Saturday, June 30, 2012

Money Fixes Everything

I want to revisit Thursday's post and expand the scope of the commentary. It has long (for paintball) been an article of faith that money will fix everything. While it's certainly true that money would fix a few of paintball's problems no one seems to have given much thought to what new problems would arise--and there will be plenty--if significant amounts of money enter the world of competitive paintball. And I don't mean a resurgent player base that starts buying truckloads of new gear. That's just business and while it would benefit the industry it's not what people mean when they imagine the mainstreaming of competitive paintball and the cascade of accompanying cash.
Let's begin with divisional tourney ball. Cui bono? (Who benefits?) Not them. Let's say the league begins to generate some outside of the paintball industry revenues; nothing spectacular but a sufficient wedge of cheese that it eases the necessity for the industry to sponsor the league. While that is good for the league and potentially good for the independence of the sport there is no guaranteed trickle down to the divisions. And for those of you who prefer your abstractions as concrete as possible let's assume we're discussing the PSP for example. A modest outside revenue source stabilizes the league so that's a positive for everyone competing and intending to compete in the future--you have a somewhat more secure place to compete. And if you favor the working plan to regionalize much of divisional play over the longer term via the affiliates network and streamline the national circuit you might consider that a divisional benefit. (The VFTD non-official understanding of the concept regionalizes say D3 [or even D2] down so that each region contributes its top teams to World Cup each year for a true championship. Of course the affiliate program isn't restricted to North America so it is conceivable that teams representing all parts of the world may one day compete.) While the league has gone forward laying the foundation for the affiliates the problem, revenue-wise, of how the league gets from its current model to the modified model has limited progress. The new plan with PBAccess offers the possibility of a solution.
In one scenario there's enough outside money to advance the plan to build a real grassroots to World Cup unified competitive paintball as sport, but what if a lot more money than expected were to begin rolling in? Does the plan move forward or does the deadweight get discarded and left to others to reorganize? (This is, btw, the same question I asked in the early days of NPPL 1.0. If the league had successfully brought pro paintball to TV why would they keep running tournaments for all the other divisions? If TV or anything like it ever works who doesn't follow the money and focus on keeping it coming? Under any circumstances a change in fortune for the league makes no promises to the divisional ranks.
But what about the featured teams? Surely this is would be good for them, right? Maybe, maybe not. Let's start again with the modest revenue stream that reduces or obviates the need for industry sponsorship. Again, it's good for the league and its indepenence, but... Back in the days of the NPPL 1.0 when everyone was convinced the mainstream (and all its perks) were right around the corner that league touted success for the teams in terms of the opportunities exposure would bring. Being on TV would allow them to go out and develop their own portfolio of sponsors and income. Which doesn't sound half bad until you realize that as a team you are not only competing against the other teams for those sponsor dollars you're also competing against your own league for sponsor dollars. And that no agreements exist aimed at maintaining league parity or stability. Or that once the contract is signed by the league your individual team becomes superfluous. (Before the deal is done it's the teams that validate the league but after the deal is done it's the league that validates the teams.) So imagine here we are with the PSP seeing a modest revenue trickle beginning to come in from the PBAccess webcast. Perhaps at first everyone is happy and supportive. But it won't last. It can't last. At some point the featured teams will begin to ask, What about us? And that day everything changes.
Maybe the league says, we're not making much or say what about you? We're the ones who made this happen, invested the time and money, took the risk and the reward for success should be ours. And if they were selling cupcakes or car parts I would agree unreservedly but they aren't. They're selling competition between an inclusive group of teams who can make the case that some part of the league's success accrues to them because they are the ones drawing the audience--and the audience is everything. And the teams will also say we have spent years of our lives, made sacrifices and spent plenty of money as well. How and when is that impasse resolved? Odds are (should it ever come to pass) that it won't be solved any more than mainstream sports have ever solved their conflicts but some sort of temporary agreements will have to be made and the window in which to make them opens when outside money starts to arrive and closes once the league de facto controls the identity of competitive paintball as sport. 

The object of raising today's hypotheticals is simply to remind the (seeming) majority that more money in paintball isn't likely to be the universal panacea they seem to think if for no other reason than human nature.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Great Image Debate

Over the last couple of years both the NPPL and the PSP have changed their policy when it comes to photographers, on field photography and event imagery whether it's stills or video. The flap those changes caused was largely about the rights of the photogs versus the leagues and what was fair and what wasn't. And there was some utterly ineffective pushback from the photogs. (It's not that there weren't some legitmate issues put forth by the photographers because there were--and are--the problem was one of numbers. There were, and perhaps still are, more photographers than the environment and economics of tourney paintball could support and that drove the value of the images and the photographers in general down.) But all of that is small potatoes compared to the potential for future problems when it comes to the images and video of league events.
Interestingly this is one area where NPPL 3.0 might have an advantage over the PSP--if in fact the NPPL 3.0 is an actual legal entity. (And there are good and substantive reasons to wonder.) Back in the first seasons of the original NXL the owners understood what was at stake they just didn't handle it very well. Given that they were operating on the assumption that the NXL would go mainstream, or something quite like it, at any moment they forbade any and all unauthorised images of the league, its teams and players from being published and for two years didn't allow any video at all. The idea was that the images, if not super valuable just that minute would soon be valuable and they didn't want to dilute that value. Of course the whole thing fell apart and instead of preserving value they diminished the value of some of the teams because nobody had seen them in two years except at the events and in a few photographs in the magazines. Meanwhile there was truckloads of video available that only enhanced the popularity of teams like Dynasty, XSV & Infamous after they left Miami Effect.
Which brings us, if not to the present day, a day that is coming if any (or all) of the power players in big time competitive paintball have their way. Here's where that hypothetical NPPL advantage exists. Many (but not all) of the impacted NPPL teams, ignoring that of the teams for the teams nonsense, are also shareholders. If so it will make things easier if the images of the league actually acquire real value. What am I talking about? Let's use the PSP and PBAccess to explain. The PSP provides the league structure and events for competition. It also controls who will be and won't be a pro team. PBAccess is in business to provide a webcast of the PSP Pro division that will, in time, build a sufficient audience to attract advertising revenues. One supposes PBAccess and the PSP have some sort of contractual arrangement or agreement prepared for that day. But what about the teams? The day the first advertising contract is signed those images have value. Advertisers aren't paying for the league, the webcast or the teams; they are paying for the audience but the audience is there because of the quality of the competition and the teams competing. And when that day arrives, if it does, that is the day the debate begins in earnest over the value (and potential value) of those images.
Today no agreements exist. No dialogue over the possibility has occurred (that I'm aware of.) No working principles are in place to guide a future deal. And maybe they won't be needed. No agreement exists today that gives the PSP the teams' permission to broadcast the events. Probably because it's in everyone's interest right now to do so; to be on the webcast and be seen. But none of that changes where this could be headed. Can you say players union or association of pro teams?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Mind Game

One of the things sports is full of is excuses. Not only does nobody want to be responsible for failure there is a laundry list of expressions to explain away losing. The team/player looked tired out there today. Didn't have their A game. Turns out this was a trap game for (X) this afternoon. Maybe they were overlooking this opponent. The team looked uncharacteristically lost/unprepared out there today. He was half a step slow out there. Players looked tight. They played with tired legs. It's a young team and they haven't been here before. They were in uncharted territory ...
Sometimes teams and/or players really are physically worn out and unable to perform to their true ability but more often than not the litany of excuses refer to breakdowns in a team's or player's mental game. Barring injury nothing has more of an impact on a contest's outcome than the mental state of the competitors. At the peak of sport, any sport, the competitors are all highly skilled, well trained, physically capable and have years of experience. The dividing line between winning and losing becomes razor thin and more often than you might imagine the difference isn't a matter of excellence but the ability to play up to your normal standard in unusual high pressure situations; the mind game.
Case in point: Tampa Bay Damage. Going into Day 2 in Phoenix Damage was 19-1 in its previous 20 matches and that string included three wins with a World Cup sandwiched in the middle. On Day 1 the team won 2 matches by identical 7-1 scores. On Day 2 the wheels came off. [In no way should these comments be construed as suggesting anything negative about our opponents who did what they needed to do to win. My only point is that Damage had routinely demonstrated the capacity to perform better than the team did to close out Phoenix and in Chicago.] So what happened? Did a championship caliber team suddenly forget how to play? The answer is of course not so the problem lies elsewhere. First we lost the mind game then we lost the match(es).
Why does it happen? I don't know. How does it happen? Sometimes it begins with a single player and single negative comment. Depends on the team and depends on the players. Sometimes it begins with a bad point. An outburst in the pits. An argument that escalates into a shouting match in the middle of a paintball match. And sometimes it's as seemingly benign as coming out flat, starting slow--having tired legs. There is no single cause or cure. It is least well understood or controllable element of the group dynamic. But happen it does.
I am inclined to think that at its core its a failure to deal with pressure; the pressure to succeed, to perform and the bigger the moment or the greater the expectation the more the pressure mounts. That still doesn't explain why it happens to players and teams when it does but I don't think there is just one explanation.
The more important question for the competitor is: How do I fix it?
I wish I knew.
Okay I have a few ideas. (Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to write this post.) Change the focus and control what you can control and ignore the rest. When I say 'change the focus' what I really mean is stop focusing on winning. Don't get me wrong--winning is the bottom line and I'm all about winning. You can take that to the track and bet the trifecta on it but--the first goal for every team is to focus on playing your best game. You have no control over winning. All you can do is your best and believe that today it is enough to bring home the victory. For good teams the pressure to win is always there anyway but the only thing under your control is how you perform. Stop thinking and simply start doing. And to do that the team must focus on the things under its control. Preparation. Repetition with purpose. (By that I mean not simply going through the motions but making the effort to learn from mistakes as a player and a team in the process preparing to compete.) Clearly defined roles. (When players know their roles they play within the concept of the team and focus on their job.) Execution of the game plan, point by point. (Staying focused on executing the game plan puts the bigger picture out of mind and helps to remind the player he is part of a larger whole.) Play in the moment. (Do your job, trust your teammates to do their's and play as a unit by executing the game plan.) Do all that effectively and success will follow. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

PSP Chicago wrap-up

By now you already know the scores--and hopefully took some time yesterday to watch some of the matches on the webcast--so I won't belabor them other than to say congrats to all the teams that won and finished on the podium especially Infamous on the win and Russian Legion for their consistency and the outstanding job done in rebuilding the team. Heck, congrats to the rest as well and I hope everyone enjoyed the event. I'm also not going to belabor the struggle on Sunday to maintain the schedule. As it turned out everything went mostly according to schedule but there was a fair amount of unusual chaos behind the scenes. Not sure what happened because it was also an unusual state of affairs for the PSP.
Damage ran hot & cold this event opening on Friday like we finished in Phoenix only to turn it around for the rest of prelims. Sunday saw the team struggle in both the win over Heat and the loss to the Russian Legion. While third place isn't a bad result the way we achieved it was. I have talked about this sorta thing before and will again (in tomorrow's post.) For young teams the issues are often technical and about learning the game, both as individuals and as a group working together. More mature teams have to deal with the same concerns (to one degree or another) plus issues with execution, strategy and tactics. And then there's winning. One of the truisms of sport is the notion of learning how to win. There is something to that but the broader issue is the mental game, the psychology of competing and how each player responds to the pressures involved. 

As a place to play paintball CPX is awesome. As a place to host a world class scenario game CPX is awesome. As a venue for world class tournament paintball it leaves a lot to be desired. It's not too far from two major airports and the highway system offers easy, if sometimes slow, access. There's plenty of accommodations, restaurants, etc. within minutes despite the rural location. Lots of parking. Nope, the issue is the field of grass used by both the NPPL & the PSP. It's inadequate. It's very rough and that's putting it mildly. I realize everyone is economizing and I appreciate the need but the playing surface is a critical element when playing the game. The PSP is strongly committed to playing on real grass. Under almost any circumstance I think that's better than carpet over asphalt but those aren't the only choices that exist. The best grass either league has played on is in Phoenix and it isn't a coincidence that it's also about the most expensive venue too. (And the best turf is DC.) I don't want to make a huge deal over this but I think if asked the majority would rate the playing surface a higher priority than some of the other factors the leagues have to take into consideration when choosing their venues. 

Over at VFTD (Facebook) I had a bit of fun with some of the lingo used by the PBAccess commentators. While insisting I would never say "clutch" and other commenters picked on their least favorite expressions like "feasting" there is a serious aspect to the language used on the webcast. In an emerging sport or technology there is a language that develops around it that expresses the unique qualities and characteristics on display. Competitive paintball is in that position today. As an emerging sport there is both the need and the opportunity to describe our game the way we see it. And for right now the webcast delivered by PBAccess is the voice of competitive paintball. It is our voice whether we like it or not. It is the voice that may describe competitive paintball for the foreseeable future and shape the language that people know our game by. Considered like that it's also a responsibility. Too often in the past paintball has appropriated the idioms of other fringe and/or emerging sports or cultural niches. What competitive paintball needs is its own terms and expressions--and it will have them one way or another.

And for those of you who may have noticed but were too polite to comment; yes, I had a big gap in my teeth at the event but it doesn't mean I'm goin' all hillbilly on y'all. I will not be wearing denim coveralls, going barefoot, gigging for frogs or smoking a corn cob pipe anytime soon. (Lots of people make moonshine, you bigot.) I broke a bridge that couldn't be repaired in time for the tourney. Hopefully there aren't any pictures out there. That's all I need.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

PSP Chicago: Day 2

I had hoped to do some of my morning bracket scouting via webcast this morning. No joy for me mostly because the hotel internet is so slow I can't even get the low res version to stream live on my laptop or pad. So much for the tech revolution. Say hello to the bleachers. Fortunately, like yesterday it wasn't too hot--not PSP Chicago hot anyway--and in the afternoon there were extended stretches of overcast or maybe it was thick haze. Whatever it was it kept the temperatures mild and produced a magnificent corona around the diffused sun. (Anybody get a picture?)
Dynasty overcame their early loss to the Russians by beating the Heat today and closing out the prelims at 3-1. It was the Heat's only loss so it didn't keep them out of Sunday either as they too went 3-1. Shock gave the Legion a tough game early Saturday but eventually fell. Vicious, after a solid Phoenix, went 1-3 as did Thunder. In their final match-up with Houston Vicious had an opportunity but eventually fell in a tough 3-5 game. A win would have seen them go 2-2 and win the head-to-head with Houston and play on Sunday. So while 1-3 doesn't sound good the margin between success and failure for Vicious this weekend was 2 points.
In the afternoon bracket Infamous began the day in the driver's seat with all the Sunday spots up for grabs. Everybody else finished Saturday 1-1 except for 0-2 CEP. The Ironmen, like Dynasty, took an unexpected big loss on Friday versus Upton 187. They opened today with a grueling war with Infamous and came out short by a single point. Going into their final prelim match the Ironmen were 1-2 against a 2-1 X-Factor but as it turned out the winner would go through to Sunday while the loser went home. In an overtime thriller the Ironmen pulled it out 4-3. Again the margin for error was razor thin. Damage continued the improved play they displayed in their second match Friday by rolling through CEP and Upton 187 today to earn a Sunday spot along with Infamous and the Ironmen.
There have been some unexpected and exciting matches and Sunday should up the ante as we're playing for the trophy now.

Since the situation came up today in the Ironmen/X-Factor match I'd like to go on the record and suggest the swing point rule be abolished--at least in the pro bracket. I've never liked it much and the last time I was part of a rules revision I tried to get it removed--to no avail. I understand that some peeps are concerned that in close, tense scenarios with little time left on the clock that the threat of a penalty may not be much of a deterrent. I get that. My view is that the appropriate penalty is the one in the rulebook as it applies to the rest of the match and that in effect altering the call's impact isn't good paintball. Does my way potentially make it hard on the refs? Maybe but I think they ought to be up for it. And now that the pro game has "unlimited" overtime there is no rational for a swing point to be awarded in an overtime period. Let the players win or lose the games.

So far so good. Tomorrow will be a long day so don't look for the wrap-up until Monday.

Friday, June 22, 2012

PSP Chicago: Day 1

Or Day 2 if you were playing some upper division Race 2. The D1, D2 & D3 prelims are complete. Playoff rounds will begin tomorrow to get the divisions down to the semis for Sunday. (I think.) The brackets are posted. I'm not 100% positive because I only got involved at all when some D1 match-ups were apparently posted either prematurely or inaccurately--or both. It took a couple of text messages and a couple of phone calls to get everything straight. In hindsight it made sense but my excuse is it was late and I was tired and it was all raehl's fault. (Okay, it really wasn't Chris's fault but he is a convenient scapegoat.) Sac Damage missed moving on because of total match time; tie-breaker number 4. Sucks but there it is. The kids played well in a tough bracket and even without a Sunday spot this event continued the process of overall improvement. Anyway, the confusion arose mostly because of the way teams are ranked after the fact. In Damage's group Distortion was ranked above them because of head-to-head but in comparing the two prelim scores Distortion was listed as ranked 11 with a margin difference of -1 while Damage was ranked 7 with a margin difference of 0. For those of you used to this I suppose it's clear that all of those numbers are more or less irrelevant for determining who moves on and who doesn't--at least as it turned out this time. However, that said, the rules are in black & white and once understood there was no margin for error or favoritism.
On the pro field today it was another trip to bizzaro world--which you should have seen on the webcast--and if you didn't where were you? Don't say work. Or school. Or any of that kinda lame excuse. You know where you belong. In the morning session the Russians flushed Dynasty 7-0 and then took Viscious 5-4 in OT. Upton put the wood to the Ironmen then got smacked down by X-Factor. Infamous was strong as was Heat who both or their matches for the day. We opened with Infamous (followed by X-Factor) in a replay of Saturday afternoon in Phoenix. Which could either be a nightmare recreation of our unexpected failure that day or a chance to put it behind us. The Infamous match was Phoenix all over again after a solid start. For whatever reason all the positive work in practice evaporated along with our faith in each other and our ability to execute our game. It would prove to be either a wake up call or Phoenix al over. Fortunately, unlike Phoenix our post Infamous loss team talk cleared our heads and we got back on track against X-Factor 7-2. From here on out it's one match at a time and even one point at a time and until we're back playing on Sunday nothing has been resolved just yet.
Btw, for whatever reason--I an't really pin one down in my mind--the venue reminds me of Rennaissance fair. It doesn't make any sense at all, evn to me, but that's the vibe I got. Compared to last year I think the whole block of fields has been further away from CPX with the vendors mostly arrayed along the gravel track that winds past the overflow parking lots.
The weather today was exceptional with a forecast that, fingers crossed, should match it tomorrow. More of a general overview tomorrow--so stay tuned.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

PSP Chicago: Travel Day

What's there to say? You pack, go to the airport, collect your boarding pass, get groped because we're all terrorists now and eventually wedged into an airplane like a cattle car in the sky and off to your event destination--or at least the nearest airport to your destination--where you rent a car (SUV, minivan, van) at a confiscatory daily rate and drive off to the venue (or hotel depending on the time of day.) Not very exciting but there you go. And in about 90 minutes there I go--off to Chitown.
Mostly this post is an excuse to toss in a few odds & ends--yes, just like in 'Not In The Paintball News' but I didn't want to do another one so soon. First I wanted to thank the latest recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army--Sakari Koskinen, Josh Cumberland, Forca PSI & Trokla--and remind the growing DPA cadre to remain vigilant. The day is coming. World domination is just around the corner. Thanks too for all the new Facebook likes and friend requests. Apparently the MS announcement hit a nerve with more than a few of you. And if you missed it I announced yesterday on VFTD--the Facebook page--that TBD would no longer be representing GI Montreal in the Millennium's CPL. While news to the paintball public it wasn't news to either our sponsor or the league.

[EDIT ADDED: Baca taken to woodshed over VFTD-FB remarks. See follow-up for apology and link to official team statement.]

I will try to post daily updates from the tournament over the weekend but no promises. Meanwhile get your fix starting tomorrow morning with the webcast via PBAccess and lots of updates from the kids at Social. I'm also considering using the Chicago event and layout to do some post-event instruction posts.
Finally a reminder and encouragement to any and all divisional participants who would like to review their divisional results post-Chicago VFTD will be happy to post them. So don't wuss out, get 'er done.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NPPL All Star Voting Begins

Normally this wouldn't have rated its own post--perhaps a mention in an upcoming 'Not In The Paintball News'--but I noticed a couple of amusing factoids and it's been a slow week. First, in an only from the NPPL comes this statement with regards voting for the league/team All Stars; "The best pro paintballers in the world are going to be teaming up and hitting the field at the upcoming NPPL DC Challenge on August  24th - 26th and you get to pick the teams! That's right, the rosters for the 3rd annual NPPL All Star Game will be partially decided on by you the players!" Did you catch it? First it's 'you get to pick the teams!' and in the very next sentence it's "the rosters ...will be partially decided on by you ..." Classic NPPL. You gotta love it.
And among the candidates listed (what appear to be the team rosters from Chicago) are a couple of misspelled names in the Eastern Conference listing. (I didn't look at the West.) The more egregious is Chad Bueder (according to the NPPL) of Tampa Bay Damage who is actually Chad Busiere. I checked Virtue's ROF-fi site to see if they had it right or wrong and they had it right so I don't know where Bueder came from but it's pretty funny. Gee, I hope his ID card is accurate.
The other thing I noticed is that Legend has at least 3 Infamous guys. Okay, they were Legend before they were Infamous but the point is has the NPPL considered how to handle a prelim match-up between the two teams? It hasn't happened yet--but if it does, then what?
Anyway make sure you drop by the NPPL website and partially vote for your favorite players--or is that vote partially? Now that I think about it I wonder how much the public votes really will count. 50%? More? Less? If we see a bunch of team owners chosen again you'll know your vote didn't count for much. Vote early, vote often, it probably doesn't much matter.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Holding The Wire

First things first, check out the film's Kickstarter page for all the project details and how you can help make it a reality. If you are unfamiliar with this project where the hell have you been hiding out lately? Unlike the run-of-the-mill paintball video this is an effort to produce a fully realized documentary about tourney paintball and the people who play. If you want to help hit the link and check it out. If you're just curious hit the link and check it out.
Maybe this is a hard sell. Maybe after all the past efforts everybody is too jaded to care anymore or too cynical to believe another movie will make any difference. I understand if that's how you feel about it--'cus I know the feeling firsthand. But I'm gonna throw some support their way not because I expect it to revolutionize the game or open anybody's eyes to how great this sport can be but simply because I love the game and I want to see this movie when it's done. (And after excoriating the average paintball video just last week in The Monday Poll I better put some money where my mouth is.)
I'd like to think 'Holding the Wire' could be a break-through of sorts for competitive paintball but I'm not counting it--or even expecting it. I don't even know if it will be any good. What I do know is that there aren't enough stories about competitive paintball and I want more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Not In The Paintball News

Is a brand new VFTD feature. It's the perfect catch-all category for the odd 'n' ends of all things paintball that don't quite measure up in importance or newsworthiness but at least momentarily catch my attention. After the socks that inevitably seem to disappear from the dryer this is where the remaining loose ends (and solo socks) get tucked away.
VFTD the Facebook page has a couple new items this week. A Father's Day wish for all the Poppas out there ands the first weekly Millennium reminder that so far no decision has been made regarding th drunk CPL ref who accosted some of my players Saturday night in Bitburg. I'ma try to post regular bits & pieces there that don't really merit regular blog posts--except of course when  'Not In The PB News.' So drop by now and then to see what you otherwise might have missed. Or you could follow VFTD on Twitter because I am still tweeting routinely, dammit.
Practice this past weekend went well even though the conditions weren't exactly what we expected. CPX made a special effort to be accommodating and even though we shared the field both days we ended up with productive practices with Infamous prepping for Chicago. Thanks to CPX and Infamous.
Less efficacious was the fire alarm going off in our hotel Sunday morning at 6 am. If I had been on the first or second floor I'd have stayed in bed. Up on the fourth I figured better safe (and annoyed) than sorry. The worst of it was when the fire department arrived and it took the first two firefighters about 5 minutes to decide whether or not to get out of their truck. Either it was a scheduled test or somebody burned the breakfast eggs but there was no real emergency and in a just world somebody would see to it I got that extra hour of sleep back--with interest. However I'm not holding my breath.
More importantly Dave (Bains) twisted his back fairly severely and likely will not be able to play the Chicago event though he will be with the team. (To preserve his reputation I won't tell you how it happened but you can ask him in Chicago.) We practiced on Sunday without Dave so we won't have to rethink too much fortunately and I'm confident the rest of the team will rally and pick up the slack.
So what's up with ProPB these days? Dog days of summer and all that but I kinda miss the old format and certainly the regular updates and postings. I know real life tends to intrude but say it ain't so, Justin.

Monday Poll in Review

That's right. The title means there is no new The Monday Poll this week 'cus it's a short week what with the PSP Chicago event this coming weekend. I could have done the routine who's gonna win poll but it would be cut off early and frankly I couldn't be bothered.
Last week's poll was about the current glut of fast, action-filled paintball clip videos with copycat sound tracks. As I mentioned the first time around I'm not a big fan because the clips lose meaning disconnected from the game and there's only so many times a person with a 3-digit IQ can watch somebody run & shoot a marker or dive into a bunker before the eyes glaze over and the urge to end it all becomes nearly overwhelming--or perhaps I'm exaggerating, slightly. Anyone the poll was aimed at discovering what y'all think of paintball videos in general and, truth be told, how irate some of you might get in defending them. As it turns out most of the makers of paintball videos either don't read VFTD, can't read VFTD or agree with me. Who'da thunk it?
Of the eight options given 5 were positively oriented towards the videos and 3 were less so. None of the 5 positive choices reached double digits in percentage chosen. 'Fun to watch' managed 6%. 'I buy the latest retail videos' fell flat at 4% as did considering the videos 'living history' of competitive paintball. As 'a great way to draw in new players' 8% thought the current videos did that and 7% consider them 'valuable promotions' for the industry. On the flip side all 3 negative options garnered double digit percentages as 14% considered  the efforts generally a collective 'circle jerk.' Less unkindly 38% said they were all 'too much of the same thing' and perhaps more importantly 17% said they 'used to buy paintball videos but don't anymore.'
One of the interesting questions that came up in the comments was whether this short attention span style of video was really popular at all--and if it was did that popularity foster the style or did the style simply find its own (albeit limited) audience? I don't think that a question The Monday Poll can answer but I do think, even if we assume the VFTD audience skews somewhat older than the typical competitive baller that the very strong negative numbers could suggest the current video trend has alienated some of the competitive paintball base audience and the difference between those who buy videos now and those who used to is a very stark contrast. Maybe something to think about for those filmmakers seriously interested in both connecting with a particular audience and those who really have something to say.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chitown Practice

Outta here around sunrise tomorrow for a quick pre-event run to Chicagoland and a weekend working the layout with Infamous. This time around that means no posts until next Monday as I'm not taking my laptop with me. (All work and no play made Baca a very dull boy a long time ago.) The team has had a day on the layout to familiarize ourselves with it but it becomes truly instructive when and if the opposition brings some real competition to the table. Fortunately Infamous will do that. Unfortunately it turns out we are in the same bracket and play each other Friday afternoon of the event. It complicates things a little bit.
This is the sort of layout we like--if. If we get to do what we want. If we get to do what we want this layout is tailored to our strengths and I'm not in the least concerned about our execution under those circumstances. It is also a layout on which teams can actively (and potentially effectively) deny and contain. It isn't the way we like to play but we will need to be prepared to both counter deny & contain and deny and contain our opponents because there will be matches where our opponents may (and will almost certainly try to) force us into that sort of game. At least I expect there will so we will be as prepared as possible to deal with it.
I guess the point I'm sorta making is that Race 2 against a well matched opponent is often a game of adjustments and if you haven't planned for and practiced those adjustments in advance trying to execute them on the fly when the points count is a very difficult hurdle to overcome. There is a significant difference between knowing what to do and having done it numerous times before.
If you're hanging around the outskirts of Joliet Il this weekend--and who isn't?--or happen to be playing some paintball at CPX feel free to stop by and say hello.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


You know what I'm talking about. The kids working the PSP webcast magic. Yeah, those guys. PBAccess. Yeah it's somehow affiliated with, cross pollinated by, shared ownership with or something like that with the PSP. Whatever. That's not why I wanted to mention the site today. It could end up being my favorite paintball website--well, other than VFTD of course.
Here's the thing. If you've been around the major league game for any length of time you know all about the big dreams that go along with it. Big dreams that have been dreamt not only by an innumerable number of players but by the movers & shakers of Paintball Inc. You also know those big dreams have never quite managed to make the move to reality. Even after literally millions of dollars have been spent. So if you're a bit cynical when it comes to big paintball's big dreams join the club. But if you think that's what PBAccess is all about you're mistaken.
Okay, sure, there is a real world truth involved that aims to make money from the project. And I hope they do. I hope they do because it will mean that maybe just maybe bigger things really are possible for competitive paintball but more importantly it will mean another means of supporting this three ring circus we call major league paintball. But all that stuff is the business of paintball. Paintball is supposed to be fun not work--at least for most of us. And the real reason I'm recommending you start checking out PBAccess as part of your routine paintball fix is because serious honest-to-goodness entertaining product is beginning to roll out of the pipeline and a lot of it is stuff you won't find, can't find, any place else.
Are you digging the stats? Did you know there's tons of recent game videos on the site too? Loads of D1 matches for the divisional crowd. The Top 10--which I think you can count on being a recurring updated list with each event. Some in-depth video interviews and my current favorite, the Real Deal podcasts. (Lu always puts a smile on my face.) If you want to learn more about the game or just dip a toe vicariously into the competitive paintball deep end of the pool PBAccess is beginning to deliver. If you're dedicated to competitive paintball it's the place to be--right after you finish up at VFTD. Here's hoping it's just the start.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Affectation or Opportunity?

Since there's not a lot of paintball stuff going on at the mo--beyond final prep for Chicago PSP, practice for MS Basildon-not-quite-on-Thames and early registrations for NPPL DC (and of course all the local events around the country, etc.) I occasionally watch other sports. Like basketball--and hooliganism. Er, I mean soccer (or futbol if you prefer.) Okay, that's a lie. I don't watch soccer. It's boring as hell. I'd rather watch baseball or golf or even (gasp!) tennis. (Don't ask. I have this traumatic tennis experience in my past and even after all these years it's .. well, I'd rather not talk about it.) But the hooliganism sometimes associated with soccer--now that I could get into. Overturning and burning cars. Bloody brawls. Running street battles with the police. That's entertainment. Besides, it's good practice for when the Eurozone goes caput! and Merkel's house of cards comes tumbling down. The Spanish bailout may or may not delay the inevitable but on the plus side it digs the hole a little deeper.
But I digress. Sometime in the recent past celebrities started wearing plain glasses--Clark Kent style--purely as an accessory. A fashion statement, a geek chic perhaps. To look more thoughtful maybe or more intelligent even in lieu of, you know, actual thoughts or an education. I mean who needs an education when you can wear pretend glasses and connect with Google on your phone? Anyway, the trend spread and now when you watch a post game press conference you don't know if it's the players or an Urkel convention what with all the glasses as accessories up on the podium. NBA finals pressers are gonna be legit. Will OKC have more glasses on the podium than Miami? What are the Vegas odds? I must admit it is kinda hilarious. But it also got me thinking: How can paintball take advantage of real professional athletes willingness to do stupid things? If they'll wear glasses how 'bout goggles? If glasses are a statement goggles are a loud speaker.
Do you really want to reach people for paintball? Start wearing goggles everywhere you go. Out with friends. To the beach. When you travel. Don't just talk about paintball, be about paintball. Think how many people are gonna want to know what's up with the awesome goggles. Bring paintball to the masses. People will be coming to you to find out why you're sporting those bitchin' goggles and that's your opportunity to tell them about paintball.
I want rose-colored lenses like Bono. Whose with me?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Monday Poll: Paintball Videos

I'm curious. At least for purposes of this post (& Monday Poll) let's pretend I'm curious--about paintball videos. You see being old and uncool I'm just not getting how awesome paintball videos are. In fact if the truth be told I find most of them mostly boring and more repetitious than a game of full on Xball. (That was a joke.) Once upon a time real filmmakers made films about competitive paintball. They told a story. They dug deeper than the surface flash; the action the motions colors energy visceral appeals of the game with anchors in personalities and fixed positions in time & place that imbued their stories with meaning.
Today most paintball vids seem like mood suppressants via sensory overload for the ADHD crowd. Snippets of unconnected unarticulated action that are virtually meaningless unless you already understand the basic vocabulary of the game but even at their best there is little more to them than a kaleidoscope of colors and movements swirling at breakneck speed all strung together to the beat some invariably trendy wretched excuse for music.
Is it the paintball equivalent of highlights on SportsCenter? Some might say yes but I remain unconvinced. Even on SportsCenter during the clip-o-rama the scene is set and the highlight is shown with context. Even SportsCenter knows in this short attention span era that without context the highlight loses any meaning it might otherwise have. Without context highlights become a blur of repeated actions endlessly looped.
So what's the deal with the modern paintball video? What happened?
Is the problem the audience? The filmmakers? Or am I so out of touch it's just me? It's not like I'm expecting Citizen Kane or even Big Wednesday but a (seemingly) endless line up of 4 minute videos that all do exactly the same things over and over again does not excite me. And perhaps more to the point are any of them likely to excite anybody who hasn't experienced competitive paintball already? I don't know.
That's why this topic is this week's Monday Poll. I wanna know what y'all think of paintball videos. In that quest I'ma give you a variety of choices and I want you to pick the one that best reflects your point of view. Shouldn't be too hard--and you know by now what that means--it's time to vote. And I know you've got something to say on this topic too. Let's hear it.

[Btw, lest I give the impression that paintball videos are an utter wasteland there are a few filmmakers out there with some chops and even a discernible aesthetic & style now and again. But mostly it's a lot of copycat-ism and too many kids with cameras. Just saying.]

The Banning of HD: Final Thoughts

I have received (and reviewed) all the accounts of the HD Affair that I am likely to and tried to piece the puzzle parts together. It has proved, not surprisingly, to be impossible to reconcile all the details and impressions and recollections provided by eyewitnesses. Much like police reports at the scene of an accident or crime not everyone remembers the events the same. In fact it is routine for stories to vary so that after the fact the best that can be accomplished is to recreate a likely sequence of events. Video and even still shots would probably help resolve some of the uncertainties. I have seen accounts by those disposed to favor HD perhaps and those representing the league and some from individuals who don't, as far as I can tell, have a dog in the fight. And even after all that I can't claim to conclusively know exactly what happened. I think I know what happened--but no more than that.
What I do know is the "current" rule book is dated 2006 and full of anachronisms. I know the action taken with respect to HD was largely outside the scope of the rule book even though the language of the rule book plainly covered such a situation. I know the actions taken were inconsistent with the hierarchy of authority many of the MS board members have championed. And I know the board can act with alacrity, rightly or wrongly, when so inclined.
I don't see any real value in further speculations but I do think it may be instructive to see what the MS does or doesn't do as a follow-up to the incident I reported (involving at least one CPL ref and some of my players) on this blog and to Mr. Stahr. A ref that Mr. Stahr confirmed the league has identified. Will the league take any action? Will they make a public statement regarding the incident? Will they uphold their own standards? We will see. And just to help out I will, on a weekly basis, be reminding them until such point in time they do something.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Ancient & Honourable Art of Bird-Dogging

Bird-dogging, just in case you aren't familiar with the term (in a competitive paintball context) is when a non-player actively or intentionally identifies the position of a live player (who may have otherwise successfully moved with none the wiser.) Most often it is seen in efforts from outside the netting to giveaway the position of players with movement, hand gestures and the like. It is, in most cases, a rules violation and plainly unsportsmanlike behavior. While there have been some excellent instances captured on video in recent years the most consistent and egregious displays of bird-dogging on display anywhere in the world occur routinely on the CPL field in the Millennium Series. Despite the fact it's against the rules [7.06] it also appears to part & parcel of the techniques the officials are trained to use and it's mighty entertaining to watch them chase the players around like heat-seeking missiles homing in on their target.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

First Observations on PSP Chicago Layout

No I am not doing any sort of field breakdown or analysis. At least not for publication here at VFTD. What I am doing is one of my favorite pastimes--one that regulars will instantly recognize--I am disinterring one of the dead horses buried in the back yard so I can beat on it some more.
When the PSP extended the field dimensions and announced a general intent to be more all inclusive in the sense that the league hoped to attract a broader pool of players--kinda like back in the day--with more large props, etc. for the older, fatter & slower players I didn't much care for the idea--and said so--repeatedly. Even though I understood the reasons why, and still do, I thought it was contrary to what the league had become. And was unlikely to succeed anyway.
And it hasn't. Succeeded, that is. And it hasn't succeeded in large part because it hasn't ever been fully implemented--and it hasn't been fully implemented because of a significant failure in communication and cooperation between the PSP and the kids at Sup'Air who unilaterally created a snake this year that is beyond "technical" for most players and shrank the rest of the props by some percentage. Yet Sup'Air's vision of the game is the perpetual run through, treating it like the paintball equivalent of the dunk. (Of course more difficult props means faster eliminations which provide numbers opportunities which encourage--you guessed it--run throughs.) And as the layout designers for the league routinely failed to design layouts last year, or this, that coincided with the PSP's stated goals. (I'm dangerously close to digging up another dead equine.) At the end of the day that is on the PSP. It was their policy. It's their layout and their league. But--
There are consequences. And they are predictable as day follows night. (And vice versa.) The new snake requires lots of supporting props to be marginally playable in a 5 up scenario. It also requires a preponderance of low elevation props--no stand-ups. Since the Pins (trees) are supporting the snake the stand-ups do double duty as lane blockers and are incidentally pulled above the 30's making the Cans in particular easier eliminations--and leaving no larger props in the back as the PSP (once) wanted. Another consequence is to divide the layouts into halves. What I mean is that designs with these characteristics tend to play up and down with much less emphasis on the cross field play often until one wire or the other is blown. Each wire tends to be dominated by gunfighting. On one wire it's played on your feet and on the other it's on your knees.
One complaint of xball oft repeated is the repetition of plays and points. It was a complaint aimed at the layouts but was more correctly seen as a lack of imagination or understanding on the players and teams part. It is a complaint that today could be more accurately aimed at layouts, whatever the features, that more and more reflect recurring patterns, standardized modules of thought and another failure of imagination.

Magic 8 Ball Says

Expect the PSP Chicago layout to bear a remarkable resemblance to the MS London Masters layout.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Banning of HD 2

VFTD has received further communications from Ulrich S. of the MS that clarifies the league's view and offers a justification for their actions after the fact. He reiterated, "Whatever a participant might think, what another participant (player, official, media, vendor, spectator) has said or has not said, will never justify such a deliberate attack. The MS Board will take measures, such malicious assaults will not be repeated by the same persons again."  VFTD certainly doesn't have any issues with that and I can't imagine that anybody else does either, but--I continue to question the way it was done. Mr. Stahr continues to insist that there is a distinction between physical contact and physical assault in justifying the banning. If we were simply going by word definitions he would be correct. However, the MS's guide is their rule book, like it or not, and their written definition of 'physical contact' covers this incident.
I could nitpick the rules issues to death but I am confident that it has reasonably been established that the Board's actions were outside the written leagues rules--and that most paintballers aren't all that concerned about it. So why the immediate action? After all, by rule HD was both ejected from Bitburg and suspended for London. That left plenty of time to take a measured by rule approach if the MS decided further actions were necessary. Or for the appropriate commission of the EPBF to meet and respond.
The precipitating events continue to be disputed. Mr. Stahr insists the referee in question did not lie or misrepresent his or HD's action in pulling HD's card. There is also some question as to just when Mr. Stahr appeared on site. (I am trying to confirm these details simply to establish an accurate record.) While those events do not alter or excuse HD's actions they do potentially reflect on the league's willingness to acknowledge some responsibility and more importantly, act to make productive change.

International tournament paintball as exemplified by the MS and the EPBF are attempting to establish recognized institutions aimed at legitimizing paintball as sport to the international sports community. The foundation of this effort is the rules; rules that define the game played and rules that define the institutions themselves. In VFTD's view this is why the league's failure to act within their established rules matters. Hopefully one upshot of this incident is a renewed dedication by the league to actually be what they claim to aspire to.

On the unrelated issue of the incident involving my players I am informed that at least one ref has been identified and the MS is "interrogating" him. Time will tell what if anything comes of this. At a minimum the known ref was plainly intoxicated and that alone is a violation of the standards of conduct taught, according to Mr. Stahr, "in each Euroref Basic Ref Training Course."  It remains unclear whether any penalties enforce the standards of conduct. And while Mr. Stahr says the standards of conduct aren't secret they also aren't published anywhere or commonly known to the average participant. Perhaps now would be a good time to remedy that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bitburg Update

I have reviewed all the video I have and unfortunately none of it has what I was looking for. It was shot from outside the net on the spectator's side and while of decent quality it doesn't have sufficient detail to highlight any potential problems. It also only covers one not two of our prelim matches. (When I mentioned it the first time I thought I'd be getting 2of 3 matches.) Additionally the videographer somehow chose to film the other team half the time cutting the amount of potentially useful material in half--again. The match in question however is the one where two refs high fived one another after calling a major on us--but apparently that happened during one of the points when the other guys were being filmed. (I know, pics or shens.)
Should anyone else have raw footage they'd be willing to share I'd love to see it.
VFTD is still waiting for a follow-up response from Ulrich S. of the MS. In the meantime I have gathered some more information, from both public and private sources, related to the incident in question. A couple of interesting side notes; both Ulrich and Jabba, the field ultimate, were (apparently) present and part of the dialogue that led to the punches being thrown. And the ref who was punched was seen later that evening hanging out with a group of his fellow countrymen (and women) in front of the hotel seemingly no worse for wear. The former suggests that MS reps know exactly what was said and what wasn't and the latter suggests that perhaps the damage done has been overblown in some quarters. (No, that doesn't alter the fact the punches were thrown in the first place.)
I have also passed on information regarding the behavior of at least one CPL ref as it relates to a contact with some of my players initiated by the ref and others with him off the field during the event. The one individual should be very easy to identify. It will be interesting to see what the MS does, if anything. More as it comes in. And if I do not hear from Ulrich or another rep of the MS in the next couple of days I will assume they no longer have an interest in sort of dialogue.
[Should they be concerned about fair treatment--and considering how they've treated me so far I'd be worried--they should look at the interview conducted by VFTD of Mr. Steve Baldwin a couple of years ago. It was scrupulously fair and gave Mr. Baldwin (an MS board member who had threatened VFTD with legal action) final review over what was published in the blog and even privately recommended he consider amending some of his remarks so as to put him in a better light. Whatever our disagreements VFTD has a record of fairness.]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Banning of H.D.

At the recent Millennium Series Bitburg event a long time pro player, H.D., was involved in an altercation with a ref that resulted in H.D. punching the ref. Bits and pieces of the details can be found at PBN. While I am aware the name of the individual has been made public I'll be sticking with his initials. The point is that from my perspective the who isn't important. I have no intention of arguing the specific details or the merits of the ban given what transpired. My interest is twofold; documented rules that make enforcement transparent and consistent and a curiosity regarding league standards of conduct with respect to their representatives.
Okay, here's where it gets really tedious. Yep, we're delving into what passes for the MS rules. Sorry but it's necessary. All I can find is the rule book (2006) plus changes that are available on the MS website. In conjunction with those the MS also lists player suspensions for the current season. None of the changes listed includes any relevant to this situation documentation. Consequently I am relying on the only documentation I could find.
Throughout the rule book the phrase that is used for this situation is physical contact. See Penalties and Additional Penalties. Under section 39 [Suspensions, Ejections, DQs & Fines] it goes so far as to identify "intentional physical contact that could be construed to be assault & battery" in subsection 39.04 which results in an immediate ejection from the event and a one event suspension. The only place the language changes is in section 40 [Decorum] subsection 40.02 that stipulates up to a one year suspension can be handed out for a physical altercation. Those are the two areas that speak most directly to the H.D. situation. Within the commonly available rule book there is no banning penalty option--of any duration--unless you use ban for suspension interchangeably. Nor even a multiple event suspension option as 39.06 makes clear that continuing unsportsmanlike conduct after an ejection and/or suspension is to be handled with a fine. The only possibility of multi-event suspensions within the rules is covered in 39.05 that stipulates that should a player be suspended a second time in the same season [player] "will be banned for at least one more event." This could be interpreted as opening the door to multi-event suspensions but only under the very specific circumstances of a second suspension within the same year.
EDIT ADDED: Round 1 of contact with Mr. Ulrich Staehr of the MS is concluded. I neglected to ask permission to duplicate or paraphrase his responses on the blog so that portion will have to wait. With respect to multi-event suspensions the MS cites rule 39.04 as justification. In re-reading the sections highlighted by Ulrich it appears the league can reasonably make that case if one of the two events is currently being played at the time of the ejection and suspension. There is much more coming thanks to Ulrich's willingness to engage on this subject.
Btw, having found no supporting rules in any available variant of the MS rules I checked to see if the MS was subject--as a member of the EPBF--to any written EPBF rules governing the subject at hand. Turns out there aren't. Any such rules. (For your own look see go here.) As the EPBF appears to be intended to have direct oversight of Eurorefs I took a look there too for any applicable information or guidelines. That portion of the EPBF is to date incomplete. (See here.) And since the EPBF is (at some future date intended to operate) under the auspices of the UPBF as the world governing body I even took a look there. Sorta. Turns out I could have from GoDaddy today. (I passed.) The best information I could find on the UPBF is here. Bottom line, from all sources available it appears the decision of an 8 year ban is outside the parameters of the league's own rules. You may argue so were the actions involved. I would disagree given the language in some of the rules provisions. Regardless the point that remains is if the league can mete out arbitrary penalties to H.D. they can do the same at anytime to anyone else too. And that should be recognized as everyone's problem--and one that needs to be dealt with before a similar situation occurs.
If you don't think the issue is one that should concern you take a look at this page on the MS website. It's the current suspensions list for 2012. You will note that to date this year 3 players besides H.D. have received multi-event suspensions--contrary to the written rules.
EDIT ADDED: As noted above I rescind my claim that the MS has no basis for a two event suspension under the conditions that one of the two events is currently being played.
Now about that other business. Does the league hold its refs and other reps to any kind of standard of conduct? The question arises because part of the story that is coming out claims the ref who got punched lied (prior to the punch) in order to justify pulling H.D.'s card on the field (which constituted an automatic suspension and ejection.) If true it doesn't justify H.D.'s actions. It does go some way to explain how the situation escalated to the point where a punch was thrown. Again, if true, it seems to me to have a bearing on the final outcome. It means the ref shares some portion of the blame and makes the league complicit with the only guy paying a price for his actions, the customer. After all if lying about what occurred on the field is okay with the MS what else is okay? Drunken refs? Refs under the influence? If there are no standards there is no accountability.

In an attempt to assure accuracy and perhaps get a statement regarding the Mill's thinking in leveling a ban of this duration I have contacted the league's head of rules & officials with a series of short questions and a request for a clarification. I asked about justification of the ban in accordance with the current rule book. (Yes, I know but this is serious business so no laughing aloud--or allowed.) I asked about the outcome of any similar past incidents and I asked if the league had any formal or informal standards of conduct for their referees. When that reply is forthcoming VFTD will revisit the topic.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Countering AC in Bitburg 2012

I hesitated briefly before deciding to follow-up the last post with our game plan to counter the AC game. In part because the score didn't favor us in the end and in part because I'm not talking paintball specifics at Bitburg so I can't offer any explanation. Even so, make of this what you will. I remain convinced it was the right call and an effective plan. We won the first two points in less than a minute combined and forced AC to make changes to counter us.

Part 1 of the plan was to mirror AC's breakout in ways that avoided early risk and recognized what their OTB objectives were. The blue circles reflect our core primaries. (Although once established on the snake side we were able to safely reach the other primary options as well, like the corner CK.) As you can see a lot of similarities in the breakout primaries.
Part 2 was aimed at blunting their primary attack and forcing them to do something different. In order to achieve this goal we wanted to do two things; beat them to the center of the field and deny their secondary rotations. Consequently we pushed a player upfield OTB every point and used our widest snake side and D-side players to focus early in the point on the inside angles relying on our Home shooter and upfield presence to control wide movement initially. (Also in the early points expecting AC to be taken by surprise at least for a point or two.)
Part 3 was to attack "weak" points with the purpose of denying AC the opportunity to bring their power to bear. One of the strengths of their inside/out game is that it progresses in very natural, easy and for the most part safe steps that keep their guns rolling and build momentum that finally allows them to sweep down the field irresistibly. The danger of playing a consistent inside/out game is that you get beat wide and give up dominant edges or you lose key bodies early before the momentum builds. For AC the momentum began building as they were able to shift their Home players into their secondaries, or follow-up the wire leads with support guns. We felt that two players in a Home CK was subject to attack along with the D-side Can.
Objective: counter AC early with a more aggressive version of their basic game plan and force them to change. Since they were attacking the center consistently we wanted them to have to force bodies wide OTB or soon thereafter. We also wanted our first eliminations to come from the D-side Can and/or back center. If we were consistently getting an elimination there the result would naturally blunt the force of any AC offensive push.