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.


Anonymous said...

I would agree with you but once in awhile you see something crazy happen. Point in case, Uprising and or Naughty Dogs. Both were for all intents and purposes d1 or semi pro teams at best. Uprising impressed us with a 3rd place showing this season, and Dogs did the same last year. It wasn't consistent..but then again neither are many of the pro teams these days.

Anonymous said...

Baca said,
Anon, really? Naughty Dogs? Where you been the last decade?

Dan said...

I haven't been around the sport long enough to know what Xfactor did before they went pro. did they dominate? Did Damage? CEP? Apparently they want their chance, and Uprising demonstrated that its possible to compete, and maybe win. Remember how close they were from getting to that 1/2 game. perhaps they are the exception. I say let them move.
The move is good for the pro bracket (though maybe not the new guys), good for D1, D2, and the teams forced into D2 at the end of this year.

Anonymous said...

Baca said,
Dan, you ignorant slut. A) 7-man isn't xball. B) Doing well once is meaningless. C) The goal isn't to belong, it's to win.

How is such a move good for the pro bracket? Good for D1? Or D2? And forcing teasms not ready to make the move is what created the "quality" gap in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the dogs of last year were not the dogs of yester-year. Even then they were not consistent.

Dan said...

Its good for the pro division in that it thins out the bottom feeders. if there more teams to lose, then there are also more teams to win. Wouldn't you rather have had something closer to the Russian pre-lims rather than yours?
The gap is shifted from D1-pro to bottom pro-top pro. Someone has to be the Detroit Lions.

That allows teams to move up through D3. 3-4 D2 teams move into D1, and 4-8 D3 teams to D2 (Mine must be one of them, we will have no choice). The point is the system is designed to push teams upward, there is no preventing that. Any team could win d1 for two years solid and not be ready. Nothing can prepare you for pro other than playing it.
I know all too well that 7man isn't xball, However that's what these teams play.If there is a move, it isn't moving from D1 xball to 7man pro. no one though Xfactor could win anything their first year out, and they did.
Let them take their shot. one of 3 things will happen. They'll tank and rescind back to D1, they'll tank and stay, becoming prelims fodder like before, or they'll compete.
Right now its Dynasty and Russians up top. and CEP/Vicious at the bottom. then everyone else in between. you don't think even a little that any of those teams could compete with The bottom,or middle of the pack? and C you're putting words in their mouths. Your goal is to win you've been there for a few years. you're expected to win... If it were my first year in pro, I'd only want to not make a fool of myself. Winning comes as a result of the process. Some are different than others.
And If doing well once is meaningless, so is doing poorly once. that make Uprising even at this point.

Anthony Murphree said...

There's just not enough turn over in the pro league to keep teams from having to move up as a whole team. If more older players were leaing, there would be room for a few divisional players to join established pro teams each season. Until there are a lot more pro teams, this won't happen. There's a reason all the "real" sport's leagues have about 30 teams. That seems to be the magic number for parity. (Salary caps help too, but that's probably something we'll never have to worry about in paintball) Would you say that Jacob Edwards, Keith Brown, or the guys that the Ironmen brought up last year are that much better than every player on CEP or Vicious? I would say no. The difference is they joined teams where they could learn from guys who have been playing for a long time. It makes all the difference. But until we have enough teams in the pro division to make that a viable option we'll have to allow whole D1 teams to come up and get stomped, or resign ourselves to a 10 team pro division.

Anonymous said...

Baca said,
Dan, somebody already is the Detroit Lions. There is zero value to adding inferior teams to the pro bracket other than to allow a clearer distinction between the good pro teams.
Not only is there also zero value to forcing teams up the ranks, it is downright destructive and partly responsible for the PSP's current predicament. Only dominating teams should be forced by rule to move up. Leave the rest of them alone. No amount of experience will ever make a middle of the pack D3 team a D2 team and there's no reason to push them were their own skill won't take them. And dumbing down the divisions doesn't fill them up, it destroys them--as I have demonstrated in the past.
As to what you think you would do or be satisfied with--it's simply a recipe for failure. At the risk of drawing the ire of the Vicious camp the path you espouse is precisely where they find themselves now. They are close to the breaking point. If they cannot get over the hump to Sunday play--and it's harder than ever to reach--the losing will catch up. And Vicious made the move better prepared than most. If they go two full seasons w/out a Sunday when do they stop believing?

Or you could be patient and wait for the lower divisions to rebuild. For the most part the current classification system isn't coercive and will allow teams to find their natural place in the grand scheme of competition--and in time teams that dominate a stable D1 will be as prepared as possible to make the move up.

But if the rumored crowd were to make the move for next year not only will most of them be completed unprepared they will also trash a rebuilding D1 division. And contrary to Dan's apparent belief failed teams don't return to their last successful level, they just disappear.

Anonymous said...

You wound me, sir.

Reiner Schafer said...

Damn Baca, you make a lot of sense.

Anonymous said...

I know its been mentioned before but what about Xfactor? They made Sunday their first pro psp tourny, won HB in their first pro NPPL tournament, and won Chicago while still in their first year of pro. They went from D3 to D1 to pro. My question is how do you know whether one of these D1 teams thinking about moving up will not be the next Xfactor? They very well may be and surprise everyone or they may fall flat on their faces. No one will know for sure until they move up and actually play pro.

Baca said...

Nothing in post or comments aimed at you unless you really are thinking of making the move based on one event result. Of course after the next two, depending on how things turn out, it might be as good a time as any--for your guys--but not for 5 or 6 teams.

Last Anon,
Let's talk X-Factor as they are practically poster children for what I'm suggesting. They played 5 D3 events and won 3. They played 8 D1 events and played for first 5 times, winning three. They won a PSP in their fifth event having entered pro mid-season the year before.
So they skipped D2. What they didn't skip was establishing a winning tradition within a cohesive unit that learned the hard lessons on the way up together.
And despite all that success the team still broke down and is only in the last few months to a year coming back together as mostly that original team.

How do I know one of these teams thinking about moving up will not be the next X-Factor? Because only one of them has anything like the old X-Factor pedigree and I've watched them play.