Friday, November 6, 2009

PERSPECTIVES





By Chris Corcino

I will start the rant.

Like I said before, it has to all be in perspective, the perspective of the manufacturers, the dealers, the general public and of course paintball in the world view.

Let’s look at the manufacturers’ perspective.
It is safe to say that GI MIL-SIM is the first to re-launch a truly controversial product (the .50 caliber paintball) since it actually cannot comply with what the common paintball player currently has, ie. the marker and its accessories. GI MIL-SIM, if you are aware, is the mastermind of this change. Behind them is none other than DXS (Good ol' Diablo). Now I'm not doing a lot of intel on this because most of it is common knowledge amongst the few who tell tales at shows (you know who you are.)
IF I WAS STILL IN PAINTBALL TODAY LIKE I WAS IN THE DAYS OF OLD, I would question why they are changing the ball size? Is it because people want the paint cheaper? (I came from an age when the Cobra angel LCD was 2000.00 and Zap paint was close to 90.00 a case)
The caliber was changed dramatically and now we have to question the reasoning. Was it to make paintball fail? Was it for economic reasons? Was it the public’s perspective? (Note the Tournament paintball public does not count. If it did, Bob Long would be number 1, and Tippmann would be dead last.) Was it to somehow revolutionize a sport as a whole?

Please remind yourself, paintballers never die...
we just get older. It’s the Industry that has taken the fall. As one player leaves to be part of the greater life, another picks up a rental and is hooked at the first try.
I try to take out people that never play, from cops to robbers, Pastors to accountants, from ex-meth users to members of Bahala Na. I've taken all of them out to play and more than 50% can’t wait to play again. I definitely keep it real but now I also keep it positive. There was a time when the negative was my positive but that is another story. What can I say, I know a wide variety of people and I try to find the good in all of them and share with them the good I found in paintball.

SO WHY? The question still remains and I believe the answer is this:
1- Better margins for the industry. (Which we hope produces more marketing awareness which in turn promotes better sales) The .50 cal paint should not be priced too low because it would not be fare to the manufacturer , I know I said it, but I’d rather shoot good paintballs over buying the higher end marker any day. I would rather eat good sushi at a hole in the wall restaurant than at an expensive Chinese restaurant that serves bad sushi.

2- Better public re-pore. (Japan and Germany can be legalized among other countries) Imagine Japanese paintball products! Maybe a kick-start back to the Olympics. As a reminder that the ball size ratio and velocity would consider it a fire-arm in these countries. But we hope better awareness as a sport and recreation.

3. New scope for Industry to see through. (Bring in Buzz)

4. New ideas. (Bring in new industry or make a better change) We are seeing the same thing all year, every year...

Change the game and level the playing field.

You see, there is a reason for Big Ind not showing up at a NPPL because the playing field is even, there is no king... they are not special. Blackstar and KM reigns because they show up and don't care about them!
IF I WAS AN INDUSTRY HEAVY and not seated in the front... I too will be vexed. (The game is as simple in the Industries... whose got the bigger junk and I should never share my space with the bottom-feeders.)

I welcome this change! And it’s not bad because of conversion kits for older guns will soon come. But change changes the perspective of the older generation player and can be better embraced as a whole to the future paintball public. It does however feel like an ugly start for the "now" player.

If I were heavy into the Industry that I so loved to hate, I would definitely change the leadership... Provide a true core group of advocates, not politics.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who's the amb"ASS"ador now?



Ok, so I got up this morning and as usual, I got on line and read all of my favorite paintball sites for the latest rumors, stories and the hottest turbo up grade board for my already "gray area" marker. Our friends over at ProPaintball.com have an interview with Nicky Cuba that was conducted by SavePaintball.org. One of the questions asked not only by SavePaintball.org but also by ProPaintball.com was, "How are you an ambassador of Paintball?". Great question!! That got me thinking, not just about how am I personally an ambassador of paintball, but what it actually takes to be one. One of the things Nicky commented on in his interview was how paintball was the most expensive sport to play. Now even though I don't believe paintball is all that expensive to play once you have all your equipment and become a member of the community (about $60 same as a round of golf), it can be quite a lot of money to get you to that point. Even a day out to the local field with rental equipment isn't as cheap as you think. Sure the fields have packages that start at around $50, but we all know once your there and you see some of the stuff the other guys are using, your already heightened nerves get the best of you and you opt for the better gun and larger quantity of paint and before you know it your into the day for $100 or more.

Let's say your going to be an ambassador and your already a long time member of the paintball community and you have a few different markers that you have accumulated over the years, as well as all the extra necessary gear needed to get a new player out on the field, minus the paint and entry of course and your ready to take out a new guy. Well here comes the part that's a little more tricky. Who do you take? I mean, you can't take anyone you know that's already played, because that's not the point and chances are anyone who knows you, knows you play paintball and if your the type of person who is already willing to take people and let them use all your equipment just so they can see what paintball is like, then you have probably already exhausted your list of friends and family who might be interested. So where does that leave you to find these new players? Should you put up fliers in the area with your contact info on it so anyone interested can get a hold of you? Do you let your local paintball shop and field know that you will be letting people use your equipment for free in place of renting from them so that you can get more people into the sport? (it's not like the people that would find out about your free gear from a field or shop weren't already interested and planning on paying for it themselves anyway) What if you just randomly walked around shouting out, "Hey, anyone wanna play paintball....it's on me, well sort of!". I know I'm making this harder than it really is but bare with me, I have a point, well more like a plan. (although it's not perfect since I just hashed it this morning and I'm NOT a morning person)

Basically what I'm getting at is this. It seems to me that with today's economic paintball situation, being an ambassador to paintball is more about helping the industry get itself out of the trouble they put themselves in. It's like a bailout of sorts and I didn't agree with the governments bank bail outs.....but that's a different post.

Paintball Industry------> "Hey guys, I know that all these years we could have been spending money on outside advertisement and on getting a true governing body together in order to truly lay down a foundation for this sport so that we wouldn't be in this spot we are in now, but gosh darn it, patenting other peoples ideas, being the first to get on TV and supercharging our guns and loaders so they melt little kids who get shot by them was just way more important at the time. How about YOU guys, the ones that have been addicted to this sport for so long and have bitched and complained about how we have ruined things for you, how about you go out and try to drum up some new business for US so that YOUR sport can survive and flourish like it used to...deal?".........

Now I'm all for helping the sport and doing right by others and all that hugs and kisses stuff, but when will the big boys who want to control this sport so badly, actually start doing things the right way in order to put this train back on its tracks instead of all this inner fighting and suing eachother BS. Alright, enough of my ranting....for now. Here's the idea/plan. Now, this plan takes a little giving on the parts on the big boys and possibly on the parts of local fields, but it's actually nothing in terms of the potential ROI.

We take, let's say the top 16 "pro" teams and tell them that they are going to be the ambassadors of this sport. I mean, we put them on this pedestal and really don't ask much, if anything from them in return right. Besides, who wouldnt be excited about going to play paintball for the first time with a PRO.....oh the stories they would have. These pro teams will be asked to take a minimum of 10 (could be more) new players out per month per team. (there is an easy way to validate and track this...we can discuss the specifics later) That's 160 new people every month (almost 2000 a year) going out and trying paintball that probably wouldn't have otherwise. Their respective sponsors will send them the necessary equipment they will need for this to happen (i.e. 10 tanks, 10 loaders, 10 guns, 10 masks, 10 harnesses, pods etc.) and the teams will keep this "rental" equipment at their houses to distribute when needed. The paint sponsors only have to send 5 extra cases a month with the teams allotted practice paint shipment. I say 5 cases because 1000 rnds per player is a good amount for the first time out. As far as guns go, almost every manufacture has a lower level version of their gun they can send out in order to help the sport and even if companies like Dye, Smart Parts, Luxe etc. didn't want to send out ten $1000+ markers to their pro teams as rentals, then they could always let Kingman or Tippmann fill that void....I mean it's for the betterment of the sport right, got to be an ambassador right? The local fields that these pro teams practice at, I'm sure wouldn't mind giving out free or even discounted entry to these 10 new players a month that wouldn't have been there otherwise anyway, so technically they aren't losing anything and its advertisement for their field. Now we have the equipment, the paint, the entry and the ambassadors. We just need to get these new players who have not been exposed to paintball before. I'll leave that part up to you guys.

Idea update** You could even make it a competition between teams to see who can bring the most new players each month.

This is by no means a perfect solution, but doesn't it seem a lot less one sided. The people who will benefit most from these new players is the manufactures. They should be the ones to foot the bill to get these players into the sport and since they wont do it in the form of OUTSIDE paper, electronic, radio or TV advertisement, then they should do it with the product and their pro teams that they already pay for. It's a double sided advertisement for them, not only are they advertising the sport of paintball which they all want to control, but they are doing it with their products so if and when these new players decide to buy, they will most likely buy the equipment from the sponsor package they used when they were introduced to paintball and if that equipment happens to be too expensive for them to jump into......well then we have another problem.....but that one is a lot easier to solve...I'll solve that one next time...one at a time...it's still early.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CK2 Trailer

Watch, drool, purchase.

(I will post a review [biased though it may be] after the general release)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to save Tournament Paintball

I know this is going to be met with controversy, but that's what puts butts in the seats and gets the dialog going.

I have a radical idea for how to increase the numbers of attending teams and players for national and local tournament circuits and in turn infuse our industry with much needed cheddar.

Pay the Pro's. Pay them a decent, living wage, for now. Pay them as well as possible and keep paying them more as you can.

Right now, the carrot dangling from the end of the stick for moving yourself up the ranks and working hard to improve your game to one day finally make a pro team is wilted, dried, and mangy. What is there to motivate the young, up and coming players? Sure, you can point to all manner of intangibles like Glory, Friendship, Achievement. Some even try to re-introduce the idea of "fun" being a motivator to participate and compete. But you know what? That only works for a few. Those few who are already motivated beyond earthly reward. There will always be those in the sport who compete for the sake of competition. Improve themselves for the sake of being "the best." Sacrifice all in their lives to stand tallest on that podium.

But as you can tell from looking around, those few are just that: FEW. And far between. You can't build an industry off of a few crazy people. You need to fill in the gaps with all those normal people who want to stand amongst the crazies. For every Michael Jordan, who would be killing himself to be the best no matter what you pay him, you need 11 other jagoffs who are there for the paycheck and the chance to play with a monster like Jordan. And I'm not saying none of those other Bulls players weren't there to win and feel the glory and all that... but how many of them would be there if they weren't making a living doing it? How many kids would be buying their shoes and trying to some day be one of them if there wasn't a financial reward for all of that hard work?

I'm not so stupid as to think that Oliver Lang should get a multi-million dollar contract. But if I were a kid and looked up to Oliver and wanted to be him one day, I shouldn't have to choose between being able to feed myself AT ALL and playing Pro one day. And you know what, if that choice wasn't there... if there was a reasonable expectation of being able to pay my bills, then the D3's and D2's and D1's would be chock full of hopefulls working their way to the top.

Would all of them make it? No. Would all of them expect to make it? No. But they'd shell out the dough for the chance. Just like all of those amateurs in the mainstreams sports. And how much better is Chuck's and Lane's weekends when their lower divisions are all full and their tournaments are hopping?

Where do we get the money to pay our Pro's? Damned if I know. That's your problem to figure out, not mine. I'm the idea guy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IN THE SUBJECT OF FIGHTING

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Initial thoughts on .50 Caliber Paintball.

Let's just keep splitting paintball in two until we get a small, thermo-nuclear explosion.

I'll have popcorn and sparklers. Come on by!

Then, paintball will have come full circle, and the meaning of this 30 year ride will reveal itself when a lone Park Ranger truck pulls on to an empty country road. The truck pulls to the side and the ranger gets out of his truck, pulls a shiny Lasoya ST-Ripper from the back of the truck... loads up the Rotor, and begins marking trees.

That is what we leave upon this world. This is our legacy. Improving the gear used by cattlemen and rangers.

Or... something less apocalyptic.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Paintball May Be Banned in Germany (Continued)

This report came to me as an email on the current report on Germanys ban on paintball by Lars Herzig

Geschäftsführer / Managing Director
http://www.dw-world.de/popups/popup_single_mediaplayer/0,,4255121_start_436_end_791_type_video_struct_3217_contentId_4246809,00.htm

Paintball is a modern way to play cops and robbers, only here the guns used to eliminate opponents fire paint pellets. People who play paintball, also known as gotcha, say it's a harmless sport. However, a working group composed of experts from Germany's state and federal interior ministries say paintball is dehumanizing and encourages violence. They want politicians to draw consequences from the school massacre in Winnenden and ban games like paintball.

Monday, May 11, 2009

MAO Heard 'Round the World!


So, I am a week removed from the PSP's Mid Atlantic Open, and I figure it's time I wrote about it. I'm still waiting for Lambertson to finish his post about the UWL a few weeks ago, so I can write my impression and tell everybody how much he's lying about everything. So, in the meantime, here's my report:

It was great!

Thanks! And I'll see you guys next week.

Ok, so maybe there's more I can write. First of all, I hope everybody that is reading this blog tuned in. We need the support of the entire sport. Everybody. Even you camo-nerds who play in the woods and have goatees and mullets and think speedball guys are just a bunch of cheaters. (Do any of them read this blog?) With big numbers we can make a stab at some good advertising, and some good advertising means we can do even more to make a good show.

As it stands right now, it already is a great show. And not just because of the money the PSP has spent on our gear. For this event, we rolled out our first step towards making paintball statistics a living, breathing thing. We unveiled a widget that keeps track of up-to-the-minute stats, who is playing each point, when they get eliminated, and even includes a link to a bio of each player. Of course, that's if everything is working properly and we are perfectly in tune with the stat-keepers and we have all of those bio pages built. But, we did take our first step with the widget by making it live, including the stats up through the day before, and by putting a green check mark in a box next to a player's name if we see them enter the game to start a point. And, with just using that small part of the widget, it seemed to help the viewer keep track of who was playing well so far, who you were likely to see on your screen, and was a mimic of the information Matty had to disseminate. With the delay of the video, and the immediacy of the widget, it seemed that starting lineups were getting cleared in the middle of a point, and that is something we need to work on, but all in all I think it was a great step forward.


Right here I'd like to take a detour to my soapbox for a minute. If any of you who are reading are on or are associated with a professional PSP team, please pass this along: FIX YOUR JERSEYS TO THE RULES, PLEASE. Do you know how difficult it is, right now, to see who is who with the fast pace of this format? It was difficult to see who was heading out for each point, impossible to see who was eliminated on each point, and some teams just have no stats taken for the simple fact that their jersey numbers are IMPOSSIBLE to see (I'm looking at you, Impact, but to be fair, every team had something about their jerseys that made it tough). The numbers are either too small, have no contrast with the background pattern, or both. I really don't care how you think it looks or how much you want to hide your identity from the refs when penalties are called, if you want stats kept for yourself or your team, you'll fix your jerseys. For players, it's a no-brainer: everybody is fighting for their spot on the team and for recognition from the paintball world in general. How are you going to accomplish that by playing in anonymity? Coaches/owners... don't you want to know who is performing on your squad? Heading in to Sunday, Yosh Rau had a 76% in the Points Won stat. That means, 76% of the time he is on the field, Dynasty wins the point. Kinda makes you think twice about sitting him, doesn't it? Guys like Zack Wake from Aftermath and Justin Schwartz from Dynasty had confirmed G's within a couple of digits of points played. For almost everybody else in the tournament, the G count was in the neighborhood of half the number of points played. That's information that's good to have about your squad, isn't it? That helps you put the best 5 guys on the field at any given time, right? It helps you win! If the pro teams show up to Chicago with Jerseys anything like what you had in Rock Hill, that tells me you have no desire to win and are just wasting your sponsor's money.

Just as a fer instance, do you know the rules governing jerseys in the other major sports? How large the lettering and numbers have to be, no (and I mean NO) logos, writing, designs are allowed, no matter how much your sponsors are spending. AZ Cardinals players were fined for writing Pat Tillman's number on their jerseys after he was killed in Afghanistan! Do you think it's simply so the league offices of those sports can be busybodies and have power? No. Because stat-keeping is an integral part of those sports and you have to give the stat-keepers every opportunity to get it right. Do we need more bodies at more locations around the field to keep better stats? Yes we do, but that costs money, and in the meantime make it easier on the few guys who are giving of their time for this.

OK, off the soapbox and back to the task at hand...


Oh... I guess that's it. I mean, the event was within a few teams of the Phoenix team count, but down just a little bit. The vendor area was a bit smaller, mostly because it was a small event and not within driving distance of SoCal, where most of the vendors seem to live these days. But Dye's big truck was there, Luxe had their manor set up, and there were a few others there showing their wares. If you want to know what the action was like, watch the webcast On Demand when it comes online in the next week or so. We are starting to get the coverage down to a science. There were a few very fast points where Patrick had to switch to a camera before checking to make sure the camera was on the right shot... and it was. Patrick is learning his job better, the camera guys are learning their jobs better, and they're more and more in synch now. Having all the best, whizz-bang toys is one thing... having a staff that anticipates each others' moves and works like a team is everything. And that's saying something when our 4 camera operators live all over the place and can only get work in at 4 events this year. And by all over the place, I mean only 2 live in California, and no where near each other. The other two are in Washington and Tennessee. None of them get paid for their work, and they work their butts off... standing in the sun, getting hit all day, then at night cleaning all the paint off the rental gear and offloading footage to computers to get ready for the next day. They're also the set-up and tear-down crew and have to clean and wind all of the cables and pack all of the gear for the trip home. None of us get any sleep at these events, the director and camera guys least of all. There: my homage to the crew of the webcast. These guys are the heart and soul of the coverage and Matty and Patrick get all of the credit. And, in case you're wondering: I don't do much of anything, so it's OK that I get none of the credit. But I always get first pick of the lunch!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fix the Reffing, Fix the Game



This is the blog post that gets me in to trouble. Before we dive all the way in, let me spell out some caveats and things that should go without saying. First, my personal tournament playing experience is very limited. My experience reffing tournaments outstrips it, but that's not really saying much. I'm coming at this not from a player's stand point, and not from a ref's stand point; but in the only way I'm qualified: as a spectator and fan/student of all sports.

Second, nothing I write is intended as an indictment of any individual ref, nor am I making light of the difficult job they have to do and how little they get compensated for it. Yes, we all know that it's a tough thing being 100% mentally acute after standing in the hot sun for 12 hours, and I'm not dick enough to respond by saying "suck it up, that's the job you signed up for." I know reffing is hard, and if you read through my thoughts, I believe it will be plain that I don't think the refs are to blame for the level of reffing we currently see in this sport. So there, I'm not hating on refs when I'm hating on reffing. Some of you won't see past your own defensiveness to get the distinction. That's fine, just tell your friends how lame I am and post many many comments! And then buy a Contract Killer shirt from RazaLife.com. Come for the debate, stay for the pie!

The 3rd thing you should know about me is that I have a very scientific way of looking at the world. No, I'm not a scientist, but when I approach problems of philosophy or in trying to come up with solutions to issues I try to stick to that which evidence makes most probable, and I rarely (if ever) come to full-on conclusions to things. If I do come to a conclusion, that conclusion is provisional based upon further evidence. In other words: I don't pretend to know the answers, but when forced to, I will make my best guess based on the best available knowledge, and will always be willing to admit I was wrong when my guess turns out to have been mistaken, either from faulty logic or new data. I love learning and that means I'm wrong a lot. I'm used to it.

Lastly, we're going to be honest here and assume the players aren't going to help the refs out by stopping when they are shot. The honor system? Never heard of it. Oh yeah, and for ease of understanding, the PSP game is called Xball in this piece. Race2 is going to get replaced once they wake up to how lame it sounds.

OK, so let's get in to this. I don't think 7-man is a viable format because I believe it is impossible to adequately ref.

Whoa... this is about 7-man and not about reffing? Well... kinda. In my internal quest to answer the question of where paintball is headed and if we should be headed there, I'm always comparing and contrasting the two most popular pro formats. Y'see, I believe we should have one way to play pro paintball. I think it makes me look ridiculous when I can't answer a question as simple as: How does one play paintball? I also think it's clear this sport just isn't generating the income for the major sponsors to have 10 events a year, so we really should pick one way to play it at the top levels.

One of the ways in which I gauge which one (Xball or 7-man) is better for the sport in the long term is in its ability to produce a fair and equitable match-up that truly shows us which was the better team. And I think 7-man has some inherent flaws that make it impossible to adjudicate close calls.

Let me explain. If, after the breakout (and regardless of format), the game consisted solely of guys gunfighting out of their spots or players making moves from one prop to another (with no bunkering moves), paintball would be easy to ref. What makes it tough are when guys run other people down, or worse, when there is so much movement you have guys running at each other. At that point, the game becomes un-reffable and the refs are forced to make their best guesses. If two guys basically joust each other up to the 50 bunkers, and both end up with hits, the action is too fast and too spread out for one ref to be able to determine who was shot first (and consequently, who played on and deserves a penalty). Now imagine if 4 guys do it, and you have the Joy Division/Dynasty Commander's Cup finale in Costa Mesa a few years ago.

In the case of Xball and 7-man, those calls usually end up about the same, at least from my experience. I've seen some bad calls and some great calls in both. The difference is in how those bad calls end up affecting the outcome, not only of that game but the whole tournament. In Xball, thanks to the format, the refs have time after the fact to assess any penalties without making a life or death decision over the entire game... just one point in the game. And even if it ends up being a missed call, the team on the short end of it has the chance to overcome it and still win the game. Now, all of those things are also true of 7-man, but with a much smaller (microscopic, by comparison) window for not only doing the work of making the call but also for the team that might have suffered a bad call to overcome and still prove they are the better team.

In 7-man, the decision has to be split second and the repercussions, comparatively, are much bigger and affect much more of the game. And, because of the much higher effort required by the referees to get it right, 11 more hours of such calls in the hot sun with teams and fans and parents all screaming for your head introduces more chances to get the calls wrong. It's true in my line of work and in most others: the faster you are forced to work and the more distractions you must deal with, the lower the quality of your output.

And 7-man, as long as I've been watching it, hasn't improved in its reffing. Now, there are many reasons for this, not the least of which is one set of fixes requires money and nobody ever has it or is willing to spend it on reffing. But, even just having experienced refs hasn't shown any kind of increment of improvement. Again, I'm not talking about individual refs, whom I'm sure have improved as they get more experience. I'm talking big picture, overall kind of stuff. Reffing of the pro's on the center court of 7-man paintball has seemed to have always been at about the same level.

And, as I'm trying to make clear: I don't think that's the fault of the refs. I think the system they are being put into sets them up for failure. The combination of promoters neglecting to get them food and water (which has happened often enough to be the trend and not the exception), a shift lasting 12+ hours, no consistent training and practice apparatus in place, and the very nature of 7-man and the demands it places on the refs all spell out, at least to me, an untenable situation. And the best proof I have that it can't be fixed is that, at any of those levels, it hasn't been fixed after 5+ years. And these aren't incompetent slackers, these refs. Not at all. And, thanks to my experience with Kristen Kleist and competing in or helping to ref her events, I feel familiar enough with these top level 7-man refs to say that. They care deeply about the sport, they care deeply about doing a good job, and they do strive to get it right, or at least make it better. While many point to the NXL/Pro Race2 refs as the best in the sport, it is hard for me to believe they are actually better refs than the 7-man regulars. More likely, it seems, they have a better system in which they ref.


At this point, I'm more inclined to blame the system rather than the people in it. And, with inventing Xball, they made wholesale changes to how the game is played that makes it much easier to ref. As a consequence, I believe they have made a game where the best team does win each match. And isn't that the point of the tournament? To see who the best team is?

What I have written above, I fully expect to be controversial, and probably in many aspects wrong or too simplistic to be accurate. I welcome your comments and look forward to learning from them. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Feel the Loss

Hooray for crappy cell phone pics!


So, last weekend I headed down to Pacific Beach to hang out with my good friend, Marty Mashall (or something like that. Truth is, I don't like him very much) and had an emotional moment. You see, Matty lives in a house with other paintballers. As he gave me a tour, showing me all the cool stuff they have that would normally cause major bodily harm to amateurs, he took me by the fireplace. On the mantle, piled high and deep were trophies. The first ones that caught my eye were the old trophies with the paintball guy on top, wearing camo, shooting an automag. I love those. I've been half tempted to make up a tournament that I won and buy myself one just to have it. Then, as I started to take in the magnatude of the bigger trophies, I saw an NPPL Series Champion trophy. And another. And then more. It was then that Matty told me that Ryan Greenspan also lives there. There it was, right where I could reach out and touch them, the glory that every tournament paintball player aspires to. 1st place medals hanging from ribbons wrapped around giant cups that signified another triumphant campaign.

At the far right side of the mantle, sort of hidden in the back, was the 1st place trophy from Commander's Cup, 2008. That's when it dawned on me: that's it! That's the last one of those anybody will ever win. I was looking at the remnants of a bygone era. And not just mementos, like a T-shirt or media pass, but the real-deal championship trophies from the professional ranks. And it won't ever happen again. Sure, 7-man is still alive as a national tournament circuit, and Dynasty will no doubt be adding USPL championship trophies to their collection and of course they are always a threat (sometimes, favorite) to win in the PSP. But even if the USPL at some point changes their name back to NPPL (they own it), something tells me it just won't be the same.

In the center of this silver madness was a giant cup. It sort of looks like the pro hockey Stanley Cup. Matt directed me to look closer, and engraved in a row at the top was every Commander's Cup victory Dynasty had. They had planned on covering the thing. Now? I don't know what they're going to do. I'm sure they have a plan, but the idea that this thing which has been with the sport for so long is now just gone... Everything that Lambertson had been telling me about why he was so angry about losing the NPPL was starting to make sense. Yes, I admit it, so little of what Brandon says makes sense that I tend to just tune him out. He is pretty, though... I'll give him that.

Anyway, mere moments after that elation of being in the presence of true greatness (as if Matty wasn't enough), comes the crushing feeling of loss and remorse over what is gone. I mean, my first real introduction to the best in tournament paintball was the first time I watched Spohrer's PUSH, and watching the film now I do a double take everytime they mention that they are at the NPPL World Cup. World Cup being, for long enough now, so firmly PSP it's hard to remember that this sport used to be somewhat united at one point.

Anyway, I just wanted to share how sentinemental I am and maybe get some of you old guys to cry a little tear for the NPPL. Again.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Surf City Open? Damn near Killed 'im!

Photos courtesy of PaintballPhotography.com

I suppose one of us, at some point, has to talk about the USPL event in Huntington Beach this past week. I was there, and on Saturday I was lucky enough to be joined by Brandon and Chris. Funny thing about the internets and blogs... it was the first time I had met them. I also got to meet Baca from VFTD and talk to him a little bit about blogging. I even recorded the conversation for later blackmailing/podcasting. If you want a preview, we talked about how much better looking bloggers are than normal peasant folk. I'll leave the details for when the podcast comes out.

I arrived on Friday and helped get the SplatXD studio all set-up. I brought my sound studio so I could record interviews. I managed two. 2 and a half if you count Chris Iaquinta telling embarrassing stories about badmouthing others in the paintball industry. Yes, it was recorded, but it will only see the light of day if someone pays me a cool $1 million USD. Yes, IQ, you'll get a cut, don't worry. The traffic on Friday was very light, but the event looked good. I think, if this was someone's first HB event, they might have thought "Paintball has never looked this good." Those of us who have been coming to the HB event year after year saw it as small. "Lesser" to some degree. That was my initial reaction, and based on conversations I had, was the initial reaction of many HB veterans. But, the more I peered into the inner workings, the more I thought about what was different this year than years past, the more I came to view the event as "intimate" and not "small." All the same faces were there, for the most part. What made the event small had nothing to do with Chuck and Camille, or the USPL, or the relevant success of the PSP. What made the event small is the same thing that has made paintball a bit smaller lately. WDP used to always have the coolest booths in past HBs. They put up picket fences and potted trees and had killer music playing. Now? They're not even a corner in the JT booth anymore. Speaking of JT, they didn't have a booth at all.


And that's not anybody's fault and shouldn't be used as any kind of "measuring stick" for how well this first event, or any subsequent event, should be judged. What matters, first and foremost, is the paintball. Not the sales, not the girls (ok, the girls are the most important but not when you're pretending to be serious), and not the spectacle. It doesn't matter how big you make the party look if it has a rotten core. That's how I came to view the NPPL in it's last 2 years or so. Sure, the events looked top notch, and as a spectator I was assured of certain creature comforts. But the competition itself was rotting away with constant reffing problems and smaller and smaller team turnouts. Pro teams self-combusting midway through a season and some Pro Teams just up and leaving altogether. It was all pyrotechnics, no decent rock music. And, on that scale, when looking at the competition side of it, how did the USPL's first event stand up? 7-man is still plagued with reffing problems and diminishing turnouts. Problems in reffing is self explanatory, but the problem with diminishing turnout isn't quite so obvious. I was bummed to see that the Ironmen were reduced to mercenaries. Same with the All Americans. Joy Division wasn't anywhere to be found. If there were swedes at the event, they were in disguise. Smaller turnout isn't about the money the league is able to earn (and use to continue existing), it means diminished competition as well. When the NPPL first splintered and half of the best teams and best players were forbidden to compete with the other half, I never had a sense of who was actually the best. Dynasty was winning everything... but against who? I get the same feeling now. As a spectator and a fringe member of the media, I want the best of the best all on the field, battling it out in a bloodbath for 1st place. I want to look at the schedule and have no clue how it will all turn out. Makes it much more exciting. Were I a competitor, leaving money aside for a moment, I would want to be standing on top of that podium with NO QUESTION that I am truly the champ. This goes for all divisions.

Now, very little of this is the direct fault of the USPL. One could make an argument about the timing of starting this league being a partial cause and therefore a direct fault, but that is still only partial. A promoter is mostly in a position of "build it and hope that they will come," where the only real direct influence they have is in how they "build it." And, when it comes to that, I would say they did a great job. The combination of Chuck, Tom and Camille along with professional players who have devoted themselves to this cause was enough to build a very respectable venue. I would like to see them pay more attention to the reffing, and I could write a whole 'nother blog about that (in fact... I think I will. Next week!), but they put a venue in place that was professional and an improvement in many areas. The games turned around very quickly thanks, in no small part, to no more arm bands! What a concept! I liked the field design and the teams were very aggressive on it, making for some exciting play. I even like the U bunker. I like anything that mixes things up and introduces something new. Because, let's be frank... for the most part these paintball games eventually start to all look the same. Once in a while (but not necessarily every event), someone will pull an amazing move and you'll see something new. But the rest of the time... it's like watching Run Lola Run. The U was fun to watch, especially when each team got into the 50 snake.


Saturday and Sunday saw traffic through the vendor area increase dramatically. The vendors were on the sand, and our collective butts were facing the main thoroughfair where most of the walkers/bikers/skaters travel up and down the beach. Traffic had to be diverted in, and there was some concern on Friday if we'd get enough traffic. I can't speak to any sales (we had nothing to sell for a digital magazine), but the walking lanes through the vendor tents was packed. The stands looked like they drew good crowds as well. All in all, I would rate the USPL's first outing as a success. I don't know that it will translate into longevity. I'm a terrible prognosticator. Yes, I thought HDDVD would beat BluRay. So I won't even begin to speculate about the USPL's chances for solvency this year or in years to come, or if they'll even make it past their 2nd event. But I will give credit where credit is due, and Chuck & Co. did an admirable job of starting off their new league.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

THE RIGHT KIND OF EYES

"You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...
And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."


That was written by Hunter S. Thompson, an influence in my life, in no small part because he was my father-in-law's best friend throughout most of his life. Oh, the stories Gene used to tell of Hunter and their days as carefree young men. That quote, in particular, means quite a bit to me, and I think is significant to the world of Paintball.

Wasn't it just a few short years ago when we were all hailing having 2 professional leagues as "good for the sport?" We thought the competition between the two would mean better things for the players. As each competed with the other for business, they would continue to introduce a more player-friendly environment. What nobody payed any attention to was the cost of that enterprise and how it would eventually affect the environment for players. What nobody seemed to care about was anything but themselves. As if those sponsorship dollars were endless and we could continue going to 10 tournaments domestically and 5 in Europe and it was all good because the promoters had to keep making things better for us.

And now, after lessons have been learned... every player fighting for any scrap that can even get them to a tournament, any tournament... we still have 10 domestic tournaments being held (4 PSP, and 6 total USPL events). More internal division about how this sport should manage itself at the top levels.

And none of the last two paragraphs are news to anybody. It's been talked about a little, but lately nobody is crying foul. Mostly because there's nothing we can do. The USPL and PSP are here to stay for now, and I'm not jerk enough to hope one of them fails soon. Yes, I breathed a sigh of relief when the NPPL went under, if only because it seemed like an opportunity for the sport to unite and our industry to get a bit of a break. And now? I like Chuck and Tom and Camille. I like Lane and Keely. Once again I'm stuck not being able to root against someone because I want them both to somehow (magically) succeed.

In Hunter's quote above, he talks about seeing the high water mark. Does anybody want to hazard a guess as to where the low water mark is going to be? Is having a choice of format or league always going to be in our best interests? I wish I had the Right Kind of Eyes. I would love to know where we are going to be in 3 years. Or, even the end of this year.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

History Pt. 2

Yesterday, I started to delve into something that has irked me for a while, and that is the lack of History in our sport. Or at least, the lack of attention paid to it. The history is there... so why do we ignore it? Today, I conclude my thoughts on the subject.

To make the "fans don't care" even worse is the fact that our sport is split in two. We have made strides in the past year or so in getting the scenario/big game crowd acknowledged at all by the manufacturers, but that's mostly out of necessity in this economy. Given their druthers, I still think the industry would ignore scenario if they could afford to. There is even less glory to be had there, fewer stories that mean anything to be told. And the average scenario/big game/recreational player couldn't care less. Mostly as a reaction to being the red-headed step child for so many years. "They don't care about us? Fine, I'll care about them even less." To them, tournament players are just a bunch of cheaters anyway. They don't play this game with honor. All they want is a free handout they don't love the sport above themselves. They don't love the sport the way I do. They aren't even that good because they have to cheat to win. Yes, these are all things I've heard. I wish there was more I could do to change their minds other than tell them flat out, "You're wrong." But that doesn't carry much weight and it certainly doesn't instill within them an admiration and passion for the sport played at the highest level.

In many ways, they are exactly like the tournament players they dislike: they are very "Me Me Me!" They tend to only seek out media coverage for events they were a part of. I'm guilty of it. I never read the articles about the scenarios I didn't go to. They're boring! Yeah yeah... there was some sort of story, a bunch of people in camo show up, there's lots of people shooting each other, some nerd does something with a cap gun or water bottle, everything comes down to the final battle, everybody has nice things to say about each other afterward and they gave out some good prizes. Oh, and maybe Greg Hastings was there. Do you see? I'm apathetic and the media is failing me. We are failing each other. There's a good chance someone was playing in their first scenario or even paintball game. There's even a decent chance that someone experienced something that gets them addicted to the sport. A new fan is born. A new chance to tell someone our story. But I'll never know. Because the guy writing the article probably didn't even go to the game. If he was there, he certainly didn't go in search of these kinds of stories, and I'm not going to read the article anyway because there won't be a picture of me in it.

So, what's the fix? Where do we go from here? How do we get people excited about the Who and the What, and how do we effectively give it to them? This is the part of the equation I am weakest at. I'm good at finding the problems, but horrible at finding the solutions. It's easy for me to be passionate about what the pros are doing and what they've done in the past because that's just my personality. I'm a sports fan, and approach my chosen sport in the same way I approach those sports I'm just a spectator for: Pick a home team and favorite players, and root for them until it hurts. And, I have a hard time understanding why everybody else isn't the same way. I hadn't met a single pro when I chose the Ironmen as my favorite team. I chose them because I was reading an article about the founding of the NXL, and I'm from L.A. Seemed like a no brainer for me. So I looked up the roster, and they were some of the same names I learned about in PUSH. So I started following Matt Marshall and Micah and Telford. I didn't need a personal connection for that to happen, but I feel that maybe some do.

Being as involved as I've been in this sport since I first bought a Spyder and wrapped it in camo netting so I could be a "sniper" (I've come a long way. A long, loooong way), I've had the privilege of meeting guys I'd only read about in magazines. It's becoming harder and harder for me to root against any teams. I'm a homer! I like rooting for my team and hoping the other teams all die in a fire. But that is hard to do when you know the players on those other teams. At PSP Phoenix this year, I got to know Nick Slowiak a little bit. Great guy. Now, how the hell am I supposed to root against Aftershock? Tim Montressor? Really cool guy. Now I can't hope Philly's Luxes all get replaced with airsoft guns and they lose. There's almost nobody left I can root against!

And maybe that's the secret. Maybe more of those camo nerds need to get to know these tournament nerds. I've been to scenario games that had a wide range of Pro players, past and present, but there was almost zero interaction between the commoners and the pro's. Except for on the field, where the pro players proceeded to lay waste to the regular folks. But, getting shot by Max Lundquist isn't the same as sharing a soda with him. He's such a nice and charismatic guy, you can't help but like him. Even when he's stealing your girlfriend, you are almost rooting for him. He could walk out of any woodsball event with a ton of new Joy Division fans if anybody actually took the time to socialize and mix it up. But, the pro's tend to keep to themselves and the scenario teams tend to keep to themselves and the divide gets even wider. Even on the field, the competitive nature takes over and the tournament players tend to all team up because they are more effective that way. But, as ambassadors, shouldn't they all split up? Shouldn't each pro find a kid and drag that kid everywhere with them, showing them how to play and keeping them up front and in the action? Shouldn't they play for different sides so the game is even and everybody gets a chance to meet and play with these guys? It can only help. Every pro I've personally met seems to have gone to the Rocky Cagnoni School for Fan Interaction. They're all great guys. (Yes, even Brandon Lambertson.) And if I were a kid or new to this sport and spent a weekend with Todd Martinez, sharing a bunker and a burger with him... what do you think the chances are that I'm going to take time out when there's a PSP or USPL tournament in my area to go and root for Dynasty? Aren't I more likely to consider Luxe or Empire as my gear of choice? Don Saavedra is a nobody, but every chance I get when I go play walk-on I trade guns with someone with a rental. I have no idea how many Ego's I've sold that way, but you'd think Planet would be pleased. Imagine if Nicky Cuba let me use his DM9 for half a game? I'd be hooked! Not only on Dye, but on anything Ironmen and Nicky Cuba.


Ok, I've beaten that idea to death. But, like anything else, I get passionate over what I think might bring this sport together. I'm a crossover guy, and I think we should be One Sport. United in our love for everything this sport has to offer. We need to get the dialogue started. About what's going on. About what it all means. So that 10 years from now, we can argue with some kid about how good Oliver Lang really was compared to whatever stud is top of the game now. So that those kids can be passionate about their guy, too, and tell us old guys that we are biased. The movement to start keeping stats will help tremendously in this area. It's the only way you can even hope to compare Stan Musial to Tony Gwynn. Right now, it's purely conjecture to compare Rich Telford to Gary Noblet. But, that will serve for now. We just need to get the proper forum for such discussions and put some butts in the seats. And get it sponsored. So I can make some money so I can not care about you guys or this stupid history stuff.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

History Pt. 1

Who can name everyone in this photo?


Why don't we have any history in this sport? To most people, Lane Wright is just the guy who runs the PSP and gets in arguments on the internet. Most people have to be told that he used to run to the other teams 40 and kill everybody... in the 10 man days when the fields were huge. When Oliver left Dynasty for the Ironmen, only a few saw it as a RETURN to the Ironmen. I think we can point to a few things for a reason why. None of them, by themselves, account for it. Fact of the matter is, we have about a 3 year shelf-life for the Story of paintball.

The big story right now is Dynasty wearing Empire gear... but people do an "Oh yeah!" when I remind them of what it was like seeing them shoot something other than an Angel. This sport has a long, complicated history, and we have collectively dropped the ball in keeping that history alive.

First, we can blame the media. We do have some excellent storytellers in this sport. People who are passionate about all aspects of it and starve themselves in singular pursuit of telling stories. People like Patrick Spohrer, Matty Marshall, John Amodea. But, those stories have always been told long after the fact. In the case of videos or magazines, it is months or even years later that we get a taste of what happened and why. Especially in the digital age when the gist of the story has already been told. And it's not a very lucrative career choice.

Decisions and sacrifices have to be made that dilute or minimize the story. Things move so fast and there is so little money in it that we have no Guardian of the Past. No Bob Costas who can make a living talking about Micky Mantle for 40 years. Technology pushed the splatmasters and autocockers and automags out. Shortened the fields, games and rosters. Faster faster faster. Meanwhile, who remembers what it was like? Who is keeping it alive to put today's game in the proper context? The only reason we marveled at how high Jordan could jump is because we had guys around to remind us what Dr. J could do. So Carl Markowski is the "fastest man in paintball," but we don't really have anyone to compare his feats to. We just have to take it on authority when Matt Marshall says it or Mike Paxson writes about it. I can't get into an argument with someone about Lane vs. Carl like I can about Wilt vs. Shaq.

Once something happens, we seem to mention it and even marvel about it... but quickly forget it. Our magazines are already looking to the next story, the internet has dubbed it "old news," and by the time we see it on a DVD, we can't remember what tournament that was or what it meant at the time. We don't have a cast of characters who will talk about it forever on the radio or internet, and just one filmmaker who can seem to build a good story out of it... but can't make it financially viable enough to do it more than once every 5 years.

And that brings us to the 2nd part of our blame-game: the fans. They don't care. Well, that's not true. I'm a fan, and I care. But I am, it turns out, a very small demographic. I'm rare. I actually sit and read stories and pay for DVDs and I even spent a year of my life talking in to a microphone to try and keep the dialogue going and the stories alive. I do plan on doing it again (podcasting), for sure. But, to what end? So I can entertain 80 people again? Or 120? I never got thousands, unless I was actually showing a live tournament, and that was only the PSP. Nobody seemed to care when I simulcast a local tournament in Canada. Not even Canadians tuned in.

Magazines have gone out of business left and right. The only ones putting DVDs out on the market anymore is DerDer, and as much as I like their videos, they don't really tell stories. Not like Jawwbraker did. Not like PUSH and Sunday Drivers. And if you ask Dan Napoli or Spohrer how many DVDs they sold, they'll quickly change the subject on you. Mostly because it's a rude question. It's like asking a woman her weight. But also because they don't get the support from the fans of this sport. If everybody who was willing to download a torrent of a paintball video actually purchased a paintball video, we'd actually have storytellers with cameras in this sport.

I don't think any of them would be buying yachts, but they'd be able to not only afford to produce another disc, they'd be able to feed themselves in the meantime and give their craft 100%. It's hard to make the effort when there seems to be no market for the stories. I ask myself, "Why? Why doesn't anybody seem to care?" I could sit and listen for hours to Matty or Chris Iaquinta telling me stories of the old days. Guys I only know by name and magazine photo only come to life as I hear about their hijinks or idiosyncrasies. I'm a relative newcomer to this sport. Bea Youngs had to tell me all about Lane Wright as a player. IQ and Mike Paxson had to tell me about the little tricks Ron Kilbourne has gotten away with. I actually had to force a story out of Eric Felix about his playing days. He was as hesitant to talk about it as my dad is about the Japanese occupation of his village in WWII.

Tomorrow, I will continue to berate you all for everything that is wrong with you, and then sit very high on my horse and tell you what you need to do to please me. Or... something.

Monday, March 2, 2009

ZEITGEIST



If you haven't been following the case of Phil Dominguez lately, then you don't know that the legal battle he has going on is serious, and it has taken a huge financial toll on him. He has not only had to bail himself out of jail and pay all of the legal fees up to this point (which have been considerable), but he has had his house raided and removed of all and everything considered weaponry. Numerous pro-gun blogs, gun rights groups and other second amendment defenders have taken on Phil as their poster boy for what is slowly happening to America. Our rights are being stripped from us one at a time and often in ways in which we are being told is for our own safety.

Phil isn't some militant weirdo who was planning some crazy assault on an airport. He is a regular guy that was unaware of a newer gun law written that did not allow him to make a stop while transporting an "assault rifle", his Ar-15. Hell, the police didnt even know the law, and had to spend nine hours looking for something to charge Phil with while they detained him. Basically the law says that when you transport what is considered an assault rifle, that you can not make any stops from the time you leave your home until the time you reach the area in which you will be shooting that assault rifle. Which is sort of gay in and of itself. I hope I don't have the shits along the way or run out of gas. What that law says to me as a criminal is that,

A.) I have to make this a drive by without stops, or
B.) Once I get to the public place in which Im going to unleash my wrath upon humanity, I can only be charged for firing my weapon at the people I'm shooting at, because the crime scene WAS my destination, so technically I made no stops along the way (considering I didnt have the shits, or need gas) and you can't add that to my charges.

Laws like these were put into place so that when a person like Phil (or you and me) comes along, the press and the legal system can play it up to the public in a way that scares us into thinking we need stricter laws to help save us from "mad men" like Phil. I mean seriously, criminals arent law abiding citizens, that's why they are called CRIMINALS. Who is this law really for? Next thing you know we won't have the right to bear arms at all.

Phil and I have been friends along time and we have been talking during all of this. He has asked me to post up some information about his case in hopes that the paintball community which he has always and proudly been a part of, might take the time to look into what is happening to all of us indirectly, through him.


" On Friday, January 9, 2009, Fox 11 News reported the arrest of Mr. Phillip Dominguez at Los Angeles International Airport. According to the Daily Breeze, Mr. Dominguez was on his way to pick up a friend arriving at the airport and then go shooting at a range. The L.A. Times reported "authorities said that there was no indication the man intended to cause harm at the terminal." In a follow-up report Fox 11 News then called Mr. Dominguez a "knucklehead" for being in possession of a number of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition while driving into Los Angeles Airport.
What the media fails to understand is that there is nothing illegal, nor even particularly startling to firearm owners who understand what a trip to the range entails.

The arrest was only the beginning. On the following Tuesday morning, January 13, 2009, at approximately 6 a.m. Mr. Dominguez's home was raided by the Los Angeles Police Department Gun Unit. While still in their pajamas, Mr. Dominguez, his wife and two daughters (ages 17 and 13), were led out of their home at gun point by LAPD. Mr. and Mrs. Dominguez were handcuffed for six hours while officers seized thousands of dollars in property, including all his (and his wife's) firearms, magazines, and boxes of ammunition.

The law firm of Trutanich-Michel, LLP was retained by Phillip Dominguez concerning his criminal case.

Mr. Dominguez was arraigned on February 6, 2009. The complaint alleges 11 counts, eight felonies and three misdemeanors. Mr. Dominguez is charged with three violations of California Penal Code section 12280(a)(1) transportation of an assault weapon for: a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II, a Kel-Tec SU-16 Rifle, and a Spikes Tactical ST22. One count of violation of Penal Code section 12280(b) possession of a Mauser Semi Auto Rifle. One count possession of a short barrel rifle pursuant to Penal Code section 12020(a)(1). Three counts possession of a deadly weapon under Penal Code section 12020(a)(1). And three misdemeanor counts; possession of a concealed firearm in a vehicle, carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle in Los Angeles, and possession of testosterone enanthate.

Trutanich-Michel has received numerous calls about the status of this case, the charges, and inquiries about what people can do to help. Contributions to Mr. Dominguez's defense fund can be made by check sent to Trutanich Michel LLP at 180 E. Ocean Blvd. Suite 200 Long Beach, CA 90802. Please indicate in the subject line: "Dominguez Defense Fund." Tax deductible contributions can be made to CalGuns Foundation. Make sure that the donation is marked for "Mr. Dominguez's Defense Fund."

Chuck Michel plans on fighting this case to the fullest, meeting with the prosecution, and resolving the case to a just conclusion."

Pass this along to everyone you know. This may sound stupid and insignificant to you now, but not only is this real and serious to Phil (a law abiding registered gun owner), but it will become real and important to you sooner than you think if we allow these law makers to take away our rights.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Words by Timothy Lewis Montressor

FOLLOWING HIS BIG WIN AT PHOENX OPEN.
(PERSONAL BLOG with permission)


I was going to do a review of the event and write up as I had done in the past, but honestly, there isn’t much different to say that hasn’t been said about the basics. The weather was nice, the venue was amazing and the PSP did another good job, as usual. With that being said, it hasn’t occurred recently that I am afforded the opportunity to write about a victory. More often than not, I have had the undesirable punishment of retelling defeats and losses. But, this time our fate has changed and I am rewarded with a new task and duty.

Once again, all the clichés and truisms hold true and make sense. The beliefs and efforts towards a common goal and search for greater success have remained viable tasks in the minds of all those that have endured. As the post Phoenix PSP feelings begin to fade, I can look back onto the week with a somewhat intriguing and peculiar outlook. I remember winning the World Cup in 2004 and running onto the field shocked, surprised and amazed at the reality of being a champion. I remember winning the Texas Open NXL in 2006 and astonished at the fact that we were able to defeat teams that significantly outmatched us in almost every aspect of the game. But, winning Phoenix evoked new emotions and sentiments that I humbly hope will become the norm. The game of paintball has always been a passion for not just myself, but all the Philadelphia Americans. The same can be said for a large majority of the players on the professional circuit. Competing and working towards an ultimate success has become an infatuation, bordering on the lines of obsession. But, the last two years for the team have been very trying and served as a true gut check.

In 2007, the Americans took a new approach to the game. Hard work and dedication became the motto from day one. Sloppiness, tardiness, laziness and apathy were unacceptable. It’s not that these weren’t agendas for the team in years past, however they had become convoluted and lost over time in a sea of indifference. Nonetheless, for the last two seasons, time and time again we were given the opportunity to achieve a desired destiny, but our fate was always sealed and delivered with a frown and look of dismay. The culmination of heartache came in 2008 with a second place finish in our hometown followed by a crushing defeat at the World Cup. I’m a firm believer that second place stings the worst. I have taken last place in the past and felt that the cause was doomed from the beginning. But, second place burns deeply because the knowledge that victory was so close and then ripped away is emotionally daunting.

So, as the last two minutes ticked off the clock in Phoenix, and I knew that the team had finally claimed a victory, I felt relieved. No longer shocked and dumbfounded, I was proud of everyone’s work and dedication. The devotion and commitment from the remaining Americans is incredibly commendable. In the six years I have been on the team, I have seen many players come and go, but the group of players we have now has weathered the proverbial storm. All of the losses on and off the field were finally justified and reasoned. Thus, our victory was not celebrated with champagne or ruckus; instead a few solid hugs and firm handshakes accompanied a dozen smiles and looks of thankfulness.

In closing, the team and I would like to extend our largest level of gratitude for everyone who believed in us, to everyone who cheered for us and to everyone who supported us, from the times when we resided at the top of the podium and even when we inhabited the bottom rungs of the ladder. The unconditional admiration is always noted and appreciated…….hopefully, we will see you all in Charlotte ☺

“Sure I am, that on this day, we are the masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.”
-Winston Churchill

Monday, February 23, 2009

PSP Phoenix Open, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Wolf Shirt

Sleep! It is precious and good. I’m not an old hand at this… I haven’t been attending out-of-state paintball tournaments for years and I’m certainly not much of a party animal. So, recovering from this weekend’s PSP Phoenix Open is going to take me some time. Time, and massages with release.

So, I was tasked with writing about the Phoenix Open and the “condition” of our sports current Longest Running North American National Paintball League. I will do so by telling you my story. I am doing this for 2 reasons: because I think it will illustrate to you what I see as going on in our sports top level, and also because nobody else (not even my wife) cares at all about my story.

I arrived in Phoenix on Friday morning to begin preparing the PSP Webcast. The work was already underway and I made myself busy pretty quick. Patrick Spohrer, the man, the god, was running a day behind because a member of the crew was unable to make the event. As you may or may not be aware, we simulcast the webcast via closed-circuit feed to the major vendor booths in the vendor area. Patrick had to do all of that wiring and set-up himself, putting us behind in everything else that needs to happen to put on a webcast of this caliber. For those who don’t know, I myself have webcast 2 PSP Events, but they were rinky dink. I think everybody deals with me with kid gloves over this, because they weren’t really all that good. But I know that. I knew going in that it was me and a cam and a laptop and that it wouldn’t look anything like a professional show. But, it was better than nothing, and I take pride in the fact that what I produced was so bad it forced the big wigs to give Spohrer the financial backing to do his thing. I’m the grain of sand that irritates the oyster into producing the pearl. Patrick isn’t someone who does anything by half, though, and the sheer amount of equipment and cabling and computers and complexity to the webcast absolutely blew me away. There is no way in hell, not with all of the funding in the world, I would have been able to do a show like this. I didn’t even know this many cables existed!

Not only was the budget expanded a bit to add cameras for Dorito side coverage, the PSP gave the webcast away for free. The PSP seems really committed to building a show for the long term, taking the initial steps to packaging their product for more mainstream consumption. The plan, as I know it, is to do all four events this season, refining our practices and adding features as budget allows. Working on making this a viable avenue for advertisers to give the PSP money. You have to break eggs to make an omelet, and they have already broken a few thousand eggs on this.

As I ran around the event on Friday, before super huge weekend crowds hit the venue, there was a very somber mood in the air. Nobody was mad, or sad… but I felt a weight over the event. As if everybody knew some hammer was going to drop. Again. Like a Giant Hand might come out of the sky and yank you right out of the event, never to be seen in paintball again. Walking through the vendor village really brought this feeling out. Yes, the PSP changed some rules this year and only manufacturers, or their official representatives, can sell product at the events. A whole other 5 blogs can be written arguing the merits of this, and frankly such matters are way over my head. But I got the feeling that the vendors looked to their left and their right and wondered who might get yanked by the Giant Hand next, hoping it wasn’t them. This is how I imagine the streets of London felt in daylight during the bombing in WWII… only far less dramatic because nobody is getting killed. Underneath this oppressive weight, however, I could sense the plucky reserve of our current group of survivors. They were all determined to be the ones still standing in their respective niches when the tide comes back in. And yet, there were times during the weekend when the single row of vendors was packed. The Phoenix event increased in size over last year by about 20 teams, and as I moved through the crowds of the divisional players, I never sensed this weight of impending doom. They were there to win and have fun, and that much hasn’t changed. Not true when I was around the pro teams, however, as their fate is more closely tied to the manufacturers than the lower divisions.

As Friday got to be Friday night, there was still so much to be done. Our brand new, remote controlled, wide angle Dome camera still wasn’t working, and we didn’t realize until Chris Raehl had already shut off our wireless internet that we needed to download the control software! It took us over 2 hours to do something as simple as duplicate the scoreboard computer’s desktop out to my remote monitor so I can make sure the webcast’s scoreboard and the official scoreboard remain in sync. Little things like that which made our Friday turn into Friday night and then Saturday morning and then Sunrise and games are starting and 3 of us haven’t been to bed yet! Surprisingly, Saturday’s webcast went off pretty well. We were all tired and were facing around 13 straight matches, but managed to do a good job. Sure, our encoding software was wreaking havoc with everybody’s ability to watch, but we didn’t know about that until the end of the day. None of us had a spare moment to even look around the internet for feedback. If XSV hadn’t completely embarrassed someone in one of their games, we wouldn’t have even had a 30 minute break to eat a quick sandwich. Sat. night is a haze to me right now. I think we went out and had Wings and watched a UFC fight. Sunday morning just came too quickly and so did that first game.

Now, with a little sleep under our belts and a whole day of working together, we were ready to really start screwing up. Actually, I was the only one who did. I hit the wrong button and went live on Matty’s camera right as he took a huge bite out of his sandwich, and on another game I got the start time on a game wrong and was caught in the vendor village at game on. But, the good news is there was a whole night of cleaning up to do, and Patrick couldn’t fire me just yet. When cleanup was finished, we caught up with the 2nd place Ironmen at a nearby eatery and had a good meal. The feedback from the interwebz went from “You suck!” to “You are amazing!” Zero to hero. We went from being on the verge of seppuku to being the kings of paintball. The web is a fickle and terrible mistress.

So we all finally relaxed and I got a chance to start processing all of the conversations I had with various people throughout the weekend. PSP execs, vendors, players, pro’s; everybody with their own piece of the puzzle that is the State of our Union. On the one hand, we have this new and shiny toy with the webcast. We are able to watch this sport like never before and it feels like we’ve reached a new plateau. Only to look back and see the entire mountain looking less and less stable. Is this a last ditch effort? A shot in the dark attempt to at least look “mainstreamable” so someone comes a long and pumps some much needed life into our coffers? Did we fire our last flair into the air? Or is it not all so bad? Maybe we are being overly sentimental to what was lost in this constriction. Maybe we look back on the days of Money Wasting as the salad days, barely conscience of what has caused our near demise. Perhaps someone has created the webcast to shine a light on what is still great about our sport and hopefully show us the way. One thing I know for sure, the professional players never fail to deliver the excitement and drama that makes for good show. If we are truly passionate about this sport, then we’ll at least carve some time out of our day to put eyeballs on a professional presentation of that drama and excitement, right? Especially when it’s free.

Right?

Oh, and a quick note to those cowards out there that didn't wear their Wolf shirts at the event, you've lost your right to wear them in the future. Don't blame me when the zombies come and you are powerless to stop them.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

PHILLY AMERICANS WINS!!! (Equipment does count!)


More coming soon!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

VIEW FROM A DEAD SATURDAY WEBCAST..


YEA, THATS IT... ALL DAY LONG
But seriously, when it did go, 1 minute in... 20 min out, it was good for that moment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gator Tamer




I can remember the little fat kid with glasses that didn't quite fit in, asking to mix up some games with us at SC Village. I was building a ten man team for the NPPL at the time and we were having a sort of tryout. That team I built went on to win it's first NPPL event and then subsequently dismantle and eventually spawn into the Check It Factory team where myself, Rusty Glaze, Cowboy Roy Richards, JP Augustin, Anson Hong, Shane Harrison and that little fat kid with glasses, Gator Glaze, all played together. We all pretty much stuck it out growing up together playing paintball on the same teams, going from Check It to the Bushwackers, where most of us got picked up by separate pro teams until we all finally met up again under the Miami Effect/Infamous flag.

I've known Gator for a long time and I've watched him grow up and go through a whole bunch of things. That little fat kid with glasses, went from the nerdy outsider, to the cool nerdy kid, to the thin cool kid with glasses, to arguably one of the most recognized paintball players to ever play the sport. He created his own style and fashion and became a god like figure to all his fans. Gator Glaze became a business and it was selling product. He was making stickers, shirts, headbands, you name it. Gator Glaze homemade gear was in popular demand. It seemed liked every little kid that played paintball wanted to sport some of Gator's style. Kids were even paying to stay at his house ( The HK House) in Fullerton Ca. during So Cal paintball events just so they could say they slept on Gator's floor. It was pretty insane. I can honestly say, as much as you can be a rock star in paintball, Gator was.

Besides a wild fashion sense and a bit of a rep for playing the "gray area", Gator also had a wild way of living. He knew how to let loose. I've shared quite a few wild and memorable moments with that guy. Some of which are PG rated and some that R not...lol. He is the guy you thought would just always be crazy and wild. It kind of seemed at the time that Gator was just born to live free and roam. He didn't really seem to have a plan, he just lived. Paintball was like his outlet and maybe even an excuse not to grow up. But one day, something changed and you could instantly tell there was something different about him.....not bad, just different. He always had a bit of a "I don't care attitude", even with his friends he could be unpredictable. But not anymore. Something had made him stop and take a look at things. That something was his soon to be wife, Sophia.

Gator met someone who walked a different path than him but still had so much in common with him. I think he was amazed that you could still have fun and enjoy life without walking the edge of the earth. It was a new way of seeing things for him and it was having a huge impact on his life. He started going to church with Sophia where he became very active within it. He was attending youth groups and eventually started teaching his own Sunday school classes. He bought a paintball store in Rancho Cucamonga Ca. and started finding direction in his life. The Gator was tamed and he was happy. So happy that he wanted to make it permanent, and he did.

I attended his wedding this past weekend February 14 2009 (Valentines Day). I'm not going to make claims but I think he did that just so he could never get in trouble for forgetting his anniversary....hahaha. Either way, it was a free meal for me and mine..... =) It was a very nice wedding and reception. A lot of the old crew made it out and it was nice to see them all again. It was kind of sad seeing Gator grow up in a way, because it was just another reminder of real life and how paintball just doesn't fit into it anymore. We all became friends through paintball and I will always have an interest in it and try to stay a part of it as much as possible, but it will never be the same as it was when we first all started. When all we did was live during the week in preparation for the weekend and what it brought. I'm glad you found your happiness Gator, and I hope we all don't grow up too much and forget to get out and play once in awhile.

Congratulations on your marriage and good luck in everything that you do.















Friday, February 13, 2009

RATS LEAVE JT.. I LASERED THIER GUNS



ENJOY.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

PACK OF WOLVES

With all this division going on in the paintball industry, I thought I would take the time to propose a little lite hearted unity. Before I do though, and so you dont think Im actually crazy with what I'm about to propose, its a good idea to give you a little background on this. My friend Don Saavedra over at Splat Mag. sent me this link today (check out the reviews for this product)to help pass the time and to have a few good laughs over. Well it did the job, so I passed it on to some of the Infamous guys (Travis, Rusty, Pozzi, Rab) and everyone had a good laugh. I don't talk with the guys much since I'm not playing on the team anymore, and so I got to thinking about all the jokes and funny things you do while on a paintball trip. Things you don't do in your normal life around your normal friends, because they would probably disown you. One of the things I miss is the crazy fashion statements you can get away with at an event.

Well, hopefully by now you have checked out the link and you have had a good laugh too. If not, one of us has a horrible sense of humor. I know it's not me, knock knock jokes still make me laugh, so there.

Ok, so what I propose is this. The "Wolf Shirt Movement". In a nationwide show of unity and brotherhood between paintballers in this time when the industry seems to be dividing, when it should be coming together, I propose everyone buys a ridiculous Wolf Shirt of your choice and wear it to the Phoenix PSP event. The more ridiculous the better. It will be like that secret handshake that only a few people know about until the secret is let out a little at a time. I would assume there will only be a few of you wearing them at first, and people are sure to make fun of you (yeah, even at a paintball event), but underneath, you will know you are part of something much bigger than others are aware of. Then spread the good word and see how big the trend is at the next event, and so on. So instead of everyone always hating on eachother, we all get to be a part of this "inside joke" and become united in a super gay, wolf way....hahaha. Phoenix is the perfect place to start because the wolf ties in well with the native american influence of the area.

" Wolves are perfect for paintball. We hunt in packs, but are ultimately alone."
-Don Saavedra

This is all just for a good laugh. Who knows, you may make a few new friends over the ice breaker, bad ass mofo'in wolf shirt you are wearing, and if you don't make a new friend, your definitely going to get laid. Seems win win to me. Have fun out there and be safe wearing those shirts, because when you wear a wolf shirt.....people are going to know you're SERIOUS.