Yes, we're thrilled with the win in Jersey. The guys played great (for the most part) and we now have the rest of the season to live up to our standards. Thanks too to all the well wishers. Now to the rest of the story.
The venue was somewhere in north/central New Jersey and continued the by now well established pattern of hiding major league tournament paintball in plain site, er, sight. There was a giant Howdy Doody-looking figure out front but nary a sign for paintball or a PSP logo large enough for anybody not trying to find the place to notice. (I'm also not sure such efforts really make much if any difference anyway but I continue to hear about it from some peeps who consider it a failure of both imagination and to adequately promote events.) There was some talk prior to the event that the area we would be playing on was heavily overgrown and would needed to be cut down (or cut out) of the lushly wooded and verdant countryside. If that's what they did they did a good job of it. The fields weren't pristine but then they never are. (The NXL played a couple of years at Disney--yep, Disney--House of the Mouse--with green mats covering drainage grates on the field.) Our field was fine and the paint trucks were close. What else do you need? The vendors were arrayed in lozenge-shaped semi-circles around the entrance and I, for one, appreciate the fact the PSP didn't create a maze of vendors we were forced to walk through to get to the fields. (Can you say, Phoenix?) They were handy if you wanted to check them out but we weren't driven like a herd of cattle past them one by one. A good--and fair--impression of the venue can be seen in the Gary Baum aerial photo PSP events is using on their front page--oops, they've substituted that photo--(which you can probably see at PaintballPhotography)--with a photo of the winning team. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Once again the PSP provided a live webcast hosted by Matty Marshall & Friends and once again--except for some occasional weather-related difficulties--was a smashing success that enabled fans from around the world to tune in and watch the action. Always a good thing for competitive paintball so thanks to the PSP for making it possible--along with Patrick S. and the rest of the technical crew. Which is all well and good but I'm curious about a couple of things. Even with a reduced presence and fewer cameras, etc. it must still be a significant expense, right? Is it being underwritten by any particular sponsors? If you matched up the co-hosts with their employers or primary sponsors it seems to make sense--with one glaring exception. As I said, I'm just curious.
How 'bout a breakdown on each of the pro teams? (I know, I'm just asking for trouble but I want to make a couple of specific points. Players should be less fans and more students of the game when they are watching the pros play--and maybe it's just me but that seems to be lost on most of y'all. Why aren't most teams more consistent? A lot of what's going on is influenced by factors other than simply playing the game. And of course the field layout can have an impact as well. More later this week.)
Let's begin with CEP. I like this team and I like the kids playing for them. It's a positive organization focused on learning and improving--which they are doing. It hasn't shown up in their match results yet but they are a better team than the one that began the season. Not unlike Vicious in their first season but I think CEP is a more versatile team.
In their first outing without Greg Pauley Vicious looked on Friday like they were lost and demoralized. Somehow overnight Friday they turned it around and came out and played much improved hard paintball with an intensity they didn't have the day before. That is the kind of resilience teams & players must have in order to be successful at the highest level but the jury is still out on whether or not the team has the horses to really challenge the top teams.
In the case of Infamous I think a number of factors likely played into their unexpectedly poor performance. It was a difficult bracket regardless of the Russians misfortunes. It was not a layout that played to Infamous's strengths. Some bad luck and a penchant across the board to gunfight hard. While never a bad thing the team had some difficulty locking things down when they needed to and, so it appeared to me, tended to engage in some battles they didn't need to fight and lost more of them than they usually do. Given the layout of key positional loss frequently started the dominoes falling on a given point.
What to say about the Russian Legion? A very uncharacteristic performance punctuated by very poor performances from some of their best, most experienced players. Have they had poor events before? Yes, but I can't remember anything quite like NJ. I consider this an aberration and assume the "real" Russian Legion will be back at Cup. (More below in rumorology.)
X-Factor is a tough team to get a handle on. Any given day they are capable of being world beaters and other days they beat themselves. Fundamentally they don't make many mistakes and they tend to mix conventional tactical play with bursts of wild unpredictability though less so on this layout as it didn't provide those sorts of opportunities really. They played a lot of close points and at the end of the day they simply lost more of those than they won. Always a dangerous team to play.
It seems that almost every event one team or another falls foul of some rules arcana and unfortunately that's what happened to 'Shock in New Jersey. (If you were interested I'm sure you know by now how all that worked out from other sources.) Of more interest to me was the turnaround 'Shock made in Jersey over the first two events of the season. This was the first event the team played under the leadership of former Aftershock legend Mike Bruno and it was a telling change for whatever reason. (It may be as simple as providing active support to a group already gung ho.) Shock always plays hard and is always aggressive but can sometimes be scattershot in the process. In Jersey they were also an effective team playing with no pressure to perform and no where to go but up. It will be interesting to see how things progress for them up to Cup.
I had some doubts about Impact leading into the season. Not so much about their talent, which is first rate, but about their chemistry given the roster changes the team has been making over the last couple of years. Even so the team continues to contend event after event with great consistency and I think they remain capable of winning any event they enter. I tend to think of them like an X-Factor but less prone to extremes as their temperament and style matches that of their coach, Jason Trosen.
The Ironmen have done a remarkable job this seasons without Ollie. The mix of experienced pros with some young, hungry and coachable players has produced solid results. And the team has bought into the system and it allows them to play smart, aggressive and controlled paintball. It may coaches vanity but I tend to attribute much of that to SK's efforts and the fact he clearly has the support of the team's vets. They don't beat themselves even when battling through penalties. I'd also like to take a moment to suggest to all young divisional players you could do a lot worse than emulate Kyle Spicka. For those who have known him in and around paintball for a few years his determination, dedication, will & perseverance ought to be a model of the right way to overcome obstacles and achieve success as a player.
The mark of a truly great team is the ability to consistently perform at a high level and by any rubric that is Dynasty. Most teams can only dream about Dynasty level success and most players would consider it a great career to achieve the kind of success Dynasty has often managed in single seasons. Before this year Dynasty looked like they might be on the wane but the return of Ollie and the addition of Mike H. & the youth movement has proved to be just what the team needed to reinvent itself. While they don't have weaknesses in the normal sense on the NJ field there were a couple of elements we had some success focusing on. Some of the younger players tended to be impatient and try and force certain rotations and as a team Dynasty perhaps lacks some team speed and if they can be forced into situations where they have to get wide a disciplined team can make them pay. (Or anybody else for that matter, D'oh!)
Despite the lack of household names Damage has world class talent in a mix of experience and youth. Damage's only significant fault is the occasional loss of focus that at times leads to a sudden loss of confidence. When they play together, play in the moment, they are capable of contesting with the very best and being one of the best.
One ongoing discussion over the course of this season has been long points and paint usage. (We shot nearly 20 cases in the final match.) Heck, it's a subject VFTD has commented on numerous times. Within the context of the NJ event there are a couple of additional things to be said. The rain may have contributed to some long points on Sunday but the rain didn't cause them. Nor did the rain alter the way most teams chose to play the field. Everybody I saw was playing the same ways on Friday and Saturday. The field did not encourage fast play though it was sometimes possible to press a power point if it was timed correctly or executed in concert with a key elimination OTB. But what I want to address in more detail is this notion of defensive paintball versus offensive paintball because it comes up when there are a lot of long slow points. A key element of competition is the imposition of a team's collective will on their opponents and paintball is no different except we do it with paint and position. (I'll be discussing this in more detail in a separate post this week.)
In the rumorology department there was lots of Legion talk at the Open. (This is not Mr. Curious material, just the on site scuttlebutt.) There was curiosity about the apparent name change--the word being that Sergey was unhappy with the old NXL nomenclature of "Boston" and wanted Russia back front and center. Then there was also the rumor that the Legion had lost its backing from Sergey and was scrambling to reorganize. And this is where Bear D'Egidio fits into the picture. (There has also been a fair bit of discussion on how Bear got a spot on the Legion given the majority opinion seems to think he isn't a pro caliber player.) The dominant rumor being that his dad (a partner in a number of large Cali paintball operations) greased the skids, so to speak. Even if the rumors are accurate it wouldn't be the first time such things have happened in prime time paintball. Whatever the truth is the Legion struggled mightily at NJ and it seems to me there must have been more to it than missing a couple of players.
(Rumor segue: Remember when Mr. Curious told y'all HydroTec would begin producing paintballs in mid-August? Facefull confirms. Sort of. I know, but still ... would you believe HydroTec?)
In closing a VFTD shout out to all the Florida players and teams that performed well in New Jersey. Way to go, kids. Okay, that about covers it from my perspective. If any of y'all have any questions post them up in comments and I'll (probably) try to answer them.