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Mardi Gras Open 2004
Feb. 12-15, 2004
by Dawn Mills

The ancient peoples of Rome had a unique calendar that set a standard for what we use today.  Like paintball players around the world, they only counted 10 months out of the year - the winter months went unmarked, unnamed and unnumbered in the Roman calendar until about 45 BC when people began to adopt changes.  In the same vein, the Roman calendar was initiated up to that point with the formation of the city of Rome in 753 BC.  From the formation of the great city of Rome on, the Roman's knew a date was fixed to progress from there.  Are we like the Romans as paintball players?  Do we neglect the winter time, looking forward to the spring, maybe not to a harvest and a warmer climate but to the top tournaments to hit full swing again or should our focus be on the little guy who plays 24/7, 365 days a year in any weather?

Have we lost a bit of cultural cohesion in our society, our lifestyle? 

I traveled from one side of the United States to the other on January 1st this year and pondered the people who traveled with me.  The politics of the air travel.  Air France was not allowed to fly into US territory.  Mexican flights were held at bay while planes were searched.  Certainly those precautions by the US will have had repercussions in the political spectrum of the diplomatic world of doctrine.  The political world of paintball is no different in that sense. 

Anno Domini, a Latin phrase for ‘the year of our Lord’ is what most scholars give to the time period after Jesus Christ made the scene.  It has held on as a declarative time signifier for 1500 years.  That one event is key to calendars all over the world, despite people's belief or disbelief in the act of the birth and death of Jesus Christ.  What will paintball's one act be?  Will it come this year?  What will set the standard for paintball players to say, all over the world, whether they were there or not, that that was the defining moment of the sport, setting the tone for their own calendar experience? 

Here's another thought.  Has it already happened?  Anno Domini was a phrase started by a very well known monk 531 years after the birth of Christ.  It took over five hundred years for the phrase, the trend, to catch on – over a half a century to segment the time, the calendar we know today, into its present system.  It has stood the test of time.  What will be our sport's time? This year? 

Ten years ago the face of paintball changed when paintball hit the World Wide Web for the first time, on this web site.  What most won't remember of the time before 1994, is that Warpig existed as an FTP server for years prior, serving data and providing content to thousands of people before the web existed.  Henry David Thoreau said, “It takes two to tell the truth.  One to say it, and another to hear it.”  Continuing in the quest for truthfulness and forthright reviews and reporting, a toast to another year of Warpig.com telling the truth.  Will you hear it?

The first major tournament to hit the market for the 2004 season was the Mardi Gras Open produced by the PSP (Paintball Sports Promotion) for the 5-man teams to get a start on the league's five and ten man competition that would begin in March at the Pomona Open.  NXL’s Professional X-Ball competition also showed at the Mardi Gras Open after its auspicious season last year.  Holding an event in February in New Orleans is a roll of the dice and this year proved to be similar to last year's deluge of rain and chilly temperatures.

For many, Mardi Gras has its own appeal, the lure of the city, the history and culture that New Orleans fairly wallows in.  The never-ending nightlife with jazz, old architecture that speaks of a time far off to the average American, and Squirrel Nut Zippers singing their song ‘Damnation’.  Panhandlers on every corner, beignets, Jackson Square Cafe, how we miss you, Haunted History Tour, the thorough trouncing of the British in 1814, Bloody Butler and river boats.  The LaLaurie house, complete with real skeletons in the closets, public urination, mud, bridges that never end, chicory, Anne Rice fans, horse drawn buggies, vampires, fortune tellers, Harvey Tunnel, the Quarter, Hurricanes, Pat O’Briens, bisque, sweet tea, jambalaya, dialects of English that can stunt a drunken brain.  The bugs that seem almost capable of carting off a 4 course meal and friendly strangers who actually say “Good Morning” and will even shake your hand in welcome.

Miami faced off against Los Angeles, winning 9-8 in the first of four tight matches for the day.  Baltimore lost to Oakland the second game 9-10.  Philadelphia and Detroit Strange fought for a tie of 8-8 and New York wrapped up the day at 6:30 against Chicago 7-6.  The last game of the day was canceled for Oakland and Miami for daylight, to be scheduled another time in the season.

Baltimore Trauma had a nice showing of the familiar lads with the exception of most of their hair.  In support of team member Nick Matthews, who was diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy, the entire team shaved their heads.  Thinking of you Nick!

The Los Angeles Ironmen hit the fields with a dramatically new roster.  Old schooler Shane Pestana acting as coach was a nice reminder of years gone by and a great addition to a team consisting of alot of youth.   Of the ten men taking to the NXL field, only three were over the age of 21.  Three Miami players were brought over to the Los Angeles team after last season, Shawn and Steven Pitts along with Alex Hong. Two Hostile Kids players, Paul Katic and Scott Kemp joined the group as well as Brandon Shore fresh from the schoolroom and Jules Foote who has made a name for himself on the west coast with a few different teams.  Original men remaining were Billy Wing, Eric Roberts and Zyzek Barro.  Shane Pestana said that the reason for the trade with Miami was simple, "More fun, more friends, and they look better in red."

Detroit Strange looked like a whole new team, in fact, it was a whole new team.  Team Strange, powerhouse team from Florida, is playing in the franchised position of the Detroit team leaving Division 1 X-Ball to be open for grabs from the Dogs and Dynasty.

Friday would see the start of the 5 man competition as well as the continuance of the NXL X-Ball matches if the weather was cooperative.

FRIDAY

The morning dawned without the sun but in high hopes, the rain clouds seemed to hold off as well, which was counted a blessing.  The muck and mud dried up a bit, giving a more firm footing for the 74 teams to play 5-man on three fields.  While the ground was still wet, it was much more solid than the previous day.   Paintball Sports Promotions brought in several loads of gravel and sand which were spread and compacted into a stable base for the team staging tent, as well as pathways between the fields, making the ground passable.  Many players, staff and referees were able to purchase shrimping boots at local stores, referred to regionally as "cajun sneakers." 

With X Ball being a big part of the PSP series which will kick off in Pomona, all three Mardi Gras fields were of the same layout with Sup'Air X-Ball bunker sets.  Thirty-nine rookies were battling alongside 25 novice teams with a small showing of only 6 amateurs and 4 professionals. 

The NXL continued their games for the day while the five man teams ran at about 30 minutes behind schedule in the morning session.  Baltimore beat Chicago 9-8 in the first match on Friday, followed by Detroit Strange's win against Los Angeles with a final score of 13-6.  New York beat Philadelphia in a tight game 8-7.  Oakland took Chicago in Aftershock's second game of the day, 8-7.

Five man teams wrapped their games up right before the rain started Friday night.  One team forfeited their games, the averages to be figured out at the end of the preliminaries for the teams that would have faced them.  Saturday's weather  forecast called  for plenty of rain for the five man competition to continue.  The tournament plan was to wrap up the starting games on Saturday, sending 16 rookie teams to semi finals, 12 novice on to semi's and both amateur and professional straight to four team finals to be played on Sunday.

SATURDAY

The forecast was grim, but the rain held off for the morning allowing the novice, amateur and professional 5 man teams to get most of their games in.  The rain during the night had a definite impact on not only the fields but the continuance of play of the NXL games which were postponed for safety.  The rookie 5 man teams would face off in the afternoon after a break in the schedule, hoping for a less wet option.

A significant change for the NXL happened during the MGO – the addition of a new team.  The elite pro X-Ball league went from 8 to 9 teams with its first expansion team – Legacy.  Legacy is unique not only in being the NXL’s first expansion team, but also the first team to be owned by an individual rather than a corporation.  Owner Gary Shows was very excited about the move.  “I believe in the [NXL] concept,” he said.  “I believe the money I put into the franchise is worth the risk.”  While the cost for Shows to buy in as an NXL owner is not yet a public figure, he says it was significant, but believes it’s a step in the right direction that will have a payoff.

Shows retired from the dive industry in 1993, selling his company, NASDS.  NASDS was a SCUBA dive certification, training and sales agency, which has since merged into SSI (SCUBA Schools International.) He began playing paintball because of his son’s interest in the sport, and after a year of recreational play formed the team Bad Karma along with “Little” John Marques who now plays for the Oakland Assassins.  Shows later played at the pro level with the original GBD (the Good, the Bad, and the Deadly) squad.  In the mid 90s, Shows began doing consulting work in the paintball industry, putting his compressed gas knowledge from diving to use as HPA grew within paintball.  Shows went on staff with Diablo Direct, but when Diablo Direct was purchased by National Paintball Supply, he moved on to DYE Precision where he currently handles sponsorship, advertising, promotions, and overseeing the company’s presence at trade shows and tournaments. 

In 2001 Shows formed Legacy.  The team made their national debut at the Atlantic City Open that summer.  At the time he made a commitment to the team, and the team to him.  The commitment worked.  Today Legacy still has all of its original Southern California members, with two new out of state additions to beef up the squad for the NXL.  The league’s season schedule will be reshuffled for Legacy to start playing at Pomona.  Legacy continues to be sponsored primarily by DYE, and will be showcasing DYE’s line of Proto products through the 2004 season as San Diego Legacy for the NXL.

Games started again through light rain throughout the afternoon on Saturday wrapping up the professional, amateur, and novice with the rookie's continuing their preliminaries.  The final scoresheets were tallied and the semi-final schedule was completed at 6:30 Saturday night under dark skies and slackening rain. 

SUNDAY
The final day of the Mardi Gras Open was met with sunny skies and chilly breezes but no rain which perked up the spirits of those attending.  Rookie and Novice semi-final games got under way and played til noon while the NXL field was put back into use with two matches for the day.  The first NXL match was between Miami and New York with the Florida team taking the win with a point, 9-8.

As with the run of the event trade show vendors were set up both inside and outside the Alario Center.  Outdoors were most of the larger companies with show trailers including Smart Parts, National Paintball Supply, DYE, JT USA, Empire and Odyssey Group International.  OGI is the company formed by the merger of loader manufacturer Odyssey and low cost electronic gun manufacturer Dragun.  Indoors were other staple companies showing at the event - including DraXxus (who used their show tent outdoors to provide more hospitable staging for their sponsored teams) Worr Game Products, ShockTech, Generation E, Custom Products, Sup'Air, Traumahead, Crossfire, Ricochet, Paintball Kingdom, Barrelplug.com and more. 

Scoring technology advances for the new PSP season had their breaking-in run at the MGO.  NCPA President Chris Raehl has expanded the ID and player tracking system put into place last year to integrate scheduling and score keeping functions as a complete tournament management system.  The changeover also involves a new format for the event scheduling.  Teams will be broken up into divisions and only play the teams in their divisions, rather than the pan-divisional system that has been in use by the PSP, NPPL and Millennium for the past several seasons.

While a hand-written white-board scoreboard was used for public display, more current score data was available for reading during the semifinals on a computer display.  Raehl plans for the system to eventually replace the written board with a series of computer displays that update directly from the main score database for the event. 

Novice and Rookie scores were tight for each of their three semi-final games with Blackout Kidz winning their bracket with two wins and a stalemate, Ratco Factory taking theirs with a pair of wins and a loss, with Swat and Fuel following in that same pattern for the final four to finals.  Novice teams were divided up into three brackets for semi-finals, the top team from each to move on with a wildcard selected.  Diesel and Surge won their brackets handily with three wins between them, Spent Allstars took their bracket with two wins and a win without a flag pull.  The wildcard was a tie between Dislexic Dogs and Momma's Boys with the tie being broken by the team going into semi-finals with the higher ranking point, Momma's Boys to make up the four that would advance to finals.

Blackout Kidz went home with the rookie win after three wins during finals, followed by Fuel, SwatPaintball.com and Ratco Factory.  Novice team Momma's Boys took that wild card and played it to win their top slot with three wins followed by Diesel who had a perfect score in their game against Spent All-Stars who took fourth, with Surge coming in third.  Amateur team Blackout took first  with Diesel/Shocktech, Evil Odyssey and Doc's Raiders joining them in the final four.  Professional powerhouse Legacy took first place followed closely by Naughty Dogs, and then new comers Ferg's Paintball and Godspeed taking third and fourth.

In a deal closed during the final rounds of the event, Steve Rabakoff bought the Mardi Gras Open tournament from Paintball Sports Promotions.  Rabakoff founded the MGO in 2000, originally linked to his Gulfcoast Tournament Series.  PSP took over ownership and operation of the tournament in 2003.  According to Rabakoff, sponsorship of 10 motorcycles has already been secured to return the event to it's grand prize packages.  While he is exploring options with renovation of the Alario Center's grounds to make them more tolerant of wet weather, he also is considering indoor facilities in the area that would put the event closer to the French Quarter, the heart of the Mardi Gras parties while giving it protection from the rain.


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