Time for another VFTD experiment. Since a significant portion of VFTD readers and today's competitive players are unfamiliar with much of paintball's history I thought a little lesson, or five, might be of interest. Over the next five days I'ma serialize a feature (long) article originally written for PGi magazine in (I think) 2005 maybe early 2006. It discusses how and why the pro teams of today came to be. As you can see even then I was partial to inflammatory titles. So if you're interested--enjoy--if not--as Jeff Probst says to the losing team on 'Survivor' each episode, "I got nothing for you."
Pro Paintball’s Ticking Timebomb: part 1
Timebomb sounds pretty scary, right? Do I have your attention? Are you mumbling guesses as to what the ticking timebomb could be? If you’re thinking buried Iraqi WMDs you’re way off. If you’re concerned about unfettered illegal immigration join the club, but remember, we’s talking about Paintball, so lighten up. A good guess might be the trend toward consolidation in the paintball industry but that only points us in the general direction. And, no, I’m not telling just yet. After all, the idea is to get you to read more by teasing your curiosity. Trust me, it will be good for you. Like eating all your vegetables. So read the whole thing. It’s what your Mom would want.
Here’s a clue for the impatient: I warned all faithful PGI readers back in issue 181 in a View entitled, Livin’ the Dream, that the nature of sponsorships was changing–and not for the better in the likely opinion of many teams. That included the Pros. Little has changed except the precipice looms nearer and PGI’s growing readership means many of you missed the first alert so what better topic for an anarchist-at-heart and conspiracy buff to return to?
The Professional Leagues
There are presently two Pro leagues of consequence; the NPPL’s Pro Division and the NXL. (Yes, I know the MS has its Champions League but I did say, of consequence.) Each league is aiming to be the vehicle that delivers tourney paintball to legitimate sports status. Part of the process has been to elevate and isolate the pro ranks from the rest of the paintball proletariat. It is a preparatory early step along the road to positioning tourney paintball as sport similar to but distinctly different from the pay-to-play crowd.
Still don’t get it? Time was when Pro ball was really no different from the rest of tourney competition. Oh sure, they were mostly the best teams and players but pro status wasn’t really anything more than the name given to the top division of play. A big part of the new pro leagues current strategy is to separate the pro teams from everyone else. To make them special. And it’s working.
Do you hear that timebomb tick, tick, ticking yet? Everyone has been so intent on chasing success; wider marketplace, more players, fan appeal, outside sponsor interest, TV, real sport status, etc. that the true cost hasn’t been of much interest. Sure, the prime movers have been keeping a close eye on their account ledgers but, surprise, surprise, it isn’t all about them. The rapid changes have had, and will continue to have, enormous impact on the pro teams. The result is Pro Paintball is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. The changes made in search of “success” and more importantly the changes necessitated by that growing success are also changing the teams from the inside out. It used to be that success on the field was all that mattered. Not anymore.