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Mardi Gras Open
Feb 20-23, 2003
New Orleans, LA

1st Place Professional - Strange
1st Place Rookie - Texas Archangels
1st Place Novice - Docs Raiders
1st Place Amateur - Evil Factory

One on One Competition - Jonathon Call

Springtime means the return of paintball to The Big Easy.  By day, it's intense paintball competition at the Alario Center in Bayou Segnette on the west bank of the Mississippi and by night it's the intense partying of the Mardi Gras festival in one of the oldest cities in the United States.  While the MGO started as part of the Gulfcoast Tournament Series, it rapidly became a flagship standalone event known as much for after hours antics as unique prizes like personal water craft and motorcycles.  New for 2003 was the addition of NXL National X Ball League competition.  The professional franchise teams of the NXL would make their debut at Mardi Gras.

Site construction continued through the day on February 19th, fields and spectator netting going up through the day.  Practice X Ball matches helped the field staff prepare for the first NXL games, and checked to make sure bunker placement and netting would minimize the chance of a paintball bouncing over.  As the staff and players geared up for the tournament weather became a concern with thunderstorms predicted by the National Weather Service.

Follow all of the action through WARPIG.com's on-scene coverage from Mardi Gras.

THURSDAY

While the main event was still a day away, Thursday saw the first matches of the National X Ball League, a one on one top gun competition, vendor displays and tech training.

At 9:00 am Miami Effect and Baltimore Trauma faced each other on the X-Ball field.  NXL league commissioner Mike Ratko oversaw the day's activities while Bill Cookston served as ultimate judge and PRO referees manned the field.  Miami was the victor of the first match with a score of 11 to 9.  Detroit Thunder went up against the Philadelphia Americans finishing with a two point loss at 7 to 9.  New York Xtreme topped the Los Angeles Ironmen 13 to 4 followed by the Oakland Assassins taking down Chicago Aftershock 15 to 8.  The final match of the day was the Philadelphia Americans against Miami Effect which ended 11 to 8 in favor of Philly.

For the one on one tournament the Brimstone Paintball field was reduced in width to roughly two thirds of its full size, a new boundary tape running to one side of the center. The event was played out in a double elimination format - after two losses a competitor was eliminated until only one was left.  The event culminated in a single winner, Jonathon Call, who received a $2,500 Shocktech certificate as his prize.  Call was shooting a Matrix with CP barrel and Crossfire compressed air system.  Later in the evening, while he and his team Brimstone Smoke were walking fields, publicity photos were wanting to be taken by some of the press who hadn't caught Call earlier after his win.  He said in answer to his father, Milt, owner of Brimstone Smoke, Ultimate Air and promoter of the Ultimate Madness, that he'd rather win the five man in the next several days after walking fields than have his photo taken.

Inside one of the Alario Center's conference rooms Paul Sattler of Generation E, along with Dave Rotunda and factory tech Bobby taught a group of 30 store owners and airsmiths the ins and outs of the Matrix from operating theory to component assembly and troubleshooting.

The 5 man competition captain's meeting was held after X-Ball wrapped up, lead by Bill Cookston, going over the main rules.  The most complicated of these was the new boundary rule.  The boundary is no longer considered a plane, but a line along the ground.  A player can lean over the boundary and shoot along the tapeline, but if they put just a toe over the line or scoot the tapeline out of the way, they are eliminated.  The captain's meeting saw a higher attendance than what is normal at most events, a sure sign of the higher number of rookie and novice teams who were new to the Mardi Gras Open. 

FRIDAY

And then the rains came...  Friday morning started off with lightning filled skies and rain ranging from a light sprinkle to heavy intermittent downpours.  Paintball Sport Promotions had worked ahead of the weather laying down wood chips in areas surrounding the fields it was considered that mud might become a problem.  Main walkways between the fields and staging areas were paved with gravel.  Unlike past years, team staging was not done inside the Alario Center.  Instead teams were staged under a large tent in the paved parking lot which kept them closer to the fields and air fill station.  The trade show was indoors as was the registration and scoring, leading to a professional looking trade show along with the tournament.  5 man play was delayed for one hour to allow a chance for the lightning storm to pass - the delay was to be extended if needed for player safety.  Memories of the last Dallas NPPL tournament were brought up by a number of players. 

At 10:00 Lane Wright gathered the team captains to announce new scheduling to deal with Friday's weather delays.  For the NXL, rain delays did not represent a real problem, as like traditional professional league sports they are playing a year long series rather than a single tournament.  Matches delayed for weather could easily be made up later in the season.  At 10:30 NXL Commissioner Mike Ratko called the day's matches on account of rain, with plans to assess Saturday's schedule depending on field and weather conditions in the morning.

For the Mardi Gras Open 5 man however, game times would be shortened to a 5 minute clock, and start with Friday afternoon's games if the weather cleared in time.  The games originally scheduled for Friday morning would be played after Saturday's games, and be played on Sunday morning if needed.  The pro division games were rescheduled to be played only on Sunday with a double round robin format - no finals or semifinals.   Flood control was as much of an issue as the weather, and PSP devised a plan using pumps from the state and using an auger to drill drainage holes to clear water from the fields. 

At 1:00 Steve Rabackoff announced that the Friday games would be canceled entirely.  Rain was not so much an issue as getting the fields drained of standing water while the area was under a flood advisory from the National Weather Service.  Games would proceed with the Saturday schedule, starting at 7:00 am instead of 8:00 am, and the Friday games being moved in afterward.  Moments after Rabackoff made his announcement Todd Martinez of Chicago Aftershock snuck off with the microphone for the PA system.  At first Bryon Benini and "Spud" Jackson were paged to opposite ends of the building 30 seconds apart.  Then announcements came for half price sales at various booths, synchronized swimming competition, and a Greg Pozzi autograph session.

The DYE field seemed to be suffering most when games were called on account of the weather, sitting over a foot deep in water.  It presented a unique sight as players walking the field would create waves that sent the bunkers bobbing.

SATURDAY

Through the night there was little rain but winds up to 50 miles per hour buffeted the site.  The netting held up solidly.  While some of the wooden poles had shifted position, all stood their ground, and none of the dual density netting was torn.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of Robert "Rosie" Rose, Danny Bonura and their work crews the fields were ready for play by morning.  They dug drainage trenches, laid culverts across footpaths, and used pumps to move the water from the fields into a canal bordering Bayou Segnette.  This work also included tracking down runaway bunkers, one of which was torn loose by the wind, carried into the canal and drifted downstream.  The fields were cleared and playable with games starting at 7:30 am.  The shortened game times and attentiveness of the referees got through the Saturday morning scheduled games at a rapid pace with the exception of one field who suffered from many disagreements, leading to a hour long delay.  Mike Ratko gave the go-ahead and NXL matches proceeded as scheduled.  Reffing the 5 man competition were Jax Worriors, Pinnacle Woods, and All Americans 2.

Under normal conditions the player staging tent would have been adequate for all of the teams playing during a given time period.  With the re-organization of the schedule however, more space was needed.  Carpeting and tables were laid out inside the Alario center in order to provide dry staging room for all of the teams. 

The Saturday schedule was hammered out starting at 7:30 am and wrapping up about 2:20 pm on most fields.  It was truly a remarkable feat of judging and team support, hustling from field to field and really getting the job done in quick time.  A short gap was slotted in for the judges to hydrate, grab some food and take a short walk while the afternoon bracket from Saturday loaded back up, aired up and prepared to take the field for the morning scheduled games of Friday that had been rained out.  It was announced that games that had been originally scheduled for Friday up to one o'clock would be played on Saturday afternoon/evening and that any teams that were scheduled to play after 1 pm would be free to leave, clean up and be back on property to play the rest of their preliminary games on Sunday morning with a start time of 7 am.

Saturday's NXL competition proceedeed as scheduled, it was confirmed that the Friday's matches would be made up later in the season.  Saturday's NXL lineup included a victory by the Baltimore American, 9 to 8 over Chicago Aftershock.  Detroit Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Ironmen 11 to 10.  Oakland Assasins took out Miami Effect 12 to 9.  Afterhock defeated New York Extreme in a 12 to 8 victory.  The Americans took down the Ironmen 13 to 7.

Bill Cookston said mid-afternoon on Saturday that the tournament would definitely complete the preliminary games on Sunday and would progress to the semifinals in normal fashion.  The rookie bracket would be taking the 16 top scoring teams, novice and amateur would both pull 8 top teams progressing to the semi finals.  Whether the event would be completes as normal with the final rounds would depend on how much light was remaining at the end of the day on Sunday.  If games ran too late and it was decided to cut off after semi finals, final ranking of teams would depend on scores from the semifinal round.

By sundown all of the Saturday games were done, a were most of the Friday morning games.  The remainder were bumped into Sunday morning.

SUNDAY

After all the weather problems of the previous days, Sunday started out under beautiful clear blue skies with comfortable temperatures and just enough breeze to flutter the flags flying atop the field poles.  In short, it was perfect paintball weather.  Teams hit the fields working to complete the preliminary rounds from the Friday afternoon schedule.  Unfortunately several teams opted to leave Saturday night after poor performances of the day's games, forfeiting their matches that were to be played on Sunday morning.  The teams they were to have played received 95 points or the average of their games, whichever was higher.  This created some resentment on the part of the teams who did play all of their games and earned their points versus the teams who were handed a 95.

When the prelims concluded, Team Maxim F topped the amateur class with a score of 669.  They were followed by Brimstone Smoke This, and the KAPP Factory team.  Their sister team, Maxim U ranked seventh amongst the eight teams advancing to the semis.  The rankings of Team WGP Orr-Acle and Nasty were flipped in order to separade sister teams in the semis.

On the NXL field, the professional franchise X Ball teams battled it out earning wins for their league ranking.  New York made a 12 to 3 win over Detroit.  Phiadelphia defeated Baltimore Trauma 10 to 5, leaving them undefeated so far in the season.  Oakland beat LA 10 to 5.  Miami defeated Chicago by a single point - 8 to 7, and Baltimore brought home a 12 to 5 win over Detroit.

Eight novice teams advanced to the semifinals.  They were led by Blackout, Atomix Factory, Tippmann Effect and Cartel.  The rookies advanced 16 team into four semifinal brackets.  Doc's Raider's Black ranked first followed by Anger Management and Alliance.

The second rookie division was the first finished with Atomix Factory Blue going to the finals.  In the fourth division Texas Archangels advanced.  The third division completed their semifinal games and The Corporation went on. 

Cartel and Docs Raiders topped the novice teams going to finals, followed by Blackout and Atomix Factory.  The top two amateur teams in each division went on to the finals - KAPP Factory, WGP Orr-Acle, Evil Factory, and Shocktech U.

As the finals went on, the pro double round robin tournament continued.  Near the end Storm, despite their lowest ranked finish turned a lot of heads in their game against Strange.  The game unfolded into a one on four situation favoring Strange when the remaining Storm player, Nick Walker, pulled a dead man's walk and cleared the field for the win.

In the Finals Atomix Factory Blue beat Fat City Hangover, and The Corporation took down Texas Archangels.  Atomix factory then beat Cartel.  Maxim U posted a vitory over KAPP Factory.  Doc's Raiders then Maxed Blackout.  Evil Factory team then came in victorious over WGP Orr-Acle.  Fat City Hangover won their second game taking down The Corporation.  Texas Archangels then took a win from Atomix Factory Blue, putting a mere 6 point spread between the rookie teams as they went into their last round.  Docs Raiders beat Atomix Factory and Cartel was taken down by Blackout.  Maxim U lost to WGP Orr-acle in the second round of games for the amateur bracket finals.  Evil Factory beat out KAPP Factory in their second round.  Rookie's Texas Archangels triumphed over Fat City Hangover, giving them a total of 200 points which would tie them with Atomix Factory Blue after their win over The Corporation.  Ties in the final round were determined by the outcome of the head to head game between the two giving the win to Texas Archangels.  Atomix Factory won with the flag hang, giving up the pull to Blackout on their last game.  In the final round for the amateurs KAPP Factory won their first game of the finals againt WGP Orr-acle, slating them at third and fourth respectively.  Docs Raiders swept the novice bracket beating Cartel for the win.  Maxim U beat Evil Factory but didn't steal the win from Evil Factory's first place win for the amateur bracket.  This made 2 in a row for the team, fresh from their 7 man win in Huntington Beach.

When it was said and done the prizes were handed out - including a set of 5 Honda CR 250 motorcycle for Evil Factory, $10,000 cash to Strange, an Ultimate Airball field for Docs Raiders, Shocktech Bushmasters for Texas Archangels.  Additional prizes went down to 8th place in the amateur, novice and rookie divisions.  Despite the weather problems Mardi Gras 2003 came off as a success.  Even with a day of play lost to the weather the tournament ran through semifinals and finals with daylight to spare, thanks to the hard work of the crews that moved earth and water to turn a swamp and lake into usable fields, and to the teams and tournament staff that worked together to complete the event's games at a breakneck pace.

Stay tuned to WARPIG.com for video.  Photo galleries online Sunday night!
 


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