Friday, November 29, 2013

Pro Team Prognostications

In the cold and dreary days of darkest Silly Season (except of course for sunny Florida) there is little to do besides our off season drills, organizing early tryouts, setting the next season's schedule, evaluating past efforts while seeking out new ways to improve--so we are left in our idle hours to speculate on what will happen in 2014. (I know [and you know] that most of y'all haven't given next season more than a passing thought. I'm just pretending you're on the ball.)
Today's idle speculation revolves around Russian Legion and the incoming Russian teams, Art Chaos & Red Storm (Grad.) Will Kirill beat the odds and get back on the field before Chicago? Will the latest rumored European player additions replace some of last year's squad or add to it? Does Berdnikov resist the urge to jump to Art Chaos? (Is that even an option?) Beyond that the big questions are which Russian team ends up on top? Which one is the first team to gain a Champions birth? 
Will the Legion slide continue? Will Red Storm be competitive in the Challengers?
And if you want to go there: Will any of last year's Challengers bail out before the season begins? Will the relegated teams take their place in D1 or disband?
The answers could depend on whether or not sponsorship shrinks any further.
I don't know about y'all but I can see a Challenger (or two) bow out--and I can see RL bouncing back and forth all year between Challengers and Champions.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Monday Poll: Retracing the Evolution of Competitive Paintball

For the last week or thereabouts those of you so inclined have had the opportunity to suggest what you think have been the most important or influential changes to competitive paintball over its short history. Counting duplicates and very similar suggestions I whittled your choices down to 45 possibilities. I am going to reduce that list even further by combining some related or overlapping suggestions. For example, inflatable bunkers and symmetrical concept field will represent all the possible field permutations on the final poll listing. With a list as close to 25 items as possible y'all will have this holiday week in which to vote your top five choices. (Gonna be more like 30 options to choose from.) And just to drag this out a little longer after next week's 'The Monday Poll in Review' I will list the official VFTD Top Five influences on competitive paintball so y'all can see where you went wrong--or, who knows, got it right. Could happen.
In the meantime you should know the drill by now. Vote early and vote often.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Drills: A Coach & Lil' Baller Short

Before I realized that my online animation resources were no longer available I was experimenting with the idea of some short short features that would allow me to produce them more often. I may have found an animation alternative but while I test it out I thought I'd also test a short feature script out on you lazy slackers. If you are unfamiliar with Coach & Lil Baller check out VFTD's YouTube channel here.

Coach: Let's move, maggots. Four on the board. You know the drill.
Lil Baller (LB): Not again.
Coach: That was a joke. Feel free to laugh.
LB: What was a joke, Coach?
Coach: You know the drill? Oh, never mind.
LB: Awright! You mean we don't have to do this stupid drill?
Coach: No, that's not what I mean. If you want to play you are doing the drill.
LB: But Coach if all we do is drill then we aren't playing.
Coach: And it's not a stupid drill. It's a very effective drill that improves both your laning and running & shooting.
LB: But Coach we already know how to do that.
Coach: Do you now?
LB: Yes.
Coach: Riddle me this then, Lil Baller, why do professional baseball players take batting practice every day?
LB: When you put it like that it does seem pretty stupid.
Coach: Kill me now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tracing The Evolution Of Paintball

The idea of presenting the top five influences on the evolution of tournament paintball was suggested by FOB (Friend of the Blog) Nick B. And it's a good idea but I want to expand it a wee bit. So to get the ball rolling VFTD wants to know what you think are the top five influences on the evolution of tournament paintball. But if five is too hard then one or two will do. All I ask is that you not only list your influences (in the comments) but give a short reason as to why you think a particular thing is a top five influence. Keep in mind we could be talking anything from technology to rules, formats to rate of fire. Anything that has impacted the game is fair game for being named a top five influence. After y'all have had time to ponder the question--and offer up your ideas--VFTD will use the best or most often mentioned top fifteen or twenty suggestions in an upcoming 'The Monday Poll' so that even the laziest of the lazy slackers can have their say. And after we've determined your top five I will list VFTD's top five influences on the evolution of tournament paintball and we can argue about it all over again.
I'm guessing that there will be near universal agreement about two or perhaps three of the influences when it's all said and done but at least a couple will generate a lot of disagreement (and name-calling if we're lucky.)
What are you waiting for? Surely you can think of one or two things that have changed the game in important ways.
Btw, we're saving the name-calling for the end. This post and the comments are for posting your influences and reasons--not for commenting on somebody else's choices. Time enough for that later.

The Monday Poll in Review: Masters Division

Last week's poll was aimed square at the PSP in hopes enough supporters of Masters play would make it clear the league was missing a great opportunity by not offering some version of the division--and frankly, I think y'all blew it. The turnout was embarrassing and (as usual) it leaves me to do all the real work. If half of those who actually play Masters had spent half the energy they expend bitching and moaning on PBN the poll might have achieved something. Fortunately for you lazy slackers I continue to believe Masters play is important and a real opportunity for the league to expand its reach across demographic boundaries with a positive outreach to older players (just the sort of players who will be the coaches and team leaders of the future if they aren't already active in those roles.)
So, without further chastising let's review. The poll was divided into competing questions in order to get some idea what the majority preferred. The first category was age limitation or restrictions and the current 40 years old and above was the clear favorite with nearly 50% of the vote over either dropping it five years to 35 or increasing it five years to 45. Not surprisingly dropping it to 35 received nearly a third of the votes and when you add in the 36% of the vote of those who are either waiting to play Masters or would play an Open (over 30) division of Race 2-2 it might be worthwhile to find out what sort of real numbers--peeps willing to pay and play--are really out there.
The second category was about format. Masters has been Race 2-4. For a variety of reasons it's more difficult for the league to offer that format compared to Race 2-2 so the poll sought to gauge the views of potential players. Only 10% insisted Masters ought to be Race 2-4 even though a clear majority preferred Race 2-4 they were open to competing in Race 2-2. And an additional 22% preferred Race 2-2 over Race 2-4. Those results suggest minimal resistance to a format change and given that Race 2-2 is both less physically demanding and cheaper it is likely to encourage greater participation than previous Masters events.
The last category was looking to define the voters. Unfortunately this section drew the fewest votes. Only 15% had played a Masters event before and would again if it were available. 22% wanted to play Masters and have been waiting to qualify--which likely puts them over 30 or 35--and 14% are ready right now to compete in an Open Over 30 Race 2-2 division.
Are there enough older players who will actually commit to playing if divisions designed specifically for them are made available? By this poll result it's hard to say but probably easy to dismiss. But even if the numbers are marginal I think it's an effort that ought to be made. Race 2-2 is considerably more flexible in its scheduling demands and if the league would make a definitive announcement at the beginning of the season that Chicago and World Cup would offer Open Over 30 and Masters divisions in the Race 2-2 format the results might surprise. And even if the turnout is poor initially the league can't expect to keep aging players playing if they have no place to play. I'm betting if the league makes a commitment to those players they will come.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Animation Domination Put On Hold

I intended to release the latest 'Coach & Lil Baller' animation this week in an episode entitled, "The Tryout" and discovered the online company I'd used (and paid) has discontinued services. So no video for you. And, no, if you're wondering I wasn't hoping to compete with (or upstage) ETV's 'The Roster' season 2. (If you haven't checked out 'The Roster' yet what's the matter with you? Go here.) Anyway, I've looked around for an alternative and haven't found anything online I like the look of very much. If any of you lazy slackers have used or know of a good online animation creator let me know or alternatively I'd consider a software program that would facilitate creating my own animation. Other than that the only option would be to simply post the script(s) for the exchanges between Coach and Lil Baller without any animation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Coming Decline of Pro Paintball, part 2

Alright, I knew this one might sting a little bit but there's no fixing what nobody is willing to talk about, right? There's probably no fixing this either but there are ways to mitigate the impact. Ways to more efficiently and effectively develop the existing and future potential pro player pool. But it's unlikely for a bunch of reasons. More about that later. Let's pick up where I left off last time.
Okay but what about rosters? Maybe there hasn't been a strong (or even steady) influx of competitive new pro teams but that doesn't mean existing rosters haven't taken advantage of fresh blood. True but in fact it hasn't happened. At World Cup there were six players under the age of 20 rostered on a pro team--including Challengers. There were nine 20 year olds. There are nearly as many pros over 30 as 20 and under combined. The fact is most pro players are in their mid- to late 20's and getting older every year. And that includes the Challengers. That includes pretty much every team you think is some sort of youth movement too like Aftershock. Six of Shock's players are 27 or older. The two youngest are 22 years old. What about the Royalty kids? Only Catt & Hamil at 20 and 19 years of age respectively are under 23 and their roster has two players over 40. Even Vicious when they turned pro only had two teenagers on their roster at that time. (At least according to their current roster.) The inescapable conclusion is that even among the would be Champions the rosters are largely filled with 20-somethings because there are damned few younger pro prospects. And this despite the factoid Xball was supposedly driving the competitive player demo toward a younger and younger player base. So where is that next generation of undeniably talented pro stock?
But age is only an indicator. Looking more closely at the young blood on Champion rosters the majority of them have 2 or more years of pro experience already. That means that either they are contributing now or will soon be replaced (or Daddy owns the team.) That leaves a literal handful of players on rosters in a developmental role and the reality is there are some who won't make it (unless or until the overall level of play begins to decline) and my concern is we are seeing that trend beginning to take hold. [The fact we don't see more young players as rosters continue to age means there aren't equivalent replacement players to be had otherwise they would be getting opportunities because they would be cheaper and have more upside. And it isn't happening.]
Challengers was created (in part) in the hope that by raising the competitive bar that some of the Challengers would develop into legitimate contenders in the Champions. And some of them may yet but their very existence also illustrates the growing breadth and depth of the chasm between the Champions and the best amateurs. With rosters already in a similar age range the Challengers almost certainly are less talented across the board while trying to make up for the experience gap that currently separates them from the Champions. No easy task for the current Challengers but an excellent proving ground for incoming top D1 teams. What remains to be seen is if any of the D1 teams, in the next couple of seasons, distinguish themselves or do they get bogged down in the pack?
(Here's where you try real hard to come up with viable alternative explanations. Hint: there are a couple that aren't complete nonsense.)
But all isn't lost just yet. The losses sustained among the most experienced non-pros in recent years just means a depleted pool of potential pros to pick from in the near term. It's a problem but not the only one. The other issue is the development and training of players generally--and this is where real progress can be made. It is true that players develop individual skill sets faster and more proficiently (generally speaking) than was the case in the past. At the same time the conceptual understanding of the game is generally weak as is the team training. The majority of players new to competitive play in the last 5+ years don't have an adequate foundation in how the game ought to be played or how to function as part of a team because they haven't been part of a program or team that teaches those things. And of course the bulk of all team practice isn't designed to teach and develop those qualities either, it is aimed at learning how to play a specific layout. Pre-Xball up-and-coming players learned today's lost lessons from older players and through experience because the formats of the past, including playing in the woods, required it. The modern game demands speed, quickness, instant reflexes--a whole host of physical tools that were useful in the past but weren't required to be honed to the same degree of precision as today so the focus of development has moved to the physical aspects of playing the game to the detriment of the mental aspects--and, as it's always been, it's the mental game that separates the great from the gifted.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Special Holiday 'The Monday Poll'

A few of you may have noted the passing of the Masters division at World Cup this year. Originally conceived as being a Race 2-2 division of play it first saw "life" in the Race 2-4 format at the behest of one of the PSP's then owners and remained a Race 2-4 division thereafter until this year when it wasn't offered. The difficulty the league has is that it's relatively sparsely attended--usually less than 10 teams--and the league doesn't want to get locked into a Masters commitment because they need to stay flexible for the more popular Race 2-4 divisions as they accept entries from for Cup. With a finite number of fields there is a finite number of teams that can be accommodated but the league doesn't know until rather late in the day just how the divisional numbers will break down. That means Masters is generally perceived as more trouble than its worth.
But--if it were reassigned as a Race 2-2 division it would be much less hassle to schedule. It would also be cheaper (which might draw more teams) and as a less demanding format (might also draw more teams and an even broader age demo.) As you probably guessed this week's poll is aimed at the Masters crowd. I'm not restricting who votes but I do want to encourage every potential Masters player to participate and if you know other players interested in this topic get them involved as well. The larger the vote count the better. I want to know what age ought to be the cut off age for participation and how receptive y'all are to the idea of switching to Race 2-2. Please read the whole poll thoroughly as it will be framed rather like a series of questions or paired options and you will be allowed to respond to as many option as you choose.
You know what comes next. Vote like the future of the Master division depended on it. ('Cus it might very well.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Coming Decline In Pro Paintball, part 1

Before you consider the title of this post fighting words, start hyperventilating and sputtering like a toy motorboat let me explain what I don't mean. If you want to object after that then be my guest.
I'm not talking about formats, leagues or presentation. While I favor a match format closer to *real* Xball I understand the current realities. And while I have mocked the recent efforts of the now seemingly defunct NPPL they made a mockery of their pro division first and so deserved the disdain heaped upon them. In the meantime both the PSP, particularly with the newly implemented conception of Champions and Challengers, and the Millennium offered legit pro brackets--though top to bottom the Mills version is both less consistent and an inferior competitive format (to the PSP) given its preliminary structure. And the webcasts from those leagues are providing a level of accessibility unmatched in the short history of competitive paintball. In a number of positive ways pro paintball is peaking.
Where the pro game is in trouble is with the absent next generation of pro quality players. One of the first series of posts ever to appear on VFTD (summer 2008) warned that the then classification system was destructive of teams and players at the D1 level. Over the intervening years changes were made that improved the situation but damage was done. In part the group of most likely future pro players was short-circuited leaving fewer potential *new* pros to replenish the existing pro teams or fill rosters for future potential up-and-coming pro teams. Nor are we seeing any (okay, a few maybe) fast track kids rapidly climbing the ladder and getting noticed. The surprising truth is the current pro teams are getting old and not only aren't there ranks of young players pushing the older players for spins and spots there have only been a handful of young players able to compete at the pro level in recent years.
Today--and next season--it won't mean anything but the day is approaching (sooner than you think) when teams will have to replace player losses with players that simply aren't of the caliber currently competing and when that happens it will impact all of competitive paintball by lowering the standard of excellence.
If you're skeptical I understand. Nobody wants it to be true and for players who aspire to the pro ranks it's a jab in the ribs from the pointy end of reality. But you don't have to take my word for it 'cus I've done a bit of research looking for factoids to either support or disprove my theory.
Let's begin with new pro teams in the Age of Xball. (Since 2004) How many have there been? How many are still around and how did they do? For 2013 I considered the teams competing in Dallas plus any team that appeared in the Champions bracket during the season. The result was 17 *new* pro teams have competed in the PSP since 2004. Of that 17 at least 8 no longer exist and at least one won't be competing in the PSP in 2014. That leaves 8 new pro teams to have joined the league in the last decade that are still competing. 5 of that 8 joined in 2010 or later. Vicious, CEP, Heat, Upton 187 & Thunder. By my reckoning only Heat is (was?) a Champions caliber team.
What about the pro teams that didn't make it? What are you hiding? Of the pro teams with a brief existence there were a couple of worthy teams and a bunch of those players are still playing. For the record we're talking about Ultimate (remember them?), Legacy, LTZ, Raiders, Aftermath, Bushwackers, Hurricanes & Entourage. And in the case of the Bushwackers it was one season and they weren't a new team, only new to the PSP pro division and the Hurricanes weren't a new team either and in their case were a continuation of the NY Extreme franchise.
Still not convinced? No problem. Next time we'll look at current pro rosters and I'll explain how to minimize the coming decline.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mr. Curious: Heat Still In The Hunt?

Seems silly season is heating up early this year as Mr. Curious informs VFTD of the latest rumors regarding player movement. Rumor is Chad George and Sam Monville were feeling a little left out and will be joining their former (and future) Russian compatriots on Art Chaos. If correct that would mean the Heat have lost 6 players from last season's roster including their basic starting five. Word from the Heat camp is that they will carry on but Mr. Curious can't help but think that will be contingent on Heat's ability to re-stock their roster with some credible talent.
The latest rumorology also has it there's more movement coming among SoCal players. 'Raney' Stanczak, reported to be a free agent only a few days ago is rumored to be in talks with the Ironmen--a team he has played for in the past. Also rumored to be in talks with both the Ironmen and Dynasty is a high profile player from Infamous.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grow the Game

It would seem that the highest civic virtue, the purest aspiration in paintball today is an expressed desire to "grow the game." I don't know about the rest of you but I got into this game because my son thought it looked cool and wanted to play. Turns out it was fun and in its competitive formats kept track of the winners and losers. My focus ever since has been on having fun and competing. If that makes me a selfish bastard according to the mores of modern paintball so be it. Sure I'd like to see more people playing paintball (mostly because I think they would enjoy it) and I certainly support the advancement of competitive paintball as a recognized sport but .. I confess I strongly resist the urge to encourage anyone to "grow the game."
In part because it's a fatuous thing to say. Mostly because those who admonish the rest of us to "grow the game" haven't given it two seconds of actual thought. Which game is that? Is it the Mil-Sig game that relies on realistic looking guns, er, markers? Is that the sort of paintball you mean to promote? Or perhaps "grow the game" means you favor scenarios that are quasi-reenactments of modern battles like, oh I don't know, D-Day? Is the game you want to grow directly associated with war? (Personally I'm not a fan but have no issues with others enjoying their own brand of paintball entertainment. That said I think if those were the brands of paintball the public most often associated with paintball it could prove disastrous eventually.) Let's try something more innocuous. Perhaps you favor speedball. Or even tournament paintball. Or rec ball in the woods. Or pump only paintball. But your "grow the game" wishes (consciously or unconsciously) reflect your desire to see your preferred form of paintball prosper. Which is all well and good but it should also be apparent that paintball isn't a monolithic activity. It's a dozen or more different games and each has its advocates and detractors. And even if you insist you support all forms of paintball it's irrelevant. The "grow the game" mantra is paintball's version of self-indulgent groupthink; a feel good way to be engaged and be a part of paintball's caring community without actually doing a damned thing. (Was that too harsh? Sorry.)
In planting season most farmers don't frequent pool halls, playing billiards, drinking beer and reminding each other to "grow the crop." (Think about that for a minute.)
If you really want to make a difference support the local stores and fields in your area that provide a positive safe paintball experience--and have fun.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hasta Luego NPPL? Hello APL

There's breaking snooze, er, news if you happen to be a cave-dwelling hermit living in the Pyrenees. Otherwise you will recall that Mr. Curious informed the well informed readers of VFTD that the move (by PBpromotions with the backing of Valken) to dump the NPPL (name & association) was under discussion months ago. Today PBpromotions made a formal announcement that henceforth they will be promoting the APL (American Paintball League). The APL will be offering a "Millennium-style 5-man Race format" in divisions from Pro to D4. Pro will (apparently) be by invitation--and as also previously reported by Mr. Curious Valken reps have contacted some established [and former NPPL] pro teams about what it would take to get them to play APL. Beyond the basic announcement however there is little in the way of details yet.
Given their intention to follow the Millennium's current format it is unclear what if any relationship may exist between the two leagues or whether the APL will follow such features as the 3 match preliminary round or what they'll use for a rule book given the MS (& EPBF) have yet to produce an up-to-date set of rules.
As to what will become of the NPPL Mr. Curious reports that there have been rumors in recent months that Chuck Hendsch was attempting to sell what remains of the NPPL property, intellectual and physical, but has been stymied by a lack of interest--though there are elements of the Valken camp that suggest Valken may have purchased some NPPL rights at some point. That remains wholly speculative. Rumor also has it that Mr. Hendsch is also the holder of some substantial amount of the NPPL's accumulated debts though what the precise legal status may be remains unknown.
By ditching the NPPL brand and changing formats it's clear pbpromotions and Valken are hoping to buy some time and goodwill in building a competitive national league.
Without encumbering associations is it possible Chuck may find new partners and try, once again, to bring the NPPL back to life?  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ruminations on Paintball & Media, part 2

Hang on, I almost forgot video, the majority of which features wretched music and short snippets of discontinuous action edited together seemingly without rhyme or reason. I am assured  that such scattershot video does, now and again, grab the imagination sufficiently to get some people to try paintball. Yo-kay.
Btw, in case you missed it--and how is that even possible?--there was a part 1 and this is the second post in a two post series. Go back and read the first one for the full flavor.
Fortunately there is one other sort of video that is gaining both attention and new practitioners. Pioneered by Pat Spohrer with 'Push' (more than a decade ago) it's paintball as narrative. It tells a story and puts all the action, excitement, personalities, joys and sorrows into context. And the story is what makes all the diverse elements of the game accessible to those who have not played it before. And it's the story that connects with the similar stories of those who already play, a recognition that we share more than the game in common. More recently Dan Napoli and Brad Maugham have been creating small gems like the 'Artifact' series and the latest season of 'The Roster' in their telling of the stories of paintball, both unique and universal. Lately the Derder crew have begun producing documentaries featuring some of the most well known teams in the sport. While made for an audience of ballers these stories of paintball also offer a portal into the world of paintball for those on the outside looking in.
But the same claim applies to one degree or another to any and every form of media. The real issue is effectiveness and outreach. What percentage of people who see a gallery of still photos will be moved to play? And how is that gallery of images put in front of an audience? Or a YouTube video or a show on SKY 3000 TV for that matter.
Which leaves us with the webcast(s), diverse online entities that focus on paintball (like this blog or Social Paintball or PBN) and social media. Is the webcast really a vehicle aimed at outreach? I don't think so--even if it happens to serve that function now and again. It's really about providing high level competitive paintball access to a niche target audience. Can its very existence build that audience? I think it can but to what degree and for how long or at what cost are relevant questions. Then there's paintball on the web. Undoubtedly new peeps discover or rediscover paintball daily via the web but it is a passive activity and relies on a searcher to make progress. Even so, there has to be something there to find. Otherwise most web based paintball sites are really targeting the existing player base. But maybe social media is different. (It's not.) You may have "friends" all around the world but if you're serious about your paintball odds are most of those friends are too. And your *real* friends and family are all perfectly well aware of your paintball obsession without the aid of Facebook and if they were ever going to play they would have already. I'm not saying nobody ever finds paintball on social media but I am saying social media is less social than you might think and is more like inclusive circles of friends that in places overlap and where they do it's because of primary shared interests, like paintball, so that in the end it's mostly preaching to the choir.

The way to make media work for paintball goes something like this; solicit Justin Bieber's agent and find out what it would take to get the Bieb to start tweeting about how much he loves to play paintball whenever he's not on the road and make sure the next issue of Celebrity Trash has photos of Justin sporting the latest gear and gun from [fill in the blank.] Whose playing paintball now?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ruminations on Paintball & Media

Fragments of thoughts on this subject were brought to mind again recently from a number of sources and so I'm inclined to comment on them. (Wouldn't be much of a blog if I didn't. Yeah, yeah, I know and I don't want to hear it.) In order of least important to most there's the tiny tempest in the comments section of the recent post on the new masthead photo. It's inconsequential if mildly amusing but it does remind that photos of paintball at best serve as a record of the past but since most of them are simply pictures of anonymous players shooting guns they are literally a dime a dozen--if I'm being generous--and may please a few players but don't do much if anything for paintball. By the way, that's the criteria for these ruminations; what sorts of media may actually function as outreach for paintball? Since everything nowadays is about growing the game.
Well, there's a couple of magazines still around. Kinda. (Maybe?) (Is some version of APG still out there somewhere?) I like the one from Portugal 'cus it's plainly a labor of love. I liked Grind. There was a Russian one too but I haven't seen it around lately. Word is Paintball News has reappeared but rumor has it Valken is using it mostly for corporate promotion. (Anyone seen it yet?) There is of course the latest iteration of the now online only magazine that is working hard to produce volumes for everyone but could one possibly do a more perfunctory job? Hard to imagine. It's about as generic as generic gets with an emphasis on photos over written content and the written content is about as dull and unexciting as a day spent at the DMV. And have you ever noticed the photos tend to feature the advertisers--or maybe it's just me. It's almost as if the magazine really exists purely as a vehicle for advertisements.
Ironically, crass commercial advertising almost certainly reaches more non-paintballers than vanity photography and webzines aimed at existing players and if you broaden the definition of advertising a wee bit and include product packaging it's not even debatable. So there you have it. It's on all you advertisers to make sure your ads--if not your products--are suitably enticing that they draw in new players.

In this transitional era is media simply an echo chamber for those already actively involved in paintball or does it--can it--have a real role in promoting the game? More ruminations coming in part 2.