Left over from yesterday (Saturday) was an oppressive treetop-skimming bank of grey clouds threatening more rain and lots of mud with the consistency of chunky peanut butter. Fortunately the rain only threatened. I did discover the source of all the rocks and gravel on the fields. Past the paint trucks and staff parking, by the treeline, there are the leftovers of two large mounds of rocks and gravel. Obviously they trucked in the required rocks and spread them over the fields in advance. Or maybe not--but the mounds really are there.
The big stories from the Champions prelims are the unexpected success of Vicious in making Sunday, Damage not making Sunday and the resurgence of of a slightly undermanned Heat. On the flipside is the continued struggle of the Ironmen, the collapse of X-Factor and both Infamous & TonTons in a relegation game for the second event in a row. The Champions prelims are unforgiving and the margin for error is incredibly slim. For example, in Saturday's Infamous v. Dynasty match a win by Infamous makes them the bracket winner. Instead a 5 point loss put them in another relegation match and Vicious into Sunday play. All on the result of one match based on the point differential in the score. It's unbelievable. And I gotta say, however they got there Vicious and new coach Todd Martinez deserve a lot of credit for lifting their game
X-Factor may have set a 4 match prelim record for major penalties. I'm not sure of the exact number but it was in double digits. And we weren't the only ones as there were plenty of red flags flying for most everyone all weekend. (Way more reds than yellows.) While I'm not interested in pleading my particular case or in debating the merits of each and every call--I saw more than a few that by the letter of the rules were probably fair calls--I do want to suggest a couple of things. Enforcement of the rules is a necessary and honorable function that no sport could manage to do without but at the same time it's important to both the teams and the fans that the results on field are the result of the play and not official interference. If that means changing some rules (or the way some of them are interpreted) let's have that discussion. (And we will next week in a post titled, Hammer Time!)
In related rumorology the word is the pro field refs engaged in a shouting match after the last game Saturday over the subject of excessive flag tossing and it may be that a ref quit or was canned--or both--in the aftermath of the verbal brawl.
For those of you with dyslexia--oh, wait, you can't read this either--ask a friend--the results of the pro matches today saw X-Factor and Infamous retain their Champions status by defeating respectively, TonTons and Upton 187 Crew. In semi-final action Dynasty beat Impact and Heat defeated Vicious with Houston Heat taking the Chicago title with a convincing win over Dynasty. Moving up from the Challengers for the next event are the Russian Legion & T1 Top Gun. (And if you thought the Chicago action was brutal just wait for Riverside. The two Champions that are relegated in Riverside miss World Cup so the wars will be intense.)
Remember the Day 2 mysteries? Turns out there were in fact quite a few UWL 5-man teams competing that didn't appear on the APPA registration because they registered through the UWL site directly. Which was good to hear because competitive paintball is a big tent and there's room for everybody. Right. (I just burst out laughing.) If you believe that I've got some pristine coastal property for sail that just happens to have the original Brooklyn Bridge on site too. Okay, the truth is I'm fine with the UWL and if they want to pretend they play competitive paintball what's the harm?
Then there was the VIP stand at the end of the pro field. It seems that last event there were some curious beer distributors interested in having a look at major league paintball--they watched from the PBA broadcast tower--and this time around the PSP set up a separate area for them. (Although I'm sure I spotted a couple of shady characters in there too. And in covering their bases I was served with a restraining order keeping me 50 feet away from the VIP at all times.) (Just kidding.) (About the shady characters of course.)
Last and certainly least there's one more thing the webcast needs; a play-by-play analyst. While Matty, Todd & Chris all do a great job they all do variations of the same thing, color commentary. If somebody took on the role of talking about the purpose of the breakouts, the tactical objectives involved as the points unfold and the in-depth of how the game is played would add a significant element to the experience.
As usual Chicago was a great event despite all the usual Chicago drawbacks, miserable Midwest heat and humidity, the occasional tornado, downpour, rain delay and mudfest. But then that's part of what makes a Chicago event, well, a Chicago event.