Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sport or Not Sport

VFTD first addressed this idea in Paintball Games International magazine back in the days when the printed word still existed. [If you're curious look here (circa 2003 for serious Baca) & here (circa 2005 for not-so-serious Baca) in the Dead Tree Archive.] Today there's not really a debate over the status of competitive paintball as sport so much as there is over just what paintball as sport is or ought to be (and become.) But even as most of us will agree that competitive paintball is sport there remain a lot of different ideas as to just what that really means. Are scenario leagues and the UWL, for example, on equal footing with the WCPPL or the CXBL? But deciding how elastic our definition of competitive paintball is is only an aspect of one of the current roadblocks. The bigger issue is that we all have a general idea of what paintball as sport means but not an agreed upon concrete definition or shared abstract vision and in even the most basic conversations there is a tendency to conflate "sport" with all the other bits & pieces that form the game as we see it today. Let me explain.
Here's an easy one for you. Making a buck off paintball isn't paintball the sport. (I said it was easy.) Satisfying the customer isn't paintball the sport either. (Think about that one for a second and you may see where this is leading.) The local recreational field isn't paintball the sport. Neither is PBIndustry. Players of competitive paintball aren't paintball the sport. Even competitive paintball leagues aren't paintball the sport.
Here's a different take. Is LeBron James basketball the sport? Or the Chicago Bears the sport of football? Does the MLB have a monopoly on the sport of baseball? In each instance the answer is no. (Despite the best efforts of the United States Congress.) In each preceding instance there is a connection but an association or relationship does not confer sports status on everything and everyone involved.
At this point you're either confused or going, yeah, so what? Here's the thing. There has been a lot of conversation lately in the comments about what is good for the sport of paintball and what isn't. And who ought to do what to make things better. Or who ought to be involved and who shouldn't and on and on. But it seems to me that most of that sort of talk is both premature and not particularly productive and one of the reasons is because we don't really know what competitive paintball the sport is yet. And until there is some sort of consensus a large portion of the ongoing dialogue is simply us talking past each other much of the time.
More on this subject next time but in the meantime here's a question or two to consider. How would you define paintball as sport? And once you've got that figured out: Whose in charge of protecting/preserving/promoting competitive paintball as sport? And who ought to be?


Reiner Schafer said...

The term "sport" seems to be used by some for almost every activity created by man that involves some kind of physical activity and even some that use very little physical activity. Anything that can be competitive, can seemingly be a sport. When I think of competitive paintball, I think of players competing against one another, usually on an airball field, where there is something at stake, even if it's only bragging rights. I try to use the term "competitive paintball" rather than sport, as I don't want to step on the toes of the sporting bass fisherman who this weekend decided to play at my recreational paintball field instead of casting his lure into the local streams or lakes, and might consider himself taking part in a sport (which by many people's definition, he is).

As an outsider looking in (not actively taking part), it has always seemed to me that competitive paintball is floundering, still trying to figure out what it is after all these years. Because there is no overseeing body or federation for all of competitive paintball that makes clear cut decisions and rulings, I think we are going to keep seeing for years to come, influences and suggestions from all sorts of directions. I agree that those involved seem to be talking past each other rather than talking to each other and working together to unify and define the sport. The reason that is happening is because we know that the people we are talking to, are probably not the ones that capable of making any real changes happen anyway. They are just like most everyone else, stakeholders with ideas but no real power to put them into action anyway. How could they be? No one has that power.

One thing is for sure, the people that should be making the hard decisions needed to be made, are probably not the same people that have a vested financial interest in the "sport" of paintball. The people that run the local soccer fields and baseball fields (and just about every other local sport) are volunteers. If an organization is needed with paid individuals (because the workload or skill set needed is just too much to be expected from volunteers), then that organization should be set up somehow so that there are enough people involved to audit the actions of those involved, so misuse and abuse of funds is deterred.

I've advocated "clubs" for local competitive paintball for years, rather than play at commercial fields (except in the cases where the club has agreements in place with a local field). Clubs are run by a board of elected members with no financial rewards paid. The advantage of a club running the local competitive paintball scene is that, assuming decisions are made with due diligence, competitive paintball will never be available cheaper for the average member, as there is no one making a profit. There are disadvantages to clubs as well, but I believe those can be overcome, as they are in most clubs. Those local clubs should then be part of a national and international network. A "Federation" for lack of a better word who is again run by an elected board oversees the clubs' activities and does things like define formats, rules and administrate regional, national, and international competitions. If paid staff are needed at this level due to workload/skill sets needed, funds should be funnelled upwards from club dues. At all levels there should be transparency and accountability.

I'll leave with that as I believe I may be waking now and my dream is ending.

Missy Q said...

There is no sport of Paintball. It's a huge hoax, circulated and perpetuated by Nick Brockdorf. He's also in charge of protecting/preserving said 'sport', a duty he takes seriously and executes by multi-posting in every forum or blog that exists in the world. This is no small undertaking.

Personally I don't see it as a sport until the people I'm watching are being paid to entertain me. Until then it's a hobby/passtime/activity.

Vijil said...

It's hard to define paintball as a sport when I don't even agree with the IOC on what constitutes a sport.

To me, a sport is an organised competitive activity involving physical ability and defined rules, which can be judged objectively (at least in theory). So I pretty much rule out most subjectively judged things like figure skating or gymnastics.

Key to my definition is difficulty of cheating, and winning based primarily on skill. e.g The Tour De France is not really a sport. A joke, perhaps.

Who should oversee it? Ideally an international governing federation, like most other sports.

Nick Brockdorff said...


Sport is defined as people getting paid to entertain you?

I'm guessing you really mean "professional sport", because otherwise well over 500 million people, who participate in some form of organised sport, will disagree with you ;)

Anyway.... in its broadest form, sport is defined as being any kind of recreational activity, which involves an element of competition and physical ability.

However, I think most people have a slightly more narrow definition of what sport is - albeit not as narrow as saying only professionals do sports.... that one belongs on the very outskirts of reason ;)

What Baca is getting at (I think), is that it is all well and good, that a bunch of well meaning random people, industry figures and leagues, run around and try to define what the sport is..... but until paintball have a proper governing body, independent of industry, such definition is whatever the indivudal wants to make it.

So, how do we get a governing body?

Vijil said...

Nick, we wait for one of the leagues to die (preferably the NPPL as they are nowhere near as internationally connected) while pressuring the winning league to support the UPBF idea.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Pressure how?

Once one league dies, there is no more leverage.

I'm not naive, I know paintballers are not going to get organised anytime soon.... mainly because all the big names that COULD pull together the players for an organisation, are heavily connected to industry somehow, and it's not in the best interest of the industry or leagues, that the players get organised.

And by the way, it remains to be seen if the UPBF is legitimate. I hope it is, but at this point in time, it is nothing more than the PSP and MS owning an entity they claim represents the "federations" (which are largely non-existant in many countries, and not really representative in the rest).

Now, if the day arises, when the PSP and MS relinquish control of the UPBF, and open it up to democratic elections of the board members, I'll be the first to applaud it and commend them for their vision, because that is one method to grow our sport, to the benefit of all, players, leagues and industry....

....but frankly speaking, I would also be a little surprised, because the current principals in the UPBF (and subsidiary continental federations), do not have a history for letting go of the reins like that.... especially when their replacements are, at best, fairly unknown people from national federations.

I totally agree a proper federation in each country, and a proper (democratic) international federation as umbrella organistion, would be the best thing for our sport.

But, I think a more realistic solution in the immidiate future, is forming a kind of "players union"... but that will only happen if some of our sports most famous players step up and spearhed it... if it's a bunch of "nobodies", it will only gain marginal support.

Anonymous said...

"...and open it up to democratic elections of the board members..."

What, like FIFA?

Reiner Schafer said...

Currently, it seems that almost everything in competitive paintball is industry driven (including fields in the definition of industry). It will take more than a little effort to separate competitive paintball from industry. Competitive paintball relies heavily on industry dollars, from the top all the way down to the local level where just about every team in existence strikes up deals with local fields and stores. Industry is in the driver's seat. Independence is a long ways off.

Any organizational attempts at the top level to push industry out will be met with resistance and industry will push back. Right now they have almost all the power. In my opinion, for competitive paintball to become a real independent sport, an organizational structure needs to be built from the bottom up. It needs a strong foundation. The local competitive paintball scene, where the vast majority of players live (even many of those at the very top of their game spend time locally) needs to become independent of industry first. Then the rest of the structure can be built from there.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Yeah, like FIFA - except the corruption :D

Anonymous said...

What is a federation going to do that isn't happening already? Do you think just because there is some sort of player representation that the people running the league are suddenly going to be better at it than those running it on a business basis?


Hell, the latest NPPL was started as a "owned by the players league"; are they doing any better than PSP? Most would say they are much worse.

Anonymous said...

I think MilSim people are bad for the sport because they give the uniformed the impression that paintball is all about pretending you are in some sort of militia. I play scenario paintball so this probably bugs me more than it might bug speedballers.

Missy Q said...

those uniformed guys are probably going to go wear the militia gear no matter what.

I thank you.