by Baca Loco
This isn’t what I intended to write about this week but it’s a good excuse for why I’m tardy in uploading this post. (Okay, maybe not a good excuse but the only excuse I’ve got so cut me a little slack.) This past weekend, for the second year in a row, the NCPA national championships came to a field near me. The very field, in fact, where my team routinely practices and as a result I had some opportunity (and some interest) in observing the cream of the college crop competing in both 5-man and Xball formats.
The paintball was mediocre. Now, don’t get your drawers in a bunch until you hear me out or at least take a quick look in a dictionary. All the word means is ordinary or commonplace. And in this context it simply means the typical college competitor is an ordinary competitive paintball player. If you still think I’m being overly harsh chalk it up to high standards and if it’s any consolation I routinely find fault with the very best players in the world so I’m a consistent offender. It was also played with (generally) legal markers and despite the intense competition with camaraderie and sportsmanship.
The quality of paintball played was also of secondary importance at best. The dream of mainstreaming competitive paintball has been a driving motivation for the top tourney series and much of the industry for years without having much to show for it except a lot of changes made to the game and a lot of money spent. I’m all in favor of mainstreaming competitive paintball too and with the 20/20 vision of a Monday morning quarterback it’s easy to criticize past failures but that’s not what this is about. There is an alternative method for achieving the goal. One that is so simple and obvious I’m sure I’ve suggested it before (as, no doubt, have plenty of others) but it bears repeating. (Heck, it’s probably one of the pillars of the NCPA charter. And if not they ought to add it immediately.) Support and promote the college game.
For all the time and talk spent on making tourney paintball presentable Paintball has had a brand of the competitive game available all along capable of presenting the game the way it needs to be presented. The U.S. has hundreds, probably thousands, of colleges and universities where both structured and intramural sports are played. Imagine the sport played in already recognized conferences with easily recognized rivalries. Imagine the sport presented by athletes wearing the well known logos of established national sports icons. Imagine what a united industry effort might be able to accomplish in facilitating the development of college paintball clubs while promoting the game as a viable sport. Imagine a future where paintball is a commonplace of university athletics and consider what that would mean for the sport at large.
The only downside is this is a long term vision. It won’t transform the competitive landscape over night or turn tourney ball into the Next Big Thing tomorrow but widespread acceptance and possible integration into the community of collegiate athletics confers recognition, legitimacy, normalcy and a fertile environment for future growth. It may even offer an alternative path for many of the hoped for future little ballers introduced to paintball at their local recreational field.
I’m not suggesting supporting college ball to the exclusion of all else is the answer. Any table needs more than one leg to stand. I am saying though that college ball and the NCPA deserve far more support than they’ve been given and that a serious, coordinated effort to help build and promote the college game will pay dividends for all of competitive paintball down the road.