Sunday, June 23, 2013

PSP Chicago: Day 3 (&4)

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.


Patrick Lovell said...

It also looks like Joey was the only one to get all his predictions exactly correct. I wouldn't have expected Top Gun to be the first rookie team to make Champions, but it's nice to see a team finally do it. I get the feeling they won't be there long, unfortunately.

Glad to see Heat come out on top, even with the 2 seemingly less important than expected injuries.

Just wondering, I noticed a couple roster changes for X-Factor this event. Any reasons for this?(Jesse Stephens is who I noticed wasn't there, I didn't really look over the rest of the roster)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with you re: play-by-play analyst comment.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Ouch, that rules debate is gonna be a heated and long one for sure.... I'm sharpening my imaginary pencil ;)

Anonymous said...

Having watched every match this weekend, I have to say that penalties dictated the outcome of way to many games.

I agree with Baca that fair play and enforcement of rules are obviously necessary.

But what is disturbing was that I counted no less than six (which I'm confident there were more, i.e. from the Dorito side, etc.) with just no call. A clear forward movement after being hit ( WITH the player shooting their gun.

I'm not in the business of pretending to read referee's mind (or intent for that matter).

However when very similar actions go down right in front of refs and some are major penalties and some are 'hey get out player' or worse yet, pulling a playing out physically as he is still shooting his gun, that IS a problem.

And just to clarify, I'm not referring to a hit on the foot, diving into a bunker no calls. I'm referring to hopper shots, being shot in the front of the body where clearly the players was hit.

The PSP is doing a good job and I applaud those efforts. The webcast, the stats, the overall momentum are elevating the sport.

The one thing that is doesn't need is an environment where refs are determining the outcome of matches.

Can it happen here and there? Of Course. As much as we saw this weekend with the inconsistencies? No.

Unknown said...

Play-by-play PLEASE.

Who would be technically proficient and capable of pulling this off?

We don't need 3 color commentators and somehow get the refs in contact with the box because the penalties really need to be explained.

Davey Williamson is the only name that comes to mind. Rich Telford could do it as well but for obvious reasons can't be there the whole time. Todd could possibly, but again same issue as Rich.

Perhaps an "ex"-coach? Are you pining for the job Baca? I saw the interview with X-Factor's "coach" - you were right there, but it was the young kid who was referred to as the coach.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Consistency is always the main issue with reffing.

It doesn't really matter that much what the rules are, as long as they are enforced consistently.

It is the best way to level the playing field.

The important thing in getting consistent reffing (apart from the obvious part of having the right personnel), is to have a rulebook that in no way asks refs to make judgement calls on "intent".

As soon as rules give refs the option to call a penalty on a specific action - or not - depending on whether they "feel" the player intended to cheat, is when we get into a dangerous grey area.

Having said all that.... reffing is the most thankless task in our sport, and one most of us downright HATE doing.... so it will always be hard to create a consistent crew of top level refs, and it is always hard to guard yourself against that one a**hole with a personal agenda on the crew.

Anonymous said...

a good start would be the league grading their refs. Placing some direct accountability.

Teams are under the intense scrutiny of a format where the margin for error is minuscule.

Players are held to standards measured in stats and the referees monitoring of the game.

Yet the refs are under no such models I'm aware of. And while it may be a 'thankless' job, they get something the majority of Pro players do not. PAID.

Anonymous said...

Similar to a strike zone in baseball, the calls just need to be consistent for both teams on the field and for all the matches at an event.

If they call penalties for arguing with a ref - then it's a penalty anytime anyone argues with the ref. If playing on is called a certain way, then it should be called that way for every player on each team during every match. Consistency is the key

They're not, and they need to figure out a system that allows them to work their way torward that end goal.

Additionally, if you ask the nearest ref for a check and he calls you clean should another ref have the ability to run completely across the field and throw a major penalty on the player? I understand the other ref may have seen something differently, but the player has asked to be checked and was demend clean. Pull them out - ok. Throw a major penalty - questionable.

Patrick Lovell said...

Anon. 2:48 on the subject of grading refs, MiLP will be doing this at the next event at the end of July after some very inconsistent reffing at the previous event. They're planning to have the refs numbered and at the end of every match each team will decide on the worst ref and the best ref from the match. Hopefully it will help dramatically improve the reffing.

Nick Brockdorff said...

It's a good idea to grade refs, but singling out refs after each match is not a good idea - it will make many a ref timid about making calls.

Instead, I would suggest captains get a questionaire (online) after each event, where they can make remarks on refs (refs numbers)..... both positive and negative.

That way, you get the cummulutive of an event, instead of just a team being pissed about a bad call in a specific match.

Anonymous said...


It needs to be unbiased and accurate.

That requires individual(s) who are NOT tied to a team and report to the league who:

A) Have a thorough knowledge of
the rules and have Pro level
reffing experience.

B). Video. It will not slant,
distort, or fabricate how a
play goes down.

I used to think that it would not be necessary to have these grades public. But with the advent of everything else being quantified. I think it a good idea.

The argument that any of this makes a ref tentative has about as much solid footing as saying stats make a player tentative. BOTTOM LINE? It shouldn't and it better not.

I'm tempted to go through the whole webcast and see how many calls are ascertainable.

In fact, just seeing the number of penalties and comparing it to the last two events would be interesting.

Baca Loco said...

Why "ex"? Todd is apparently welcome whenever he's available. ;)
I suspect I have at least two counts against me--wrong image for hot, trendy, youth oriented sport and fear of what I might say. (Though I'm at a loss to say why.)

How many coaches do the NE Patriots have? Does anybody wonder if Belicheck is in charge?

Nick Brockdorff said...

I think video is a poor solution, unless we start equipping each ref with a "head cam", allowing us to see what they see.

I'm actually fine with the teams grading the refs post event, though obviously it needs to be anonymous, to stop a ref taking his revenge next event.

Unknown said...

Baca (sorry for the unknown, lazy),

Do you have any suggestions who could do this (play-by-play)? There has been almost no precedent for the format, and would almost require a completely different kind of personality.

As someone who grew up watching a pile of Traumahead videos, I really miss the technical feedback that Danny Manning brought. I'm also biased since he's from North Carolina. I would love to see him back in the action.

Also, Hunter misses you.

Anonymous said...

Actually the refs should probably grade each other. If each ref rated their peers I'm sure some trends would emerge.

You could combine this with a team and ref manager grade but teams probably won't have as much insight.

Baca Loco said...

Nick, etc.
Regarding officiating oversight team input might be worth something but as a practical matter the system needs to be independent with someone in charge of maintaining or sustaining a standard of officiating. The one thing the PSP lost with Tony moving to the NPPL was a strong personality with definitive ideas in charge. (Not always correct ideas mind you ..)

Besides me most of the league's coaches have the right frame of mind for it. I think Todd could probaby do it but it would be more work. There's plenty of knowledge of the game out there. I think the tricky part wwould be matching a strong enough personality with that knowledge in someone who can communicate concepts in a way that's relatively easily understood.
Hunter? Hmm. Nope. Doesn't ring a bell. ;)

Nick Brockdorff said...

I agree Baca, first step is ofcourse to have a competent "head of refs".

However, that does not preclude getting feedback from the teams, and I think numbered refs jerseys is a great idea, combined with an organised system for feedback.

Heck, if there are resources to pay 5-6 spotters to stand around and notice who hits who, for the stats - it should be pretty easy to do better with the reffing staff (and yes, I know it is - formally - two different entities and two different budgets ;)).

The feedback does two things:

It gives the head ref access to stats, which allow him to identify problem areas (and again, I agree you need the right individual to be able to draw information from those stats and implement changes).

And it stops refs from blowing smoke up eachothers asses.

It's a fine line, refs need to be confident and competent... but all to often they go across the edge, and become arrogant, selfimportant, and absolutely certain they can do no wrong.

Case in point the MS refs, who has probably not admitted to making a mistake in the past 5 years.... and regularly bring players and teams to the point of frustration, where the team quits the league... or individuals lose their temper (which in turn gets them banned).

Add to that the selfimportant arrogance, and the general feel that "players cheat and we are here to teach them a lesson"... and you have a recipe for disaster.

To me, the best refs have always been the ones that have the ability to say "I fucked up, sorry".... we players - frustrated as we may be by a wrong call - can really respect that, because we know it is human to make mistakes, and we all make them - even refs.

A ref who is able to admit to a mistake, is almost always highly competent, as he has learned from his mistakes, over time, instead of stubbornly telling himself and his colleagues, that he did no wrong, day after day, event after event.... and that it is just the damn ungrateful players, always complaining, when they get caught "cheating".

Patrick Lovell said...

The grading of refs and their reviews/correction isn't supposed to be an immediate after the match thing, but more like if they see one ref continually said to be the worst, they'll talk to him. Sorry I didn't clarify.

Missy Q said...

With the reffing I just feel its a case of better management and oversight. They are mostly the same refs as before, when the PSP refs were hailed as 'best refs ever'. I have seen an increase of issues and decrease of respect for the referee's since Tony Mineo left. Tony provided an unfaltering, unwavering discipline that the teams respected. They knew what they couldn't get away with. Since Tony left no-one has filled his shoes. Refs often turn to the stats tower for decisions. In fact the stats guys even make calls from time to time (more often the right calls, but that's not the point). It's not their job. They are stats guys and not referee's. Fact is Tony used to be up that tower, and players and refs alike still look to the tower for a decision.
In my opinion Tony's shoes need to be filled. I had thought Tom Cole was supposed to be in this role but he isn't.
Refs calls are argued when they would not have been under Tony's watch. Team captains are arguing calls with stats guys in the tower while the refs look on. The PSP needs another 5ft nothing Napolecop to re-establish a standard and maintain it through strict officiating. The refs need a firm hand and someone they can trust to support them. Players should not be talking to refs about calls. They should be talking only to the commish. Thye standard will continue to drift if no-one is holding the rudder.

Anonymous said...

Preface Points:
Whether he was on the pit side or the occasional venture into the stands, Tony kept one eye (at least) on the game at all times. Didn’t always agree with him but there was a diligence and watchful eye as to how he went about his business.

The PSP is THE standard in tournament paintball. Dave Youngblood and Company has done an excellent job of infusing monies strategically that has left the NPPL in their dust.

The advent of the webcast, player (and to a lesser degree team) stats and a format that is razor thin forgiving (not a bad thing for the fans) have raised the bar.

This ‘Standard Model’ will continue to evolve and if the type of decisions made are as on point as they have been in the last few years (Quality Broadcast, Statistics, eliminating non-spectator side coaching, expanding the Pro team base, etc) tournament paintball is in good hands.

The Crux of the Matter:
Some questions that clearly many have mulled over since the end of Sunday: Was the reffing in Chicago an aberration? Was it as out of line with the season’s baseline as it seemed? How much of a factor was the faster game play, if any? Is implementing a grading/review system for the referees; A) Necessary B) Affordable and C) Effective.

Three reffing elements that stood out for me in Chicago were the seemingly high number of penalties accessed; the uneven amount of majors to minor’s ratio, and some lack of consistency in the calls. With transparency being the goal, these were bound to raise some eyebrows.

The Skinny:
The 2013 Dallas Pro Division had a total of 105 penalties. Of these, 52 were minors and 53 were majors. In other words, a 50/50 split between major and minor penalty calls. It should be noted to that 15 Pro teams played in the season opener.

There were approx 354 points played on the Pro field. That works out to around 1 penalty every 3.38 points played.
According to the official statistics the MAO event had a total of 58 penalties. Of these, 35 were minors (60%) and 23 were majors (40%). The Pro Division consisted of 10 teams for this event.

There were approx 193 points played on the Pro field (These numbers reflect only the Champions Division games). This works out to 1 penalty every 3.33 points played.
So leading up to Chicago, by my count, the penalty assessed numbers were: 547 games played,
163 penalties (87 minors and 76 majors). That works out to 1 penalty every 3.35 games.

Stay tuned for Chicago’s numbers . . .

Baca Loco said...

Thanks for the very pertinent info. I hope this doesn't get you in trouble, frankly.
By my count Dallas Pro matches played 337 but even so it only alters the penalty rate to 1 per 3.21 points--and I could have counted wrong. (I was in a hurry.)
My numbers for MAO agree with yours and I have 241 points played for Chicago. Can't wait for those penalty numbers ...

Anonymous said...


241 is what I have also. My motives are pure. I love the PSP. This isn't about bashing or taking a derogatory position.

I have applauded the moves made. Is this particular area one that needs a closer look? Perhaps.

Not promoting a knee jerk reaction either. There is nothing wrong with a checks and balance system that makes the brand better.

If Chicago numbers come back within range, then perhaps it was a mass delusion. But it sure felt like the numbers were considerably out of line with the first two events.

Personally, I'm looking forward to YOUR breakdown in that aforementioned upcoming article.

Missy Q said...

Thanks Cade.

Anonymous said...

Here is the problem with statistics. First we have to trust the numbers collected, then we have to trust they are presented accurately (I have no reason to suspect foul play, but then again no one is incentivized to make themselves look bad), then we have to trust the underlying analysis.

The brute force way the data is already being handled doesn't give much confidence. It's freshman level comparisons -- interesting for factoids, but not "telling" for a real analysis.

When were the penalties called (Fri,Sat,Sun)? Against who were they called? What side of the field were they called?

And most importantly, this is likely inaccurate portrayal of reality using penalty data for the following reason: why should we assume that playing behavior has not changed? Even IF penalty assessments were constant, the quantitative analysis tells us nothing about the qualitative reality. That is to say, it's highly probably that player behavior changed and penalty distribution remained the same.

Let's assume everyone played a "cleaner" game after the first day for brutal penalties. Yet penalties kept being given out at the same rate. That's still a problem, and this analysis which looks for difference across events wouldn't catch it.

Just like the PBA stats, the numbers are nice, but they really don't tell us much.

It's not a question of penalties being too frequent, but they are often unwarranted based on the behavior.

It's crazy to have a discussion about the issuance of penalties without really evaluating individual playing behavior at the same time.

Baca Loco said...

raehl (anonymous)
We make do with what we scrape together since the league has never seen fit to release any ref related data it may collect.
What I think is telling is that you are already trying to undermine the information before it's even available.

raehl said...

Sorry Baca, that wasn't me.

Anonymous said...

It actually had more of a 'Big Brother' tone to it, no?

Brute force. . .I laughed. Yeah beating those numbers into submission.

Anonymous said...

Last Anon,
Clearly you don't appreciate the tyranny of statistics.

One side says there is a problem with reffing. Another side waves around some data and says, "See there is no problem, the data says so". Or, just as likely, one side waves some numbers around and says, "my numbers conclude we should do XYZ".

What's wrong with this scenario? Well, asymmetrical information for one. One side in the debate possesses more information and they are using it to their advantage. And even more so, even if they were benign, it's extremely likely they'd seize whatever evidence supports their predisposed conclusions anyway.

I laugh at anyone who thinks they can use a statistic without focusing on the reality behind that statistic and actually get it right.

At best its guess work, 50/50 toss of the coin. But at least you can feel smarter for deciding to do what you already wanted to do anyway (and just need to find some numbers that would justify it to others).

It happens enough in politics, we don't need to give control of the course of the game to those with the numbers.

CadeX said...

Not me Missy Q... I don’t post as Anonymous.

I will say this; the Stats teams’ job is to collect data - that is all. The calls on the field are handled by the referees on the field, Period. If a player or captain wants some clarification about a call (“Was that a Major or a Minor?”) we will relay what was stated over the radio, but any additional conversations are directed to either Leon or the referee that made the call. At the end of the day, back at the hotel, if any referee solicits feedback from our lead spotters to help them make adjustments for the following day we try and help. My team understands their role during the matches, they understand that they are not to interfere or influence, but we also understand that the refs are trying to improve day over day as the most critical matches occur late Sunday.