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NPPL Super Seven
Commander's Cup 2003
November 2003, Miami, FL
The inaugural season of the NPPL's Super 7 World Series set its fifth leg in the Sunshine State. In 2002, music legend and paintball player Maurice Gibb worked on plans for the Commander's Cup, a groundbreaking tournament to be held in the Bahamas. Gun restrictions in the Bahamas made the original venue impractical, so plans changed to a Miami location. While the 2003 NPPL season was in the planning stages, Gibb began talking to NPPL and Pure Promotions leadership about making the Commander's Cup the season finale for the Super 7 World Series. While Gibb's life drew to a close this spring, his dream of the Commander's Cup did not die. NPPL, Inc., and Pure Promotions picked up the torch and dedicated their first event in Huntington Beach to Gibb's memory. Through the season, as planning progressed for the Commander's Cup, it became clear that Gibb's idea would also become a memorial to him. The addition of charity auctions and other fundraisers to support Gibb Family charities became incorporated into the event. The road to Miami was not without bumps, however.
Original plans to place the event on the beach, similar to the season's opening event proved impractical. Due to Columbus Day celebrations, the City of Miami could not provide enough field space on the beach to hold the tournament. This led to both a change in date, and a change in venue, moving the tournament inland to Tamiami Park. The move had an extra benefit, in that the tournament would be held outside of Florida's hurricane season, improving the chances for good playing weather, something that was increasingly important after weather problems seen at the league's New Jersey event.
With 138 teams competing, the Commander's Cup served as the league's grand slam - the season's largest tournament with a plethora of associated events at local Miami hot spots. Teams had the opportunity to walk fields on Thursday, after checking in, and as per usual preliminary round games began Friday morning on the tournament's 7 fields, a big jump from the 5 seen at previous events. The location in Tamiami Park worked well for the event, with even grass playing fields, and easy access to Florida's Turnpike. The player's compound, which consisted of player staging tents was surrounded by the tournament fields, with spectator access to watch games from the sidelines only available to a portion of the fields. As with the rest of the 2003 season, the NPPL field served as a showcase location. One side was set up with grandstands for spectators, while the opposite side was player access only within the staging compound, also outfitted with bleachers and the announcing tower. The NPPL field, and the Evil field which had a set of bleachers were planned to host all of the semifinals and finals games, and some high profile games like the anticipated Rage versus Dynasty (through the season their games have been the center of multiple disputes) prelims game.
Adjacent to the NPPL field was the Bacardi VIP lounge with an open bar for VIPs over 21, and lunch from a local BBQ restaurant. Seen in the VIP lounge were various members of the NPPL leadership, series sponsors, the press, and even a crew of local Pop Warner Football cheerleaders on hand to cheer for the teams. Outside of the field complex was the tournament trade show, in a very open and spread out configuration. Some of the larger sponsors brought trailers and show trucks while most of the smaller vendors - including some like Syn, Poison Products, and Paintball Armor who were debuting their product lines to the tournament crowd - filled a line of smaller tents in the center of the trade show.
The regular winner of the professional bracket for the 2003 NPPL season has been an unequivocal Dynasty role, their only drop being in Chicago when they took third place. After two European events, they garnered an extra win to take the place of that stateside drop, giving them a total of 250 points going into the final event. Naughty Dogs were right behind them after only playing the four events in the States with 182 points after four trips to the podium, once in first, in Chicago. Third through ninth was a closer grouped pack with TonTons in at 163 points after the two European events and three US trips. They were followed by Russian Legion, Bad Company, who made two trips across the pond, Bushwackers who made a trip to England, Avalanche, Nexus and Rage in at 126 points. Brass Eagle, Strange and Image showed with Joy Division, the Swedish team, Lockout, Murder Inc., Shockwave, and Wone Concept returning. New to play in the series were Jax Warriors, Syn, Severe Factory and PPC made the jump from amateur 15th after the four events.
Amateur teams only barely out numbered the Professional teams with 23 teams taking to the fields for their 8 games. KAPP Factory showed after their four visits to the podium out of five events played. Notably absent were Evil Factory who played five events throughout the year and earned 171 points. Viewloader Allstars, Static, STP, Sharp Shooters Black, Boston, Farside, Fusion, Powertrip and Eclipse Red hit the fields with Next Level, NY Dogs, Element, Tantrum, and Nemesis returning. With quite a few new teams giving the league a try, two novice teams moved up to amateur for Miami, both Under Rage and Euro Allstars.
Novice and Rookie teams doubled the number of pro and amateur teams competing with 48 and 46 teams respectively. Vicious was missing from the list in the novice group, but not because they left the series, because they changed their name to Diesel. Wicked was there, just a single point behind Vicious/Diesel in the ranking at 174 points after a trip to London which brought their points up by 43 points after a third place win. Tippmann Effect, Atomix Red, Bushwackers, Boston 2, BK Dogs, TCP Xtreme, PBMegastore, Splat Factory, Aggression, Ultra Ego, Eclipse Blue, Hypersonix, Wombles, PBX Reapers, Driven, RIP, Chaos, Fatal Swoop, Checkmate, Psycho Circus, Faction, Demented, Dirt, Xtreme, Axis, Storm, Afterlife, Deadly Venoms and finally Sharp Shooters Gray all returned to the novice bracket. About a third of the bracket was made up of new teams and two teams who had played rookie. BC Kidz played in New Jersey, making it to the quarter finals and earning themselves a 31st spot in the rookie rankings. On the flip side was Team RM who battled out each of the Stateside events, winning first in each of the events. After solidifying their top placement for the series, they opted to move up to novice for the final event and a launching point for the 2004 season.
The top three seated teams in the rookie bracket, one being Team RM, were absent after the New Jersey event, putting Amp'd in first place seating for the event at 119 points after quarter final visits in all four of the stateside events. Ephect, Yard Dogs, AZ Evil Red, Untouchables, Demented Kidz, DHP, True Colors, Roll Out, Crush, Team Dirty, Valkyries, Bushwackers Orange County, Stoned Assassins, AZ Evil Blue, Lost Generation, Splat Factory, Panic Attack, Kiddz, Kaos, Yard Dogs Chronic, Machine, and Melee all returned to have half of the bracket filled by new teams to the series.
Rain on Friday night was enough to wet down the fields for dust control, but not enough to cause any mud problems on site. Sprinkles throughout the day on Saturday helped cool things off as well without being significant enough to have any impact on play until later in the day when the skies opened up and drenched player and spectator alike. Fortunately, lightning did not become an issue, and the rain was never heavy enough to cause serious mud problems. Games were not stopped throughout, so things wrapped up just as another light rain was starting to fall, and rankings were completed by the NPPL scorekeepers to sort out who would move on to Sunday.
Good or bad weather, rules enforcement and changes became the centers of a few controversies. "We've suspended more players during this tournament than the whole rest of the season combined," said ultimate judge Phil Dominguez. A fight on Friday between the coach of England based Nexus and several members of Miami based Rage resulted in the involved parties being expelled from the competition for the day, and both teams being served with five hundred dollar penalties. According to Dominguez, the rumors that a player was hospitalized from the fight were false, and not even serious first aid was needed. The punishments issued lay somewhere in the middle of the minimum and maximum penalties defined in the NPPL rules section 14.0. Fourteen point zero includes physical contact in the definition of extreme unsportsmanlike conduct and defines the penalty as "A player will be eliminated from play and subject to possible suspension of play for a period of no less than one game and no more than one year."
Another controversy surrounded the issue of staining paint. The NPPL has previously prohibited the use of staining paint, but not until a September 2003 rules change has the league had a clear definition of staining paint in order to more easily allow or prohibit its use. According to rule 1.11 any team using prohibited items including red paintballs, electronic surveillance devices, incendiary devices or forbidden paintballs would be ejected from the tournament, forfeit their points earned therein, and pay a five hundred dollar fine. One point eleven also states that paint will be tested for acceptability under a set of guidelines for water solubility and three types of tests for staining. The first test involves its ability to stain a piece of glossy paper. If the results of the paper test are disputed, the rules specify testing with the palm of a human hand. In the paper and skin tests, vibrant stains indicate that the paint has failed the test, but if the stain "remains slightly visible but is not vibrant, it is deemed to have passed." A third type of stain test is described for testing the ability to stain a piece of white poly/cotton tee shirt material. After washing, any visible stain constitutes a failure of this test. In an effort to finally bring an end to the problems associated with staining paint, the NPPL widely publicized the new rules through the league web site and press releases making the rule change and testing criteria widely available.
On the morning of the first day of competition, Pursuit Marketing International (PMI) was prohibited from selling their Ultra Evil paintballs on the grounds that they were staining paint. After protesting, and demonstrating with a skin stain test that other brands of paint allowed for use also produced stains, PMI was allowed to sell their paint, pending further testing to be performed Friday night. NPPL scrutineer Dave Zinkham performed cloth staining tests on several brands of paint used at the tournament. According to Zinkham, the Ultra Evil produced less of a stain than some of the other brands tested, and all of the paintballs tested left at least some sort of stain on the fabric after washing. PMI was permitted to sell Ultra Evil paint for the remainder of the tournament, and no teams were fined for using staining paint during the preliminary rounds.
At the end of the preliminary rounds on Saturday afternoon, Joy Division had played brilliantly, not dropping a single game throughout the two days to set the standard for Professionals at 774 points. Bad Company took P2 going into quarter finals after one loss, as well as Naughty Dogs in third after their single loss. Russian Legion, Dynasty, Jax Worriors, Team Rage, and Image all dropped two games through out the 8. Strange , Shockwave UK, Nexus, and Brass Eagle finished out the 12 teams moving ot the quarter finals after dropping three games each to set the cut at 523 points.
Element brought in 773 points in the amateur bracket followed by Next Level, KAPP Factory, and Sharp Shooters Black who each dropped a game. Nemesis, Boston Paintball, and Fusion dropped two games. Viewloader, Static, French Connection, Farside and Under Rage each dropped three to set the cut at 506.
BC Kidz had the highest score of the tournament at 788 in the novice bracket followed closely by Diesel at 783. BK Dogs took third for Sunday after a loss, joined by Boston 2, Critical, and 3J with one loss each. PBMegastore, Momma's Boys, and Severe STP each dropped two. Splat Factory, Bad Karma, WGP Nitro, Aggression, Sharpshooters Gray, Bushwackers CA and Team RM all dropped three games, the cut for the 16 quarter finalists was 508 points.
The rookie teams finished out the second day with AZ Evil Red in top seating with 702 points. Thug Life dropped a single game giving them second place into the Sunday finals. BK Dogs 2 joined their sister team after two drops along with Lost Generation, True Colors, Bishops Move, Untouchables, and Archangels. United, Ephect, Valkyries, Derange, Bushwackers Orange County, and Team Panic with three drops and a stalemate. AMP'd and Yard Dogs each dropped four games, setting the cut at a low 424.
The number of teams which advanced to the quarterfinals out of the prelims was worked on a formula which had been changed mid-season. Under the new rules, divisions with 7 or less teams (though this has never happened in the Super 7) would skip the quarterfinals and send the top 4 teams straight to semifinals. Divisions with 8 to 20 teams would send 8 teams into the quarterfinals. The change came in that divisions with 21 to 30 teams would now send 12 teams into the quarterfinals instead of 8, and divisions with 31 or more teams will send their top 16 teams into the quarterfinals. This also necessitated a change in the semifinals structure. At the start of the season, the semifinals format consisted of the top 1 or 2 teams out of each quarterfinal division (depending on whether 8 or 16 teams made the quarters) who would then compete against each other in a repeating play format to vie for their rank in the finals. Under the new format, some classifications would end up with three division in the quarterfinals. For this uneven grouping, the top team in each division would advance, as would one wild card - the highest ranked remaining team - to complete a group of four teams in the semifinals. As with the format used when the season started, the semifinals do not eliminate teams from the competition, but rather select their ranking positions for the finals.
The change in quarterfinals format definitely had an effect on top ranked Joy Division. The Swedes blew through the prelims undefeated, but lost their first quarterfinals match to Florida based Jax Worriors. While the line-up would have been different in a 2 division quarterfinal using the format from earlier in the season Joy Division would not have faced the Worriors, and 2 teams from their division would have advanced instead of just one. Under the new system one team from each division advanced, which sent Brass Eagle on to the semis while eliminating Joy Division. BE was joined in the semis by Dynasty, the top ranked quarterfinalist, Strange, and Bad Company, which made it in as the wild card team. The new format gave both Nexus and Shockwave UK more field time, as they would have otherwise been eliminated. For Brass Eagle and Strange the new format was a godsend, as they too would have not made the quarterfinals, but now found themselves as semifinalists with a guaranteed spot in the finals.
Similar circumstances faced the amateurs, with a 12 team quarterfinals. Under Rage ranked first at the end of their games, Static second, Nemesis fourth, and Boston Paintball came in as the wild card, ranked third by total points.
The novice teams had enough competitors to fill four quarterfinal divisions. 3J Paintball finished in the first rank, Aggression second, Diesel third and Momma's Boys in fourth. The rookies also filled out four divisions. Untouchables won their division to advance in first, United in second, Team Panic in third, and Derange advanced ranked fourth.
Dynasty hit the semi-finals hard against Bad Company with two wins, securing themselves first spot into the finals, and putting Bad Company into the third. Brass Eagle likewise beat out Strange, pitting them against Dynasty for the finals in the second spot and Strange into fourth. Amateur teams each had to battle out with three games to secure the finalists. Nemesis won against Under Rage amidst much sideline comments to face off with Static who triumphed over Boston Paintball. Novice team Momma's Boys took two wins from 3J Paintball, giving them first bracket into finals. The Boys would play against Diesel in the finals, putting Aggression against 3J for third and fourth. Derange and Team Panic both won their divisions in rookie, leaving Untouchables and United to compete for the third and fourth place seats.
Games ran behind schedule on Sunday, then got more mired down when the sky opened and drenched the fields just as the last semi-final games were being played.
Finals wrapped up just as the sun was setting. Dynasty won the day for the professional teams, beating Brass Eagle twice in the final rounds, and Strange took third over Bad Company after three games. Amateur Static won after three games over Nemesis for the top Am seating, a testament to their solid year in tournament ball after taking the series high honors for Amateur's in the PSP events for 2003. Boston Paintball won over Under Rage for third place after three games. Novice teams, Diesel and Momma's Boys fought it out in three games, the vicious Diesel fellows taking the Novice first place title, just like they did in five man for the PSP, and Momma's Boys took 2nd, a close second to their first place win at World Cup, having proven themselves there. Aggression dropped two games to 3J Paintball to settle the slots for third and fourth. Rookie finals finished with Derange on top after three games over Team Panic. Untouchables beat United after three games, having traded scores of 98-6.
The last light was enough to photograph the Tippmann Kids Race where youngsters were split into two groups, by ages and then ran a footrace against their peers to Rocky Cagnoni who waited at the finish line with a new Tippmann paintball gun for their very own.
After close to 700 games were completed, the winning teams headed towards Miami Beach for the players party and awards ceremony in a night club there in the heart of the tropical city.