20 years TV treats us like the hired help and our industry is all monkey see, monkey do without being able to agree on anything that might be in everyone's best interest all the while leaving a crumbling retail network to fend for itself.
Is nobody either ashamed or offended that Hasbro is kicking paintball's ass? Hasbro? And Nerf?

Of course, it also begs the question of whether dart tag and the other Nerf products are precursors--potential gateways to paintball--or, as silly as it may sound, the foundation of an easy to play, energetic, painless variant of tag that will pull potential paintballers away from paintball. And if nerf tag kids are potential future paintballers will anybody do anything about it or are we too far gone with our picatinny equipped replica AK-47s and battle vests to care?

H/T to Steve Davidson for bringing Nerf Dart Tag to my attention. Like there aren't enough things in the world that already aggravate me. Thanks, Steve. I owe you one and I will get even.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Monday Poll

Since last week's poll was such a big hit (/sarcasm) I've decided to do it again. Well, not exactly the same but something similar this week. But before I get started an amusing item came over the transom this morning from Mr. Simon Stevens, bigshot friend of VFTD and VP of making cool stuff at KEE--via Google+. (Plus what? New and improved illicit data mining from the corporate watchdog of our future Fascist overlords? Where do I sign up? Hive mind here I come!) He sent a link to a YouTube promo from the makers of Mortal Kombat: Legacy starring the E Vents. Not a great leap forward in connecting with the popular consciousness but fun nevertheless.
I've been trying to come up with some new feature ideas for VFTD and my favorite so far is to do reviews of other paintball websites. The very prospect makes me smile but I've decided to see what y'all think of the idea. It doesn't get any simpler than this poll. A simple yes or no will suffice. And if you vote yes and have any particular sites in mind post them up in comments. Obviously I'm aware of a goodly number of paintball sites but there's tons of them out there and if you have an obscure favorite or two pass them along. Think of it like a Michelin rating--a potential mark of distinction. "VFTD gave us three splats." "High praise indeed." Or, you know, it could go the other way.
For this sort of poll a failure to vote is a vote. It's a no vote because you couldn't be bothered to make two clicks of your mouse. And if nobody is interested I (probably) won't bother doing any reviews. Click or don't click. Slacker.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's totally self-serving poll was something of a disappointment. Not so much in terms of the results themselves but in the raw number of voters. Different polls attract different amounts of attention and this one was decidedly toward the low end. If twice as many of you had voted and returned the same results I wouldn't hesitate to go forward. As it stands I'ma have to think about it. The biggest issue will be unit cost at a run number I think might be reasonable given the level of interest. I'm not looking to make a bunch of cheese outta this but I'm also certainly not looking to lose my shirt either. (He said, brutally mixing his metaphors--and I think we all know just how painful that can be.) I'll let y'all know what I decide soon. Maybe test some sample ideas on VFTD's Facebook page. We'll see. To all those that voted, thanks, even if you were a hell no vote. And just for the record 70% of voters expressed an interest in one or more of the suggested options with T-shirts a 2:1 favorite. That same 70% preferring VFTD branded items over DPA by the same 2:1 ratio. The hard numbers of the seriously interested was also pretty high (40-50%) considering the threshold set.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Secret Meeting & Patents Rising

VFTD would like to congratulate the ProPaintball guys on their merger talk meeting story. Nice job. Because it was indeed a secret meeting despite the fact VFTD aluded to the fact it was happening a couple of weeks ago. Which reminds me: Almost any time some sort of sensitive info leaks into the public this site is assumed to be involved. Au contraire. If VFTD burned sources and/or broke promises Mr. Curious would quickly be out of business. And to prove it to y'all I'ma tell you something about the meeting you don't know.
Rumor has it that everyone involved signed a non-disclosure up front and if that is true then whoever passed information on to ProPaintball should oughta be mighty red-faced right about now assuming the details published by ProPaintball are accurate--something VFTD can neither confirm or deny. Next time some beans get spilled y'all might want to look a little closer to home.

As sensitive as the secret meeting was Mr. Curious has stumbled onto a rumor buried so deep in the industry's basement it was surely intended to never see the light of day. Assuming it's accurate. It is, in fact, so sensitive that VFTD isn't going to identify the company--but those of you not hopelessly out of the loop should know who is being referenced--and further no mention will be made of specific numbers.
Remember back in the day when Smart Parts was involved in one litigation after another mostly revolving around their ability to enforce certain patents? And the upshot was some sort of cross deal was made between SP & Dye & Angel (more or less) and everybody else ended up having to come to terms with SP and pay licensing fees in order to manufacture and sell electronic paintball markers. Or get out of the gun biz. Do you remember what happened to those patents? And do you remember a press release made regarding those patents?
Rumor has it that some gun makers have been approached and informed they will be required to pay a lump sum upfront plus a per gun licensing fee that is approx. 40% - 50% greater than SP ever demanded. (Inflation, I guess.) While the company is perfectly within its legal right to do so that would appear to contradict past public statements of intent. VFTD does not know how or if this rumor may affect any company that had agreed to terms previously with SP. In looking for additional and related info it seems that the duration of active patent protection (in this category) is twenty years which leaves a goodly number of years that the patents will remain in force--assuming annual maintenance fees are kept up to date.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is HydroTec (finally) Coming?

Mr. Curious went digging so deep for the latest rumorology he's still squinting at any hint of sunlight. And despite his best efforts he refuses to name certain names on account of his inability to confirm some of the details--though you may feel free to fill in the blanks--after all, it's not like Mr. C (or I) can stop you, right? In any event we will all discover relatively soon if the important part of today's post is correct, or not.
You may recall the fanfare and skepticism with which early reports of a largely water-based, new technology paintball were initially received last year and latterly the announced intention of a general release last fall--and the Paintball Extravaganza presentation, etc. Followed by delays in the actual roll out and distribution of the new paintball. The last official statements from HydroTec (and linked to on their website) came from a podcast interview on (BRWP) Blast Radius Woodsball Podcasts towards the end of May 2011. The word at that time was that issues with vendors & custom tooling, software, etc. had caused the delays but was largely resolved and they were 95% of the way to having their first production line operational. I mention it because it appears to lend credence to the claim that Mr. C ferreted out recently. That HydroTec will be putting paint on sale around the 15th of August. (After all the past delays it may be HydroTec is a bit gun shy about making a formal announcement too early but August 15th is less than a month away.)

The other half of what Mr. C dug up is the supposed "real" story behind the delays--and is, at this point, pure rumorology. In any event it's intriguing speculation and a glimpse into the sort of inside paintball shens that occur with perhaps more regularity than one might imagine. The story is that one of the principles at HydroTec , Mr. Ronnie Bayless , (and here the details get murky) was either still under contract or bound by the terms of a non-compete for work done as (an employee?) a contractor for one of the paintball giants, who might have objected and invoked the possibility of legal recourse. Mr. Bayless has had ties to the paintball manufacturing biz for many years first working for RP Scherer back in the early 90s. And the rest of the story is that the term of his contract/non-compete expire the first week of August.

Is HydroTec finally coming to market? Did the looming threat of a lawsuit delay the release or was it, as claimed, developmental delays as a new system was built from the ground up?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Putrajaya Cup

A VFTD first--back-to-back layout reviews. (And pretty much my work limit for the week on VFTD. Luckily Mr. C has come thru and will begin with the latest in rumorology tomorrow.) Today's layout is for event 5, the season finale, of MPOC, in Malaysia and came over the transom as a special request. Unfortunately the event is this coming weekend so there won't be a lot of additional practice time available. Best of luck to all the teams competing for a podium spot and a season title. (Ok, best of luck to all the rest as well. Don't want to leave anybody out.)

First off this is a, d'oh!, symmetrical design meaning each half and each side are mirrors of the other. It also means the lanes on the grid in orange and red apply to both halves of the field. (I didn't put them all in as it would have gotten muddled and confusing. Just keep in mind if it's a lane on the left, it's a lane on the right as well.) And even though crossfield shots exist with the M perpendicular to the baseline(s) the field will tend to play in halves; D-side & snake side. Given the symmetrical design that isn't particularly relevant on this field. What will be relevant are strong side and weak side considerations. Which side does a team normally commit three players to and which side do they leave with only two? First consideration is handedness. On a neutral layout most players and teams, if they think about it, will tend to want to play strong to their strong hand. This could easily end up in unbalanced halves of 3-on-2s OTB. Ideally however the goal is to kill somebody quick.

Which will be easier said than done given that Home is a SD (small dorito) offering only marginal cover that forces the laner to tuck in low. Add to that a number of the clean lanes (in orange) are tight and slightly misplaced props could block them completely. And the spacing between the corner MTs and snake insert aztecs (or S1, MD) give good odds of making the snake OTB if they mix up their breakouts well.

Some teams will keep extra shooters Home OTB despite the SD. You must keep them honest by countering that effort right away. The means to do so, and add some complexity and effectiveness to your OTB shooting lanes is close at hand. The Pins framing Home and the TCK in the center (in red squares) are made to order. While small and frequently tricky to play the Pins here are more useful than is often the case. Most of an opponent's likely primaries do not have angles on the Pins which allows a little more latitude in playing them--and getting out of them afterwards. They can be used to edge Home, to set up crossfield angles or to get an extra lane up OTB on that side of the field. I've included the center TCK because it offers variations of the same options that the Pins and also provides the best angle for gap control in denying rotation into one of the snake MDs. I would not consider it a consistent or frequent play, but, like the Pins, it's not as badly exposed as it might at first glance appear to be and does offer the immediate option of taking the M if you've cut down the wide player(s) on one side of the field.

Let's talk snake. Short snakes with dominant bunkers tend to bog play down. As do larger props in corners. The objective, whenever possible, should be to deny your opponent a move into the snake while you get in as soon as possible. The snake 50 has a large number of quality shots but is a high risk position. (See blue squares.) The issue is not only that it is dominated by the MDs, it is also proximate to the MDs and not easily defended. As such play is likely to break down to dueling doritos if both teams are in the MDs. The best way to make effective use of these snakes is keep the other guys out.

Ideally the best teams will play on their feet as much as possible with their guns up and rolling in an effort to dominate the first few seconds so they can move aggressively into high value primaries as quickly as possible. Barring that--such play requires first class gun skills and a commitment to execution--points could devolve into relatively slow affairs with players buried in the bricks and seeing no great advantage to making moves away from their corner fortresses.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2011 WCPPL Battle Royale

First, this is an excellent layout that should be fun for all skill levels while presenting the better teams with a real challenge as well. (Could it bog down? Yes, but only in games where teams are equally matched and equally timid. I'll say timid instead of what I'm thinking.) Team paintball or at least paintball in pairs will be at a premium on this field. (Let me take a second and explain what I mean by paintball in pairs. More often that not typical breakouts see two players committed to each side of the field--even when one stays Home to lane first--while the dedicated Home shooter is usually committed to one side or the other; strong side snake or D-wire. The most effective effort derives from the pair of players working together, playing off each other and the lanes Home is shooting to gain secondary positions and begin eliminating opponents. Too often, even in those basic situations players tend to play in isolation. Playing in pairs can limit the number of necessary gunfights and brings extra firepower to bear where and when its most effective, among other things.)

There's a lot to cover so most of this will be short on in depth details. If you have any questions post them up in comments. More DZ (dead zone) talk on playing the D-wire. Denying rotations on the D-wire or all out attack? Playing the center. When Home is only a TCK. Making the snake. The dominant early and mid-game bunker. Snake side DZ & when to use it. Whew!

The grey shaded areas are approximate zones where either the Home shooter or players wrapping the D-corner aztec of wire MT cannot see ... or shoot. Given that the only insert prop is a mini-race it can make the D-side breakout appear rather daunting. It doesn't need to be. With all the dead space there is no reason not to take advantage of the opportunity to shake thinks up on your opponents once in a while. This can assist in countering the Home shooter and/or allow an extra gun to be up laning. A further advantage is the player gets to "read" the breakout action and respond accordingly meaning the player isn't necessarily forced to commit to a predetermined primary but can "flow" as the unfolding action allows. Learn the field. Once you think you have it start again.

Most of the time the D-side is the weak side. Two players are committed to playing the D-side. A one man attack is high risk but if you want to have a gun in position to deny or slow down your opponents rotations wide or upfield what do you do? The green lanes on the grid show shooting lanes available to a d-side player trying to deny movement. If you push both D-side players to the wire quickly most teams seem to lose the ability to deny movement but it need not work out that way. When you are wide and your opponent isn't instead of having the lead wire player focus on inside and cross field eliminations--which is the norm--and instead have the lead focus on wrapping and denying rotation from an upfield position while the second wire player moves up looking for the inside shots. One standard alternative is to simply get upfield more quickly than your opponent. Some teams and players will attempt to counter with aggressive bunkering efforts, which is fine if you're prepared, but plenty of other teams and players, particularly divisional players, will hesitate and struggle afraid to get too close or not close enough. And the fact you already hold the superior position means they can't.

The center of the field is a must play--at least some of the time. In prepping to play the center however don't simply consider how you're going to get to a particular prop and who you hope to shoot from it. Take a few steps further. The cans can be pinched and the MD can be attacked directly. What do you do when the pressure starts to mount? Hope to get skinny and live as long as you can? Or maybe a better idea would be to move before it comes to that. But where? The other question is when do you use the center? Oftentimes center play can be conditional; shoot a wide runner OTB and move up field to cut down angles and reduce distances.

When Home is only a TCK do not let your opponent get comfortable. A lot of teams will struggle to keep two shooters alive if you attack them with edgers OTB. You should already know it's a fairly safe option from the D-side so what are you waiting for? (See the orange squares.) Teams that routinely keep players inside OTB have to be countered. Force them to change. You may discover they don't know how and one simple adjustment puts them in a world of hurt. (Of course y'all still have to be able to hit something and I've seen plenty of 12 and a half balls per second wizards who are more danger to their teammates OTB than the opponents. Go practice.)

Who can shoot the gap in front of snake 1? The insert TCK but if the paint isn't streaming it won't work because because the TCK can't see most runners coming. And can be pushed off his edge by the opposite corner aztec. How about the Can? (See purple square.) There's a lane but no telling until the field is set up how much of one. And, if you look closely you will see the Can can see the corner aztec but only part of the gap between the corner and snake 1. Struggling to get into the snake? Use the corner--push the Can off his edge--take the snake--and refill.

Why refill? Because the corner--especially when you don't have a mirror--is the most valuable bunker until the end game phase begins. It feeds the snake, can contest its mirror on an equal footing and dominate the opponent's TCK and 30 Can and even blind shoot the insert snake side MT. If you aren't in the corner you're at a disadvantage. Plenty of props offer some utility but not playing the corner puts you in a hole. (On the flipside kill the corner, deny the corner will be a very effective tactic.)

And finally, check out the red square. It's another DZ. Getting hammered by edgers you can't seem to compete with? Giving up the 30 Can all day and the guy never comes off his edge? This wide DZ could be the answer you need. Get out there quick--like you're taking the corner--but come up short, gun up, and shoot some fools. The edger will never see it coming and even if you trade out with the Can player he's no longer pinning your team to the back line.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Monday Poll

VFTD promised you a self-serving The Monday Poll--and when I say self-serving I mean one squarely aimed at the interests of VFTD, not you--and I am determined to deliver on that promise. Besides, a look at the news of the world this morning and a short respite from reality looks to be in order. For a look at the future of the U.S. & the dollar take a look at the Eurozone; Greece, Ireland & Portugal in particular then look at Spain & Italy and be grateful (while you can) that the dollar is the world's reserve currency--for now. The U.S. markets have all seen a 1%+ drop in early trading today and the money isn't going into Treasuries, it's going into gold & silver. The norm is bonds but the returns are below meager--and trust is faltering. Congress is gutless and the President is insane--or just plain stupid, or both. And the time is rapidly approaching when one unexpected gust could send the whole house of cards tumbling.
On the bright side The Monday Poll is back (for this week anyway.) This week VFTD wants to know if any of you lazy slackers would have any interest in stuff like VFTD (Deadbox Puppet Arny) branded T-shirts or headbands. Everybody does it (spin off products and/or promotionals) but it seemed like work so I dismissed the original thought immediately. Even so, it comes up every now and again (in the mailbag)--which I've mostly managed to ignore--but should there be any real interest I may be able, in the near future, to work something out--without much in the way of real work being involved. Otherwise, well, you know, it was never gonna happen. I expect a certain level of return on my time and labor investment and somehow a limited run of novelty T-shirts didn't sound like the best idea. However, with this poll I will leave the final outcome up to you, the lazy slackers, who manage, now and again, to stop by and read VFTD.
Please note the poll question asks if you would buy. I don't care if you'd be interested in thinking about maybe making a purchase. That my friends is the bottom line. Will I hold you to it? Of course not but I really am interested in how seriously you would consider such a silly purchase. You may, btw, choose more than one "answer" in this poll. You know what to do now. Vote!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Little Light Housekeeping

I'm taking a breather today from all the heavy topic stuff of the last few days. Partly because I've had my knuckles rapped with the ruler (again) (mostly for just generally pissing off certain people) and partly because Mr. Curious has a couple of revelations in the pipeline he's not ready to release just yet--some top secret industry shens is all he'll tell me. (I hope to have postworthy info next week.)
There will be a new The Monday Poll on Monday. It will be a completely self-serving poll.
VFTD will also have a report (and pics) next week on the crazy game Shoreline is running (Real Extreme Paintball) on some nameless Dalmatian coast island this weekend (even as I post.)
Requests have come in for a review of the upcoming WCPPL event layout and I'll try to post something during the weekend.
If you missed hearing the news CFP (Central Florida Paintball) received the (near?) unanimous support of the county commissioners at a hearing on the 12th of July which will allow the field to continue offering the best tourney fields in Florida to a lot of paintballers. Well done to all involved and a special thanks to everyone who supported CFP especially those able to appear at the hearing.
Finally VFTD would like to offer a belated thanks and welcome to the most recent recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army; CTTA Global, Patrick Sheegog & Gary Baum of who has recently posted some cool aerial footage of D-Day Oklahoma 2011. World domination is on the horizon. (Too bad I couldn't copyright the world domination schtick since everybody and his cousin Elmo has been ripping it off lately.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New NPPL Board Member Appointed

If you want the official story click on the title for a link to the NPPL's press release. I'm cranking this out in a hurry as I've put a bug in a few ears hoping to hear back on some of the details of this appointment--and perhaps some more merger talk rumors. And I want to get this written and posted before that information comes in--if it does--especially if any of it carries the caveat that it can't be discussed on VFTD.
First, the timing is exquisite--and leads me to believe a couple of things have happened recently. More when I can confirm. (I know, you hate the cryptic stuff, but it is what it is. You hate that expression, too. I know.)
Through some process that didn't include all the owners or their reps somebody at the NPPL added Rick Alessandri to the Board of Directors. Mr. Alessandri, who currently works for Univision, was a past VP at ESPN and Managing Director of the X Games though exactly when to when is unstated. Included are a couple of made up, crafted "quotes" about how Mr. Alessandri was instrumental in getting HB 2011 on ESPN3 and how excited Mr. Alessandri is to be in a position to assist the league to "new heights." Which, admittedly, sounds swell but what exactly does it mean?
Was Mr. Alessandri also instrumental in blowing off ESPN3 afterwards when they wouldn't pony up cash for more ESPN3 broadcasts? Is he in a position to help repair that decision? No doubt he knows a bunch of other peeps in the extreme sports biz and that's surely a plus and I'm glad he seems to have enough free time from his other jobs to help out--but help out exactly how? There's talk of being on the cusp of major growth and expanding the game of Paintball to new levels while taking it to new heights but for the life of me I can't make heads or tails out of that gibberish. But it sounds promising, doesn't it?
Could this be a good thing? Sure, but without any concrete details it's just a variation on the same old story. Fingers crossed and hope for the best, I guess.
And of course I can't help wondering what's in it for Mr. Alessandri. Is he just motivated by his love of paintball or is there something else? And if there's a payoff at the end of the rainbow why align with the NPPL? 'Cus those are the guys he knows?
I know, none of my cynicism matters if he comes through--whatever that hell that's supposed to mean--and it's true--but I can't help being curious particularly in light of other events this week.

[Disclaimer: first I heard of this was in today's press release email & and I know nothing about it other than was in the email. As noted above I hope to learn more and if I do I will update this post.]

UPDATE: The word is Mr. Alessandri approached the NPPL expressing an interest in continuing to work with the league and given his contacts it seemed a win, win sort of situation. I am informed Mr. Alessandri is not an owner and will function something like a headhunter, earning a piece of any deals he brokers. Which really would be a win, win for the NPPL if Mr. Alessandri has any success.

Btw, I still despise the practice of using press releases to say as little as possible while trying to blow smoke up my skirt, er, kilt. (Real men wear kilts.) I try not to take it personally but would really have been so difficult to simply tell the truth--gussied up a bit, of course. Oh, well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More MLP Merger Talk

Time for you kids to learn to read between the lines. The proverbial little bird has tweeted in Mr. Curious's good ear--he's deaf as a post in the other--and passed along some intriguing info. VFTD is not however gonna pass it along to you--hence why you need to learn to read between the lines.
There is no united PBIndustry front but active elements are once again pushing for the one league solution. As noted before without cooperation amongst the paint manufacturers each in turn is afraid to act unilaterally. Which is why NPPL 3.0 wasn't strangled in the cradle and why past leverage was applied to try and compel the leagues to sort things out amongst themselves. (Which they did once. Just before Pacific Paintball declared bankruptcy. General terms were agreed to over a weekend. On Monday Pacific called it quits. Or something quite like that.)
Assuming there's renewed dialogue what are the pros and cons of the leagues making some sort of deal. (Btw, VFTD is assuming the future one league would be the PSP with the NPPL merging and not the other way round.)
The NPPL owners, however many of them there are now--is it over 20?--get a piece of a viable national tournament series with the world's most prestigious event in a format played virtually everywhere else in the paintball world. But only a piece. Certainly a non-controlling piece at that but one that is likely to include the so-called place (or places) at the table as might be agreed upon. So they get a real stake and a real voice.
What do the NPPL owners lose? Control over their own tournament series.
What do NPPL owners bring to the table? They are going to claim they bring years of experience in dealing with potential outside sponsors, lots of contacts, the HB venue and a significant number of pro teams. They in fact bring the pro teams--a number of whom do not play the format. As to the rest what value does one assign years of failure? And as for the beach venue if there is no NPPL the date is open. If there is a NPPL the lack doesn't seem to have been too difficult for the PSP to overcome in the past.
What does the PSP bring to the table? The more popular format. The larger series. The World Cup. Superior leadership and staff with a history of getting the job done. General organization from Raehl's APPA to Tim's reffing program. A viable tournament series.
What does the PSP lose? Current owners may lose some of the value of their share(s). Take on new partners who may prove to be divisive. (Too many chefs and all that.)
What does the PSP gain? Unified industry support and at least a temporary monopoly on national events. A significant number of pro teams highly motivated to help make the league succeed.
That's a major over-simplification but you get the idea. There could be something in it for both sides if rational and appropriate terms can be agreed to. (I figure it's ten to one against.)

Is a merger the be all, end all that fixes all competitive paintball's ills? No, but it could be the move that gets us a little closer.
And just to show y'all my heart is in the right place I'ma tell you how to make this work. (Which is probably the kiss of death.) There are seven shares split among the PSP owners today. One of those belongs to a giant of the PBIndustry. That industry member "sells" its share to the NPPL. The result A) gets a major industry player out of the tournament business, and B) doesn't dilute the value of the existing shares. The "cost" is nominal, the industry player favors the merge and buys a lot of general goodwill in the process. The PSP then restores HB as the season's lead off event but with a twist. The logistics of trying to put on a full fledged PSP event on a prestige beach are (almost) certainly a losing proposition. However, retaining the showcase value of the event would be the perfect bookend to WC. So split the difference and offer a capped event designed to showcase world class competitive paintball. And return to five seasonal events. Maybe it's just the pros, D1 & D2 in limited numbers. Whatever works. But if it is restricted that's all the more motivation for up and coming teams to meet the requirements and be included.
One league supported by a united industry is far better positioned to weather the current tough times than two leagues with split support.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Buy the Numbers?

A metaphoric rock, with a note attached, was lobbed--again metaphorically--through my front window claiming VFTD is biased in favoring the PSP. (The claim was in the note, not the rock.) It suggested that even if I criticized everybody I still liked the PSP best. (boo hoo, boo hoo) And went further to suggest I was helping in holding the NPPL down when I should acknowledge the inevitability of the 7-man future 'cus the numbers were (are) going up, attesting to the health & vitality of 7-man whereas the PSP is the league in decline. (That's the short version. The actual missive was mostly text speak and half-formed thoughts and if there was an ap for it I'm sure it would have had tear stains on it.)
As to the charges: yes, I prefer xball--even the watered down version we're currently playing. Yes, I criticize everybody, mostly, and mostly they all deserve it--at least when I do it. No, I'm not holding anybody down. For example, in Chicago VFTD had nothing to do with the shortage of refs, the placement of the fields, the bikini contest, the delay in posting scores or players (kinda, sorta, not really) headbutting one another.
Now that my crimes have been dealt with let's get to the interesting stuff. Is national 7-man on the rise and is the PSP in decline? Maybe, but probably not & yes. But of course the numbers game is dependent on which set of numbers one chooses to examine. If, for example, all the national 7-man results were included in the data set the current state of the NPPL would look bleak indeed compared to the peak years--much worse in fact than the PSP. But since this is a new NPPL (3.0) we're only looking at the numbers generated by this version of the league and even then it's hardly robust or indicative of growth. In 2009, the USPL year, the league averaged 64 teams an event not counting the Pros. [As stakeholders in the ownership of the league I'm considering their contributions as operating funds & investment as opposed to income generated by paying/participating teams. And while the same isn't true in the PSP as a matter of numbers I left the PSP pro teams out of the numbers as well.] In 2010 that average went up to 66 teams per event. [Participation totals in the NPPL 3.0 were calculated from info available at the NPPL website, npplnetwork website & Warpig via schedules, prelim scores and rankings. All PSP numbers came from APPA.] Through two events so far in 2011 the NPPL average is 85 teams. That number is however, somewhat misleading as it is skewed by the league's best attended event, HB, and only one other event. Further suggesting the numbers will even out over the season is that while the HB turnout was up slightly (less than 10) the Chicago turnout was on par with past second events. If DC is consistent with past DC turnouts then the reasonable expectation is that 2011 will look very much like '09 & '10 before it. And in the present economic environment there are worse things than stability and/or consistency--assuming the league isn't operating in the red.
If we were to look at the entirety of the PSP's numbers we would discover, in the old NPPL prior to the separation, a rising trend from the late 90's that peaked, in real numbers, at the last 10-man led World Cup. With the transition to Xball numbers dipped and then began to rise again until the economic downturn which saw participation numbers begin to decline again. Over the last three (2 and a half) seasons the PSP saw a precipitous drop between 2009 and 2010. In 2009 the average turnout was 193 teams per event. [Let's backtrack for a moment into 2008. It was the last year with 5 events and the average was 185 teams per event counting all five. If the fourth event is removed from the calculation the number jumps to 201. A case can thus be made that '09 saw an improvement over '08 or at worst a modest decline. It might be enlightening to review the changes made between the '08 & '09 seasons as in the first case the league temporarily reversed the decline and the second case suffered a significant loss. Just a thought.] In 2010 the PSP's average was 142. So far in 2011 it's 130. As the 2011 numbers were likely somewhat misleading in the NPPL's case they are also probably misleading here as well. The reason is that in direct comparison of event to event from last year to this both of this year's PSP events are up (slightly) over last year's individual event numbers. Remember, the PSP numbers don't include pro turnout to keep the comparisons equal even though the PSP pro teams do add to the league's revenues.

Do you buy the numbers? It's clear to me the NPPL turnout isn't going anywhere in any significant way despite the incomplete '11 numbers. And only time will tell if the PSP's decline is stabilizing. In raw numbers the PSP still holds better than a 2 to 1 advantage in participation over the NPPL. So there you have it: another case of poor old Baca holding an MLP series down. Strong like bull.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Major League Counterfactual

Much has been at various times about what could, would, should, ought or might happen if major league paintball returned to one league. The predominant opinion since double digit growth stopped cold is that the industry can't support more than one league--despite the fact they continue to do so (after a fashion) and after they (the Industry) refused to take the matter into their own hands when they could have (by refusing to do business with the upstart NPPL 3.0 & by intimidating their sponsored teams to knock it off--or else.) Of course at the same time all the big players are fearful of the double cross--or any situation where a significant competitor may gain an upper hand. So there may be talk of cooperation but it never pans out because each in their turn trust only that the next guy will screw them whenever possible. Nor do they want to get out in front of any such maneuver just in case it goes south and they end up the new Smart Parts as everyone's favorite whipping boy.
Back when the leagues first separated there was considerably more support for the idea of two leagues but there was also a seemingly endless supply of optimism about the future that appeared, to the players at least, to be a win, win all the way around. Two leagues drove each other to be better, to compete for the players' dollar in a way that had never existed before with the end result two leagues offering superior events to anything experienced before. Nobody was concerned about supporting two leagues--they were flush with players playing five events each season--and the principle drama of the day was the Race 2 TV. Who would win? Who would leave the other in the dust?
Opinions (regarding major leagues) it seems are conditional, based on arguments that may (or may not) have much to do with observable reality. Opinions that are the result of some depth of empirical consideration. (Everything from the often shallow repetition of the conventional wisdom to a more measured, considered point of view.) Times change, opinions change. Regardless, opinions are about what is. Counterfactuals are about what might be. Think of it as a What If?

What if the NPPL closed shop tomorrow? What if the PSP called it a day and canceled the remaining scheduled events? What if both of them decided they couldn't continue?
Okay, NPPL 3.0 is kaput. What does the MLP landscape look like? A half dozen or more Pro teams disappear too. 7-man is only played in a few local/regional tourney series. Nobody pushes the idea of a national 7-man series anymore. Half the tourney players competing didn't play when 7-man existed as an MLP series. Industry support for the PSP takes a modest bump up. The Big Guys aren't paying any more and the small industry players continue to struggle to make vendor appearances profitable. Team turnout improves less than industry support. Maybe ten percent. [Remember: it's not a matter of teams moving over. It's a question of teams forming in the first place.] Without the NPPL the PSP is in marginally better shape, may or may not have made the same rules changes, and while the affiliates effort is somewhat more advanced the league still struggles with how (or if) to transition to a new revenue stream(s) and/or expand their existing revenue streams. The economy doesn't improve but the news isn't all gloomy. The Outdoor Channel is looking into a Tippman-sponsored show covering the UWL (and their new Tippman division) and a recent pit clearing brawl from the latest PSP webcast uploaded to YouTube has attracted the interest of a Fox producer. The NFL lockout continues. (Isn't this fun?)

There is no PSP. The NPPL is achieving participation levels similar to what a stand alone PSP would be getting. There was a decent numbers bump of crossover when the PSP folded but the same issues continue to plague the NPPL, like reffing. And along with the general economic malaise the overall trend is slow attrition. [This counterfactual assumes the two leagues coexisted for some time otherwise there wouldn't be a 7-man format. Without Xball there was no reason to move away from 10-man.] When the PSP folded a number of regional Xball leagues popped up. Most continue to struggle but a few have taken hold. There has been talk, initiated by the AXBL of the various Xball leagues participating in a co-sponsored national tournament but even as it has created a strong buzz nothing concrete has happened. Despite proclaimed satisfaction from the network the webcasts have not extended beyond the ESPN3 showcase. The league recently announced a contest looking for cheerleaders.

See how it works? I've kind of approached these versions tongue-in-cheek ('cus it's more fun that way) but one of the virtues of the counterfactual is that it can open up one's thinking and the blending of facts and past trends with hypothetical situations can alter perspectives and help the "observer" to see what's really there and (perhaps) what really matters--and maybe, just maybe, what the future could bring.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Prospects (and Politics) of MLP

That would be major league paintball (MLP) to the uninitiated. Here at VFTD even my fingers are lazy so I abbreviate most anything and everything one time or another. Following on yesterday's post I want to look at the (potential) ramifications of the current political track represented by the EPBF & some hypotheticals of what a merger (or the collapse of one league or the other) would really accomplish. (Both of which are far more interesting than any merger talk alone.)
But first a brief history reminder to put our speculation into context. About the time (a few years ago) when a resurgent NPPL was openly contemplating creating a European NPPL both the MS & PSP considered it beneficial to align their interests. Included in that dialogue was a minor item called the UPBF. (Minor from the PSP's point of view, not so much the other way around.) From those alignment efforts came a new format--for the MS (and eventually the PSP), general plans to slowly integrate the offerings from each league and lay the foundation for a world federation--along with all the smaller pieces of such a puzzle like national federations & the EPBF (which might someday be matched by the NAPBF, for example.) [Back then I objected on principle concerned that ultimately the PSP would end up more like the MS than the other way around. And, predictably, I was correct.]
During the intervening years elements of the MS and European paintball have continued to move forward to gain international recognition via the organizational structures they are putting into place. Not long ago outreach into Asia has gained some momentum with stronger ties between the MS & PALS along with the formation of the MPBL. Before that inclusion into the last World Games (2009)--where odd sports go that don't make the Olympics--as a demonstration sport was heralded as a great success and a step forward toward an Olympic future. (To date, very few--I know one--sports have made the crossover from WG to Olympics & the IOC has capped participant numbers making the future inclusion of new sports problematic.) And over the recent 4th of July weekend the EPBF celebrated perhaps its greatest success to date with the Nation's Cup event tacked onto Campaign Cup. Step by step the forces behind the international federation movement are making progress. In the recent VFTD post, The EPBF Strikes Back, one comment in particular offers insight into the federationist's thinking.

The comment as follows:
--"Very surprised by some comments from people which never travel outside US!
No doubt today, Millennium is by far the best series in the world in many ways. Organization, scheduling, atmosphere, reefing... (i am not even speaking about how cheap is the Millennium entry fee compare to the states)
Funny that no one see the work achieved by the millennium in most European countries. Do you American realize how strong is tournament paintball today in Europe! Just try to figure out how many European teams are competing today all over Europe and how many professional paintball sites are existing!
Do you even know that the EPBF and others confederations like the APPBF have been created to bring the sport to the Olympic games!
Do you even know that Paintball is going to be part of the World Games?
( ).
Already in 2009, Paintball was part as of the world Games in Kaohsiung as performances sports ( For your knowledge, Germany won the title ).

According to me EPBF for sure will be successful and will drive the future of Paintball.

By the way, even if some Millennium Board Members are among the executive committee, most of the members are president of Federations.
Just to finish. The EPBF president which has been elected is Laurent Hamet and for your knowledge he did in the last 15 years more things for Tournament Paintball than anybody in the Paintball world by just creating:
Quality events (Toulouse World cup in 1992 which became quickly a worldwide standard ).
7 man format
The millennium series
Xball light (race 2 format). He wrote the rules.
and now the EPBF and UPBF.
Watch out! A new era in Paintball is coming!

VFTD is not ideologically opposed to the UPBF and I certainly don't care what Europeans choose to do with European paintball but as a happening fait accompli I am concerned that North American paintball will someday (perhaps soon) discover that international paintball forms & norms are a done deal we either align with or choose to go it alone. Is that a big deal? Probably not. Will it change the competitive paintball experience over here? Cooperation with the MS already has. (I couldn't have said it better myself.) Watch out! A new era in paintball is coming!

Okay, I'm running way long so tomorrow VFTD will take a look at some MLP counterfactuals--just for fun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rumor du Jour: PB Makers Push Merger

This was the perfect time to drag out this hoary old chestnut 'cus otherwise I had nothing. (Title is link to ProPaintball story. Thanks, guys!) This particular rumor is fast becoming a tourney paintball tradition, like watching the annual broadcast of 'A Christmas Story' or 'It's a Wonderful Life' during the holidays. Oddly, it seems the less likely it is to be true the more credence it gets from the riff-raff. (That would be you people.) The first couple of times the rumor made the rounds it was both quasi-true and quasi-believable. You see, once upon a time (around the time the talk of NPPL 3.0 rising Phoenix-like from the ashes of Pacific Paintball's bankruptcy began to entice a number of pro teams) the paint giants very likely could have enforced a one national league only policy. They had grumbled about it before but nothing ever came of it because they (the paint giants) were also locked in competition amongst themselves and none of them trusted the others enough to believe any bargain made would hold. (Probably because they were all trying to figure out to gain an advantage in the process.)
When this rumor first appeared the paint giants also had something they don't have anymore. Leverage. Okay, they have some but nothing like what they once had because their leverage was predicated on cash money. You see, the price of doing business has changed. Back in the (hay)day the paint giants took loses to be showcased at the biggest events and considered it part of the cost of doing business. Not so much anymore. Not that they're making money at the big events but how much it costs them matters now. As does how much they are willing to pay for the privilege. Back when the paint giants were putting six figures plus into a league they had (some) leverage. Today, not so much. They pay considerably less and consequently have less leverage.
Keep in mind they (paint giants) continue to compete against each other, too. If giant B sponsors league X now giants A & C have to decide if they need to counter that effort. That is a difficult environment in which to agree on much of anything.
Interestingly enough there is one place the paint giants retain very serious leverage and that is with sponsored teams. Despite the fact most teams get less paint than used to be the case it is of critical importance to the survival of many teams. The downside the paint giants would face to throwing their weight around with sponsored teams is that many teams participate in one league only and those that get more exposure by playing more are at a premium. The trend has been less about controlling who plays where than it has been maintaining a portfolio of teams for the least amount of sponsored paint.
There have also been times when the leagues were serious about possible mergers. That seems less likely as well because the core question is what does each side bring to the table? NPPL 3.0 doesn't offer much other than demands. It doesn't bring the dominate format. Or truckloads of the infrastructure of putting on a traveling tournament. Or ranks of loyal teams. Or an infusion of cash. Mostly it would bring a bunch of teams that feel entitled to a piece of the pie. Would the PSP be better off after merging with the NPPL?

Is it possible some of the big industry players are grousing again? You betcha. Does it mean anything? Not much. Is it possible a league has been making discreet inquiries about the possibility of discussing a merger? It's happened before. Is there a chance something will come of it this time around? (If there is a this time around.) I don't see it happening because I don't see how the pieces fit together beneficially for all concerned. Still, this Paintball and stranger things have happened.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Gonna pass me a brand new resolution
Gonna fight me a one man revolution

The Monday Poll is on hiatus

Heck, I'm not even gonna bother with a review of last week's poll. There were so few votes most of you probably don't even know what last week's poll topic was. And rather than continue to fight an uphill battle I'm putting The Monday Poll on hiatus. Think of it as an open-ended vacation--like when your boss laid you off--except The Monday Poll won't be collecting unemployment. VFTD welcomes any and all alternative suggestions for a regular Monday feature or future The Monday Poll topics. Until next time, hasta la vista.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Real Extreme Paintball

The notion that competitive paintball is an extreme sport is, of course, utter nonsense. It first gained currency during the Second Great Push--after the league(s) split and both were hard charging after the almighty TV dollar. X-Games & paintball is a perfect match. 'Cus, you know, paintball is an extreme sport. Gravity Games and paintball is a perfect match. Etc. (The First Great Push dates to the mid-90s--if you build it TV will show up--when the mythic pallet field was built near the orange grove and ESPN came and filmed a goofy hybrid game--designed just for TV--that promised to launch the future of competitive paintball. Until Jerry Braun decided he could push around a TV network with threats of litigation--and we continue to enjoy the occasional webcast to this day. The only extreme back then was shortsightedness.) What might have been the start of the Third Great Push--the NPPL's webcast on ESPN3--seems to have flared with the hype and fizzled in reality.
But forget about all that. It has nothing to do with real extreme paintball. Of course the paintball part of real extreme paintball is also something of an afterthought. Not that the paintball is unimportant, it isn't. But it isn't the paintball that makes it extreme--it's the conditions under which the game will be played. Rather like the Germans' extreme ironing. Ironing itself isn't particularly extreme but when it's done on a mountain top with minimal climbing gear or while plummeting towards terra firma after having leaped out of an airplane it becomes considerably more extreme than the norm. And it's nothing like French extreme disdain which can be practiced and mastered most anywhere. More along the lines of an extreme Bridge foursome wearing hats made of raw meat playing cards inside the great cat enclosure at Busch Gardens.
About now you're beginning to think I've slipped over into extreme hyperbole--and I don't blame you--but you are mistaken. Consider the following sentence pulled without modification or omission from a recent press release: "In the event of a death on the island, we'll pause the game." Jolly decent of them I say. IN THE EVENT OF A DEATH ... It doesn't get much more extreme than that, does it? And as if contemplating one's demise while preparing to play a game wasn't bad enough here is how that paragraph closes: "Please ensure that your medical insurance is up to date to cover these costs in the event of your death." It proceeds to ramble on about the procedures to be followed should a severe injury require evacuation from the game zone by air.
The game in question--as you may have guessed--is the latest exploit from the producers at Shoreline. (Press release is here and a general interest link is here.) VFTD has mentioned these crazy gents before because when they offer a scenario it just may be a unique, one-of-a-kind, pull out all the stops extreme paintball game. This latest will take place on an isolated island along the Dalmatian coast featuring WWII era submarine pens and a full weekend's game that promises to be unlike any other paintball experience ever.
As most of you know VFTD is no fan of reenactment style milsim scenario games but what Shoreline does with its extreme games is echo a siren call to adventure as it simultaneously issues a challenge to all men to cast off modern comforts and ease and embrace the raw and visceral demands of a more primitive time. There is no denying it has a certain appeal--just as there is no denying it comes with a potentially high price tag. (Not to mention the actual price tag that only begins with a trip to Croatia to rendezvous with a ferry.) If real extreme paintball is what you want, look no further--and don't look back. If mastering the game of paintball is what you seek you need look no further than competitive paintball.

Friday, July 1, 2011

(Rumored) Mass D1 Exodus to the Pros

ProPaintball posted the original rumors earlier in the week. (Link in the title.) Just another example of the dangers posed by swilling Four Loco if you ask me. (Assuming there's anything to the rumors.) If you guessed that I'm unlikely to make any new friends among the ranks of the D1 teams with this post you're probably correct. And I'm only tackling this topic because there are a couple of interesting (related) issues in play that I really want to discuss. From a purely selfish point of view I say the more the merrier. Come on, kids, go for it. The truth is none of them have demonstrated any potential for competing on the pro level--and when I say compete I mean compete, not just show up and get your ass handed to you over and over. Can that be a learning experience? Sure it can but no where is it guaranteed, especially in the pro division, that lessons learned necessarily translate into improved players or teams.
But let's back up for a second and define being competitive. Is it simply showing up and taking your lumps? I don't think so (and it's a subject I'll be returning to shortly.) Is it earning the respect of your fellow competitors? Or proving you belong? And if so, then how does one go about doing that? Is a team competitive that always finishes in the bottom half? In tournament paintball the measure of a team's merit has always been about playing on Sunday, moving beyond the prelims and playing for a chance to win. So check out the teams in the Pro division and see who is making Sunday more often than not. They definitely belong. Apply the same principle to D1. For some of the teams its their first year at D1. A couple of them jumped from D3. But there's more to it. Divisional play is also where you (better) learn how to win. If you look at the current D1 ranks only one team has any consistent history of winning. (Notice how good a job I'm doing not naming names. Frankly I don't need the grief. And I haven't used the expression "sucks" once. Yet.) The other factor at play is that the old APPA classification system as applied to the PSP intentionally dumbed down the upper divisions of play with the greatest impact on D2 & D1. (I wrote about this extensively back in 2008 & 2009. The Logan's Run series of posts wouldn't be a bad place to start if your interested.) The fact is the general level of play in both D2 & D1 have yet to recover and as a consequence aren't as difficult as they once were--at least at the top of the bracket(s). The divide between the pro ranks, by and large, and D1 is greater today than it's been in years. And then there's this other thing: nobody on a D1 team who isn't already ranked pro or semi-pro (does that still exist?) has a clue whether or not they are capable of playing at that level--and no, your friends, family and teammates opinions don't count 'cus they don't know any better than you.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to what I called back in 2006 The Era of the Pro Loser. (Link is to Dead Tree Archive.) When Pro teams began to play only Pro teams it significantly changed the dynamic on a lot of "Pro" teams and altered forever the perceptions of the Pro teams in the eyes of divisional players and fans. It also introduced a concept, that as yet bears no real significance, but will the day after money turns competitive paintball into a sport. (Should such a day ever come.) And that concept is parity.
Once upon a time Pro teams proved themselves by routinely devouring the lesser ranks in preliminary play so that what happened head-to-head seldom affected the general perception of a given Pro team. After all, they crushed everybody but the other Pros. Sure, fans would make distinctions between Pro teams but not like they do today. And, as a consequence, the Pro teams of yesteryear didn't view themselves entirely through the lens of Pro-to-Pro only competition either. Middle of the pack Pros were perfectly respectable because they were acknowledged to be better than Joe Average (and Joe Am.) They proved it every tournament with rare exceptions.
Today's Pro environment is a considerably harsher place. Not only are many Pro players perceived differently they inevitably begin to perceive themselves differently too. And the reason for both these changes is losing. In a closed division when somebody wins, somebody else loses. (Brilliant, I know!) But it is particularly telling amongst the pro ranks because there is no where else to go and in the same way winning breeds success so too losing breeds failure. It is psychologically bruising and will tear a team apart faster than anything other than their bankroll disappearing. It's different for every player but there is a finite window in which to succeed before the player becomes damaged goods. It's why some older (not to say over the hill) players stick around. It's why teams bring in fresh blood. It's why teams with well regarded players never get over the hump. Losing takes it's toll. It's why every D1 team contemplating making the big move needs to think long and hard before making that commitment. Any team that makes the move before they learn how to win is stacking the odds in favor of failure. Any team that makes the move without internal and external leadership, confidence & determination is almost doomed to fail. Bravado is not confidence and there is no replacement for winning. Every player and team that steps up to the Pro challenge always says they are prepared to learn the necessary lessons the hard way but I would bet good money that most of them are utterly clueless. If I were counseling D1 teams on how to handle their bidness--and I am--I would strongly encourage every team learn the lessons that can be learned in D1 first and position yourselves to succeed as best you are able because once you make the move the clock starts ticking on your dreams. And the odds are you will fail.