Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fat Cat Paintball

For long years the heaviest hitters in the game worked diligently--if nor always effectively--to legitimize competitive paintball and reap the attendant rewards, fame and fortune, if only in modest proportions relative to the mainstream monoliths of pro sports. After a fashion PBA is still mining that rocky soil. The one thing they all share in common is they spent a lot of money chasing the dream of *real* pro paintball. A dream that should it ever become reality continues to hold out the hope it may produce a truly professional competitive paintball league. So it is particularly ironic to note that the only people making any cheddar off big time paintball is a handful of players. And they are making it, by and large, from a small handful of fat cat owners who have, this off season, accelerated the bidding wars on the limited number of perceived top tier players.
Good for the players who are in the money, I say. But it's more complicated than that. Is it good for the game? Is it likely to continue? What happens a little further down the road, say three, five or ten years into the future?
In a recent post VFTD took a look at money versus talent when it comes to winning. But while money doesn't guarantee success it does have a powerful influence on the game. And the Fat Cat owners with the deepest pockets (and a willingness to dig a little) are affecting the game in a variety of ways. Even during the Golden Age of sponsorship the big industry factories weren't tossing around the kinda cash the Fat Cats are this off season. With little or no thought about the ultimate consequences.
The Fat Cats make a mockery of even the pretense of parity. They aren't concerned in the least with true competition and have zero concern for the future of the game once they're done with it. The recent bidding war has enriched a handful of players and impoverished the game to the detriment of everyone else. And where does it all lead? To an ever widening gulf between the haves and the have nots and a growing cynicism among fans and players. The leading players have become nomadic mercenaries and the teams temporary stopovers.
The Fat Cats are creating unstable precedents and unsustainable standards that will tumble sooner rather than later. Do the names Draper, Monroe or Shows ring a bell? (Former Fat Cats one and all but they never dreamed of the excesses of the current crop.) The fact is once they tire of the game they're gone as are their teams and money and all that will remain are impossible expectations and empty spaces where transitory teams once competed. Perhaps it's an inevitable part of the game's development but perhaps not.


Anonymous said...

That's just a big tease Loco, Throw some numbers out! We need $ figures...
...and names, we need to know who, so we can start with all the 'he's not worth that' comments.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What this ^^^^ guy said!

Unknown said...

Paintball is unique in this respect. To compete at any level requires constant streams of cash - (2cents or so per ball is still a fair estimate is it not?).

Show me another low to mid-level sport (let's exclude motorsports or other high cost sports for comparison) that requires cash just to learn, practice and compete? A poor kid can pick up a basketball and practice until he can compete at high levels. The same can never be said about paintball.

Even as an individual this plays out (money = winning) - go to a local field that doesn't control equipment or paint use and the guy with the most money is going to have an impact. Now add some talent and it's really not even a game anymore, it's a slaughter.

Training with unlimited paint, unlimited budget for travel expenses, and unlimited payroll (in comparison to the rest of the competition who have extremely tight budgets and rely on players to foot some of the bill) is unsustainable.

I think it's fair to say that the PSP vs the NPL had a hand in this progression. X-Ball is just more consistent in how it plays out so adding more cash into the equation will result in improved performance in almost every area (assuming personnel are on par with the rest of the field).

7-man seemed to have a great deal more randomness to the outcome; allowing even scrubby teams to come in and create upsets.

The wealthy teams/owners obviously didn't like this - why should they be at the mercy of the random number generator?

I remember that feeling going into a big tournament, that even though you weren't the best, you still had a chance to compete and even knock off one of the big teams.

The wealthy guy will always manage to find a way to use his assets to his advantage. Winning is everything in paintball, and throwing down a few more bones can have a huge impact on the outcome.

Anonymous said...

The only people who have a problem with this are actually the industry fat cats, who now have to compete "against" the out of industry fat cats for talent.

In other words, a paintball company has to justify paying a player based on how that player/team can help increase (or prevent a loss of) sales.

An out of industry fat cat has to justify how paying that player can help him feel gratified at building a big name team.

Both, in a sense, pay players for "profit", and you might argue that the paintball company is more sustainable. But for every Shows you offer up, I will raise you a Long, Gardner, Sattler, Braun, etc. (all industry guys with top teams tied to their companies, the list could go on if you want to dig further back)

At the end of the day, high end paintball is entirely dependent on people with money sinking it into the upper echelons for whatever their purpose.

I'd just suggest you to look at history before you think you can control the outcome better than wealthy individuals deciding how to use their own resources independently.

Baca Loco said...

101 Anon
Only problem with your thesis is your industry fat cats are as extinct as the dinosaurs. Ok, Bobby and the brothers are still around but their teams aren't and even in the hayday of the factory team nobody did what's happening now.

When I look at history what I see are a bunch of alphabet sports owned by rich guys none of which would be legal without special congressional sanction.

Anonymous said...

That was the point of my post. Some non-industry fat cats went extinct, just as many if not more industry fat cats went extent.

NewPro said...

There are numerous examples of other pro sports owners who purchased their respective franchises, for no other reason then they wanted to hang out. If internet billionaires are dropping wads to mingle with the stars, who are we to say otherwise. You talk disparity, players see a onetime chance to make moolah. The truth of the matter is, regardless of the pro label, every sport has the bottom dwellers and the perennial contenders. You mentioned in a previous post about the recycling of pro players......What program do you think an aging pro player is going to flick to, the cash cow or the fledging "for friends, family and country bullshit".

Baca Loco said...

I'm under no illusions and I have no problem with the players taking the fat cash and running. That's irrelevant.
My point remains--even the so-called greedy bastards of PB Industry never did to the game what's being done now.
Will paintball survive? Sure but it's still worth a conversation, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Well like I said before the so-called greedy industry types, were actually greedy in a way that was profit focused. So they didn't overpay (too much...) for players.

Now we have a mix of profit centric and ego centric owners. The ones who are in it for ego, by definition aren't in it for sound business decisions, but rather because they want to pay what it takes to win.

Keep in mind though, that the those who supposedly have never spent to the degree that is being spent now completely discounts the NXL, and the massive boondoggle that was. Millions was spent on that, and while we might say it wasn't on the players, at the end of the day (I think) your critic is the unsoundness of the money being spent. I suppose we can at least with the NXL, there was a small chance of a "pay off", where with Houston Heat, if an extra hundred thousand gets spent, it only benefits a select group of players.

And perhaps there's the issue. Some people are upset that so much money is being "wasted" on players rather than building up the industry.

Interestingly enough, I think if there is some concern by the PSP or even PBA about investment flowing into less-than-ideal areas, the solution is to offer equity, in exchange for investment. Would Randy or the Russian(s) be willing to poney up 100k to own a piece of either PBA or PSP?

Missy Q said...

I don't get the fat cat non-industry types.
Won't they wake up one day and just think "ah forget it" and do something else?
Won't they stop dropping ridiculous bank as soon as their kids get real jobs, or need a house, etc.?
It all just seems so temporary and transient.
At least with the Industry you know they will always have a need for player/team representation in some regard.
Technically you could see Bart and Sarge have a row at the next event and one of them could just quit in a flaming fire-ball of exploding ego.

NewPro said...

^This is exactly it, in the eyes of the players, "make hay while the sun shines". The eternal piggybank doesn't last forever

Anonymous said...


This is random but how do you feel about all paint companies manufacturing the balls with a yellow shell? If the PSP can regulate that the fill must be yellow it wouldn't be hard to also regulate the shell color.

Personally, I don't see a downside to this because a yellow shell is no different to make than any other color. I think it would make the sport look even more uniform in our push to being "legitimate". It would allow the fans at events and people watching the webcast the understand the game better.

Why would the PSP choose to not do this?

1. The paint costs more to manufacture than other colors when the shell is yellow.

2. The paint companies want to keep their identity and remain different from other companies.

3. The pros might say I like having my opponent not being able to see my paintball coming towards them.

Why would you want to have all companies with a yellow shell?

If you have a yellow shell it would be easier to see if flight and be more visible for fans and webcast viewers. If the game is easier to see and understand that would allow people to enjoy watching the webcast more. If the sport seems fun and enjoyable the fans would want to play more. If you have more people watching and playing paintball isn't that a good thing?

Sorry for the long response to a random question but I'm curious to hear what you think Baca? Also, I would like to know why the PSP wouldn't or shouldn't make this move? If my logic is flawed or if anybody has anything to add please post a response.

Baca Loco said...

828 Anon
Interesting idea. I suppose the league could mandate the shell color and yellow would probably be the most visible. Is it bright enough to make a real difference to spectators? I don't know.
Players differ, some like to see their paint and seem don't want their opponent to see it coming.
Sounds to me like it would be worth looking into.

scroogemcduck said...

The "fat cats" are picking up where the industry fat cats are not. Whether you like how or who they are spending their money on, at least they are investing in talent. Multitudes of talent passes through industry driven teams with as little as free guns given as payment. I would say it's a safe bet that companies such as DYE and KEE didn't make it to where they are without good support and marketing from their top tier teams/players. Like most other sports the company is supporting players/teams to help promote their own brand/agenda and it becomes a win/win situation. The problem with paintball is that this is all being taken advantage of and the players are and will suffer for it. The way this sport has gone, there is such a high turnover rate at the top because players cannot support themselves and keep up at the "pro" level. Even guys who have been in the sport as long as say, the guys on Dynasty have to hustle their ass off to make a living and to be honest, that's a travesty. Guys like Ryan Greenspan should be sitting pretty by now and I'm sure that guy alone over his entire career as a professional has earned companies more than their fair share. And that's just one example. It was laughable when people where up in arms about Oliver's deal with DYE and in how much he was earning but in the grand scheme of things, that was pennies. DYE made back that investment 10 fold and that's how it should be. But those kinds of deals are very few and far between.
But I find it hard to comprehend that we are disputing PRO players being paid upwards of $40k a year and saying that's "enriched a handful of players." I mean really, 40K a year?! That's peanuts. If that really is the incentive for playing something, anything, professionally then that's a huge problem.
I've been waiting for the day Professional players wise up and fight the industry standard. But it seems to me it's not the players doing it first, it's a select few team owners. And with that, I say, good job. Because at the end of the day, at least someone realizes in order to have professionals you have to treat them like professionals.

splatkid10 said...

I wonder how much pro skateboarders make...pro motocross riders...and others in the "extreme sports" mix. Think the sports on Espn 2 late at night...I wouldn't count snowboarding/skiing now, way to big.

It comes down to the size of paintball (and really those that play tournaments) vs those other sports. I'll bet $100 more kids skateboard then paintball, thus more money is most likely made in skateboarding then paintball. More money for sponsorships, contracts, etc. with the skateboarders is the end result I am getting at.

If a mid-20's pro paintball player isn't working for a major industry player and has the opportunity to get $40k/year to play then good on him...cause chances are they aren't making $40k/year in a job where they are allowed that much time off to travel the world. I'd bet they either had money (think inheritance) or they have a part-time job that doesn't pay phenomenally (and they're still trying to finish college)...therefore the $40k is almost needed.

Anyway that's my hypothesis - and is not meant to degrade pro paintball player's in their mid-20's in any way. I'm sure there are a bunch of them with full time jobs that pay well, but I'd put them in the minority.

Anonymous said...

yah, that's the answer for sure - Give the players a bunch of money, because they deserve it.

We'll have the industry back on its feet in no time with genius thinking like that.....

How about this - In order to be treated like professionals the teams and players have to act like professionals?
Oh no, that won't work. The players don't deserve that kind of unfair treatment. Just give them more money. That's what's needed, right?

'In order to have professionals you have to treat them like professionals' - poppycock!

scroogemcduck said...

So then you believe Paintball Companies should be making money off of individuals, in most cases younger people, by only shelling out enough to keep them playing? If even that.
Interview for Mars Candy and when they tell you they'd like to pay you in M&M's, let me know how that goes for you and what kind of living you'll make. I mean, you can always sell the extra bags of candy they give you right?
So many individuals are being trained that this is just the way it is and that money is ruining the sport, blah blah blah. The same thing was and could be said for most other sports, especially action sports. And guess what? Those guys (and gals) get paid. Do you know why? Because they make money. Do you know why they make money? Because they sell product and are marketable.
The paintball industry has been taking advantage of it's "pros" far too long and if it ever plans on reaching more than an expensive hobby, it has to change it's ways. Period.

Anonymous said...

Why is having outside money flowing into the industry bad? For years the complaint has been that paintball needs outside sponsors to be looked at as legit. Now that there are outside sponsors, people complain that they arent sponsoring paintball in a form that they expected?

You claim that having a few teams loaded with talent is bad for the sport because the competition gets harder for younger teams? (Hard to find the pulse on the argument in this case) I disagree with this argument, and the Olympics is a good example. In Olympic Hockey there are each year 3-5 very skilled teams that beat up the other 10 teams in pool play. Only that small group of teams has any chance at claiming the gold medal, but just the chance to participate and compete against teams like Canada and Russia gives credibility and a dose of experience to teams like Norway, Latvia, et al. that they could not otherwise get. All of the athletes involved love the chance to get that high level of experience because they are true competitors unafraid of a loss. Perhaps the new age of big budget paintball clubs is threatening to coaches and owners of smaller budget clubs?

In any case, there has not been any clear argument for the "damage" that outside money is doing to the sport, nor any evidence to support it. I think that this should instead be considered an indicator of the health of paintball as it is clearly following the business cycle of the north american economy on its upswing. After all, isn't it said that luxury spending is a leading indicator of economic growth?

Other professional sports have had similar problems with parity when teams increased spending and the solution is almost universally a salary cap and a standardized system of player exchange. This is perhaps a more constructive solution than a grassroots campaign to fight spending.