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Old 08-17-2010, 01:33 PM #1
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Thread of the Week: Whofore art thou pro

Yeah yeah, I butchered the Shakespearean quote. Get over it.

The topic I want to write about is almost certainly a bad idea to bring up on public record and can likely be used against me and the Hurricanes in the future. But if you can't be honest with relative strangers on the internet, who can you really be honest with?

For years and years and years, when NEH was a pro team, all I cared about were pro teams. I probably couldn't name more than a dozen non-pro teams (and that includes the semi-pro teams, teams I knew personally and the pro teams from the other league). I didn't watch many of non-pro games for anything more than enjoyment (meaning, I didn't scout or go to cheer for anyone. But I happen to like the game, so I would sometimes watch). And I think maybe I sort of figured that everyone was like that - all eyes on the pro division.

Well, at MAO, I noticed that I no longer cared about the pro division. Again, I would watch games for the sake of enjoyment, and I was interested to see how Thomas & Billy did, but beyond that... eh. I had my own event going on.

I have been involved in the pros since 2004. I have had a pro team in both leagues. I have been involved with the governance of the PSP (that may be overstating it a bit, but I'm egomaniacal, so I'm ok with it), NPPL and the original NPPL (aka the current PSP, before the split). I am active online. I am active locally. I still run a team. Hell, I plan to return to the pro division with that team. And yet, the pro division holds no special attraction for me.

If the pros are not interesting to me, who the heck are they supposed to be interesting to? Maybe the answer is regular players? Maybe my position as an owner and not a player has jaded me against the uppermost echelon of the game? Maybe players are still dyed-in-the-wool fans of pro teams. The stands seemed mostly full most of the time, although that could be a factor of being there without anything better to do.

Here's the thing: if the pro division is not interesting to me, and especially if it is not interesting to regular players, then why would there be a pro division? The pro’s come with a large cost – to the industry and to the leagues. The PSP has a separate field with different (and higher paid) refs and a whole infrastructure (Tony, Dan, Cade). But for who? For the pro teams themselves? They are a cost-center, not a profit-center. For the fans? OK, if there are fans (the central question of this post) and if the cost is offset by some financial gain provided by those fans (we already know that putting up stadium seating costs more than it brings in, as does a webcast). Sure, people want to watch pro teams, but it seems, they only want it if it is free.

So what, then is the basis of pro team sponsorship supposed to be? Pro teams don't get any more press than non-pro teams (some may, but those are the teams that create their own press, like Vicious or Aftermath). Do pro teams have more fans? I don't know. I'm certainly not sold on the idea. And even if they do, are those fans more motivated to spend money than fans of divisional teams? I wonder how many people 187 Crew will influence to buy Ego's or LIFT will influence to buy NTs this year, being really good teams out of really good fields playing against local teams on a regular basis, displaying the quality of the markers they are using up close and personal. I wonder if that will be any more or less than the number that, say, Avalanche influences, seeing that Avalanche does not practice.

I wonder if you walked around a national event and asked 100 individuals who was currently winning in the pro division and who was currently winning in the division that individual played in, which would get more correct responses. And I wonder if you went back to the home fields of teams like Boom, Assault, 187, TNN, LIFT, etc... and asked the players there who influenced them the most, if they'd name those local champions or the never-actually-seen-in-the-flesh pro teams. And if, as I suspect to be the case, people care more about their own life situation than they do about the pros, what is the rationale for the higher level of sponsorship required of the pros? I'd bet dimes to dollars that you could sign the top 3 D1, D2 and D3 teams in the country for about what it costs to sign, say, Dynasty (actually, probably a lot less). You’d have nine different home fields with nine different home teams playing or reffing in nine different local series with all manner of different teams playing in those and the only thing you would lose is the 'star appeal' of the pro division. And that star may be fading.

Am I wrong? Do players care more about the pros?
And if I am right, what do the pro’s need to do to return to relevance?
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Old 08-17-2010, 02:53 PM #2
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paintball is just different than it used to be, when paintball was on the rise pros were looked upd too becasue they had that edge and that new style that everyone wanted to be and there was a belief that a divisional player could one day become pro and live that so called "glorious" lifestyle. But now the reality is is that there is no glorious lifestyle for a professional player. Pro players play at the level they do for the competition and the drive to keep bettering themselves against equivalent players. It seems like the pros that have stuck around have been the same guys from back in the day. As far as sponsors, there was once a time when players believed they could make a living off paintball and that hope drove people to watch the pros and dream of one day being that. But i really believe that that belief is dead. It's a reality now that you cannot make a career out of paintball and its a shame because of the amount of work that most players divisional and pro put into the game. So my answer to your question is that divisional players worry more about themselves than pros is becasue they simply love to play the game for themselves, not for the hope of one day becoming a superstar but for the hope that they can enjoy themselves during the short period where they put there entire lives into this game. It's come down to being more important to best your friends and have fun with your friends and build a family with a team. So yea watch pros because it is fun to watch the game but in all reality your right divisional players will know more about their own division than other divisions.
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Old 08-17-2010, 02:54 PM #3
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Personally as a player i do not care who wins or loses in the pro division. i just saw today that Russian Legion won and it made no difference to me but being a player out of Matt's Outback Paintball i knew the exact scores of Team No Name the whole tournament. Personally I care more about divisional teams than proffesional teams. I know the people on divisional teams, i talk to them and I see what they do as a team to win in their divisions and with pro teams I dont know them and most likely never will so who wins in the pros means nothing to me. thats my 2 cents
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:30 PM #4
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My team had a talk about this about at MAO. I would always pay attention to pro teams whos on what team how there doing etc. I would always see them on vids but never in person. The videos made the pro division seem awesome. This past weekend was my first time seeing them in person. And imo I dont think pro is that fun to watch. Its like everyones perfect and the points are done in seconds. I think that the d2 and d3 teams are the most fun to watch.
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:37 PM #5
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My team had a talk about this about at MAO. I would always pay attention to pro teams whos on what team how there doing etc. I would always see them on vids but never in person. The videos made the pro division seem awesome. This past weekend was my first time seeing them in person. And imo I dont think pro is that fun to watch. Its like everyones perfect and the points are done in seconds. I think that the d2 and d3 teams are the most fun to watch.
but isnt that the goal? To play perfect and beat the oppenents as fast as possible. I watch the pros not just for entertainment but to watch what they do, after all you must watch the best to learn how to beat the best.
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:49 PM #6
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I may be jaded by the fact that I met Ted Williams and Dom Dimaggio when I was younger, but pro athletes and celebrities have never seemed special to me. I have often wondered the point of pro divisions other than for said pro players to have a place to play. Maybe it still draws in the younger kids?

I would say I have noticed with people I have talked to that pro teams hold no relevance. They don't care. A decently known local team like 187 or TNN definitely has more people who actually care about them winning.

Back in 2006 and 2007 I remember being at the NPPLs in Boston. It seemed that then there were still people there just to be fans. In every national tournament I have been to(Buffalo 08, DC 10, World Cup 08 and 09) since it seemed to me there were no fans. Just players who missed the cut who were bored being stuck somewhere without fun things to do. If I spent any time watching a team it was a team I have played against back at home who is either a higher division or did good.

Basically the point of my long post, is the same as yours. I don't see any relevance in a pro division is there one?
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Old 08-17-2010, 04:04 PM #7
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personally i care about me, and my team. i could careless about a pro team representing the area i live in or play in. when it comes to gear, i shoot what i like, and also whatever i can get a deal on. **** isnt cheap we all know that.

its like if you played in the NFL, do you have a favorite team? or is the team you play on your favorite?
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Old 08-17-2010, 05:29 PM #8
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I was at MAO to support friends on a D2 team. When they weren't playing, I walked between the Pro's and D1 field, depending on which one had a game going on. I enjoyed watching all the paintball being played, regardless of what level, because I respect people that have a drive to compete. I'm 28 years old and didn't grow up with paintball idols, like I did with baseball. So there are no dreams to play professionally and I can't bring myself to say such an such is my favorite player, when they are 3 or 4 years younger than me. I can give the younger players a lot of respect for being as good as they are at a sport I enjoy. But watching the Pro's play is always entertaining to me because I get to see how the sport is played at the top level, and you can see a difference with the speeds of the game. It's like watching football at a High School, College and Professional Level. Yes, there are some kids in College that are great players, but you stick them in the NFL and they would be squashed. Then, occasionally, you get to see that special player or team for that matter, that you know are moving up the ladder.

I did have a 14 year old from the field that came to the tournament with me Saturday and Ollie Lang took a moment to come watch the games. Now 2 years ago the youngster got to play a game with Ollie at a local charity event and talked about it for 3 weeks straight at the field. When Ollie got off the phone I asked my young friend if he was going to go say hey to him or get another picture, and he just shrugged and said no. It wasn't really all that big of a deal to him, once he learned that Pro's are people too. I think it's pretty cool that most of the Pro's at MAO seemed to be VERY approachable and didn't act upset when the kids came up for autographs and pictures. Hopefully, the sport can sustain a Pro division just so the future kids have people to look up to and aspire to be like on the field.
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Old 08-17-2010, 06:11 PM #9
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alright, i can personally say that i believe that pro teams do have a bigger attraction to the average paintball player. i have kept up with the sport since probly around 2004 and kept with team roster changes and sponsorship changes. paintball isnt a sport that you can say to your buddy down the street "hey grab a ball and glove and ill get the bat" and go play around or practice in the backyard. so what do you do to get more into the sport or try to pick up new styles of play? watch videos or footage of pro-teams. 9 out of 10 paintbll players play once a week so really you just have to log onto the comp and watch and learn through a video and try it out that sunday. i think it is important to have a pro level because it is almost a necessity to for a sport to have that level of play, and im sorry but many people may disagree with me but there is a difference from pro in comparison to semi D1 D2 D3. i think another HUGE aspect that isnt really addressed because most people dont even realize it is that the east coast paintball scene is completely different to the west coast scene. i visited my girlfriend in CA at the end of june and i was blown away at the fact at how much publicity paintball had there. people were walking around with t-shirts of LA infamous and SD aftermath/dynasty. weather or not the people wearing the shirts play the sport or even play it well doesnt matter, what matters is that people there recognize these pro-teams as representing there area. when the canes broke apart i dont think the average pb player was as disappointed as they would be if dynasty or ironmen did( no offense stein the canes of 2008 will always be my fav pro-team) and again i believe thats due to location. 8 out of the 24 pro-teams are from CA, and thats a giant number.you may not see that pro teams are as big of a attraction as they actually are because... well as of now we dont have one. any paintballer at any field can tell you who oliver lang is or who ryan greenespan is but if you ask them who "son" dabilis is only the paintballer who looks deep into the sport and follows rosters or team results can tell you who he is, EVEN though he was one of the most individually skilled ballers in the sport. you really need that "pro" division or "pro" title if this sport is ever going to get as technical as baseball or football and i think thats what we all really want one day. So to answer your question i do believe pros have their legitimacy and importance. with out pro teams who is there to look up to or be a main attraction? what will be the goal to reach as a team be? what would the ultimate title be? what would the grind and sacrifices be for? or the fight and struggle? really... what would be the point? if you want this sport as a whole to ever survive, become a house hold name, a sport people stay up late with there family and friends to watch, something that gets discussed among people at work, or even care about or be drawn to then a "pro" level will always be needed and that is a the point to it
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Old 08-17-2010, 06:44 PM #10
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I figure pro ranking exists for a few reasons:

The easiest of which is they're better then other players and need to play somewhere

The more complex one is - Would younger players want to compete if there was no where to go? Would companies sell as much stuff if they didn't give a little away so that players saw it in magazines. We need the pro ranking so that people continue to want to grow in the sport.
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Old 08-17-2010, 08:30 PM #11
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Quote:
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I figure pro ranking exists for a few reasons:

The easiest of which is they're better then other players and need to play somewhere

The more complex one is - Would younger players want to compete if there was no where to go? Would companies sell as much stuff if they didn't give a little away so that players saw it in magazines. We need the pro ranking so that people continue to want to grow in the sport.
Dave, just because I'm channeling you does not mean you get to channel me...

Besides, there are no magazines left.
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Old 08-17-2010, 08:47 PM #12
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Dave, just because I'm channeling you does not mean you get to channel me...

Besides, there are no magazines left.
I started playing paintball cause I picked up a magazine and saw Thomas Taylor using a ego back in 05-06 and thinking to myself. Holy **** paintball must be really fun. Next week me and my bro started and have been playing ever since. So, maybe a little off topic but I think as a sport we need to get Publication out to the public showing what the game is.
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Old 08-17-2010, 09:28 PM #13
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There's always going to be a top division. Pro is just a label for it.

Personally, I love watching the games. There's always something that can be learned by watching better players.
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Old 08-17-2010, 10:11 PM #14
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There's always going to be a top division. Pro is just a label for it.

Personally, I love watching the games. There's always something that can be learned by watching better players.
This!

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but isnt that the goal? To play perfect and beat the oppenents as fast as possible. I watch the pros not just for entertainment but to watch what they do, after all you must watch the best to learn how to beat the best.
And this too!
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Old 08-18-2010, 08:20 AM #15
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There's always going to be a top division. Pro is just a label for it.

Personally, I love watching the games. There's always something that can be learned by watching better players.
true, but by the means of gear are you going to get a certain hopper for the fact of your favorite player uses it?
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Old 08-18-2010, 08:43 AM #16
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Besides, there are no magazines left.
FACEFULL

to stay on topic... i hope there is always a pro devision, and i hope people always care about it or else people including myself will loose their drive to get better. if there is nothing to work for then there is no use in working.
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Old 08-18-2010, 09:00 AM #17
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I think there will always be a pro/open division, if for no other reason than that the players are too good to play in any other division and there are enough individuals of means willing to fund teams in that division.

I think a pro/open division is good for the sport because it gives players something to strive for. Exactly what BJ just said. (And Dave, when he said, "Would younger players want to compete if there was no where to go?").

And I think a pro/open division has the potential to be good for the industry. Not so much because it promotes products, but because it promotes activity. Hypothetically, players see a pro division, want to become pro and work at it. And working at it involves playing at local fields, buying paint from local stores and fields, playing local tournaments, buying new gear, etc...

So, I agree that a relevant pro/open division has the potential to provide benefits to the industry. I am not so sure that the pro/open division is still relevant and, even if it is, I am pretty certain it is less relevant than it was a few years ago. Maybe that's cyclical or a by-product of a failing economy, or maybe it's because "the dream is dead" and the sex-appearl of a full-time paintball pro lifestyle has been debunked, but I think it is pretty much an established fact that the pro division is less relevant.

So, it stands to reason sponsorship will be less forthcoming. And I think if the pro division becomes the private playground of a few rich individuals and their personal teams, the division will become even less relevant.

How can this be turned around? Can it be turned around? And if it can't, what can the sport do to get the value of a pro/open division without having to support overhead beyond its means?
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Old 08-18-2010, 09:27 AM #18
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What did people do before there was a "pro" league? They just played for fun, to win, etc. People will keep doing that. If the sponsorship dries up then Pro becomes more like Open and any teams that want to compete at the top level will. Those who have the means to support a "pro" team will continue to do so, and probably will dominate said Open division. People will still keep playing paintball and having fun. The player base and league might shrink, but I don't see it going away completely.

I blame it all on the economy. Paintball is a luxury sport. It depends on disposable income, which is harder to come by these days for most people.


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true, but by the means of gear are you going to get a certain hopper for the fact of your favorite player uses it?
No. I don't think I've ever once based a decision to purchase gear on whether or not anyone else (pro, amateur, friend, etc.) uses it.
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Old 08-18-2010, 10:00 AM #19
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Yeah I agree with Gabe on this one. It's mostly the poor economy that's changing things.

People used to see the pros in magazine interviews, videos, etc. Now there is only Facefull left and the only video company still around seems to be Derder.

No more Cereal Killerz (MWAG) every year, no more Traumahead every event. I know that's what I used to watch. Event recaps in magazines after every event or two letting people know what went on. Now unless you're looking for them online you won't find anything. It used to be available to the masses at Barnes and Noble etc for people to stumble upon, maybe gaining a fan of the sport or maybe refreshing someone who had been out of the sport for awhile. Now there is barely anything out there.

The pro division will continue to exist, hopefully there will be some kind of turnaround so that the interest in it will increase.
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:30 AM #20
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Yeah I agree with Gabe on this one. It's mostly the poor economy that's changing things.
So how did paintball/pro division survive in 97-until the early 2000's when it started to grow again? I know paintball was more $ to play. 125 dollars a case of paint (but you got 2500 bullets)! Never mind the equipment cost.

How did the sport get more fans interested/involved too play or try it out? How did the NPPL grow during those years?

The only real coverage when I got into paintball around 98 was really warpig.com. I found out about the NPPL slam event in 99 on cape cod through that media source. When I arrived I was hooked. You don't need a lot of coverage/media too get a person that's interested in paintball too be hooked.

The pro division back then was more about bragging rights than the money. And there was a lot of teams than there is now. (than the 8 in psp) I think the younger players/teams that watched those pro teams during those early growing years helped make paintball huge during the peak years. I think we are at that point in paintball once again. Anyone agree?
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Old 08-18-2010, 12:33 PM #21
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are you going to get a certain hopper for the fact of your favorite player uses it?
actually yes. i bought an eggII because the naughty dogs used them back when i very first started playing paintball.
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