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Old 07-13-2009, 08:56 AM #1
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Pro


Thought it might be time for a new thread, since the other one sort of petered out.

One of the observations from the last thread was that the “professional” designation was really just a construct of the league in which the player competed. I’m sure everyone’s read that we should do away with the "pro" moniker and replace it with "Open Class" and I think there is validity to that POV. Its more factually accurate, certainly.

But putting that aside for a minute, I thought I'd open the door on the question, "what should a professional team look like?". The answers I look for myself, and what I'd ask others to consider, have nothing to do with on-field prowess (although I would say there is a necessary modicum of skill required as a cost-of-entry to differentiate “professional” and “promoter”. Otherwise, we could all just agree now that Greg “Red” Hastings is the be-all, end-all of this conversation, as he clearly combines charisma, vision, hustle and a knack for selling himself and his ideas, and rightly deserves to be the best known paintball player in the world.).

So, I’ll put it out there for smarter men to consider:

*In order to call yourself a pro, or your team professional, is it enough to play in the highest bracket of any given league?
---->Does the league matter? Is Rochester Rhythm any less a pro team because they play in the AXBL than Indianapolis Mutiny, in the USPL or the Hurricanes in the PSP?
---->How about overseas leagues? Is Joy Division pro?
---->Could a US team play pro overseas and would that be enough to make them a pro team?
---->Can someone be a "regional pro" as opposed to a "national pro"?
---->Does fan base matter? Using Rythm, again, they probably has as many fans as many PSP or USPL teams have. Does that count towards making you a "pro"? Explicit is as well promoted (self-promoted, but promoted) as anyone else out there. Does that come into consideration?

As there is no unified ranking system, we really have no way to compare AXBL teams to Millennium teams to PSP teams. I get into conversations with Jacko and others on a semi-regular basis asking about the cost-value considerations of sponsoring pro teams. Would a sponsor serve its interests just as well with a top AXBL or CXBL team as with a PSP team? If so, it would be both less expensive and yield better results. How important is it to be in the most competitive league? Given that paintball media's taken a hit, there is less overall event coverage, and much of the remaining press is self-driven, is it more important to play at the top or to get press?

Hypothetical (I can see this developing legs): I take the Hurricanes out of the PSP and put the team into the AXBL, we become a dominant team in the AXBL, we continue to drive press through self-promotion (do we get more or less press? A winning AXBL team versus a not-winning-right-now PSP team), we refocus on localized exposure. We do this for about 1/3rd the cost of the PSP. Are we still a pro team? Did we make a good move?

Please be forewarned, all you card carrying, kool-aid drinking AXBL cultists, I will delete any post that is evangelical. This ain't about that. It's just an example.


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Old 07-13-2009, 09:47 AM #2
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Webster's dictionary states the following:

1pro·fes·sion·al
2 a: participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs <a professional golfer> b: having a particular profession as a permanent career <a professional soldier> c: engaged in by persons receiving financial return <professional football>

The hurricanes do participate for gain in a sport engaged by amateurs. I think it is pretty difficult to make paintball your livelihood, yet some players have managed to make a name for themselves. If you look at most other pro sports, the players don't have another job as most have in paintball. If you walked up to Thomas for example, as a complete stranger, and asked what he did for a living, I don't think he would say that he is a professional paintball player, because as far as I know, it is not how he makes his living.

I think Jeff, that this subject is about perception. How do you perceive the hurricanes? I see them as professional because they compete at the highest level. That argument doesn't hold water though, because Crisis plays at the highest level in their respective league, but I don't think of T2 (just an example) as a professional paintball player.

I think that calling the division "Professional" has a lot to do with people's perception of what a pro player is. If the NEPL decided to call their highest division (d2) professional, people new to the sport would perceive that these players really are professional. Heck, the first time that I played paintball, I walked by a speedball field and referred to the people playing on it as pros.

I do think that an American pro team can be a pro team overseas, just look at XSV, Dynasty, Philly, Seattle, I'm pretty sure that they have all played in Millennium.

As far as regional pros go, I think that there are some players that could classify as that. The first person that comes to mind is Brian Pierce from the Ducks. His team is always on the podium at regional events. He effectively competes for gain. Additionally, Brian is well known, being the manager of the Boston Paintball store in Framingham and having played for a team (riptide) that played local and national events for several years.

I think a fan base is something that aids to the perception of a team being a pro team. I don't know what Rhythm did to get such a fan base, but at AXBL 1 I was surprised to the see the crowd that drove 5+ hours just to watch them play. Granted, the owner has 70 players in his organization. I think the closest thing that we have to that in NE is Crisis with their practice squad and Cicero Storm line. Maybe it would be different if the hurricanes had a true farm system like what Rob was trying to create. I also think fan involvement has a lot to do with the size of a team's fan base. Maybe if the hurricanes had a practice schedule that they published in this forum and invited people to come down and watch...
As I'm sure you have noticed, there are two major crowds in the NE tournament paintball scene, the Boston Paintball crowd and the Fox4 crowd. I know that you have dropped bp as a sponsor, but maybe you folks could travel to both fields (among others) for scheduled practices, which might increase the popularity of the team.

Another way to develop a fan base is to do more with the local players. Maybe play the fox4 scenario or the big game at canobie or take the town at PNL. can you imagine how happy some 11 year old would be if he got to play on the same team as the hurricanes in an event like that? it's the younger recreational players that bring in money for the sport. I think that by just spending some time with the local players would do a lot for your team and the sport as a whole.

Alright, thats enough rambling for today.
-Matt

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Old 07-13-2009, 10:56 AM #3
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Do keep in mind....about 40 years ago. MLB baseball players ALL had other jobs in addition to their playing careers.

about 60 years ago...other than the top players...ALL players WORKED AT the city in which they were visiting to play the teams there.

so...baseball was not far off from where paintball is....it just has become such a huge event and media creation...that these players are able to concentrate ONLY on their sport.

EDIT: also consider a player NOT at the major league level..(i.e. single A minors) are still considered "pro"...they make money doing what they do. albiet a very small amount
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Old 07-13-2009, 11:02 AM #4
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So, "pro" is all about earning a living?

The technical definition is good enough for you?

(I think you are missing the larger question, which is more about the socialized meaning of professional paintball).
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Old 07-13-2009, 11:32 AM #5
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i dont know if that was directed towards me...but my post was directed toward M kenney...

just showing that being a 'pro' doesnt mean maing a living from it.
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Old 07-13-2009, 11:53 AM #6
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bmoney, are you dissapointed that I didn't use you as an example for a regional pro

Like I said, the league has a lot to do with the spectator's perception of what a pro is. If NAX called AXBL/CXBL "Pro Xball" for example, axbl players may be perceived as professional players.

I think the point I made about earning a living was to show that paintball is very unconventional, in that pro players don't earn a living by playing their sport. As for baseball players having to work in the early days of mlb, I think that if paintball, like baseball were to grow, there might be the option for players to not work.
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:01 PM #7
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bmoney, are you dissapointed that I didn't use you as an example for a regional pro

.
maybe haha.

no but your second point is exactly what i was saying...if paintball hgrows thru media etc...then maybe those (semi-pro...making money in addition to jobs) can become full time pro's

and jeff i was also stating that you DONT have to be at the highest level to be considered pro
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Old 07-13-2009, 05:11 PM #8
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Brian,
Do you think paintball has to grow through the media rather than grow through it's players? Like, do you think that paintball would grow healthier if it is exposed to the masses via media outlets and public exhibitions or by developing recreational players into tournament players? I use health as a measurement because the sport can grow exponentially over night, but the next day something else comes along, and all of your new players decide to play airsoft instead. In other words, do you think that paintball would benefit from bringing people from outside in, or bringing people who are already inside, even closer?
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Old 07-13-2009, 08:07 PM #9
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i dont know...i just know that major sports the players are paid dirctly by the fans...NOT the ownership (although it may seem it since the owners control the money the fans dish out). I know PB kids complain if it cost 10$ for 3 days of a webcast. so outside viewers imho are the only real source of income..

problem is PB is impossible to watch from an outsiders perspective. hell Poker was impossible before the advent of the pocket cam. now it has BLOWN UP since. i highly doubt PB will EVEr be big...and considerd pro...because it is impossible to tell what seperates AM players from Pros/.....ANY other activity there is a clearcutdiffernce.

eg. an amatuer team can beat a Pro PB team once in a while. an AM team will NEVER beat a pro hockey, baseball, football, basketball team...see what im getting at? its sooo hard to distinguish what makes them so good from an outsiders perspective. WE know only cause we play it...but I dont play volleyball but can clearly see what makes the elite the elite
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Old 07-13-2009, 08:12 PM #10
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In my opinion the AXBL, while it is a professional league, does not qualify the players as pros. It's a top league with top players, but the way pro players become just that is by being on a team in the pro division in the nppl/uspl/nxl/psp. I think if the hurricanes entered the AXBL next year the overall consensus would be more like "oh a pro team in the AXBL". People already look at 187 and say "oh nice theyve got three pros" not 15 pros. But I think they would dominate in that league but i also think this was just a rebuilding year and the canes could come back for next year in the psp, and do well. Just my 2cents.
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Old 07-13-2009, 08:51 PM #11
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I think the league factor depends on the notoriety of the league, its players and fans, and on the location of the person who's opinion you're asking. In the US you've got PSP & USPL for pro leagues. Europe has Millenium. Asia has PALS, and Australia has AXL & Super 7s.

Someone in the US is or UK/EU is going to say that Millenium, PSP & USPL are Pro level, but not the others. However, to someone in Australia, AXL & Super 7s are it as far as they're concerned. D1 is as far as it goes there, so does that make it their "pro" level? I suppose you could call it that, but I don't see it that way (because I'm in the US and exposed to the PSP & USPL). Even if all we had in the US were regional leagues like CFOA and AXBL, I still wouldn't call their top divisions Pro if there was something bigger and better (as in better competition) elsewhere.

My personal opinion is that if you're part of a serious organization, playing at the top of your league, and you and your team are putting serious, regular effort into your game, then you're playing professionally.

There's a bit more to it than that, however, because I don't view AXBL as "Pro". In the US / EU I'd say you'd have to be playing in the designated professional divisions in order to be considered Pro. Playing in those leagues, you are playing against the best of the best in the largest geographic region possible. I guess that's why I don't view AXBL as Pro, because we're only playing the best in our region. If any AXBL team played any Pro PSP team, they'd most likely get beaten.

I don't think that fan base or promotion make you a pro, I think they are side effects of attaining the Pro level. You could take any 8 random guys, build an organization, throw serious promotion at it, build a fan base and then they'd get smashed at the Pro level. What does that get you?

The factors I think are most important are the league, but only in terms of "scope of operations" (how large of an area your competition is drawn from), skill and organization.


As for "regional pros"... I suppose you could say that there are some, in a literal sense at least. Take Wedge for example. He played on NYX and the Canes and now he only plays AXBL. I still consider him a Pro player.

And on that same note, if the Canes decided to just play AXBL, I'd still consider them a Pro team because they've already achieved the Pro level nationally. I know they are on that same level of competitive ability.

Now, if you (Jeff Stein) took a group of random (local) players, trained them along with the Canes and then entered them in the AXBL... even with the same ownership, organization & skill level, I really wouldn't consider them a Pro team because I don't see the AXBL as being Pro. So I guess I consider the level & area of competition to be the major determining factor.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:27 AM #12
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Not a response to the full question, but each league has a certain clout for its top level players. I really dont have that much respect for the "Pro" division the USPL. 5 or 6 of the teams werent really "Pro" teams, they are teams with owners that were in the right place at the right time with a few bucks. Before this year, I would have considered anyone playing PSP or NPPL Pro as Pro players. It had nothing to do with you perspective league. Now with the whole USPL thing its a little wierd. I dont consider Explicit pros.

The "Pro" designation is specific to the sport you are talking about. MLB pro is different from even NHL pro and definitely different from BMX pro and being a Paintball Pro.

To me, playing in a certain division doesnt make you a certain level player. Being able to comfortably compete in that division does. Albany Powersurge (or New World Order) is a good example. They are NOT Semi-Pro players.

It makes it even harder when we have 20 different leagues out there all with their own classification system. The closest thing we have to a commissioner is Lane Wright who has clearly shown that he has no problem with having a personal vendetta (example, Damien Ryan ranking situation)
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:40 AM #13
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Quote:
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It makes it even harder when we have 20 different leagues out there all with their own classification system. The closest thing we have to a commissioner is Lane Wright who has clearly shown that he has no problem with having a personal vendetta (example, Damien Ryan ranking situation)
This is getting slightly off-topic, but it's as good an example of an edge case as you can get in this discussion. Damian played two seasons in the NXL with Aftershock. In my book, that makes him Pro level. Even though he bumped down to D1 after that to play with RNT All Starz, and now is back in Semi-Pro, if you put him in with any PSP Pro team, he'd be able to compete at the Pro level without any problems.

It seems obvious to me that RNT All Starz are playing right at their skill level in the PSP. They place every event, but they're not always on top. If Damian was ranked Semi-Pro, RNT would then be eligible to keep playing D1, and then they would be destroying those teams and placing 1st every event. They're clearly above the D1 level and belong in Semi-Pro.

So I guess my question is: once you've attained the level of "Pro" how long does it take for that status to revert to "Amateur" after you stop playing at that level? Does it revert faster if you stop playing altogether?

If you become good enough to play at the Pro level, and then stop for a year or two altogether then come back, is it difficult to get back to your previous skill level? Is playing Pro like riding a bike?

Edit: Looking at the Hurricanes' APPA data, it seems like Marc Lancia is a good example of this. He played with the Hurricanes in the NXL in 2007, then played one event with Riptide D1 in 2008, and then came back to the Hurricanes this year. It certainly seems like he was able to get right back to his prior playing level if Stein put him on the roster.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:53 AM #14
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My point with the Damian Ryan situation was that his rank did not follow the same guidelines as everyone elses. He did not play pro for an entire season and for anyone else, that meant being able to be ranked down to Semi Pro. (Similar to most of the Hurricanes when this season started). Anyway, that was just all part of my point that we do not have a universal ranking system throughout the entire sport and not a single figurehead for the sport.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:58 AM #15
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And somewhat tangential to that ("that" being your tangent): is it fair not to rerank players down from pro?

At least in New England, there is a definate disincentive to go pro (or semi-pro, or d1). Our little paintball community makes the cost of playing at those levels so high, you really have to be willing to walk away from local play for good to move up.

Tim Maher played pro for the Hurricanes in 2004 and 2005. In 2006 he played sparingly (one event at D1 and I think 1 at Semi Pro). In 2007, he played one game in HB in Semi-Pro. He didnt play again in 2007. In 2008, he could not play in the NEPL, despite being over 2 years removed from playing pro. He didn't play at all in 2008, and there are still restrictions against him playing in 2009.

So, hypothetically, if I picked up Pnut, Blake and Mike Jeffries from the Ducks, brought them to Phoenix next year, decided they were not up to it, maybe I cut them after the 2nd event (sorry guys), they would not be allowed to play in the NEPL for, I think, 2 years and they would not be allowed to play together in the NEPL EVER AGAIN.

With that in place, it's a hard decision for any young player to even try to ascend the ranks.
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:59 AM #16
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ugh. i tried a new color for all the people who hate my normal one and it makes my frickin' eyes hurt.
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Old 07-14-2009, 09:09 AM #17
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Love the new color Jeff.

And for some people, the lure and risk of playing at that high of a level is worth it. If I was given the oppurtunity to play D1 or higher with a decent team, I would certainly forgo my ability to compete in the NEPL. It's partially easier for me to say because I dont like 7man that much anyway, maybe I would feel a little differently if we had a large Xball league here in the New England.
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Old 07-14-2009, 09:27 AM #18
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Alright, I'll finally get involved in this, since it was my hypothesis that "pro" is merely a construct of the league you play in.

1) Most people assume the definition of professional to mean "I make money doing this". Case in point: I tell all my co-workers that I run a "professional" paintball team. They always invariable assume then that it is a source of income for me outside of my management position. I have never told a non-paintball person besides my mother this and had them assume otherwise. Therefore, there are very very few "pro" paintball players according to the general consensus of the public. We'll get back to this however.

2) So let's take making money out of the equation. Let's say it is just being the best at what you do. Therefore I'm "pro" at being "online awesome", and really really good paintball players are "pro". How are we, as a group, even supposed to objectively measure that? Good at what? Playing 7 man, playing Race To, Playing Millenium, Playing X-Ball (AXBL style), Playing 10 man, Playing in the Woods? I personally think it would be hard for the current roster on the Canes, just the 8 guys they have, to win two 50 minute matches even against teams with technically less talent. Playing for 50 minutes is different than playing for 20. It just is. Playing 1 game 7 minute 7 man game is different than playing a Race to 4. I've seen 7 man players just suck at X-Ball, and I've seen X-Ball players just be god awful at 7 man.

If it's not about making money, because not enough of us do, and it's not about being the best because there are so many different bests to be, then what exactly is "pro" about our sport. And the answer, to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart of the Supreme Court is: "We know it when see it"

We all know when a team who is "pro" in some league doesn't really belong there. We all know when D1 or Semi-Pro teams are looking to take advantage of reranks or loopholes so they can down and win. Hell the only reason most people in this sport move up into higher divisions is because they can't stay and play at the lower division anymore.

We barely have any tournament series that are defined by age. I saw a whole lot of adults with very expensive equipment at the Nepl Jr. this weekend. Normal sports allow for a progression based on age, income, want, desire. In our sport, 95% of the players would rather play a lower division than move up. And, as Jeff pointed out, once they move up, they only move up for a few years, then they all want to come back.

So maybe our pros are the 5% of the players and teams out there who want to keep going. Who stick together and earn what they have as opposed to buying it. I know I've tried to bring in Mercs before, like last year with Benny Carrol, and it failed miserably. We'd rather win or lose as what we are then pretend we are something we're not.
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Old 07-14-2009, 09:35 AM #19
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Just a point of clarification: i didn't say they want to move back down after a few years, but invariably they must move back down, as no one (not even Wakefield) can stay pro forever.
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Old 07-14-2009, 09:58 AM #20
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And somewhat tangential to that ("that" being your tangent): is it fair not to rerank players down from pro?
There's a question of fairness on both sides of that particular circumstance. Is it fair to the teams in the lower level to allow this player to come down and play amongst them? Is it fair to the player to lock them out of their only possible (local) competition?

Jeff, having dealt with pro level players for many years now, what's your opinion on the decline of a pro player's skill once they've left the pro circuit? I mean, it obviously depends on the player in question. In general, though, if a player leaves the Pro level, do you think they should be considered Pro after not playing for a season or two? What if they play at a lower level?
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:13 AM #21
J. Stein
 
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Actually, I'm less concerned with the individual than I am with the systemic impact of these rules.

A disincentive towards advancement works directly against my team.

A disincentive towards advancement has also engendered an environment that does not foster growth. The teams in the NEPL have created a barrier between themselves and the "threat" of losing. They've done this by removing former pros from competition and by limiting teams to a certain number of D1 players. Only those who really love the sport, or really think they can win, still compete. The end result is that there are fewer players playing locally today who could be considered for the Hurricanes than there were 5 years ago.

And I don't know, given today's environment, how to re-integrate the former pros and semi-pros and d1 players into the NEPL. Once upon a time, 80-odd teams attended events and they went to compete and have fun and enjoy the event. It was ok to lose. Today, teams seem to think that if they can't make money at it, it isn't worth doing. Hell, if that's the case, paintball isn't worth doing.

My issue is with the rules, not the ranking.

I think the answer is a uniform system of measurement and then allow leagues to determine how to use those. So after a year, a pro becomes a semi-pro and after another year, he becomes a d1 player and then in two more years or three more years, he becomes a d2 player, and then the NEPL and GPL and WCPPL and whatever can make their rules around those standards. That's the most fair way.


(color makes me think of Mr. Brown's line from Reservoir Dogs)
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