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Smart Parts Gettysburg NPPL
The second tournament of the NPPL annual series has typically been held in Pittsburgh, except for 1999 when we were in Dallas and the Oklahoma City tornados threatened to wipe out the NPPL, and it has traditionally been beset by rain. While the Pittsburgh location offered its unique flavor of mound fields which prove exciting for 10 man play, the overall presentation of the site was lacking. The games were great, but it didn't look "professional."
While the NPPL tournaments are now produced by Paintball Sports Promotions, a conglomerate of the individual promoters of past events, much of the legwork for this tournament was done by Smart Parts. They chose to relocate to a city that is home to one of the most famous battlefields of the US Civil War. The games were held little more than a stone's throw from the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park, where the low rolling hills are dotted by old cannon, and memorials to units of both the Union and Confederate Armies.
The Allstar Sports Complex is a multisport facility for the surrounding community. In addition to its outdoor soccer fields, is has an indoor arcade, gymnasiums, rest rooms, meeting rooms, go cart track and arcade. While the arcade and cart track saw their normal weekend business, the soccer fields were converted over for NPPL use, creating a tournament that not only plays well, but looks good.
Twenty foot tall paintball netting was strung from solid wood poles with steel cable to fully separate the spectator and vendor areas from the playing fields, in arguably the best configuration seen at an NPPL event to date. Buried electrical wiring on the soccer fields has allowed for power to be supplied to SupAir fields without the drone of portable generators, and stadium lights illuminate fields for the night time 5 man divisions.
One of the new plans for the NPPL in 2001, was player identification cards. The new ID system and database, much needed to track player status (pro, am, etc.) caused long waits, but the waits were the only way the system could be implemented. The cards were not required on Friday, as not all players could be processed in time. Unfortunately, problems with the card printer kept the system from going fully into place. However, registration information, and photographs were filed into the NPPL player database to allow cards to be printed at a later time. While the initial set-up of this new system is a bit of a growing pain, the full implementation will make registration, and player identification move more smoothly at future events.
Prior to game start, after the captain's meeting, a NPPL organizational meeting was held. Tom Cole, NPPL president addressed team representatives, the key issue being dissatisfaction of both teams, and the event promoters as to how the league is operating. While major changes were planned at the league organizational meeting in January, many had not been implemented. After much ambiguous discussion - largely individuals voicing complaints about problems with the league, Cole explained his plan of having a steering committee made up of 5 pro, 5 Amateur A, and 5 Am B team members to evaluate the status of the league, and plan its restructuring. More unruly debate ensued as to how much representation pros, or Am Bs should have and why, and how many people should be on the committee, and what the committee's goals should be. After about an hour and a half, Cole took a rough poll as to whether the current league leadership should be immediately disbanded and handed to the committee, or if the committee would decide how to restructure. A nearly unanimous response was in favor of the committee deciding how to proceed, though not fully understanding as to what they were voting for. At that point the meeting was split into three groups - one for each division of teams, and eventually, after longer debate, three representatives were chosen from each group to form the new committee. Professionals will be represented by Bob "Rosie" Rose from Ground Zero, Scottie Flint from Fury and Bill Ceranski from Aftershock. Am As will have Aaron Stevens from Freak Factory, Paul Alders from Strange and Rocky Knuth from Naughty Dogs. Am Bs will be heard from Phil Dominguez from Exile, Frank Watson from The Family and Jeff Stein from Hurricanes.
Games began on Friday, and aside from delays of roughly an hour from the schedule, due to waits for air fills, things progressed smoothly in the hot, humid weather. The action carried on into the night as the lights came on for the 5 man competition.
Saturday the heat relented replaced by cool winds. The 10 man games picked up with some of the last games scheduled for Friday that got bumped to Saturday.
The prelims were completed before sundown with the finish not being what everyone had expected. Many pro teams took surprise losses to amateur teams. Avalanche advanced to the semifinals ranked on top, followed immediately by Lockout and Ground Zero Gold. Team Strange from Florida, long having dominated Amateur B, topped the Amateur As, with Thunderstruck and Farside joining them in the lead. Team Worr was the top scoring Amateur B team in the prelims, with Static and Nemesis DYE rounding out the top three slots.
Saturday also had a twist of bizarre hyjinks. It is not too rare for a disputed referee's call to end up with players shouting disagreement, but after one player threatened to assault Scotty Flint of team Fury, Flint responded not in kind, and not with violence, but by mooning him. This resulted in a single game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct, the first ever issued in the league for mooning. Flint took the penalty in stride, but was displeased that a similar penalty was not placed on the player who had threatened him.
A major criticism leveled at the NPPL after the 2000 World Cup, was that the distribution of prize packages (deciding which prizes will be given to which place finishers) was uneven and poor. Saturday night a rather lengthy meeting was held with several members of the new steering committee, in which they, as players allocated the prize packages to be awarded on Sunday.
While the 5 man games played into the night, they did not manage to complete their prelims Saturday - with the plan being to roll them onto fields as soon as they were available from the 10 man on Sunday.
Sunday morning, the weather continued to remain comfortable - rounding out three days of great paintball weather, not the rains which have plagued the tournament in the past. Strange played one of the most crowd pleasing games of the day when the flag had fallen into a trash can sitting at the end of the field next to the flag station. With the game clock nearly over, Strange grabbed the whole bag of trash, and ran it down the field for the win!
A second event at the sports complex, a children's health and safety fair caused some logistical problems as the available parking was not adequate for both events. On the fields, the games moved along. TC Paintballs, offered up inflatable bunkers which they had in their paint trailer, and the new fields allowed the 5 man competition to catch up, and complete at a reasonable hour.
The semifinals went by quickly, and the top teams powered into the finals. Both Aftershock and Avalanche won their first two pro games. Their third game, facing each other, would decide the pro winner, and it went to Avalanche. The Amateur As had a similar situation between Strange and the Naughty Dogs, both facing each other with a pair of wins. That game, and the A trophy went to Naughty Dogs.
The Naughty Dogs were additionally pleased with their win, as not only was this the first event shooting Autocockers from their new sponsor Worr Games Products, most had not even fired their stock Black Magic 'cockers until the day before the event.
Worr Games products was also represented in the Amateur Bs, where Team Worr edged out Static by 12 points for the win.
In the 5 man, Eclipse edged out High Velocity for the win. It is true that the NPPL is a 10 player league - with 5 man added on at events. Many of the 5 player teams expressed their dissatisfaction at how 5 man was scheduled and played compared to 10 man.
Gettysburg proved to be a true battleground. The wins were hard fought, and the action intense. The new venue proved advantageous in some ways, but had its own limitations. From here, the league moves on to Chicago, where more games will be played and series points earned, and the outcome of the new league steering committee will be seen.