Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Post: Brave New Paintball Day, part 2

And here's VFTD's guest post, part 2. (If you would like to submit a guest post on any relevant to competitive paintball topic remember brevity is the soul of wit--and keep it short!)

For the teams in the Challengers division, you now have the chance to build a brand, hone your skills with other professional teams, provide wins for your fan base, and strive for the honor to play at the next level. Sponsors and supporters now have reasons to help teams in the Challengers division. To the teams on the fence about joining the challengers division, now extra sponsorship opportunities are possible. Sponsors want to have their teams succeed, they want to back teams that are in the mix pulling out wins. With this new format of two professional divisions, sponsors have vested interest in having all their teams perform. With the older 15 team format a sponsor could give less to a lower caliber team because they already were in the professional division and there is no reason to make them better. Now sponsors may wish to increase the development of their Challengers teams so that they can be competitive not only in the Challengers division, but when they get to the Champions division.
So how do we get these teams off the fence and into the mix? Simple, PSP needs to lock the division regardless of the numbers in Challengers division at the start of PSP MAO (having already ballsed up the division spits). I think some of the undecided teams are waiting to see if the Champions/Challengers will be a pie in the sky dream or reality hitting them in the face. Locking the division at the start of MAO means that NO OTHER TEAM will be able to go professional this year. And only by winning in Division 1 will they get to play pro EVER. PSP will have to do something that I have really not seen out of them much, and STICK WITH IT. The loss of not having a full division of Challengers and teams offering money to join Challengers will be real hard for the organizers of PSP to turn down, but they really have too. Only by sticking to the lock will teams want into the Challengers division incase the model shows longevity. PSP can use the previously mentioned relegation amendment to allow for growth in the Challengers division by promoting 3 D1 teams and religating 1 Challengers team at the end of the season. Bringing Challengers to 9 should only Texas Storm and Top Gun T1 join the professional ranks. Rinse and repeat the following year 3 up / 2 down and you are at 10 teams while proving the sanctity of the relegation model.
In my opinion having these spots in the Challengers division available give teams that are ranked lower than the top two D1 teams the opportunity to get a one year head start on those teams vying to finish D1 1st and 2nd. This opportunity is by getting to play better teams in a race-to-7 format at the professional level. At best you could surprise the Challengers division and play in the Champions this year! At least you will have the experience advantage should you have to play them next year; And at worst you would be ranked 1st or 2nd in D1 for the following year having had played 16 race-to-7 matches versus other pro teams.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post: Brave New Paintball Day, part 1

The following was in the mailbag this morning. It proved to be a rather lengthy take on yesterday's post about the soon-to-be Challengers bracket. I think it adds to the conversation so it's receiving guest post status. Take a look. Part 2 tomorrow.

Recently I read the blog post from View From The Deadbox, asking where are all the teams banging on the door of the PSP asking to be included in the new challengers division. In my opinion the largest reason for this delay in teams wanting to enter into the professional division is not all fear, but a lot of uncertainty. The largest uncertainty comes directly from the PSP itself. We as players are uncertain as to what will really happen, will four teams really just be bouncing up and down from Champions to Challengers or will these new teams be competitive in the Challengers division? Will teams realistically have the opportunity to come in and compete in the Champions division? Will my team be branded a “failure” if we don’t get into the Champions division this year? Will this be a one/two year experiment like previous locked divisions in paintball? On and on the questions and uncertainty leads teams to flounder on what their next step should be.
Launching the details of this champion and challengers method in Jan of 2013 for the 2013 season was a bad move by the PSP. The delay in the announcement kept the industry out of the growth and legitimacy of this model. Most professional and divisional teams that I know of had already finished their negotiations with sponsors prior to the announcement of this new model. Sponsors who were basing sponsorship packages on teams playing in the professional league now have contracts with teams that ultimately could be playing Division 1 next season. Additionally, these sponsors want “impressions of their brand” and base compensation on the fact that sponsored teams will be on the webcast; bye bye on these impressions if the sponsored team gets relegated to the non-webcasted Challengers division. If the plans for this format were released at an appropriate time then sponsors could have created tiered approaches to sponsorship. Enticing teams to not only participate in the professional league but adding additional fuel to the desire to do better.
Not only was this error temporally wrong but procedurally I think the PSP also made a mistake. They had 15 teams in the Professional division and went with a 10 team Champions division. relegating 5 teams. During the early days, why not relegate half the teams? This would have created a Champions division of 8 teams and Challengers of 7 teams. You can always promote more teams into the Champions division when the Challengers division proves successful. instead you have the PSP trying to scramble and entice 5 teams into the Challengers division this year instead of 1. Once the Challengers division proved successful it would have been easy to expand to the desired limits.
Because we can not turn back time, I would now like to focus more on the positive of the Champions and Challengers concept and how we can get teams to commit to the model proving the solvency of the model and league. For teams in the Champions division congratulations on your promotion. You are now 1 of 10 professional teams playing in the top division of paintball. As a team, your bargaining power has just increased. You are fighting with 9 other teams instead of 14+ other teams for sponsorship opportunities. With the locked divisions your franchise is in your own control, and external influence has diminished. If your team goes out and performs to the level that they have exhibited to reach their current status, then outside teams cannot just show up and act like they have been here forever.
The locked division and limited roster changes means that a person can not go out and hire a squad of professional players and enter the league. That is why I said earlier purchased teams like Houston Heat are gone. Professional means Champions and Challengers; so even a new Divisional team coming into the Challengers division cannot go out and hire players, at least not in the current season. I would like to see a rule change to limit the number of off-season moves that teams can do. I understand that moves of players will always be a thing, until teams have the financial stability to sign multi-year contracts for players. However, in the new format of Champions/Challengers the league will really need to look at the off-season as a place to exploit the current system and decrease the legitimacy of what is trying to be accomplished.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Where y'all hiding? From all the big talk one hears outta the D1 division I'ma little surprised the PSP isn't having to beat off wannabe Challengers with a stick. Where you at, Pro Material? Finally a chance to play RT7 with penalty boxes and everything. Plus a fast track opportunity to jump in with the best of the best almost immediately--if you're good enough. What more do you want? An engraved invitation? Oh wait, you're practically getting one of those too since access to the Challengers bracket is by invitation only. So what are you waiting for people?
I didn't for a minute think the league would have any trouble getting 8 Challengers and thought it as likely the bracket would fill up right away. Look it's certainly possible a number of y'all are taking a close look and thinking this through before you decide and it'll all get settled in the wash but come on--all this calculation and hedging has an odor about it. Maybe I'm completely wrong but it smells like fear to me. Offered what everybody claims to want all of sudden it's a matter of ciphering up some numbers and doing our due diligence. Nope, I ain't buying.
But, but, but everyone agrees--the money matters. And I don't disagree. A top level pro team these days ain't cheap and ain't delivering a return beyond the opportunity to compete at the highest level and the satisfaction that comes from being part of that competition, hopefully a successful one. And looking at the team list what I see are a lot of similar expenses. Everything is the same except how much paint you expend in preparation and even then the truth is everyone is on a budget. Every team has limits they must abide by. And if you're a prospective Challenger and you know you can't throw money at the difference you perceive exists between you and the top of the pro food chain then you best start looking for another way.
I guess maybe it comes down to what you really want. Are you willing to risk failing in order to have your shot at the ultimate brass ring in competitive paintball--or would you rather play it safe and tell yourself maybe next year.

UPDATE: League sources say as many as 12 teams have either contacted the league or been contacted about filling a spot in the Challengers bracket. Since some of the wannabes are D3 and/or untried let's call it 6 serious candidates. While it's good to know there are teams actively considering or seeking the move I still say, what's taking so long?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Can The Webcast Be A Success?

I know, you want to claim it's already a success. And by some metrics that's true but the fact that it's well done, you and your friends like it and (hypothetically) the numbers of watchers has been growing consistently doesn't mean it's a success in any of the ways that ultimately matter. So far the hard truth is that another substantial pile of cheddar has been spent creating, producing and delivering the webcast to tens of thousands of computers, smart phones and tablets around the world. That's progress (fingers crossed), not success. Necessary but incomplete. At some point in this process PaintballAccess needs to make money instead of simply spending money--and sooner rather than later--because eventually either the money or the willingness to keep spending without a return runs out no matter the best intentions of everyone involved.
In the past a number of related efforts have been made to cash in on the tourney market or to popularize competitive paintball mostly geared around broadcast TV. But there was also an aborted effort once (or twice) upon a time to see if PPV would work. They fizzled as did most of the TV efforts though not always for the reasons most often assumed, numbers of viewers. Much of the problem wasn't too few viewers it was too few willing advertisers.
One imagines that PBA, more aware than most of the past, has and is taking steps hopefully to avoid another round of the failures of the past. In the meantime they continue to build an audience and refine their product--and see if they can twist a few bucks outta what passes for the industry these days. Which appears from this vantage point to have been something of a struggle, especially keeping the PSP and PBA uncoupled. PBA doesn't make sponsorships of an event series available and the PSP doesn't provide a webcast but given overlapping ownership I'd be surprised if some of the industry hadn't at least tried to piggyback one on the other. And in the long run the industry isn't going to be sufficient to support both the PSP and PBA.
Today the webcast resides in a kind of limbo capable of delivering advertising to their target market but without the client list of advertisers willing to pay for the service--yet. Various target numbers have been the goal that once reached would be sufficient to peak the interest of advertisers--and some of the latest numbers bandied about are in the target neighborhoods--but there is still no joy in Mudville. And here is where the limits of my information run dry.
What's next? How developed are the new media models? Who is operating in the marketplace putting advertisers and opportunities together? How widespread is niche marketing and how receptive are some of the big players in the advertising world to such overtures?
What's a realistic time frame to see this revenue model begin to work?
And what comes next if it doesn't?
Would a return to PPV keep PBA operational and the webcast ongoing indefinitely? And if the revenue model changed to PPV would the PPV ever go away even if the advertisers eventually got on board? It's clear that PBA has so far avoided even hinting at PPV but if that ends up being the difference between a webcast and no webcast how do your dollars vote?

Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 HB

Just a couple of quick observations on the upcoming NPPL season opener. I've already posted this one on VFTD--FB but I'ma repost it here 'cus the "problem" remains. Remember when the NPPL decided to go with the PSP bunker set plus some giant cans? Yeah, not that long ago. Well they also announced reduced field dimensions and that's where the "problem" resides. The new field length is supposed to be 170' but the HB layout is the old standard of 180'. Maybe it's just me but that seems to kinda undermine their efforts at being more universally accessible.
For the first time ever the NPPL has begun listing both registered teams and teams that have paid their entry so we now have an accurate list of competing teams prior to the event. (When I say 'accurate' I mean that loosely, like we were discussing the veracity of government statistics.) Capacity is listed at 141 teams and there are currently 95 paid. There's only a few days left to get those entries in but it wouldn't surprise me if the total was in the 110 team ballpark.
And then there were the prize packages. Have you taken a close look at the numbers? From D2 down the totals add up correctly. Not so much in Semi-pro (D1) or Pro. The D1 total is listed as $7000. $3000 for first, $2500 for second and $1000 for third. Go on. Do the math. $6500. But the Pro numbers are even better. $25000 total prize package. $15000 for first, $8000 for second and $4000 for third. Which adds up to a grand total of er, $27000. So who gets the haircut when the actual checks are cut?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

2013 PSP Dallas Layout

More so than usual the lynchpin to playing this layout is the offset Home [the Can in the pink field] because it played a key role both on the D-wire and across the field as the most effective contain and deny position on the field. And it was this tension that caused some teams to double the Can with regularity.
Note that all the doritos are positioned within one 12.5 foot wide column. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the support player to protect the wire lead when both players are in the doritos. And that means if you intend to try and contain your opponent's ability to push the D-wire support needs to be somewhere other than on the wire. The two primary support positions are the offset Home (Can) and the MT (at the 40' line.) Both are capable of contesting movement between the D2, D3 and the Fifty Dorito. (To counter that effort at containment Dynasty frequently pushed two players onto the D-wire giving them a two gun to one advantage in their attack.)
One result as the matches were played and the days passed was that teams used alternate positions to try and control D-wire movement. On the diagram you will see purple dots and arrowed lines from the other common bunkers used to contain D-wire movement and attack. At this point it's important to take note two things: the degree of difficulty involved in denying D-wire movement while staying alive and the Big Picture.
The Big Picture is the D-wire literally demanded to be the strong side of the field as it was a high risk decision to go strong side on the snake side as the extra numbers could very quickly turn the field down the D-wire without a comparable risk of the same happening on the snake side. And snake side attacks were further blunted when teams would commit a player in one of the alternate contain bunkers to play the crossfield lane(s).
Let's move on to snake side contain from the offset Home. With the technical snake populating the snake side of the field with low elevation props it made running the corner higher risk than normal and any review of the matches played indicates a number of teams almost abandoned running the corner OTB, choosing instead to fill it later or not at all. Take note of the pink zone between the two insert Aztecs. This is the zone we preferred to shoot from Home for a couple of reasons. Much of the time teams slow played the snake side because it was also their weak-side and that meant more often than not somebody was running or diving through that zone every breakout. Shooting that zone also meant any time a team attempted to get to the snake we were on that lane too--and we kept shooting the gap between the two Aztecs in order to slow the opponent's rotations. If Aztec one couldn't make his next bump then the Home couldn't fill so they either sat in the bunkers we wanted them in or they changed plans and/or gave us better opportunities to get eliminations from bigger more risky movements.

Now let's look at the counters. On the D-wire speed could kill. It could also win the race to the fifty. If one team is already in the bunker the opponent is left to decide when and how to attack but in the meantime doesn't have use of that position on the field--so the more aggressive the attack up the D-wire the better. (Although that too was eventually blunted by the numerous crossfield lanes being brought into play.) In dealing with the Home directly take a look at the top of the diagram and the positions designated in blue with blue arrows. In taking as primaries the Can or the MT or even the D1 it was possible to either delay or choose a path that allowed for shooting a lane back at the opponent's Home (Can) or into the gap between the Home and the doritos. Additionally an aggressive run to D1, staying on one's feet and wrapping the bunker allowed for a very aggressive attack on the Home or an opportunity to catch a player making the bump from Home up to the MT. Also, in filling either the snake corner or the second Aztec both positions had an immediate opportunity to attack the Home, especially if it was being doubled.

That's the foundation for how and why the layout played the way it did. If you have any additional questions post them up in comments or drop me a line in the mailbag and I'll answer as many as I can or at least I'll answer the good ones.

Friday, March 22, 2013

We Have A New CPL

The MS announced today the line-up of CPL teams that will be competing in 2013. Instead of the customary two teams promoted from the SPL, Vision & Polar Bears, this year's CPL will feature 5 new teams. Waiting on various and sundry Millennium announcements is rather like watching for the white smoke to drift over Vatican City. Hopefully they weren't burning the new rule book. (But I kid, there is no new rule book, is there?) (The Board, like the Pope, is infallible don't you know.)
Filling in for the Dynabrats is Empire LA Infamous, which is something of a surprise but apparently KEE is feeling the need to push back a bit against the efforts of GI Sportz in the European arena. GI has Houston Heat in the Damage spot from last year and GI also sponsors Edmonton Impact, who will be playing out of the Amsterdam Heat spot. Was there one Heat too many for the CPL or were the kids from Amsterdam made an offer they couldn't refuse? (I hope they negotiated a multi-year paint deal with GI to give up their spot.)
And as to the remaining Heat I'm curious to see if they pick up any established Pros to fill in for their missing Russian crew. I confess I had expected to see that happen before now. Or perhaps they will be content to give the guys who don't always see a lot of action more PT over in Euroland.
Will the lads from Amsterdam combine their squad with their SPL team and make a strong run at regaining a CPL spot for next season? Inquiring minds want to know. Well, at least I do.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mr. Curious Says

Mr. Curious has stumbled across a nice bit of rumorology. Seems he's in Nebraska recreating the cross country scenes from 'Dumb & Dumber' ("Kick his ass, Sea Bass") and stumbled across this tidbit of information. The word is Todd Martinez, former Infamous coach will be taking an assignment with Vicious.

What do you think? Does Todd improve their chances of getting out of the Challengers bracket?

[originally posted at VFTD Facebook. if you ain't checking out VFTD on Facebook you're missing out.]

UPDATE: The delay in an announcement seems to be due to the fact Todd has not yet agreed to take on the job with Vicious who are reportedly now looking into alternatives should the Martinez pick-up not work out.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Post Dallas Wrap-up

Or should that be the Dallas Wrap-up Post or the Wrap-up Dallas Post? Call it what you will this is where VFTD ties together all the odds and ends into a neat bow with a summary (including highlights!) of the event.
Let's begin with the very short list of not-quite-problems so let's call them "concerns." The Return to 150' along with the added oomph of 4 additional props was supposed to solve Slow Game Syndrome--and to an extent it did but certainly not to the degree the shorter field alone (and past stats associated with the shorter field) would have indicated. For example the pros went to time in around 25% of their prelim matches. Worse the D1 kids clocked in at 34% to time in their prelims with D2 down around 22% to time in their preliminary matches. Overall that's down a little but not much. Now one event doesn't make a trend but if we get something similar at MAO it's a problem. Two related issue remain; the "technical snake" which continues to dictate design characteristics on one half of the layouts and the PSP's track record in deciding which available layout to use for an event. (What I'm trying to say in a delicate sorta way is the league ain't got anybody who can accurately assess how a layout will play prior to playing it so the decision becomes a crapshoot.) The other, more pressing, concern is reffing--and in particular all the red flags during the weekend and the causes that precipitated the rain of red. As a practical matter the league is getting a new pro crew up to speed for the new Challengers' field and essentially doubling the number of pro refs. It's a process so a few hiccups along the way are to be expected. However the critical danger here is that instead of building the new guys up into solid pro refs everybody ends up a notch or two lower than they started. It is incumbent on Tom and Leon to focus their efforts on maintaining, even improving, the standard. And I thought the propensity for tossing majors this past weekend was a clear indication of flag-happiness not cheaty players. Admittedly it can be a fine line but first and foremost the goal must be to let the competing teams battle it out with as little official interference as possible while keeping the game fair. ("Fair" is however a tricky word.)
Moving on to the pro matches, the webcast and the immediate future of Champs & Challengers. After touting Thursday play in advance here in VFTD I was a little disappointed but overall there were some outstanding and exciting matches played, particularly on Sunday--and it's only going to get better. What I saw of the webcast was first rate (as usual) and with the extra day and new faces should have generated lots of interest and a growing audience. (I hope we hear some numbers at some point.)
What about instant replay? On the ground at the end of the Infamous-Dynasty semi it looked to the naked eye, my naked eye anyway, that the flag reached the penalty box netting after the clock hit zero but just a fraction before the buzzer sounded. After watching the replay I think the buzzer may have sounded before there was any contact but it was so close reasonable people could argue over what they just saw in good conscience. Could the league address those rare situations with instant replay? Should they?
With the move to Champs & Challengers I had initially thought it likely we'd see mostly the same teams and names going up and down with some modest variations. I no longer think that. Depending on the bracket one bad match, one call at a critical juncture could cost a team a match and one untimely or unexpected loss will leave teams fighting to avoid relegation. Even in stacked brackets somebody has to lose. And they will. Each event only four teams will move to Sunday and four will struggle to stay in the Champs bracket. And there will be some surprises. Count on it.
Like last year if anyone who participated in the event, in any capacity, would like to try their hand at covering a division of play VFTD would be happy to give blog space over to that effort. I don't see much divisional paintball but would like to be able to promote the up-and-comers in a small way so if you want to give it a try, hit me up using the email link on the sidebar. VFTD reserves the right to function as editor (for space, clarity, tone, etc.) but beyond that you're on your own.
If you missed it in Dallas the next time the PSP offers Open 10-man make you sure you check out the rosters and catch some of the action. This time around there were 4 teams including Femmes Fatale and a way past their prime roster of former superstars, Tour de Force, that included Todd Adamson, Billy Ceranski, Rocky Cagnoni, Manny Francia and others. They lost their first game of the day to the girls when the refs reportedly pulled three wiping penalties. (Ah, the memories.) They won the rest of their prelims to make the finals only to lose to Redneck Central, er, PPS SFO. (It was another throw together field with inflatables on a hyperball layout intended for rec players. Seems to me if the PSP is serious about a modest but consistent following in 10-man they need to offer the real deal all the way 'round. But maybe that's just me.)
The venue, Cousins Paintball, outside Mesquite, Texas was isolated but satisfactory with plenty of room to accommodate the 7 plus fields, row of vendors and parking for everyone. The weather was exceptionally nice if a bit windy early on. And with a 160 plus teams for a season opener it's hard to imagine that the Dallas Open was anything but a solid success and an excellent lead into the rest of the 2013 season.

Later in the week I'll take a look at the Dallas layout and talk some about the keys to playing the field and where and how points had a tendency to slow down when they did. If you have any specific questions drop them in the old mailbag--email addy on the sidebar--and I'll be happy to answer the good ones.

Monday, March 18, 2013

PSP Dallas Poll Review

I had intended to do the poll review(s) and follow-up during the event but circumstances conspired to foil my plans--the wifi at the Courtyard Marriott sucked--and made trying to crank out a post on my Kindle HD both interminable and tedious. (Yes, so both. So I stopped trying.) But that was then and this is now and here we go.
Let's begin with the poll asking which pro teams would make the Sunday Six. The far-and-away favorite was Houston Heat because paintballers have never seen a bandwagon they weren't prepared to jump on and, oh yeah, there was that small matter of winning three events last year. Tied for second in the voters' opinion were Damage, last season's World Cup runner-up and the new look Ironmen. Solidly in third was Moscow Red Legion followed by Infamous and then another tie for fifth, Dynasty and Impact. As it turned out the picks were right on target with the exception of the Russians. In a tough bracket with no way of knowing how strong Impact would be early in the season somebody was going to miss out and this time around it was the Russians--although they remain in the Champions bracket.
Receiving the bye Sunday morning were Damage and Infamous which left match-ups between Heat versus Impact and Ironmen versus Dynasty. In the prelims Damage had played like clockwork while Infamous faced more of an uphill battle. Impact defeated Heat in a close contest, Dynasty handled the Ironmen after some early match back and forth to lock in the semi-final match-ups; Damage versus Impact and Dynasty versus Infamous. Damage controlled their match until the final minutes when Impact made a last ditch run at them closing out the game one point shy of a tie. Infamous also seemed in control until the very last minute when they got a major penalty. Dynasty parlayed the penalty into 3 quick points, including the point the penalty was called on, that saw them hang the game winner almost literally between the time clock going double zeros and the horn sounding. As the horn defines the course of the match Dynasty was awarded the controversial hang and the win by the narrowest of margins.
That set up a Damage and Dynasty final won by the boys in blue who have kicked off the PSP season in style.

The other poll active last week wanted to know which of the fifteen teams competing as pros in Dallas would be relegated to the new pro Challengers bracket for the next event. While y'all did an excellent job of calling the Sunday Six you were less successful naming the Challenger Five. Counting down from fifth--or is that up from fifth?--the voters chose XSV. Followed by TonTons then Aftershock in third, second was Seattle Thunder and in first, as most likely to be relegated, was Chattanooga CEP. The two teams outside the top (bottom?) five with the most votes were Upton 187 Crew and Omaha Vicious. So while not completely on target the relegated 5 teams came from the group of seven that received the most votes. The surprise of the event was CEP staying in Champions and playing some solid winning paintball--particularly in their match against X-Factor. It was a statement game for CEP and for X-Factor the difference between fending off relegation and playing in the Sunday Six. That is what every diehard fan has to look forward to from here on out. Each event 10 teams will be going to war. It will also be interesting to see how the Challengers bracket unfolds with the angry players and teams determined to rejoin the Champions as soon as possible it will be trial by fire for the new Challengers. The other "upset" if you can call it that was the strong play of the TonTons who came in as both the unknown and outsiders and showed the fans of the PSP (and their fellow competitors) they can compete with the best. With the saving play from CEP and TonTons that put 187, Vicious and X-Factor into jeopardy and the Sunday morning relegation avoidance playoffs. In the first match of the morning 187 held off Vicious sending them to the Challengers bracket and in the final pairing X-Factor beat 197 in match that was tighter than the score might suggest, a win that also saw 187 relegated for the next event.

Next time, wrapping up the PSP Dallas Open. All the comings and goings from the Open 10-man to the new rulebook, the expanded pro reffing crew and herding goats.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thursday in Dallas

While you might think some of the Thursday match-ups aren't going to be that exciting--and you may be correct--I don't see how you can skip any of them without risking missing out. Oh sure, there's work or school to consider but seriously, are you going to let those get in your way when all you need is a hot spot and one of ten thousand gadgets that will get you online where you can catch all the action and a legitimately unique event in Dallas as the pro bracket transitions into Champions & Challengers. Not to mention all the new faces. Does Impact come back with a vengeance after a disappointing Cup? Do the TonTons make an immediate impact? Is Vicious gonna be a player early in the season? Thursday will provide the answer with match-ups versus Damage and Impact. And what has the off season really changed? Will CEP or Shock come in looking to shock the world--and capable of doing it? You might say no but can you really afford to take that chance?
The day begins with X-Factor and XSV. X-Factor had a strong second half last season finishing third at Cup and XSV came into Cup and went 2-2 knocking off Damage in the process. Wait, did I forget to mention we's playing on the old sized field too? Trust me, it's gonna make a difference. The question is, who will it favor?
Check out that lunchtime line-up of Heat versus Dynasty. Is Heat ready to defend their title? Is Dynasty gonna make a big run this year? This game is round 1 in what could be a season long battle. Followed by Legion versus Impact. Boom! This could easily be a Sunday preview match.
Cut class, call in sick, do what you gotta do, this is an event not to be missed.

Introducing the New NPPL Pro Division

Comprising 15 teams for 2013 the NPPL Pro Division will be introducing 7 all new (from the ground up) teams plus Phoenix Contact, which has one event's worth of pro experience. The remaining teams that carry over from last season are San Diego Dynasty, DC Arsenal, San Antonio X-Factor, Vancouver Vendetta, San Fan Explicit, New England Avalanche and Portland Uprising. Even LA Critical is taking a blow. Filling in those empty slots are (drum roll please) Camp Pendleton Raiders, Nawlins Warped Army, Orange County Flashpoint, Philadelphia Energy, Fort Wayne Outlaws, Buffalo Crush & LA Paintball Gateway.
Got your blood pumping yet? Mine either. But let's look at this another way. If the NPPL is no longer in competition with the PSP at the Pro level, and they aren't, what is the draw? I don't mean this in a flippant way either. It's a perfectly serious question. Without the league war to keep the NPPL relevant what is the draw?
Once upon a time it was the format. Maybe it still is. If it is then the NPPL is in a potentially good place to begin building for the future. By expanding their relevance in adopting the PSP bunker set and perhaps using the new homegrown (and excited) pro scene to plant local seeds of future growth this could set the league down a productive, positive path.
On the other hand, the league has been consistently operating in the red. Who is there now to turn that around? Who is in a position to look at the books--though it has long been rumored a complete set of league records don't actually exist--and make the hard decisions that keep the league functioning and at least breaking even. The guys who are there now are some of the same guys who were there before and in some cases are reputed to be some of the people largely responsible for squandering league funds--and Bart's extra contributions--in the first place. Whatever the big talk and the bigger dreams the NPPL only has a future if they can get their fiscal house in order.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Special Friday Edition: The Monday Poll

The pro brackets are out! If you missed them see them over at PBA (Paintball Access) the live webcast provider for the PSP--and tons of in-depth and insider pro info. But you already knew that. This will also be an abbreviated poll, running from today through next Wednesday, as pro matches will begin next Thursday. So what is the poll you want to know? Easy, pick the Sunday Six & the first Five Challengers in two, count 'em, two polls! Remember when you're picking your Sunday Six it will be the top two teams in each bracket so check those brackets out before you make up your mind. And it gets even trickier in the second poll picking the first Five Challengers. It's the bottom team in each bracket (5th seed by bracket) and two of the three 4th seeds; 10th, 11th & 12th place. But which two? 11th will play 12th with the loser relegated. Then the winner of the 11th and 12th match-up plays 10th and the loser of that match will be the fifth team relegated to Challengers for the second event. Kinda sucks of you're 10th but since there will be three inclusive brackets the league decided to play it off and give the teams a chance to fight their way into the Champions by the skin of their teeth. Matches not to be missed, I'd say.
So, there you have it. Put your thinking caps on and get to ciphering--then cast your votes in this special dual poll Friday Edition of The Monday Poll.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Paintball & Media Relations, Act III

As the regulars to VFTD know I have, in the past, gently mocked the travails of some of the would-be media surrounding paintball--okay, maybe not so gently all the time--as a vanity project for everyone involved, photographers and players alike. While true in many instances it isn't the whole story as there are some more serious (dare I say?) professional photographers who follow paintball. Unfortunately for them there is very little recording of and reporting on paintball in anything that even resembles a professional media and of the rest, e-zines and websites mostly, professionalism and artistry often take a back seat to cheap or free given the massive amount of raw data generated on a constant basis.
One answer is for the large scale paintball events to restrict the number of media peeps they allow at their events. After all, one of the most common complaints is there aren't enough teams (or jobs shooting teams or players) to go around for all the photographers showing up. Fewer photogs means a larger payday for the ones who make the grade. Which leads to the next and trickier part of the proposition--deciding who merits a media pass and who doesn't. Accredited reps of recognized media outlets, those with an established reputation in the field and .. and, and perhaps a few whose portfolio indicate a unique eye and commitment beyond buying an expensive camera and playing photographer. (Though how the average paintball promoter makes that judgment I don't know.) Anyway, it remains a conundrum of sorts and what got me started on this riff is our friends over at the CPS have taken a crack at introducing their own media guidelines for 2013.
In this case "guidelines" appears to be a kinder, gentler version of rules 'cus make no mistake, these are rules to be abided, not suggestions. Which is fine as long as you're not confused by the term "guidelines." It comes in 6 sections and what it really needs is simplifying. Trim it down to the bare minimum. In Section 1, Access, for example there is nothing about a maximum number of media types allowed or a distinction between on field or off field media personnel. Much of the material here could be guidelines as much of the on field stuff is simple common sense--though there are a couple items that strain the brain. Like 3.6. I understand the intent, I think, but it strains credulity to imagine just how someone would commit that infraction without anyone the wiser. And Section 4 goes above and beyond on behalf of the media for what is, after all, a league request, not a requirement. (If you hadn't noticed before this part gives away the fact these guidelines were written by a media member.) The guidelines close out with Section 6, Sales of Service, which is (again) largely understandable but not very clear.
On the plus side good for the CPS (and A.H.) for making the effort. (It's a largely thankless job as this post confirms but it's the sort of thing that eventually requires doing.) That said, the CPS media guidelines could use another once, or twice, over to round them into form. (No, I'm not volunteering.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weekend with the Russian Legion

The RL was in San Antonio this past weekend--in fact they are still there--prepping for Dallas, in part, by scrimmaging X-Factor on Saturday and Sunday. It was a productive weekend for both teams and interesting to get a close up of the "new look" Russians, which, as it turned out, look a lot like the "old" Russian Legion. the new coach was promoted from within the system so has been around the team for years and all the player and management mainstays remain in place. It was also interesting to see how the Legion responded to the new "old" field dimensions. (Hint: they tried a bit of everything but at the end of the day were working hard to aggressively force the action. It was good--and it was fun to watch and compete against.)
We had our ups and downs, particularly on Saturday, but as a team the weekend proved to be the sort of productive foundation we can continue to build on this coming weekend as we finalize our prep for Dallas. There's always more that you could have done especially when the pressure is on like it is leading into Dallas but the Big Picture is coming together. And as we solidify roles I expect everyone to fall comfortably into place and X-Factor to bring a hard-charging game into the first event.
While I don't discuss in detail layouts the team will play until after the events I do have a couple of predictions for y'all. One, the tournament layout, on whichever field, will not be the same as the layout you practiced on and if it's even close consider yourself lucky. Two, this layout, despite some unusual characteristics, remains a product of the limitations of the "technical" snake props in that the only stand-up props on the snake side of the field are the corner Cans--and as long as that snake survives it will continue to dictate broad elements of every PSP potential layout designed. (Okay, not exactly a prediction, more of an observation or perhaps a mini-rant.) Three, while it is possible to score some very fast points on this field--welcome back 150'--it is also possible for this layout to get bogged down and drag out points like the nasty fields of old, or at least last year. At the pro level match outcomes could ride on which team calls the better game of rock, paper, scissors. There are a few high risk high reward possibilities so do you, as a team, go for it or play it conservatively? Gonna be something to see.

Monday, March 4, 2013

NPPL Adopts PSP Bunker Set (mostly)

And posts a not-quite-ready-for-primetime version of the HB layout. Hey, I enjoy a little comic relief as much as the next guy so I'm not gonna give the league grief over a grid to 3D image "inconsistency". (What, you missed it? One version, probably the 3D, mixed up which bunker was where in a trade between a Temple and a Maya Temple--in Sup'Air speak. Not a huge deal really. Heck, I'm still waiting to find out what a grand success the Hawaiian Challenge was. I couldn't resist.) I am however gonna give the league just tiny bit of grief over the last minute move of the snake side MT. If that was really necessary why did it take somebody pointing out the obvious on the internet to get it "fixed" and if there was nothing wrong with the original placement why was it moved? Consider those rhetorical questions. (Jet lag from all those Hawaiian trips? Okay, I'll stop. I promise.)
The bigger, more interesting question is: Does this help promulgate the NPPL and the 7-man game or is it another (unintentional) sign of the end of the league and format as a serious national competitor? Now this may surprise some of you but I think this was a clever idea well worth consideration--and I think it's probably a sign of a league on its last legs. Then again, this move and the move away from a legit pro division might actually save the NPPL.
Part of the problem the NPPL had to overcome in its latest incarnation (3.0 by VFTD reckoning) was that most places nobody played 7-man anymore and worse, there weren't any, or many, 7-man fields around on which to give the format a try. (And every year another upgrade kit came out reduced their numbers a little more.) After three long years of choking off their own potential grassroots growth moving to the other guys' bunker set means that from now on it will be possible to set-up NPPL layouts anywhere, or pretty darn close. The format instantly becomes accessible to huge portions of the paintball country where it had no chance before. But the move was also a capitulation, an acknowledgement that the other guys were delivering the product the majority wanted and that is a reality the NPPL still needs to make inroads against.
The answer may depend on what the NPPL and its fans [insert your own joke here] find acceptable. If they are satisfied being a second tier series doing their own thing for a modest fan and player base with a newfound potential to grow then they might keep the league alive indefinitely. Assuming they can get their finances under control without another moneyman prepared to cover the red ink. And if that is the way things turn out what we will see in relatively short order is real Race To-whatever in 7-man format if the HB layout is indicative. They may begin play with 7 players on the field but once the buzzer sounds they will be playing Race To whether they like it or not.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rules 2013

Aight, now that the latest edition of the rules is available I have a couple of questions and observations. Have you looked at the updated rules or are you gonna wing it? (I know how it is, we used to fight over who had to go the captain's meetings back in the day.) Is the Quick Reference guide to changes upfront helpful? Any of the changes got you tearing out your hair? No more 3 headwraps got you down?
All things considered it strikes me as a net plus. I particularly like the new Overtime which has the potential to mucho more exciting than more than a few long, dull and tedious o/t's were last season.
Anyway, more than anything this is your opportunity to sound off. Pick a nit. Offer an alternative or simply acknowledge that you can't enough of the new rulebook. (Yeah, I know, that last one is unlikely but you never know.)

Oh yeah, there's still the matter of filling in the pro ranking rules before Dallas so who knows, if you have a really good thought there may be a place for it. And if not now, next time around. No promises of course but you never know.