Wednesday, April 25, 2012

MS St. Tropez: The TBD Experience, part 1

Our tournament ended when the ultimate [?] overruled a lesser official’s call (not a hit, player clean, point good) and decided the residual paint between harness sleeves rubbed into the Velcro on Chad’s pack was indeed a hit and called for a 1-4-1. From the time we cleared the field--with 3 alive--until Chad pressed the buzzer a phantom 1-4-1 called on J-Rab–it was mixed colors and looked like he’d bumped up against one of the bunkers--saw Jason pulled and we were left with one live body. And when the ultimate made his call we lost that point and the swing point awarded to our opponents ended the match in their favor. The stain of paint on Chad’s pack was pink. Both teams were shooting the same paint. It was orange.

Our European adventure began, for the majority, with a 2 pm flight out of Tampa to Dulles, outside Washington DC. With everyone together we boarded a flight for Frankfurt Germany around 7 pm. We arrived seven and a half hours later and quickly passed customs then hiked to a different concourse to await the 8:30 am flight to Nice, France. [Say what you will about the Germans but the stereotype of regimented order and sticklers for detail oozes from the architecture in Frankfort’s airport to say nothing of the airport personnel. It may be the only English many of them know is, “Not possible. Against the rules.” It was something we heard with some frequency anyway.] At 10:30 am a prearranged shuttle service picked us up and within the hour we had arrived at the venue approx. 17 hours after we left home.

If it weren’t for the different languages being spoken it’s hard at first to grasp that you’re somewhere foreign. The trappings of modern airports around the world are broadly the same. The people look much alike--although there is a breed of European male that is unmistakable on sight, like a neutered puppy. Landing in Nice early in the morning makes it clear we’re in another place and much of the adventure comes in discovering just what sort of place it might really be. Unfortunately the team finalized our commitment to the MS relatively late and with HB scheduled for the following weekend there was no time for much beyond paintball. As a consequence most of our experience of France was en passant. In passing–and in some of the ordinary routines of daily living--as experienced on site at the ironically named Oasis Village resort. (While neither an oasis or a village it would be an excellent location for filming a low budget zombie movie.) The seemingly random hours of operation for most of the services--a self-serve laundry even--or a restaurant that offered only two meal choices or pizza. Even the front office's and curio shop's daily hours were a mystery.
On site English is more prevalent than I expected. While a dozen or more languages drift around the vendors and stake out temporary ground around teams staging to play many, if not most, seem to speak some English. This isn’t true off site. (And why should it be? After all the French are the Americans of Europe. We, and they, expect other people to accommodate us.) Not even close, particularly in France--where a person may or may not know some English--but you’ll likely never know. Even those involved in the tourist industry aren’t routinely bi-lingual. Or admit to it anyway.
The team has reservations and confirmed in advance that our credit card--AMEX--would be good. But this is France and that was then and this is now. They can't accept the card. As it turned out they couldn't accept any of the cards our paint sponsor's rep produced either. Eventually an African distributor for our paint sponsor produced a credit card that was deemed acceptable and we checked in. By this time we were due at the venue to share some practice time on the CPL field with Amsterdam Heat.
After moving our luggage to our appointed bungalows we walk to the venue. The wind is gusting and the nets haven't been raised yet. We meet the guys from Heat and begin to get ready. The word is that the netting will be raised soon. We all assume that despite the delay the practice schedule will be maintained. (After all the MS requires teams to sign up in advance, choose an allotted time slot and pay for the field time. Heat had the first hour block.) Turns out we are mistaken. It is our first taste of what is to come. Before we know it Marseilles Icon is on the CPL field. A fellow named Thierry (I think)--though it sounds kinda like Cherry to the Anglo ear--is in charge. (At least we couldn't find anybody else willing to take any responsibility.) He has a clipboard with the printed schedule on it. It is utterly irrelevant. He assigns field time as he chooses and gives preference to French teams--and the league's reigning powerhouse, Art Chaos. Every argument, up to and including pointing out to him the printed list on his clipboard, makes no difference. For each point we make he has a different excuse or simply a shrug. He scratches out the printed list and writes in his personal choices in blue ballpoint ink. While Icon practices we are finally informed Thierry has found a place for us--on a different field four hours from now. Without Thierry’s help we arrange amongst ourselves for us, Art Chaos, Icon and Heat to share the CPL field. (Many thanks to Art Chaos and Icon.) It’s not what we, or the other teams, had planned--or what was paid for--but it was better than waiting until 6 pm for the chance to play on the wrong field. Welcome to the Millennium ugly Americans.


Anonymous said...

A one-for-one would be an unobvious hit, right? Since when is an unobvious hit with an extra body on the field a swing point?

Show me where in the Millennium rule book it says... oh wait.. I mean, show me a Millennium rulebook.

Baca Loco said...

Having already pulled J-Rab & Jason there was no extra body. (Or rulebook but there is a compilation of rules and addendum scattered about.) ;)

Nick Brockdorff said...

Far as I remember, it's always a swing point when there is a 141 on the last player.

As for the validity of the call, I really can't say, as I didn't see the game... but the buzz at the event was that Damage got robbed.... whether that is true or not, is obviously something only the ref that made the call can comment on.

Baca Loco said...

Which is not the point I'm ultimately making, Nick. Stuff happens. Anyone who plays this game long enough has to reconcile themselves to that factoid. But what I will be getting back to is the notion of game philosophy, rules and how the officiating shapes the game we play--and why consistency (here we go again) is the critical element.

Roel said...

Hey Baca,

Sad to read you and probably the rest of Damage seems to be let down by the first Mill event. I've been roaming and playing the events for several years now and enjoy most of my time spent there. Of course bad calls are made, shit goes wrong and frustration runs high, it happens everywhere. I just really can't imagine you guys being shut down because of your place of birth.

I truly believe europe is where all come to play all. No preference, no bullshit, just tournament paintball. Hope Damage can show there true worth next event.

Baca Loco said...

The MS has a history of not only teams reffing--which is problematic and why they are now separated into individuals when the MS uses D1 teams--but also national animosities (or biases) at work--ask a Brit if he thinks he'll get a fair shake from a French ref--and while the MS reps insist those sorts of issues are part of the past. And of course the history of events past is that the Euros always got robbed coming to America. True or not it hasn't been forgotten.

Mark790.06 said...

Anyone ever hear of them looking for a sight, say in the north of France near the channel perhaps? ;)

Reiner Schafer said...

Every sport has bad calls, but when you are playing at the level TBD is playing at and spending the kind of money you spend just to compete, it must be extremely frustrating. I know I for one, would not be able to handle that very well and it would probably make me doubt my commitment and make me think about quitting.

Anonymous said...

"and make me think about quitting."

Which is why few are at the level TBD is at.

Zing! (couldn't resist, sorry)

Reiner Schafer said...

Right, which may be one of the many reasons we don't have more teams playing high level competitive paintball. Without consistent (decent) reffing, lots of people are going to get discouraged along the way and throw in the towel. And I'm sure we all know many that have, more so than in most other sports.

It's somewhat understandable (although that doesn't make it less frustrating). Speedball is a sport with a lot of activity, much of it happening at 300 fps and often at many different areas of the field. Unless you had a field with a ratio of refs considerably higher than the players, stuff is going to be missed. And even then, stuff would be missed. Refs without great training and years of experience make it that much worse. Biased refs...well...

So yeah, if calls like the one Baca described happened consistently, who in their right mind wouldn't contemplate quitting? It's not a true competition to see who is better if the reffing isn't consistently good. It just becomes a place where people get together to shoot paintballs at each other and "hope" luck is on their side and they go home with a prize. Consistent reffing is the most important part of any competition.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know Baca and all the other tournament guys aren't in their right mind.

Double zing!

laurent H. said...

It is very funny to read your adventure in Europe. Apparently you are not use to travel outside the states. To find out that Amex is not working everywhere, French does not speak english even if it is the most touristic place in the world, beds are too small or European XL TS are not big enough for american kids!

By the way, your explanation for your training experience is wrong.
You should spoke with steve rab and he should be able to explain what happen.
Your team was forecast at 1pm if i am right and for technical reason (netting problem to be precise) cessions from noon to 2pm have been cancel on the CPL and SPL fields and re schedule on the D2 fields at 5pm if teams were still interested. (if not, teams get their money back) It was not again the "UGLY" american. There was other teams in the same situation such as Polo Bears from Poland, Scalps from France, Silent Moscow from Russia...
there was no other solutions.
impossible to move the schedule on the same field because of daylight. it was dark at 7pm.
it will have been the easiest solution but unfortunelty it is the only event of the year where we do not have enough day light or flood light available.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't the only solution. Another solution would have been to reduce ALL teams' practice time by the same amount, so instead of just screwing the teams who had the early slots, you would give all teams 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes.

Only giving some teams the opportunity to practice on the actual competition field is hugely unfair. The question is, was it unfair because the tournament organizers are simply not able to run fair events, or was it unfair because the tournament organizers were intentionally favoring certain teams?

Nick Brockdorff said...

As said in the other thread, I do not think this is the real Laurent Hamet posting.... unless his english has deteriorated significantly since last time I saw him.

- and "Polo Bears"? - no way the real Laurent would write that :D

Baca Loco said...

I've stayed in plenty of normal-sized beds in Euroland--including the main bedroom in the bungalow at Oasis Village.

And my explanation is accurate. And Rab was right there the whole time also trying to get a reasonable explanation--and our team on the field when we were supposed to be there.

As for the MS policy of making the competition fields available for practice to those willing to pay--it is nothing more than a naked grab for cash that is both unprincipled and contrary to any ethos of fair competition.
Clear enough for you? :)