Thursday, August 14, 2014

Changing of the Guard?

While PSP Riverside came and went without any *real* earthquakes the ground under the pro establishment appears to be fracturing. Only 6 Champions level teams haven't been relegated this season and that's 6 of 13 teams but 2 of them started the season in Challengers; 187 Crew & Russian Legion. Over the course of the season Heat, Art Chaos, Infamous, Aftershock, X-Factor and Dynasty have been relegated. Only Impact, Ironmen, Damage and Vicious haven't spent any time in the Challengers bracket. Granted, the system puts 40% of the bracket at risk every event but there has been more turnover this year compared to last year. As recently as two seasons ago a changing of the guard seemed improbable at best impossible at worst. And yet here we are.
The question remains: Is that what's really happening? I remain unconvinced. However there are clearly forces at work in the pro division. The upstarts are acting--and playing--like they belong in the elite company of the Champions while time-tested true Champions continue to falter. And by all appearances the gap between the pros and the top divisional teams is shrinking. (Whether that means the divisionals are improving or the pros declining is also open to debate.)
To my eye it is the later. From Dallas this year I've thought the pro ranks have struggled as a group to reach the levels of play that were routine a year, two years and three years ago. I chalked it up in large part to all the roster changes. And I'm sure it has had an impact. (No pun intended.) Even so by this point in the season teams should either be getting their act together or making it apparent it ain't gonna happen. It may seem unfair or even hubris to pass judgment on team(s) but results are results. Not winning versus winning is a pretty simple metric. What is less easy is deciphering why. We talk about the struggle first timers have in Champions but surprisingly the reverse is also true. Relegated Champions haven't done a good job of adjusting to Challengers. Too often they tend to play down--which is symptomatic of a lack of focus and tight mental game. The trend amongst pro teams is to practice less. Both long time and/or successful teams (and players) tend to lose their drive and hunger. Then there's the pro ROF. As regulars here know I have long correlated ROF versus the ability to move as a defining characteristic of the game. If correct a lower ROF dumbs down the game and makes it easier for a larger pool of players to be competitive. At the lower divisional level that's a very good thing. At the pro level not so much. Even field design may play a part. Data is being collected that will (hopefully) ultimately yield a better understanding of the influences on the game. Whatever is going on the winds of change are blowing through competitive paintball.
The other big question is: If in fact the guard is changing is it a good thing for pro paintball? Clearly the league hoped Challengers would help elevate the up-and-comers but if the perceived distance shrinks too much doesn't that also marginalize the pro game? Time will tell.


Bruce Anderson said...

Financially speaking - are Infamous and Dynasty at risk to lose out on sponsorship because they aren't in the Champs division for Cup?

What about the webcast numbers - are they breaking even or close to it?

You speak of dumbing the game down: would your recommendation be to bring the ROF back up?

What is wrong with opening up the playing field a bit so that it entices more of the D2/D1 players to keep pushing (knowing now that they do indeed have a chance to break into the big time)?

Anonymous said...

I see turnover of the top teams as a good thing. The players at the top now have already made their various contributions to the game. A new crop could bring new opportunities both for the sport and the industry.
One problem is, once another team challenges, and becomes successful, half the existing pro players will want to drop their colors and sign on to the new team, to maintain their top flight status. So what we really see is a change of name, with mostly the same people on the roster.

Baca Loco said...

Possibly but sponsorship in general remains in decline and will continue to do so.

The webcast folks have the good sense not to tell me anything.

For Pros, yes. I thought it was a potentially very positive move some time ago when the PSP attempted to tier the ROF by division. Unfortunately the divisional kids objected strongly as they failed to recognize how it would have benefited them.

That opportunity has always existed. Depends on what you mean by open up. If you mean make it easier would you be willing to apply that standard to other sports? There are so many college players let's make it easier to get into the NFL.

Baca Loco said...

Why would successful fresh team trade out some of their players for old-timers they just replaced?

Bruce Anderson said...


I have to chuckle at the good sense re: Webcast. If they were in the black or even close to it they would not be able to contain themselves.

How is the move from D2/D1 to Pro paintball similar to what would be going on in the NCAA and the NFL?

Both of these entities support the players financially. If you have talent, you will be given a free ride through college. The same cannot be said about D2/D1. Your poll awhile back basically showed that the players with the most skin in the game come from those two divisions.

I was not aware that the sponsorship was in continued decline; I had assumed just flat. I just don't see a good solution to the high personal cost in $$ and time this sport demands at this level. Too little visibility for too much gold.

Anonymous said...

In answer to post @ 12:30

Nepotism, and sponsorship opportunities from those old-timer pro's that are in the industry.

If these 2 things didn't exist, Richmond and many others would never have got a game at the pro level.

Baca Loco said...

Get ready for next year.

Anonymous said...

Worst case scenario... Dye is sold, sponsorships slashed even further. We have a couple self-funded teams like Chaos, Heat, and Impact, plus we have the Ironmen/Infamous merger.

That's not a whole lot different than this year... Damage might struggle. Dynasty will still have their sponsorship taken care of.

So what's different next year?

The economics of providing tournament paint for pro teams that operate a field still work $2000 in paint per event in exchange for being a loyal customer who buys paint all year.

So we'd have to be back to having pro teams affiliated with a field. Which to be honest, isn't that bad and is probably better for the growth of the industry than homeless pro teams that just consume resources without having any local tie in to grow the sport in their area.

I wouldn't mind seeing the industry get jumbled and have the chips fall where they may at the pro level. It's not the end of the world if pros don't get free practice paint.