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.
EDIT: It was brought to my attention that part of the frustration with the above match lies in how flag possession is handled in the case of a flag carrier being eliminated. At approximately one minute and thirty seconds into the third point, one of the players of Team B took possession of the flag from the flag pole at the center of the field and attempted to run through to hang it on the opposing start station. If he had been successful his team would have won the match, however he was eliminated. Per the rulebook:
188.8.131.52 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.