On Monday morning at around 9:30 in the morning I got a phone call from the Broadcast Coordinator for the Georgia Gwinnett College Athletics Department. One of my side gigs is working as the Technical Director of the sports broadcasts at GGC called the Grizzly Digital Network (GDN). GGC streams all the sports home games live on location with Matt, the Broadcast Coordinator, acting as the “Voice of the Grizzlies” calling the play-by-play and volunteer crew of mostly students running the rest of the tasks. In live production you need someone dedicated to the task of deciding what goes out on the broadcast to the viewers: which camera is live, the graphics that are overlaid, the volume of talent, ambient noise, and effects, and making the transition to commercials. That’s part of what I do as Technical Director. Anyway, back to the phone call. I had just gotten up and hadn’t gotten to my coffee yet. Georgia Gwinnett College had recently played its last home game of the semester on the previous Saturday before going to Denver, Colorado for the conference tournament. On Saturday the GDN crew had been told for certain that we would not be traveling to Denver with the teams to broadcast the games as had been a possibility leading up to the tournament. I wasn’t expecting to have any more work to do for the GDN until after the tournament was over, so Matt’s name popping up on my phone wasn’t expected.
I answer the phone and Matt starts with “Hey Mike, do you wanna fly to Denver tomorrow?” I replied with “Yeah, when do we leave?” When someone calls and asks that kind of question, you can’t say “no.” A few quick questions later and the call was over and I had this excited feeling of “did that just happen?” The next 20 hours were a blur of action. I had to make plans with my girlfriend with what’s happening for the rest of the week, cook up a weeks’ worth of meals for her, assemble Ikea furniture for our recently leased house, vote in the election, and of course pack. Packing wouldn’t have been too difficult of a task except for me wanting to bring a decent tripod. I don’t have an expensive carbon fiber travel tripod, so I had to remove the head off my aluminum Manfrotto to fit it into a suitcase. Maybe one day I’ll get something lighter that fits into the side of my backpack.
I was able to get up early and get to my voting precinct at around 6:15 to vote at 7:00 then zip on over to the athletics building to get on the bus at 8:15. Unfortunately because the seating on Southwest was first-come-first-serve, I got stuck in the middle seat on the connecting flight to St. Louis as well as on the way to Denver. I would have liked a window seat to look out of because I find flight so fascinating. Once we landed in Denver, I wondered how or if the elevation would affect me. I have been told it would affect people more in times of heavy exertion, but had no idea what that would mean for simply walking around. I think this triggered a placebo reaction in me, making me feel like I’m more short of breath than I am for no reason other than expecting to need to breathe more for the same amount of oxygen. I’m not sure if that will go away in my short time here in Denver, but it sure is a strange sensation. At any rate, I’m excited to see what Colorado has to offer in food, weather, landscape, and photos. No photos for this entry, but I heard we’ll be heading to Red Rocks Amphitheater tomorrow.
Ah, yes – the ‘Murica Open – the tournament that reminds you that bacon and beer is a complete breakfast. The tournament where “overshooting” is a crybaby word and there’s no such thing as a rate of fire cap. This time the tournament was played on an airball field next to the hyperball field, but with a custom layout sized for 3-man play. Inspired by the JT pyramid bunker of yesteryear, the ‘Murica Open spun the NXL “W” bunker sideways and added the mini “W’s” to the side. Despite being nearly Fall, Georgia weather has stayed firmly in the 90’s with partly cloudy skies. This is normal tournament weather for the area, but with a game start time of 10:30 it meant the heat had already arrived by the time the whistle blew for the first game.
The purists might argue that it is a step backwards to move from hyperball to using airball bunkers in terms of aiming to be a more old school style of tournament. I certainly agree that there’s a certain nostalgia to hearing 15+ paintballs a second hitting the corrugated tubes, but there are other concerns when running a small tournament. Hyperball fields aren’t known for being mobile. A layout that might make for plenty of fun for the recreational players that use a field most weekends won’t necessarily translate well to the faster pace of a ‘Murican tournament. Using airball bunkers allows for setting up a field tailored for 3-man play that both provides adequate cover off the break as well as encourages movement up the field. This event saw a significant increase in players’ ability to move up the field alive and made those sweet looking run-throughs possible, so I’d consider this change a good idea.
What didn’t change was the array of gear that made it to the field. From brand new markers that have barely broken in to an early Ego and even an Evolution “Egg” hopper. Side note – it’s funny going through old forum posts and reviews of paintball gear that considered things like the Egg to be a pricy hopper at $80 or that you had to be sure it would fit your Ion’s feedneck. As I said, the play did change a bit at this tournament. There were more people shot off break, more moves up the field, and plenty of people went home with more welts than they’re used to.
Once again, I thought the ‘Murica Open did a good job of sticking to the important parts of paintball. Players had fun shooting their buddies, several people came out of retirement for the day, and the winners took home a slightly bigger trophy than last time. Plus, first place got barbeque sauce for their celebration grilling. What’s more ‘Murican than that?
Full results: 1st Place - Danger Zone
2nd Place - Boot Scoot N' Boogie
3rd Place - Polar Bears
4th Place - Black Widow Death Squad
If you’re looking for your chance to play at the next ‘Murica Open, I’m told it will likely be after the NXL World Cup with goals of 7-man on a hyperball field.
Following an event off while I celebrated the marriage of my one of my best friends since middle school, I’ve returned to the Minor League Paintball series as it moves from Panama City Beach, Florida, to Bear Claw Paintball in Fayetteville, Tennessee. This event was called the Nashville Open on paper, but with Nashville being about an hour and a half away, it could have easily been the Chattanooga or Huntsville Open seeing as they’re both about as far away. To be fair, the event was originally slated to take place in Smyrna, Tennessee which is much closer to Nashville. I suppose the name couldn’t change since the trophy prizes had already been ordered. Why the change in venue? I’d venture a guess that it had to do with the drop in the number of teams signed up for the event, so there wasn’t much sense in using the more expensive park to run one field instead of two. More on that in another post.
This was my first visit to Bear Claw Paintball, which is usually home to Big Events about five times a year and reservations in between. The MiLP event was held near the entrance to the property, so I didn’t have reason to explore much, but the property looks huge from the entrance judging by the buildings far off in the distance leading to the woods. However, not usually being an airball tournament kind of place meant that there wasn’t a permanent field dedicated to the task. For the event, a section of the open field was mowed in order to build the tournament surface. In theory this is fine. However, the players and I showed up on Saturday morning to see something that wasn’t the kind of field they were expecting. The grass was mowed unevenly with piles of mowed grass dotting the area, there were small trenches gouged into the dirt, a visibly uneven surface, and a rock about a foot square in size protruding from the grass between the home and wall bunkers.
This left the D4 teams that were scheduled to play on Saturday unhappy with the conditions. The five teams walked the field over and over discussing what to do. One team decided that they weren’t interested in playing on such a field citing concerns for player safety and not being able to afford being hurt and out of work on Monday. This meant the game schedule was no longer any use and had to be reconfigured for the remaining teams. Meanwhile there was the discovery that the large wall bunker and a mini wall bunker had been unpacked to find each had a gash in them a few inches long. Of course the staff had the materials necessary to patch the bunkers, but doing so properly requires the glue to cure for 48 hours – not an option. Instead, the patches were applied and the start time was delayed from 8 am to 10 am to give the glue at least a little time to set. Over the course of the weekend, the bunkers had to be re-inflated several times, but no one had a bunker deflate and collapse on them in game. With the troubles of the morning sorted out, play went on more or less normally. With only four teams playing it did make the preliminary matches seem rather redundant other than determining the seed points and thus which teams would play which for the “finals” matches. On the plus side, the small number of teams meant being done by 3pm despite the later start.
Sunday went more like an ordinary paintball event. No teams dropped out, games started about on time, and the bunkers got a few fresh pieces of duct tape to keep them together. What I will say about Sunday is that it was darn hot. The weather records don’t indicate it being a particularly hot or humid day for this area this time of year, but something about Sunday just made standing out in that sun extra miserable. Normally I’ll drink my 3 liter CamelBak by a little after lunch, go to refill it, and have about half left in the reservoir at the end of the day. On Sunday I drank the first 3 liters, filled it, drank the second 3 liters by a little after lunch, refilled it again, had about a third left when I left the field, and drank another 2 liters at the hotel. I was still dehydrated after that. I’m pretty sure 10L of water in a day is my personal record. I don’t know how the refs did it, but they bore the heat of the day like it was no big deal every single point.
On Sunday there was a bit of trouble concerning the match structure for the Race-to-2 format. The MiLP still uses the 2015 edition of the PSP rulebook, so I’ll reference it where necessary. What effectively went down was this: in a semi-finals match Team A won the first point with 2:01 remaining, the second point was a no-point, and the third point Team B was informed that per the rules that they would need to win the point faster (i.e. have more than 2:01 remaining on the clock) to win the match. They were unable to do so, lost the match, and went to play for 3rd and 4th instead. The argument from the teams was that it didn’t feel right that a match can come down to a clock instead of playing until a team won two points. I understand the frustration of the situation, but the rule book is clear.
6.3.1 If a playoff match ends with one point scored per team, the team with the most game time remaining in the point they scored, minus any penalty minutes accrued during that match, wins the match.
This is a clear as can be and is the same rulebook that’s been used for two years, so I can’t fault the staff for following the letter of the rules. Having teams play until a second point is won could mean much longer days, which is why overtime points were dropped from prelim matches to begin with.
184.108.40.206 If a player is eliminated while possessing the point flag, the player will drop the point flag at the point of elimination. A referee may hang the point flag on a nearby bunker.
The player dropped the flag in the grass, several steps away from any bunker, and the point continued. Team B was able to eliminate the remaining players of Team A, but during the process enough time had passed that they would not have won the point fast enough to win the match. Still the remaining player of Team B ran to the flag pole to find the flag missing, and scrambled to find and hang the flag. With the sun being in a late-afternoon position and the grass being pale in color and covered in yellow paint, the lime-green flag was difficult to find before time expired. I don't think anyone including the refs were in agreement that this should be how a team can lose regardless of if the time mattered. Still, the rules neither required nor allowed the refs to indicate the flag position. In my opinion this requires some adjustment. I would suggest that the rules be amended to permit the refs to indicate a flag out of normal position and that the flag be selected to be a color more easily spotted in the grass.
All in all, despite the troubles with the field, the late starts, and the oppressive heat, MiLP #4 went alright in the end. Event #5 is scheduled for October 1st and 2nd at Nitro Paintball in Canton, Georgia.
Do you ever end a day of paintball and think “this used to be a lot more fun” as you’re gearing down to leave? It’s a thought that’s sure to have crossed a lot of players’ minds after a tournament or practice that’s not gone so well. Most of the time the feeling passes quickly, but occasionally it sits in your gut and gnaws at you the rest of the day. This thought of wanting to enjoy playing paintball more than playing to win has probably been the root of players quitting, “taking a break,” or just stepping away from the guns for a while. I don’t think this is a bad thought to have. You should take time to evaluate why you play paintball – what you want to get out of it – and compare that with an honest assessment of what you’re actually taking away from the field each time you leave. It’s not easy to admit that something that you thought was a lot of fun doesn’t have that spark any more. What if there was a way to rekindle that ember with a low-cost, low-pressure tournament that was all about going back to the good old days? That was the idea behind the ‘Murica Open 3 man.
3-man teams, open ranking, small hyperball field, $75 entry, unlimited rate of fire, and a four pod limit. No coaching, but heckling is encouraged. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Oh, and the captains meeting doesn’t start until 10am, so that even gave me time to make eggs and bacon for breakfast so I could get into ‘Murica spirit. Naturally being a paintball event, even the late start started even later, which gave everyone a chance to catch up with a few paintball buddies they hadn’t seen in a while and look at the field. The Dosser Works hyperball field is made of the classic corrugated tubing with bits of wood, bolts, and foam to hold it all together. Part of the field was cordoned off to keep the field size appropriate for 3 people. For my part, this meant that the blocked side the field was a comfy-sized sideline while the other side had the net as the out of bounds marker. I wasn’t interested in taking the heat from 13+ bps by not having anywhere to escape, so I decided I would be sticking to the ‘Murican sized sideline.
Of all the days of paintball I’ve witnessed, the ‘Murican Open was the most relaxed atmosphere. The only thing that’s come close is the NCPA National Championships and even that had an air of seriousness about it. It was clear from the start that no one was worried about winning or losing, only the refs were keeping track of points. One of the teams ended up being a no-show, so in place of one of their games two teams stepped onto the field to shoot at each other until they ran out of paint (one grabbed a ref shield to play with an advantage). Despite the heat, the slowness of teams to get ready on the field, and starting late, the day surprisingly went smoothly and kept to the schedule with a nice lunch break. At the end of prelims the scores had to be tallied by hand. Some players had had enough of the heat and were hoping to get knocked out so they could hit the pool.
What did I take away from the field at the end of the ‘Murica Open? I saw that there are still plenty of paintball players out there who want to play a competitive game without blowing the whole week’s paycheck. I saw players more interested in having fun on and off the field on a Saturday. I didn’t see coaches stressing over game plans, players pissed off over a ref call, or disappointed faces trying to escape a sour day. I’m not sure if these kinds of tournaments can be put together too often or in too many places and be successful, but I do know that the barrier to entry is low and worth a shot if someone is willing to take it. Maybe it’s as simple as “build it and they will come.”
Gee, this place sure seems familiar. Yep, I was back at the Austin-Tindall Regional Park for the second Minor League Paintball event of the year. Same place, new layout, new players, and totally different feel. This isn’t the first time the MiLP brought their event to the same location a week apart from the NCPA Nationals. Last year it was at the Central Florida Paintball location, this time the new venue just south of Orlando. It’s not the first time a local soccer park was used either. The past two years, MiLP has used Frank Brown Park in Panama City with similarly good grass and plenty of players and their families used it as an excuse to get their feet sandy before and after playing the event.
What’s fascinating is how much the feel of an event at the same location can change so much between one week and the next. Part of that is the change in layout. This time it was a fully mirrored layout from side-to-side and front-to-back so no distinct “snake” or “dorito” side besides whatever a team agreed upon. While in part this was fine by me in the sense that neither side was different so I could learn how to photograph the layout faster and staying on whichever side had some shade made less difference, it also meant that both sides felt the same and photographed the same. There’s a point in the day where I get comfortable with a layout, I know where my favorite angles are, where teams are likely to play, and where I’m likely to get shot more. This is good, but soon I get to a point where I’ve finished getting the best photos out of the day and I’ve seen all the layout has to offer. When the field is mirrored all around, that happened much faster and there wasn’t anything I could do about it because the other side of the field was exactly the same. I still did my job well and having just finished editing the team photos for the event I don’t see a decrease in the quality of the photos. It’s just a personal gut feeling at the time that the variety wasn’t there. I can only hope that future layouts don’t continue this trend.
The playing of the field was different than I expected. There were plenty of plays up the middle to the W bunker as should be expected given all the protection off the break, but not many teams capitalized on the “double snake” aspect of the field. I would have expected teams to push one side or another toward the middle of a game depending on the side that’s weakest in terms of bodies and pressure of lanes. Instead many teams were content to send a player up to the W, probably trade with the opposing teams’ player at the same spot, then sit back and gunfight until one side gains a double-body advantage. Granted I don’t have the playing experience that many of the players do and I have the benefit of being able to watch the games from the sidelines in a practically bird’s eye view, but what was it about this field that made it so attractive to slower play? I’d love for a few players to chime in and help me see where I’m wrong. It would be helpful to me to get a different perspective on this.
Event #2 is in the books. Event #3 is coming up June 11th and 12th in Panama City Beach with a return to Frank Brown Park. By the look of things, there appear to be a few D3 teams signed up. It remains to be seen if more will fill up the sheets and who will show up come game day. I’ll be there for sure, so if you want to get your team photographs contact me soon before I fill up.
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