Monday, October 27, 2014

What's A Fan To Do?

One of the qualities that makes sports appealing is team continuity. I can root for my favorite college team like my Dad did before me (and with me) and my son has (with me) and will after me because that team has been there and will still be there in the future. (Title IX notwithstanding.) Players come and go and we continue to root for the team. It is our team despite it's highs and lows and there remains a long-standing connectedness that ties us to that team. We are fans. The same is true of the professional sports as well. (Even though the NBA is determined to market players first and teams a distant second.)
This is one thing the NXL attempted to create in paintball a decade ago--the foundation of a fan base tied to teams. It was a good instinct. I bring up the relationship between team and fan because it's largely lost to paintball. No team has survived long enough or been consistently promoted in a way that encourages the formation of a fan base. (Historically the closest we've probably come are Aftershock, Ironmen, Joy Division and TonTons. Although in the case of the latter two one was predicated on anti-Americanism or possibly pan-European pride--if such a thing can actually exist--and the other primarily on nationalist sentiments.)
Anyway, here we are today staring at a near term future that seems to be guaranteeing significant change. Some embrace the idea of fresh faces and something new and others are troubled that once again paintball proves there's nothing to hold on to.
It's particularly interesting to follow the comments following the announcement that Art Chaos is disbanding, not simply leaving the PSP. Most suppose (and hope) that Heat will resign their previous Russian core while a significant minority have withdrawn their support for Heat based on recent player cuts, the fate of the Russians notwithstanding. It provokes a lot of questions.
Are most fans of the sport of paintball destined to be bandwagon jumpers? What's the attention span of a paintball fan? Are there any real fans of paintball or just friends and family? Can paintball lay any real claim to being a sport until it begins behaving like a sport?

18 comments:

frobinson said...

This pretty much hits it bang on. I have few paintball friends that actually follow specific teams, the majority of my team mates and friends are 'bandwagon jumpers' as you correctly put it. I find it hard to pick one team in particular to root for however I definitely have my favourites. I could argue that I'm a TBD fan, a 'Shock fan and an Infamous fan. What caused me to like them? No idea. It wasn't location given that I live in a different continent. In my opinion, they all play different styles too so it's not that either. But I do enjoy following their individual stories, whether that be through media, scouring forums or curiously checking players' facebook/instagram accounts.

And this is kinda why I dislike the champs/challengers setup so much. You can't help but think that newer players will innately have to be "bandwagon jumpers" due to the constant change of teams in the champs division and the inability to watch (or follow quite as closely) what goes on in the challengers division. As a viewer anyway, I would significantly prefer a single pro division as it would hopefully allow me to watch more closely, how my favourite teams are doing and in turn, encourage my friends to take more of a pro-active role in following specific teams...

Anonymous said...

"The horse goes before the cart"
Paintball is not a legitimate sport. It is a hobby. The playing field is unbalanced from the start of the game due to costs.

We all shoot the same rate of fire and moved from woods to a mirrored flat playing field in the name of fair competition. Why the industry does not take the next step is beyond me...

COST is the #1 reason why teams dispand.

Dean said...

Today's news that Art Chaos is done goes hand and hand in your earlier Post regarding the ROI of Pro Paintball and Pro Teams disbanding. If a big team like AC can win 4 events (2 Champions/2 Challengers), and still disband I think it makes the point that there is absolutely no return on any investment in a pro team. Even if a team has enough sponsorship (and maybe a team owner/cash cow) to cover expenses, I don't see where any of the sponsors make enough money to cover their expenses. As long as paintball has been around, I wonder if there is still some maturity needed (in industry/league) before we will see a true reason to own/sponsor a pro team.

NewPro said...

No mention of Dynasty in your list of flagship teams?

Baca Loco said...

NewPro
The issue is longevity and continuity--teams that have remained regardless of the current roster. Given that Dynasty's core is still OG Dynasty players the team doesn't fit the profile. (You could also say that Joy Division doesn't either and you could make a fair case--but it was just a post.) :)

Anonymous said...

Before I get too far into my own 2 cents...
It would-be nice to see a poll or something about:
Check yes or a box if you remember this team?
Check yes or a box if you remember this player?

I bet if you look at the data, you'll see a solid trend. For example, how long has the Art Chaos team been around?!?

I bet you, the players have been around since early 2000s. While the team itself has been around since...maybe late 2010. What if the whole thing is super simple: They simply wanted to win both PSP & Mill. And when that was done, be done all together. Round up a few buddies and go from there...

Why is Dynasty still around: group of friends having a blast...it's my fair guess, but once Ryan Greenspan retires - so will Dynasty.

Paintball is not a professional sport, it's a professional hobby.

As the article points out; if your favorite college or professional team lost all it's players - what happens?

Nothing, they're still there. You'll just have new players in old roles, doing the same thing.

And what would happen if Paintball used the same model...
What if you only had so many teams in Pro?
What if the only way to get into the Pro league was to 'buy' your seat? (Think Investment)
Want to add a team to the pros, expansion team / buy a seat?

And now, you have owners, or a group of people attempting to push the entire league because they truly have a vested interest in their 'product'

Now you're building a brand, you're building something that will-be marketable for years to come. I think that's part of the reason it's really tough to get outside marketing...
"So, I see your league each season has teams not returning..."

What would happen if as a league, you went to RedBull and said:
Hi, we're a group of 10 owners with 10 teams made-up of 10 players. Here are our team names, and here are some of our star players. Each owner has invested into the system, which is lead by a Commissioner. We also included our Head Ref and a Representative from the Players.

That is our pro-division, at the current date: we reach x amount of people per tournement. They're standard demographic is X - Y age with X% Male and Y% Female. On a typical weekend, besides standard costs to play, spectators spend this much at an event. And here is the breakdown of that...

And our "Superbowl" is called World-Cup; and it's X, Y and Z and here's that breakdown.

And we even have a divisional play at the same event or Minor Leagues. We're looking to get each team one or two minor league teams for development, that starts at Division 2 & 1; while Division 5 and 4 is for anyone to join into. Division 3 is the middle with a mixture of semi-pros / prospects.

That's just in the Americas, our X year plan is to connect with another League called: XYZ which focuses on Europe.

And now with all that data, talk and planning...
Let me show you what paintball is: play video
And we have X & Y event coming-up, if you're in the area, please let one of us know - we would love to show an event live.

Also, because we're here to promote paintball - we'd like to give you passes to the local paintball field for you to experience yourself. Feel free to use them as part of your employee benefit programs.

Thank you for listening and watching our presentation...
Have a wonderful day!



That's just me spit-balling a concept taking items and elements from successful professional sports. (Baseball, Football, and Cycling for Divisional ideas) - not saying it's a silver bullet, but it's an idea to get a movement started...

Baca Loco said...

1108 Anon
This is worthy of a separate post. Coming soon.

MissyQ said...

I think Art Chaos is staying together, but as Heat, aren't they?
Would that really qualify as a disbandment? Seems like more of a name-change, which is easy to accept if it comes along with a 2015 season pay-check, especially in this climate..

Bruce Anderson said...

The game at it's core is not very fun to watch as a non-player.

Until that is fixed, this sport is doomed to stay a hobby. Nothing else will matter as long as the spectator aspect of this isn't viable.

Reiner Schafer said...

You are right Bruce. Even if the game were much cheaper to participate in all that would do is increase the number of participants. For a sport to really get popular and pay it's stars a decent wage, you need paying spectators and a lot of them. Without a big fan base all you have is a bunch of people having fun amongst themselves.

Baca Loco said...

Bruce & Reiner
Two words: professional Lacrosse

Reiner Schafer said...

Professional lacrosse has a fan base. Not as big as some other sports, but obviously enough to pay players. Paul & Gary Gait did pretty good for themselves for instance. But it was the fans that paid the way, not the other lacrosse players around the world.

Bruce Anderson said...

Professional lacrosse can actually be watched and understood: follow the ball.

If we could actually see the "ball" in paintball, it would be a step in the right direction.

Baca Loco said...

Reiner
The point I was aiming for is that professional Lacrosse is the very bottom of the pro sports barrel, does not in fact have lots of fans, does not pay its players a living wage for the most part and loses money.
What it does do is treat the sport professionally using a presentation model that is familiar and projects lacrosse as a legitimate sport in the future hope that it will build an audience that will one day make it profitable and in the meantime isn't excessively expensive.
The closest paintball has ever come was the NXL and they spent the first two seasons by blacking out the matches due to the Dick Clark dealio. (And yes, that's quite a leap from merely mentioning professional lacrosse.) :)

Bruce Anderson said...

Baca, were any these matches filmed in any way or are they basically lost to the ages?

Baca Loco said...

Bruce
I honestly don't remember the kind of video and camera presence we routinely have today. There may be some--as some promotional stuff must have been shot--but I doubt there's much if any.

Anonymous said...

Go to youtube and search for "nxl paintball". You'll find basically raw footage, but there wasn't a lot of production value focus.

Bruce Anderson said...

Thanks, that's a bit disappointing.