stays in Vegas--buried out in the desert if it's particularly inconvenient. I have always found it deeply ironic that the NPPL, desperate to be the glitz & glamor league, loves Vegas and a dozen apt metaphors spring to mind but I'm in 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' mode and simply don't have the energy at the moment. Maybe it's because I'm in the middle of a paintball holiday. We left Vegas late Saturday night, or Sunday morning if you prefer, and I haven't thought about talked about or read about anything paintball since then. The only things I know happened (according to passed along info) is that TonTons beat Ironmen at the Intercontinental Cup piggy-backing WCA & that some friends came second in Vegas and won the D3 series.
I'm not going to rail about the league's shortcomings. Again. I'm not going to rant about the merger; do it or don't. I'm not going to mock the industry or decry what passes for media. Not today anyway 'cus I just don't care. And I'm rather enjoying not caring. And honestly even on my best rant-filled day I don't take any of this too seriously. It's just paintball. What passed for democracy in Europe is dead. The Rule of Law in America is now a sad joke. There are a lot more important things to care about than paintball.
However, this is a blog about competitive paintball and I was in Vegas (briefly) for the final NPPL event of the year so I feel a certain obligation to comment on it. So on to the disclaimer.
I have resigned myself to this year's situation--just as the season finally ends. Good timing, I know. My guys are capable of competing for titles but we struggle without proper preparation. The circumstances this year didn't allow the same sort of prep we managed last year. Of course that has no impact on the standings or results and those are what they are and they continue to frustrate me. And in Vegas we did what we've been doing; making small mistakes and giving up bodies carelessly and it cost us. For the record then I do not (and never have claimed) we would be winners if it weren't for the refs. That is a loser's mentality. Winners overcome. And sometimes that includes poor officiating.
So--when I again (in good spirits) recount the continuing issues with officiating and tie it (again) into a failure at the institutional level y'all can decide for yourselves if I'm objective or not. But before I do I want to cover a few other items related to the event or the NPPL.
As most of you likely know Mutiny didn't show up (apparently) at the last minute. I say apparently because if they gave any advance to anyone it came as a surprise to us and everyone I talked to about it. (Apparently.) I don't know what the problem was but it altered our bracket by reducing the number of teams and games played in the prelim. [In the Pros that isn't really that big a deal but in divisional play teams rightfully have an expectation of the terms of the competition and teams dropping out last minute can affect that competition.]
On the merger front everything seemed rosy leading into the event but seemed to go south as the event went on. The expectation was that the PSP principles would be present and that a final deal might get done during the weekend. (And if I post this only to discover something has been settled and announced boy will I look silly but at least you'll know I wasn't kidding when I said I was in the middle a paintball holiday.) I didn't see any PSP peeps--but I didn't look for any either. The talk on Saturday in the paddock was considerably less positive than the latest public pronouncements. The mood was more pessimistic (unless you were and are anti-merger) and the talk was about what the fallout might be if no merger occured. There was the rumor of tough talk from "key" industry powers pushing a hard line and using their sponsorship dollar influence to push teams into one camp or the other--as a practical matter that meant from the NPPL into the PSP. But who knows? I don't although the chatter at the event seemed more substantial than the blatant disinformation that's been popping up on the web in recent weeks.
There were 3 fields at Vegas in what was the largest turnout NPPL 3.0 has ever had; 136 or 138 teams. (I can't remember which and I'm too lazy to check.) At some point I'll figure out if this year's team numbers suggest any substantive statistical uptick. [Prior to the event the NPPL posted an announcement for HB 2012. I'm now wondering if that was, and is, a sign of a crumbling merger effort.] The set-up was better than last year's as it was closer to the Riviera and the majority of the players. No more pretense that anybody in Vegas not playing gives a rat's rear end. The Riviera remains a dump with the typical Motel Six room putting the Riviera's rooms, including the suites, to shame. As in NPPL days past one of the fields was short some turf. Back in the day they used to spray paint the tarmac green. The daily game schedules on Friday and Saturday ran from 8 am to around 7:30 pm each day and even with daylight savings time the sun was setting between 5 and 5:30 leaving at least a couple of hours each day to be played in the dark with artificial lighting. Virtue was on hand again with their chips in Pro guns keeping track of max ROF and such and (apparently) either at the Captain's Meeting or elsewhere the idea of installing the chips in all competitor's guns was broached leaving the divisional kids wondering how and who was going to pay for that. (Although I think we already know, don't we?) Regardless it remains intriguing technology with some obvious and perhaps some, so far, less obvious practical applications. We'll see.
Going in Joey & I thought the most likely upshot of the criticism leveled at DC officiating would be some flag happy reffing--and so it turned out for the most part. (Which frequently resulted in refs running around pulling bodies and pow-wowing after the fact to decide why they'd done what they'd done.) I didn't count them but it also looked like there were more refs on the Pro field as well. Just goes to show you numbers don't equal quality. And while there wasn't any big mishaps--at least on Saturday on the grandstand field--the status quo remained in force. Tom still has a job with the league (which still seems to be trying to keep everyone happy) and the owner's group liaison to officials interjected his opinions (directions?) regarding on field calls even as he was competing with his team. Even with the best of intentions and everyone's agreement that kind of behavior is a gross conflict of interest and shouldn't happen under any circumstances. And everybody knows it. And then there were numerous examples of inconsistency (bias?) when it came to enforcing the rules. One that was repeated a number of times involved another team owner who also plays. In our game with his team he was one of the two last players left on his team. He was bunkered clean out of the snake corner and the ref called him out. The player who bunkered him shot at the other opposing player across the back of the field as two other of our players came thru the center. He called himself out and then proceded to keep talking ... and playing as he lowered his gun and shot one of our live players collecting the flag. Our on field team captain immediately began objecting and the refs started throwing flags. All the penalties were on us. The team owner started yelling that our player who had bunkered him was out of bounds--even though he ran him down highway--and then he started shooting again. Even though a ref had called him out; he had acknowledged he was eliminated, he was talking and shooting his gun after he was eliminated nobody threw a flag on him. Then or any other time during the Saturday prelims. Instead it was decided that even though our player had bunkered him clean he had afterwards stepped out of bounds and then fired his gun earning a two for one and our on field captain was eliminated when he spoke and that was a one for one. It's so absurd it's laughable except when it's happening to you--and when similar scenes are repeated over and over. (Despite our poor play at the end of the day we were in a position to go through and missed on body count.) I know it sounds like a spoof--but it isn't. And there are plenty more stories like that from one afternoon of play but it isn't important.
What is important is that the league has seemingly done nothing to address the very real institutional problems they have with officiating oversight--and reffing in general. It is an issue that has plagued (and helped sink) every iteration of the NPPL and will continue to be a problem until they treat it seriously instead of as a public relations issue to be swept under the rug. But, hey, that's on them. Personally I can hardly wait to see the post-event statement proclaiming the greatest event ever played and congratulating everyone involved on making paintball history. Yeah, that sounds about right. Don't worry, be happy.