Look, nobody condones what happened. Nobody expected it and it shouldn’t have happened. Appropriate apologies have been offered. It was an unfortunate incident but it’s over. Unfortunate in that it shouldn’t have happened, unfortunate in that it provides cover for and overshadows other events and actions and unfortunate because it puts me in a position where I can’t really comment on everything that went on. Yes, that's cryptic and surely completely unsatisfying to the curious. Chalk it up to the politics of the game.
What, you say you have been living under a rock? You don’t know what I’m talkin’ about? At the end of the finals in HB there was some extra curricular activity of the overshooting variety--and it wasn’t pretty--or so I’m told by someone who was watching the webcast. By all apparent appearances initiated by Damage players. It has been dealt with and public apologies have been offered. And if any of that is news you really have been living under a rock. If you’d like to add your two cents in the comments feel free.
Since events constrain I will keep this recap simple. We played XSV in the finals and lost. We beat Dynasty in overtime in the semis to make the finals. And XSV beat Arsenal. In an overtime period teams play 3-on-3. (Ask me why.) I don’t know. The closest I got to an explanation was that there was a concern about teams entering overtime on a penalty and if teams were still playing overtime 1-on-1s there wouldn’t be anybody left to play. But seriously, it’s 7-man, why is anyone even talkin’ about playing 1-on-1s as a tiebreaker? (Why not a sudden death point?) So the upshot is it’s 3-on-3 first and if that doesn’t determine a winner it goes to--you guessed it--1-on-1s.
The way Sunday was going to play out in the pro division wasn’t decided until Saturday--and then it was written in Tony Mineo’s infamous pencil. (Much like the missing parts of the rule book.) (Pencil can be erased, doh!) It turned out to be a sensible way of doing it and at least some of the participating teams were asked what they thought before a final decision was made but this is stuff that should be in that brand spanking new rule book.
On Saturday we fought a tough match with Mutiny and earned a number one seed in our bracket with a convincing win over Impact.
On the plus side of the ledger the new format is an improvement over traditional 7-man. (Many if not most of the comments I will be making about aspects of the Millennium apply to the NPPL--in spades--so if you remember this post you’ll have a fuller picture of HB when I finally get the St. Tropez posts up.) The fifteen minute match time seemed to work as well for a Race 2-5. I’m still not sure about the field dimensions but some matches went to points instead of time so that’s a plus but not a firm one yet. The event logistics and Millennium style of play worked well in terms of its functionality--though I still think some level of suspense and excitement is lost with four teams sharing the field and paired teams playing every other point. Which isn't really an issue for most of the divisions and teams but if one objective is to "sell" the game to the public I don't see how breaking matches up helps--of course I'm not convinced the non-paintball playing public will ever care regardless.
The other signature topic--in its absence--was the universal use of the Virtue chip and the proclaimed data explosion that would result in all sorts of statistics. Besides the fact the chip can't discern ramping guns--and there were plenty even though they were (apparently) capped at 15--it was supposed to regulate ROF (which it can do paired with a cap) but I noticed no instance over the weekend where a player or team was warned or penalised. It may be I simply missed it if it happened or that with viable technology in use everyone abided by the cap. One virtue (pun intended) of employing verifiable technology is players and teams know they will be caught so they don't push those boundaries. And perhaps the NPPL will soon be publishing reams of statistical data for our entertainment but there wasn't a hint or a whisper about any data collection or availability during the event. I mention this in connection with a rumor that began in Galveston that suggests the accurate collection and collation of the chip data is far more unwieldy with mass numbers of chips in guns than it was in a controlled test environment. I don't know if that's true or not but it may be more work will be needed before we see the promised stats.
The big crowds of HB's past were absent. The weekend's weather was the biggest factor in the flat turnout as it was chilly, windy and overcast much of the time and the usual crowds on the beachfront promenade simply weren't there. The same held true of the surfing competition being held on the south side of the pier. But it's also true there wasn't much to see. A casual observer could look down on fields from the pier or get a decent view of field 2 from the promenade but that was it. And the vendor's village was a virtual ghost town much of the time. (I mention this solely for 'growing paintball' crowd who seem to imagine that after a decade on the beach the mere appearance of paintball has some osmotic power to turn disinterested passersby into paintball fanatics. It doesn't. Nor does having a sense of perspective mean that HB as a venue isn't awesome 'cus it is.) Attendance appears to have been off last year’s total by as much as 20% and turnout is unlikely to improve at CPX or Aldie which have both had modest participation in comparison to HB the past two or three years. If that pattern holds true the league is going to need to work fast to turn things around. Will the other league’s format save them? Nothing that happened at HB suggests it will but there were some positive features. There was a visible effort on display to improve on prior efforts and the bulk of those efforts revolved around the game itself--also a positive sign. Other past concerns remain at issue but Rome wasn't built in a day. If steady and consistent progress continues to be made perhaps that will be enough but now that the majority of the industry has turned its back on the NPPL and the NPPL is retaliating against retailers who might be vendors that can't and won't end well for the league. (Having Sapporo and Hooters throw a few beers and wings at VIPs isn't gonna finance the future of the league.) And intended or not it's clear that the Race 2 format as adopted by the Pros and extended to D1 has marginalized the trad 7-man competition and divisions as the divisional Race 2 teams have more in common with the elites now--and it won't be long before the remaining 7-man players notice.
On more than one occasion over the weekend NPPL powers joked or wondered (mock casually) if I could or might say something nice--for once--about their event. The truth is they'll get that from just about everybody else. Back in the Age of PB Magazines the print publications were largely cheerleaders, promoters and star-makers and most paintball websites remain just that. VFTD is more interested in the subjects and details nobody else will discuss and as often as not the result is a critique. Readers can judge for themselves whether those critiques have any merit or not. Nor is VFTD a "mainstream" paintball website; it is, at its best, an open dialogue on the world of competitive paintball.