Jeffís Big Reply to Why Things are the Way They Are
#1. Money, Manpower & Time. What are the paintball programs people are always fond of mentioning: Vicious, Arsenal, AftermathÖ These are teams with money behind them (yeah, even Vicious, sorry to piss on the picnic, people). Tom Fore spends about 3 times what I make in a year on Arsenal. The Hurricanes do not have that kind of money. I spent over $30,000 out of my pocket last year just to run the Hurricanes; there isnít anything left for a farm system.
Now, Vicious did it very well. They have a company behind the team that sells paint and runs tournaments. They do a great job building grassroots support and translating that into both money for the team and interest from sponsors. I wish I could do that.
Well, actually, I probably could except that I have a full time job already and donít have the time to run a paintball distributorship on the side. Nor do I want to. I want to run a team. Nor do I have a team that can. Unlikely many pro teams, the Hurricanes donít have many ďpaintball bumsĒ. Thomas, Lancia, Buckley, Rico, Darula, Frank, Dan and BJ all have full time jobs. Brian and Benny are in school. Billy works part time and spends a lot of time on his paintball career, traveling to Latin America for the LAPPL and competing in the USPL and AXBL and running clinics. Same with Bart (CXBL and Europe) and Bart has his studio that heís working on, too.
We are also lacking manpower. There are not a lot of people out there who want to run a farm-team. You put in all the time and effort and then you see your best cherry-picked and you are left picking up the pieces. Georgie did it for two years. But if you want a real full-on program, youíll need one top dog and 3 or 4 good lieutenants. You need people who can manage the farm team(s), coach the farm team(s), manage the players, etcÖ And NEH has lost DA, Necco, Timmy and Ant all since 2007. We have Georgie, but heís tapped out with NEX. And Iím pretty well tapped with NEH.
I would only consider an in-house farm team if I could do it my way, and I canít. No money, no man-power. So, given that, NEH needs to rely on the region to build a system, and the region has largely failed. NEX was able to scratch their way above the usual, but it was a tough climb. And players would turn down the opportunity to play with them because it cost more. Well, it is going to cost more to play nationally. Thatís paintball. 187 is doing the same Ė rising above the rest, and they are doing it without national travel, but theyíve had the same core of players forÖ 4 years?
And therein lays a third commodity that a farm team requires (and that NEH doesnít have): time. It takes years to build a winning program. It takes years to develop players. NEH is in a position of having to win now. Our sponsors demand that. We canít take a player who is close but not quite and put him on the field over someone who is ready now. Thatís what Jonzo is upset about when he says, ďAnd what happens when players don't get injured or leave? Your guys will sit in the runner up position for eternity, regardless of skill. You know it, I know it, Jeff knows it.Ē This makes it tough for the farm team: have pride in where you are but be ready to leave mid-tournament if the call comes.
I do want to take a quick time out to address something in that statement, something that is probably pretty well thought throughout the region: that Hurricanes donít get replaced until they are ready to be replaced.
1. First off, there are no guarantees. You can work your *** off and still never make it to pro. Itís just not in the cards for some people.
2. It takes more than just having skill. It takes timing, it takes chemistry. It takes a lot of things.
3. The Hurricanes have picked up plenty of new players over the years. Rico & Lancia in 2009 (and then Buckley and Benny as replacements for people leaving), Siewers, Twitchy & TBO in 2007, Dellas, Mac & Buckley in 2006, etcÖ Some worked out, some didnít. The point I am trying to make is that itís not a closed roster. Show me the person who we could have picked up that would have improved the team. Remember, Iím in a ďwin nowĒ situation. Do I want to develop players for the future? Sure. But there wonít be a future if we donít perform now. And that is something that also plays into the free time we have to spend with other teams. We have to get ready now. And, lest I need to remind people, we were one bad event away from winning the NPPL championship in 2008. So we must have some ability to recognize talent.
4. We do cut people. We just do it tastefully. It is one-on-one between me and the player. Thatís it. It is one of the relatively few details I donít share with everyone here.
5. We make a point of trying to retain players. We have to, because (perhaps unlike teams on the left coast), we donít have a lot to choose from. So once you make the NEH roster, we do whatever we can to try to make it work long term. Anyone who doesnít last 3 years I consider a bad pickup.
#2. The Myth of California. They donít drill more than we drill and they donít have a love-one-love-all attitude. There is no paintball nirvana. Thatís all bull****. The Hurricanes probably practice more or as often as 90% of the pro teams out there.
What CA has is a heck of a lot of fields and teams and leagues and great weather. So they have more people playing more often and that leads to more teams and that leads to more opportunities.
Why donít the Hurricanes play against local teams as often as Aftermath does? Because Aftermath can play multiple pro teams every weekend they choose to and NEH canít. So we have to work harder and in fewer weekends to achieve the same goals. Each practice has more value to us than it does to them because they have more easily achievable value than we do. So they can spend half a day playing against divisional teams.
And I gotta say, my top market isnít MA. MA is my 3rd best market. I sell more guns and jerseys in other parts of the country than I do in MA. And local captains voted top players out of the NEPL, making it harder for me to recruit new bodies. I was told by a team captain last year that he and his team mates wouldnít attend a Hurricane clinic because, ďweíll just practice you another weekend and get the clinic for freeĒ. So, what Iím left with is a region that often says we should do more to help but that doesnít seem to want to help us back.
Listen, I donít know what NE needs to do to fix everything. I mean, we need more teams, more consistent teams that last multiple years, more teams interested in learning over winning, more teams willing to spend the extra buck to go to nationals. We need higher level players in the NEPL and we need cross-divisional games. We need to show support for the top teams (which means supporting the sponsors of the teams in the region). We need more team captains who want to see a community. I went to some of the recent NEPL captains meetings. I remember when they were held at the Goodtimes and there was dinner and a slide show and awards and people hung out. Now itís a meeting. Thatís ok. At least itís well attended, whereas in the past it hasnít always been. So at least people see the value in it. We need more people who want to attend that and who vote for the common good, not their personal good.
I know that in 2002, NEH started driving to NY to practice GZ. Weíd ref tournaments at Cousins just for the right to practice against the pro teams. GZ would only play against us because Emily and Mooner liked us (and Jerry needed us to ref). One day we beat GZ Black in a 10-man match, so Gold wanted to play us - to show they could beat the team that just beat Black - and from there, we were in the mix all the time. In 2004, we started driving to NJ to practice Arsenal and Bad Company at Del Hobbies. Even now, we drive to the AAPP to practice the All Aís. We got what we earned. Thatís it.
You bring me a good D2 team and Iíll give you time to make it a good D1 team and from there, you help the nearest D3 team to become D2, and we can build it up. But Iím telling you, itís not as easy as all that. You know how things go. Everyone is fighting their own battles. Itís hard to be community oriented when you are in survival mode. Itís probably true in CA. I always wondered, when XSV is playing some local D2 team, is it only because they are waiting for the next game against another pro team and figured ďwhy not, we have the paintĒ?