Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's All About the Paint

Sometimes. Right after Dallas Damage player Jason FK Edwards posted a question on his Facebook page. As an independent Pro team this year that resurrected its fortunes late in the off season the team is buying its own paint. Seems they'd been using KEE but opted for GI on Sunday thinking it the better choice for the conditions--and GI wouldn't sell them any paint. Shocked? Surprised? Confused?
You shouldn't be. While I can't confirm it personally I'm sure working the paint angle dates to earliest competitive paintball. It's been a part of the game since I've been involved in the sport. And it isn't just the industry, it's the teams too. Look, it's a topic seldom discussed openly because everyone is so dependent on paint and more importantly, sponsorship paint but since Jason went public VFTD has decided to continue this conversation.
For a variety of reasons even good paint can be inconsistent from event to event. When it is there's an incentive among the Pros to try and balance out deficiencies. Now obviously a sponsored team can't very well openly use the competition's paint so deals get done. Frequently it's for OTB paint. Just enough to give your laners their best shot at getting early eliminations. And if Team A hooks up Team B they know Team B will return the favor somewhere down the road. That's just one example.
Perhaps less well known is the role the paint companies themselves play on occasion. While there is some outrage over the incident after it went public consider the situation from GI's point of view. Damage, a very good team, is about to play their flagship team, Heat, in an elimination match. Does it make sense to help the competition? OF course not but as soon as the option to manipulate who gets what paint enters the equation it necessarily lessens the competition and also creates the possibility of more egregious manipulations. Imagine a scenario where 3 of 4 semifinalists are sponsored by one paint company. They are in the money but what if they have preferences regarding the outcome? Could they, would they disburse paint to their own teams based on a desire to manipulate the final result? But why would they do that? Think of one reason and the possibility exists.
It's been one of top end paintball's dirty little secrets for a long time. I am told the PSP is going to address the issue in the near future. So instead of continuing to beat the bruised remains of the dead horse I usually flog unmercifully I'm going in another direction to close. Most of you should have heard by now that the rumored would be PSP competitor league is real and they are working to introduce a competing league. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PBA vs. PSP Pro teams?

Right, the Pro (webcast) schedule is out. Although exactly how that's gonna play out in terms of the competition results is still uncertain. All the Pro teams have been guaranteed four matches but the PSP is still playing fast and loose with the format--and they're doing it without even bothering to inform the teams that have already committed to playing. Look, I get the bind they're in. The PSP that is. Too many Pro teams disbanded in the off season and it's messed with the Champs and Challengers brackets. And while the rules for 2014 suggested the opening 2015 event would be one big Pro party it didn't provide any real details about how that party would be structured. (And the 2014 rulebook also implied the relegation matches at Cup wouldn't amount to anything.) So along comes 2015 and other items take precedence and before you know it the event is just around the corner and the Pro details have yet to be formalized. Oops. ) There's also the matter of logistics. A full Champs and Challengers uses two fields and the released schedule doesn't. Participation is down over last year and the savings on a field with ref crew is significant.
However, the circumstances, while possibly understandable, aren't relevant. The PSP's job #1 is to provide a paintball competition in accordance with known rules and format. And in this case it isn't happening. Not only isn't it happening but perhaps even more inexplicable is the lack of communication between the league and the Pro teams affected. One might even suggest it's blatant misrepresentation given the Pro teams have paid entries based on expectations that won't be fulfilled. If the circumstances don't rise to that level they demonstrate a clear lack of respect (or regard) for the competing teams and a willingness to put the PSP (and the PBA?) ahead of the implied competition promises made in the rules.
It's clear to VFTD that the priorities in the decision-making process was the PBA webcast and the available cost savings to be had in not setting up a Challengers field. Those choices forced the league to modify the format and alter the competition. While perhaps justifiable operationally it's completely inconsistent with the competition the league promised. The premier league in the world is behaving like a fly by night low rent local promotion out to line its pockets first. For whatever reason the PSP has gotten this completely wrong. The teams don't compete for the benefit of the webcast and the interests of the webcast shouldn't have any influence on the structure of the competition. For years the Millennium was routinely mocked for not having a rulebook but the PSP has one upped them. They have a rulebook but ignore it when it proves inconvenient. Of course on the flip side you get what you're willing to accept. If the Pro teams are willing to be disrespected and dictated to--guess what--eventually they will be. The bigger question may be how long will the teams continue to put up with it?  

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another Kind of March Madness

Major League Paintball's leading series kick off the 2015 season this month. PSP Dallas is less than a week away and the Millennium's Med Cup is the last weekend of the month. As of Tuesday morning--after the official final deadline for entry--Dallas was at 125, down more than 25% from last year's Dallas opener. One explanation that hadn't occurred to me before may be simple as the weather. Not only was Dallas cold last year but the worst of the winter weather has hit much of the country in January and February and shows little sign of abating in some places. Med Cup numbers could be similar but the MS hasn't yet posted registrants in the Semi-Pro divisions and the Open divisions are a bit thin. While there's still time for teams to jump in VFTD is projecting event numbers around 110 teams. The MS has seen a fair amount of team turnover in recent seasons with a trend that's in decline. Until this coming event the PSP had been growing over the last two or three seasons. The MS made some off season moves to change the pattern and it will be interesting to watch what happens in both leagues over the course of the season.
The rumor mill continues to churn regarding the PSP with tales of high profile buyers trying to buy the Dye shares along with competing rumors of a competing start-up national league looking to use the current uncertainties to make a move. So far Dye is standing pat--at least according to the latest rumor--and as more industry sponsors sign on with the PSP the likelihood of an upstart league trying to gain a foothold after Dallas seems unlikely.
Across the pond the MS announced an exhibition to run concurrently with the Med Cup in which top Champions League teams will play using a limited paint per point format modification. That should attract the attention of all the teams attending and give everyone a chance to see it in action or actually try it out. There has been talk for many years about limiting paint as an alternative to reduced ROF or other efforts to reduce paint costs and variability. By offering an exhibition the Millennium is taking a reasonable step in that direction while respecting their competing teams.
Remaining across the pond VFTD mentioned the X Series last week and I have some additional information. Begun last year in Germany largely as an alternative for local venues to the top heavy DPL and teams interested in something a little different--the X Series uses a modified PSP rulebook and field layouts--the league has grown substantially over last season with the recent announcement they would have 150 teams competing across the series of events. For the host venues the big deal is the DPL is modeled on typical soccer league practice which sees much of the money stay at the top of the league while the X Series offers greater monetary rewards to the host venues. Of more interest is the fact that in one season the league has attracted such significant growth. Last year the DPL had over 300 teams competing across Germany. It remains to be seen whether or not the X Series will cut into those numbers or if competitive paintball in Germany is still growing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coach Billy Wing

Okay, this is an interesting development. Far as I know Billy still lives here in Florida and that commute to Cali sucks. It gets old fast. I'm curious to see how this works out. Shane and Billy have successfully worked together before so that shouldn't be an issue except that past iteration of the Ironmen isn't the way the current Ironmen roster play. Will the team remain the same hard chargers they were last season or will Billy's influence moderate their aggression? It will be interesting to see what happens in Dallas.  The other thing is Billy has been designing PSP layouts in recent seasons and he can't very well do the "secret" Pro layouts if he's coaching the Ironmen, can he? 

Monday, March 2, 2015

"True" Semi Revisited

I spent much of this past weekend hanging out with Dave Painter and the Upton 187 Crew here in Florida. The guys got to experience a typical winter monsoon on Saturday but were rewarded on Sunday with sunshine and temperatures around 80 while the northeast got some more snow to go with their frigid temps and, er, more snow. Damage came out to play and it was good to see those guys too as they have a 'second' chance to keep competing and keep the team together.
After watching the teams go at it for a couple of days I've also had the chance to observe the PSP's "True" Semi in action. If the "true" purpose, as has been rumored, was to save the paint sponsors some cheddar by reducing sponsored paint usage--it's working. For right now. I have no doubt that paint usage among the pro teams will be down in Dallas. That might change some during the season if and when the players become more accustomed to shooting the mode and continue to improve. Even so I expect overall usage will decline season-over-season from last year to this year. One of the other things I was curious about was how different brands of markers might perform. Would one gun be easier to shoot fast or sustain a ROF simply because of ergonomics, some quirk of design or software or the reverse, would any be noticeably harder to shoot. The jury is still out on that one--at least for me--as the sample over the weekend was MacDev and Planet Eclipse and the most readily apparent factor remains the individual player. Otherwise some of the guys could approach what sounded like about 10 or 11 bps for brief periods with 7 or 8 being closer to the norm. (Actual ROF may prove to be different but I'm confident my guesstimate is ballpark.) At this stage the biggest difference is handedness--which hand a player is shooting with, his dominant hand or off hand and more practice is going to be required to get everyone up to speed. Or at least what constitutes speed in the new mode.
The other and certainly more important question is whether or not the new mode will open up play and create more excitement and interest among a paintball audience. This past weekend the teams were playing the divisional layout for Dallas. The answer is maybe. As previously suggested here it will depend primarily on the teams and the layout. The current divisional layout creates some opportunities for creative players in the mid-game and close out phases of play but whether or not that carries over to the pros competition layout in Dallas and matches where the score matters remains to be seen. At this stage I still expect to see mostly the kind of ball we're used to with the possible exception that the pace across the board will accelerate and broadly become more aggressive. This could happen because the risk/reward balance has been altered by the new mode but still requires the right kind of layout to encourage taking advantage of the potential the new mode makes possible. A couple of weeks and we'll all know more.
UPDATE: Left Coast sources are of the opinion that both Dye and Empire guns are easier to shoot faster in "True" Semi than their Planet equivalent. Will be interesting to hear more on the subject from the players.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's Shakin'?

Today's post is really just an assortment of observations and comments as the truth is ain't much shakin' going on in the Paintball universe today. A big deal for the industry is Paintball Extravaganza which has more or less become the big annual industry expo and I suppose it gets all the gearheads excited what with new guns on display and such but it just isn't my thing. Clearly I'm in the minority as many of the most popular topics of paintball conversation and interest revolve around the latest guns and gear--and that's okay. I don't imagine industry cares how often you play if you're prepared to buy new stuff regularly.
This past weekend I was in Birmingham (Alabama not England) and thank goodness that despite the fact it was rather dreary and damp it wasn't cold. This poor old Florida boy doesn't tolerate the cold all that well anymore. It was my first weekend this season coaching Pr1me D1 and the rest of the Pr1me program of divisional teams. The team has high aspirations and the commitment to putting in the necessary work. I couldn't ask for a group of players more willing to learn and determined to succeed. With only limited time until Dallas it was necessary to dump a lot on their plate right away and they handled it extremely well. By Sunday we were making real progress and while there's still a long road to travel we managed to lay a solid foundation for the upcoming season. I'll be back in Birmingham for the last practice weekend before Dallas and then it's off to Texas to see where we're at. Tournaments aren't won until Sunday but they are frequently lost in practice.
PSP Dallas registration has flattened with little or no change over the last week. The final deadline is March 2 but unlike past practice I don't expect the numbers to swell much with last minute registrations and entries paid. And if the numbers stay where they're at with all current registrations paying entry fees Dallas 2015 will be a full 20% off last year's participation. I still haven't had a chance to review regional turnout so I can't yet say if tournament participation is shifting toward the regionals or if competitive paintball is suddenly losing teams--again. Or it could just be all the off season silliness. Who knows? We'll have a better idea at Nashville.
Over in MillenniumLand GOG Paintball will be sponsoring a 3-man competition featuring their 50 cal marker. 50 cal is making inroads into recreational play and here it is being introduced into the high end tournament environment. For those in this audience attending the Med Cup event if you get a chance to check it out VFTD would be interested in your thoughts. Without a real rollout in the past 50 cal was largely rejected by the player base and I don't know about you but I'm curious to see how it turns out this time.
Last week my Twitter blew up with X Series tweets from Germany. Best I can tell the X Series is offering a PSP style alternative to the Millennium based DPL and includes an Open or Professional division. Apparently it was active last season too. If you're involved in the X Series give me a holler with the 411. I want to know more.
The first XPL event was this past weekend in Phoenix. 32 teams in three divisions; D3, D4 & D5 competed in a 4 match prelim with the number of Sunday teams determined by the size of the division. From what little I've heard it apparently went pretty well. If anyone who participated would like to comment on the event please feel free to do so. With a national event schedule from the get go the XPL could use the publicity.

Monday, February 23, 2015

One Big Happy (Paintball) Family

Not. I saw the latest promotional piece from Houston Heat today--a photo (poster) of the 2015 squad--with the banner, One Team, One Family, One point at a time and the first thing that came to mind was an admittedly cynical question: Would anybody be on that team, other than the junior Smith, if they weren't getting paid? And the second question that came to mind was; What about the family members that got kicked to the curb a couple months ago? Where I come from family isn't about what you've done for me lately. So who is really the cynic here; Is it me or is it Heat? (And they aren't the only ones. There's a welcome to the family message on Facebook from GI to a local field in Ohio. Are they too family now or are they in a business relationship each side hopes will serve their independent interests?)
Look, maybe I'm making too big a deal outta nothing. I mean everybody understands the game being played right? So what's the harm? Beside the whole family schtick plays in Peoria. (It's a showbiz saying from a very long time ago.) Paintball at every level is about friends and family and having fun--except when it isn't. And every time an idea like family is co-opted it diminishes the real meaning of the word. Okay the truth is we all do it and when it's homegrown teams and teammates we even mostly mean it. (Though I have yet to see anyone bleed, die or give up a kidney for the kid whose been on the team 6 weeks.) But all that really means is when the business of paintball gets into the act it really is a cynical sham. It isn't about the business of paintball sharing values with players it's about them manipulating all those positive emotions and love of the game on behalf of their bottom line. I know, it isn't just paintball either but just because everybody does it doesn't mean I have to like it. And today it just rubbed me the wrong way.   

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.

Monday, February 16, 2015

PSP Backlash

If you thought the latest escapade from the PSP was over and done with you are mistaken. Yes, the league backtracked mightily on the sponsorship restrictions impact on divisional teams and players and they have offered a quasi-defensible explanation of how they stepped in it this time--but this time it's not all simply gonna be swept under the rug, dismissed as the occasional PSP screw-up or forgotten. Besides, there are elements of the grander narrative still in play; the fate of Dye, PBA and perhaps even the PSP itself. And the extent and duration of how this sponsorship rigamarole unfolded will continue to send ripples across the pond of competitive paintball. Not only has the league taken a hit but so too some of the early responders among the league's sponsors. Whether fairly or unfairly the PSP's latest miscalculation has had an effect across the spectrum of paintball up to an including local fields and stores. Stories about a grassroots backlash aimed not only at the league but at its sponsors are beginning to be told. Stores threatening to switch product lines and fields threatening to impose their own gear restrictions. VFTD has no idea how widespread this phenomenon may be but if I'm hearing about it it's substantial enough to get industry's attention.
Closer to home today is the second entry deadline for the PSP Dallas Open and as of this afternoon the team numbers stood at 136 registrations with 107 teams paid. There is no doubt whatsoever that the latest brouhaha has cost the league teams and participation for Dallas. With today's numbers the league may be lucky if the turnout is only off 20% from last year. And as reported previously the losses are in the critical D3 and D4 RaceTo divisions. What the league needs now is a rousing success in Dallas and a lot of positive buzz from the Dallas webcast. The new rules need to prove effective and the matches need to remind the competitive player base that its the game we love. If the PSP can reassert its role as the leader in professional paintball the prior natural order may be restored.
Of course that still leaves the uncertainty of critical divisional losses to begin the season and the unknown legal status of Dye. Meanwhile conversations and tentative plans continue to form and reform in various corners of the competitive paintball universe. Until the previous status quo can be reestablished--if it can--the future of competitive paintball will remain less certain than it has seemed to be in many years 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

VFTD Attempts to Write PSP Press Release

Since the PSP hasn't seen fit to comment yet I thought I'd take a stab at it for them. See what you think of this:
Today the PSP is pleased to announce a revamped, new and improved, offering of sponsorship options for our industry partners. The new programs will integrate our sponsors into every level of access and promotion available to the league and deliver exciting new levels of value. All members of the industry are welcome to join with us and we look forward to building a brighter future for our players, our partners and the sport of paintball.
While individual arrangements are necessarily confidential it is important that we correct the broader misunderstandings that are causing all the present speculation.  Our sponsors rightfully expect us to value their partnership and help them promote their businesses as they support our efforts to deliver the very best competitive events in the world.

Okay, this is where I get stuck. I cannot figure out how to tell the players they're getting the shaft and make it sound like a good deal for everybody. Maybe that's why the league hasn't responded publicly yet either. Look, I get the idea and if this was restricted to sponsors of pro teams I'd understand even if I disagreed. All the pro teams gear is up on the webcast all event long and if the miserly companies won't buy enough ads to help prop up PBA we'll find another way to tax 'em. Sure, why not? Of course nobody has said this has anything to do with the webcast though and the info that has leaked is from this year's sponsorship packages the league sends to potential industry supporters. So it seems to me this is a PSP decision (whether Dave demanded it or not.) [Hey could it be the divisional impact is restricted to those teams that appear on the Sunday webcast? It would be a little easier to swallow if true.] Right now too little is known with any clarity to do more than guess. My first guess is anyone waiting for an official statement on this topic best not hold their breath. Best the public is gonna get is a clarification of the impact on divisional players. Bigger and badder rumors in the background only serve to further confuse matters but the end game here goes one of two ways; it further tightens industry's grip on the competitive game or it opens a door to new opportunities. It's pretty much always been the former in the past. Maybe this time things will be different.

Monday, February 9, 2015

PSP Unofficially Jumps Shark

I'm almost expecting the first official word from the league to be, "Nevermind," but who can guess anymore what the league may do. (If you'd like to add a soundtrack to this post let me suggest 'Runaway Train' as apropos.) While not offering an official statement--yet--the league has apparently confirmed they are constructing a policy requiring teams and players to only use the gear of league sponsors. How comprehensive and/or restrictive that policy will be is so far unknown. The Millennium Series has enforced a similar policy for some years though it's been limited to their locked upper divisions and early rumor has it the PSP's version will affect all divisions of play. While most of the hue and cry aimed at this "unofficial" policy has come from players they aren't the target of the policy. In the parlance of modern hostilities the players are simply collateral damage as very likely will be the self-inflicted hit the league will take. With today being the first payment deadline and mounting uncertainty about what the league is doing policy or no the league could very easily take a huge loss in participating teams at Dallas. In fact given the patterns registrations have shown in the past this Dallas looks to be off at least 15-20% over last season's Dallas opener--and that's without feeling the impact of this new policy. The real target of this policy is the marginal or tiny industry players and for them the policy is nothing short of extortion. To be even-handed the league will make the case it's only fair to all their sponsors who pay for access. What it really is is a gatekeeper policy intended to further marginalize the smaller competitors--unless they pay up. And it comes perilously close to telling their other customer base, the players, what they can and can't compete with based on a separate financial arrangement the league may or may not have with other industry parties.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Major Leagues Update

The way things have been going of late no telling if it will all change again before I can get this posted. Let's begin with the Millennium Series. Mostly in the news this last couple of weeks--besides the return of Hugo Dominguez--have been the introductions of new teams picking up spots in the two semi-pro divisions. Red Storm, a PSP Challenger last season, has joined the ranks of Mills teams this season but the other names are less familiar. It remains unclear whether these latest additions are filling spots attritted by other SPL teams or are adding new teams to the division totals. Last season there were 49 SPL teams so the question is are the newest teams going to swell that number or simply hold the line. Until a team list is posted for the first event there's no way to know but in recent past seasons the league's efforts have been aimed at maintaining numbers that are slowly eroding. Even then it's problematic if the league is willing to take unproven teams into the ranks of the SPL because it eventually becomes more of a vanity project than one of accomplishment. And without a teams list it's hard to know how well the off season changes have been received--though the general response was positive--a positive response not reflected by improving participation isn't much use.
There's more information available from the PSP and it isn't good--though there's still a window of time for improvement. Current Dallas registration is at 116 teams. The only bright spot is that 92 of the teams are Race To 4/5/7 while only 26 are Race To 2. That's still off 31 Race To X teams from last year's Dallas event and 54 teams short of last year's 170 team total with the first deadline less than a week away. And in looking at the registrations by division it's the bread & butter D3 & D4 ranks that are well off past numbers and that is a trend--if it continues--that will be of real concern to the league. (Looks like a review of D3 and D4 participation at the regional level is in order. Is the PSP possibly losing teams to other leagues or is competitive paintball losing its foundation?) In related news DYE's status remains in limbo--at least as a matter of public knowledge and what impact the resolution of their issues will have on the PSP (and PBA and the webcast) is also uncertain at this time. Also uncertain is the ultimate "true semi" ROF as the league announced yesterday it was being raised to 13.3 bps or more correctly the timing gap was being reduced to 75ms. So we've gone from uncapped to 12.5 and now to 13.3. Where will it finally end up? (And will it inevitably trickle down to divisional?) On a more positive note the demise of Damage was apparently somewhat premature as the core players have managed to resurrect the team with the help of some new sponsors and the reconsideration of ownership. On a less positive note rumors swirl regarding the fate of the Ironmen with recent defections and the team's status as DYE's defacto factory team. Including the Ironmen the pro ranks presently rest at 16 teams--too many for one division and perhaps not enough for a Challengers bracket though the league has discussed the possibility of a reduced Challengers division.
In player news Woodley and Dizon (late of Heat) go to Shock and Velez returns to Shock without missing any events but the shocker is the return of Todd Adamson. While Todd's role is unclear Coach Bruno threatened to return to the playing field with some regularity last season. Could Shock field two OG's in 2015?
Whatever happens 2015 is shaping up to be one wild ride.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Acronym humor. Or red pill humor if you know the score. It stands for Pros Go Their Own Way. And, who knows, in some alternate universe reality it could happen. If it did it might work like this.
A dozen pro teams decide enough is enough. Their present course offers no future. Thinking about it they conclude there is a potentially viable tournament alternative to the league they currently compete in. First thing they do is consider the logistics of operating independently. Given their current format or something similar they need one field for three days. And they need referees and perhaps neutral oversight in the interests of fairness. As a group they currently pay around 36K an event in entry fees. That becomes their working capital per event. Let's say they contact some of the better known and larger regional tournament series promoters to see if they have any interest in hosting a pro event in conjunction with one of their regularly scheduled tournaments. They target series that have a permanent facilities base. Someplace like an OXCC or a Cousins Dallas or a Pev's perhaps. The goal isn't to increase costs to the host but to provide the potential for value added. Secondary possibilities might be paintball fields that would fit the tournament criteria required of a pro event. The goal is to use existing permanent field set-ups. Scheduling pro events in conjunction with regional events provides a built in audience, raises the profile of the regional series and helps support tournament paintball where it grows.
Great as far as it goes but it's still all money being spent. There needs to be a way to generate revenue as well since the ultimate goal is to make money and make the "professional" part of pro paintball meaningful--even in a modest way--and potentially sustainable.
On site at each pro event access to the pro field is restricted, bleachers added and tickets sold to watch the pro matches live. Keep the ticket prices low and fill the bleachers. This isn't the principle source of revenue. Choose a media partner with the expertise to set-up and operate a web-accessible live feed of the event closer to what the Millennium are doing than the PSP. It can always be built out if income warrants but in the early stages costs need to be controlled. Using the same or other media partners film additional elements of each match; in the pits, extra on-field angles and shots. The object is to produce post-production individual matches with added content value, behind the scenes, in the heat of battle and player/coaches interviews, etc. Charge modest fees for the live feed during the event. (With fewer outlets and little connection to the pros otherwise will paintball industry be willing to advertise during events and in other event-related content?) Make individual matches available for cheap downloads post event and offer full event DVDs as well. At this point there are a number of revenue streams and anyone who wants to follow the pro game can mix and match content options but all of them are provided exclusively by the teams and their media partners.
Other options may exist as well. If sponsorships have any value at all (now or in the future) instead of being beholden to the industry sponsors the teams would be in control. Individual teams would be free to arrange whatever deals they wanted or the collective could offer exclusive rights--the paintball of pro paintball--and be promoted as such in all the pro media content.
Initially the unknown concerns are what sort of numbers can reasonably be expected to pay for pro paintball content and can those numbers generate enough revenue to match team outlays and eventually turn a profit? Next question would be can those numbers be grown? I don't know but wouldn't it be money better spent trying to create something sustainable than marching in lockstep until the inevitable end comes? It's money already being spent, just add some work and who knows?
What if the pro teams went one step further and offered a season ending championship event? And the only teams invited were those from the hosting regionals and/or other sanctioned series where the best of the best could fight it out for a real national championship.
Of course this couldn't happen except in some alternate universe because in our universe the factory teams wouldn't be allowed to participate and the primary sponsors would pressure many of the other teams not to participate and the status quo would be maintained and the pro teams will simply continue to come and go.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Future of Pro Paintball

Looking rather bleak isn't it? The future of pro paintball, that is. Among the noble but dwindling ranks of hardcore competitors there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty--and if not fear at least concern. What's happening? Why now? What, if anything, can be done about it?
The rather bleak answer is nothing much because the impermanence on display is a feature not a failure. Granted it is also a largely unintended consequence too but once the basic pieces were in place all of this was pretty much inevitable. The PSP's origins were nearly the opposite of what it became--a for profit paintball event promoter. The beginning of the NPPL was as a representative body acting on behalf of aligned tournament teams to improve the quality of events by acting cooperatively. The NPPL was to vet promoters and see to it that events the NPPL teams agreed to attend were held to certain standards. Within a couple of years that morphed into a smaller sub-group from within the NPPL promoting sanctioned events which in turn evolved into the PSP. And an operating assumption of the league is that players and teams have a shelf life--and they act accordingly. The league is, after all, a business. It provides the best tournaments it can and they do their best to get as many teams as possible to play. Who those teams are is ultimately not important because teams come and go. It's just the way things are. What does concern the league is numbers. That is the environment the pro teams compete in.
The other principle contributors (would be virtually irrelevant if the good times had continued to roll) to the coming complete collapse of pro paintball as we've known it in America was the electro-pneumatic marker, the rise of the Russian Legion and the shift from a growing industry to a declining industry. The Legion pushed the existing pro teams to professionalize (and consequently spend more money to be competitive) at nearly the same time sponsorship dollars began to shrink. The end result seen in recent years were a top tier of pro teams that were either the factory teams of a declining industry or teams with independent outside resources. Ironically applying more pressure was the move amongst a few of the independents to buy what they hoped were elite players in order to compete for wins right away.
All today's top tier teams will be gone in 3 years if things stay the way they are. The future pros will be simply some percentage of the best divisional players and either by rule or necessity the standards and demands placed on pro teams will decline. New names will rise up but in the near term future the quality of play will also decline--although making that quantitative judgment may prove difficult or be disputed based on whatever game is then being played. And somewhere around 5 years into the future the cachet of pro paintball will be sufficiently threadbare that it jeopardizes the existence of the PSP. (If it takes that long.)
Could a brighter future exist? Sure, I'm simply extrapolating the near term future. Who knows where competitive paintball might be in twenty or fifty years? (And most of us don't care all that much.) I also think it's possible for a different path to lead to a different outcome. My comments reflect the way things are today.

Monday, January 26, 2015

So Long

Tampa Bay Damage is no more. At least it's no longer a competitive paintball team. Everything else Damage was lives on. The successes and failures. The good and bad times shared. The friends, the family, the camaraderie. Everyone who was a part of making Damage the team it was remains. Along with the memories of all the moments that were team Damage. Like it or not the nature of things is transitory. For every beginning there is an ending. It was a great ride while it lasted.