Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What The Hell's Happened To Paintball?

That was the starting point of a conversation I had today with an old teammate and friend. (Who, btw, it was great to hear from. As many people as paintball brings together time seems to have a way of separating. I appreciated his reaching out and while I'm as guilty as the next guy of letting things slide at least y'all know where to find me on this happy little blog. Don't be a stranger.)
So anyway ... what the hell's happened to paintball? The last fifteen years have seen up times, down times and over the last three or four years a sense that everything was settling down and if slowly at least surely getting better again. And then this off season happens. It's chaos I tell you, nothing but chaos. Pro teams exploding left and right. The annual ritual of the PSP changing stuff again and then the Great Sponsorship Debacle of 2015. In the background but definitely on every competitor's radar is the status of Dye and how that will affect both the PBA and the PSP. Like the Sword of Damocles hanging over national paintball's metaphorical head nobody knows when or if the thread will snap--and what will happen if it does.
Despite all that I'm here to tell you don't worry, be happy. And if you're not a Bobby McFerrin fan (or not old enough to remember the tune) Renn & Stimpy will do, happy happy joy joy. (Or have I dated myself again?) Yes, there's more uncertainty and upheaval on the national scene than we've seen in a long time. Yes, it could easily portend more changes, some possibly big others not so much. At the bare minimum the stability the PSP provided the whole system of competitive paintball has been shaken and left some competitive ballers without a clear path forward. And while that's less than ideal it's still okay. In fact it was bound to happen eventually. If it wasn't this set of circumstances it would have been something else. Paintball as sport is still too young and unformed and without a settled path forward that change was (is) inevitable.
The PSP has changed the game we play over the years on the basis of economic reality and league profitability--with a dash of industry domineering--but the truth has always been that the national event / traveling circus model has built in flaws. It isn't going to last forever. In the last fifteen years various factions have been hellbent on profiting from paintball as sport mostly focused on television as the vehicle of progress. At the same time they've treated their product--pro level competition--as a disposable commodity. There is an obvious disconnect in there that nobody paid any attention or addressed because they didn't have to. If paintball as sport is ever to approach anything like sporting legitimacy that paradigm is going to have to change. (There's that word again.) If the pro teams want a different future it's on them to make it happen. (And it won't happen by climbing into bed with other industry factions.)
Our game may not currently have the top down stability it had but it's got a lot of other positives working for it right now. In the same way that standards have trickled down from the pro team grind to serious divisional competitors the standards implemented by the PSP in recent years have trickled down to influence and improve regional and large scale local tournament promotions. Affiliates or not regional paintball has taken a few leaps forward in the last five years and as a consequence is delivering quality competitions to more teams. Paintball is entering an era of decentralization and that's a good thing. More opportunity for more teams and more opportunity for more new ideas to percolate.
New ideas, new formats, new tournament series are popping up everywhere. Some small and some with grander pretensions. It's all good. Local 3-man events begin to put the pieces together and offer an outlet for those inclined to the competition side. Local 5-mans give new teams a place to learn and grow and the expanding regional scene provides an ever more satisfactory baseline of real competition. In the meantime those with no outlet other than the national venues will continue to gear up and make the necessary sacrifices to compete because that is who they are and what they do.
Paintball is fine. Paintball where it matters--at the grassroots--is fine. More importantly that is a level where everyone can make a positive contribution. All paintball is local.
For probably 90% of all competitive paintballers--perhaps more--none of the off season shenanigans that stir up the internet is meaningful in any way other than as our very own soap opera. Just keep doing what you're doing. Playing the game and having fun. For those affected to one degree or another it goes with the territory but on the plus side it could all change tomorrow. In fact, it probably will.


ScotchMonster said...

Good post, good Sir! While you may show your age with points of reference you also show wisdom in those same years. Change management is and always will be difficult for young and old alike. Thank you for your insight.

Reiner Schafer said...

Good to see you are positive. That last statement could have been written as "on the negative side, it could all change tomorrow." :-)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I've said it numerous times, the XPL is growing more and more. I believe it will overtake the PSP since it's giving players what they want.

Anonymous said...

How is it growing? It hasn't held an event yet, has it?

Mark said...

....and I've never heard you (anonymous 10:22am) say it before.

Anonymous said...

Pinball will be fine. Just check out this video the bbc put together.


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