The kids at ProPaintball have posted--out of the blue--a "best" of 2011 list. If you missed it the post title is a link. But before I get into the subject of this post I would be remiss if I didn't thank ProPaintball for the honor bestowed on me. And I will refrain from thanking everybody I've ever known but it remains a fact that no individual succeeds in team sports alone and I am very fortunate to be part of a first class organization and surrounded by some of the best players in the world. Okay, enough of that.
While there is nothing new in doing best of lists or handing out annual awards I'm beginning to come around to their utility. You see, the thing is I've been, in the past, rather ambivalent about the whole idea of awards, player of the year, team of the year sorta thing, even All*Star players for the simple fact it often seems either political or a popularity contest that fails to acknowledge teams and players that don't have sponsor ads touting them or videos featuring them or who go out of their way to put themselves in the public eye. As a consequence I tend to view such things cynically. But it has occurred to me that such things might serve another purpose beyond simply recognizing excellence (to whatever degree of accuracy.) They might serve to help make competitive paintball more accessible.
For example, what if PBN did power rankings over the course of the season for each of the major leagues? The ranking needn't follow results alone but could include match-up results in the prelims, point margins, etc. or be voted on by members or players of the particular league. At the same time perhaps ProPaintball has the Insider's or the Expert's poll running concurrently doing much the same thing but with a limited list of voters chosen for their insider knowledge or expert opinions. Do such things change the results of matches or events? Of course not but they do create a potential for dialogue amongst fans of the different teams and leagues. And once you begin with an opinion you have to have reasons and before long people are talking about competitive paintball the way sports fans talk about other sports.
And while All*Star events have at best a checkered history there's nothing wrong and a lot right with the idea of awarding the best players All*Star recognition. Maybe mid-season each team nominates 3 or 4 players and over the rest of the year fans vote and the teams vote for the best players on their competitors' teams and at the end of the year when the series titles are handed out the individual All*Stars are acknowledged as well.
Which still leaves Top Tens, Best of's and whatever other annual awards anybody wants to assign and what better time to start drawing those up than after the final paintball has been shot in competition for the season and the off season is looming. It would be an excellent way to keep people interested and actively involved if, say, social media and networks were used interactively or to collect votes or whatever. And under those circumstances more than one batch of awards is both welcome and adds to the potential debate. It seems to me that the good outweighs any potential negatives and every handle that gives players and fans a positive, fun way to talk about competitive paintball is a plus.