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.