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Super 7 Denver
Photos by Chris Bland
Story: Bill Mills, Dawn Mills
Contributors: Chris Bland
Event number 3 for the 2004 NPPL Super 7 season found a new venue, and new sideshow. For the third stop in the series, Pure Promotions took the tournament to Denver, Colorado and teamed up with the Vans Warped Tour to surround the paintball action with some of the country’s leading alternative bands. The game site was the parking area adjacent to Invesco Field where the tournament would be held Friday through Sunday, joined by the Warped Tour on Sunday night.
Big changes on the field were seen primarily in the pro division. Shortly after the NXL changed rules to allow NXL athletes to compete in the Super 7 series, the NPPL rules committee unanimously voted to rank NXL participants as pro athletes in the NPPL ranking system. This change was important, as previously NPPL rankings depended only on participation within the league, and a player who had never competed in the NPPL but had played as a pro in the NXL could have legally entered the NPPL as a rookie despite experience competing with some of the world’s top teams.
With pro players where they should be – the pro division, there influx of NXL players meant things would not follow the status quo in Denver. The teams who had been on top for the last year and a half since the league split would find serious competition at high altitude.
On Thursday, prior to the event, the NPPL held a referee refresher training course. The PRO referee organization was founded while Paintball Sports Promotions was still producing the NPPL series. It was launched with financial support from WDP, so when their daughter company, Pure Promotions began running the NPPL events they took the ball and ran with it. As the number of PRO certified referees grows, other tournament producers are able to seek out PRO certified refs to keep reffing standardized across multiple tournament series, and fewer and fewer "team refs" are needed taking away one of the criticisms that has long been a factor in tournament paintball.
Fields were set up with the NPPL's "Action Turf" rolled out on the asphalt of the stadium parking lot. In a recent news release the NPPL stated, "Asphalt is regarded as a soft surface which absorbs shock," and compared the surface to be used in Denver as among the best the league has used, next to the grass of Las Vegas.
Another new feature of the event is an admission fee for the grandstands so that spectators can reserve seating. Stadium seating on the main NPPL field on finals Sunday has consistently been packed since the Super 7 began at Huntington Beach in 2003. In order to allow individuals to reserve seating in advance, the gameplan for Denver involved the sale of tickets to sit in the stands on Sunday - $10 for adults, $5 for children or $5 for NPPL members. Another new place for players and spectators to go that had previously been off-limits was the VIP lounge. At past events this was accessible only to industry representatives, NPPL staff, and visiting VIPs. For Denver, the lounge overlooking one of the fields, along with its food and beverage service could be accessed for $40 to $45 a day ($35 to $40 for NPPL members) or $100 for the weekend ($90 for members.) Tickets for both the VIP lounge and the stadium seating were made available not only at the event, but nation wide through the TicketMaster ordering system.
Once again, Pure Promotions showed what the promotion part of their name means be orchestrating with local and regional media to promote the tournament for spectator attendance. Exhibition games, many of which highlighted female players and teams brought local news crews on site spreading the word of the tournament through area television. Additionally regional targeted airings of 2003 season Super 7 tournaments on the Fox Sports Net allowed for commercials to promote the tournament.
Games started off Friday morning and played through the day, despite intermittent light showers which were not enough to stop the action. Under the NPPL rules, there must be a threat to player safety such as lightning before games are stopped, rain alone won't hold back the teams as it would in other sports like baseball.
The pro division saw many new faces. In the 2003 season, picking a winner was easy. Dynasty was a sure bet, and those rooting for an underdog put their money on the Naughty Dogs who were right at their heels. The two teams were big fish in a small pond. That's not true any more, and Denver's winner would be anyone's guess. Avalanche has rebuilt. After losing most of its key players a couple of years ago, Ed Poorman has brought it back together again as a powerful force on the field. Then there is Infamous, comprised largely of players from Avalanche before its roster imploded, who have played the last year as Miami Effect and now left the NXL. And then there are the NXL players, who are now allowed to play Super 7 without jeopardizing their NXL status.
Trademarks on the NXL franchise name and the league's restrictions prohibit the NXL players from using their team names outside the league, so some familiar teams showed up under less familiar names. Chicago Aftershock appeared as Shock, and the Los Angeles Ironmen as The Men. The Oakland Assassins, led by old-school Ironmen captain Bob Long competed as the Ironmen. Prior to the event in an interview with WARPIG.com, NXL commissioner Mike Ratko stated, "Bob Long's Ironmen would not be allowed nor would anything Ironmen." It will be interesting to see if Oakland faces sanctions or fines before the next NXL competition in Pennsylvania.
William Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Regardless of what they are called the players who made up the top teams in the NPPL before they left for the NXL came back to the mix in Denver, making it a whole new ball game. In Friday's preliminary round games, as has been almost standard, Dynasty was undefeated, as were the Naughty Dogs. So were Shock and Avalanche. Ironmen and Infamous each faced a single loss. The Men did not fare so well, winning only one of their first day games. At the end of the 2003 season most of the Los Angeles Ironmen team members left the squad to compete in 2004 as XSV, and that team finished up Friday with a single loss.
The Pro division fielded 24 teams, one of the biggest pro divisions in the history of the NPPL. Under the league's current plans it will be scaled back in 2005, and teams will need to earn their way in.
The weather improved on Saturday as the teams completed the semifinal round. Leading the pack into the pro quarter finals with 777 points was Naughty Dogs Inc. after dropping a scant 23 bodies over the course of the 8 games. Joining them would be the men from Chicago on Shock with 772 points earned. Dynasty dropped their last game, shooting 5 of their Shockwave UK's players for the third slot into quarters. Redz Hurricanes, Avalanche, Brimstone Smoke and Arsenal joined Dynasty in the grouping of one game dropped out of the 8 preliminaries. Ironmen dropped two games in the eight alongside Rage, XSV, Sedition and Infamous brought up the cut at 3 games dropped and a cut point of 531.
Division I teams would divide in half with 16 teams moving on from the original 32. Arsenal A Team and Viewloader Allstars tied for first and second in with 691 points, closely followed by Nemesis with a great showing at 687. Justice joined them in fourth with two drops with Farside, Future Ball, Vision Army, Psycho Circus, TX Storm, Wicked, Evil, and Fusion. The point differential was quite tight from 4th place to 12th with just 31 points between the teams. Evolution brought up 13th with three drops as well as The Edge, Colorado Shooters and Eclipse Factory Div 1 who rounded out the cut at a tight 500 points edging out Brimstone Fire by just a single point.
Division II teams had a tighter group to beat with 16 moving on out of 52 and the cut was higher than Division I to illustrate the battle. Infamy took the lead to quarters with a single loss and 696 points. The race for second through fifth was highly competitive with Atomix dropping just a single game and hitting at 692. Fury was right behind them with three points different, then Mox Nix with another three point spread and United tied with them at 686. Maxim 2 Factory took sixth place with two drops along with Shooters & Looters Div II, STP Severe, Formula and LTZ Destiny. Dropping three games in the preliminaries was a hard pill to swallow in this tight of a competition but was pulled off by a few teams. Yarddogs, X-Factor, Bonebrake Factory II, CPX Allstars, LA Exodus, and HG Gangstas who set the cut at 516. Untouchables and Epic-Chronic were close in the running, but having dropped games early in the event weren't able to pull out the points needed despite good performance in the last games of the preliminaries for a hard miss at 510 point and 506 respectively.
Like Division II, D III had over half of their teams going home after the first two days of competition with 54 teams hitting the fields but only 16 moving on to the quarter finals. Taking first was Full Force Factory with a single loss early in the event to earn 687 points. Paintball Mart Factory was close behind them with 683 and Oh No's brought in 675. Richmond Riot dropped two games in the eight for fourth joined by PTI, and Team Panic. BA Factory lost three of their games for a 543 and seventh place. A+ and FBM Factory likewise dropped three but on the upside had three games where they lost just a single body. LTZ made a repeat showing with three losses as well as APC Factory, Just Paintball, Organized Chaos, DHP, and Team Machine. As with most events that feature a larger grouping of less experienced teams, the cut can go fairly low though the odds of moving on with half of the games lost are really slim. Despite the odds, two teams pulled it off in Denver. Shooters & Looters dropped their first three games and another the second day but rounded up 447 points for 15th place. Axis as well had a half and half day the first day of the event and then dropped two the second day but pulled off a 440 for the final slot to quarters just edging out Femmes Fatale by a single point for the honor of moving to the quarterfinals.
Division I's 16 teams were broken into four brackets for the quarters. Striving to win top scores in the quarters was paramount to winning the bracket, enabling the teams to move on. Dropping a game could raise the stakes dramatically with a trip to finals hanging on the balance of a single body as was the case between the Division I teams. Colorado Shooters won all of their games to head into semi finals with top placement though they were followed by TX Storm who dropped a game and Farside who likewise dropped a game and won the chance at finals with just two points over Justice, a slim win of two bodies. Nemesis had an equally tight squeeze into the semi round over The Edge by just three points, a single elimination.
Fury led the Division II teams into the semi final round dropping just 7 bodies in the three games. Mox Nix had a great showing in the quarters as well, losing just 9 bodies. STP Severe dropped a game and edged out their bracket competitors Infamy by 3 points for the third slot. Shooters & Looters Div. II likewise dropped a game, but edged out Atomix with a slim 2 point lead.
Division III semi finalists had three teams showing wins for each of their quarter finals with Organized Chaos taking top marks, LTZ taking second and Paintball Mart just behind with five points between them. The fourth place spot did drop a single game in the quarters, but Just Paintball still won their bracket with 12 points to spare.
To the uninitiated, the semi final round resembled much what the final round typically looks like at events, but for the NPPL, the semi final round sets the placement for who would progress to compete for first and second place, then who would compete for third and fourth place. Settled purely on wins and losses, the games were played in the semi final rounds by the first and fourth ranked team pairing against each other and the second and third ranked team squaring off. Of those four, two would have more wins than losses and would then advance to be first and second in the finals and the other two would didn't fare as well during the semi round would compete for third and fourth place finals.
XSV and Dynasty paired off in the pro bracket with XSV squeaking past with a few bodies for the win while Infamous and Avalanche did the same, though Infamous was a tighter match for 'Lanche, winning both of their games for the best two out of three games. This would pit XSV and Infamous against each other for the first and second slot and Dynasty and Avalanche for third and fourth.
Colorado Shooters won out against Nemesis with two wins to Nemesis' single win to face the battle with TX Storm for first and second in the finals after Storm beat out Farside two to one.
Fury and Mox Nix would face off in finals in Division II after both teams won two games, eliminating the need for the third match against Shooters & Looters Div 2 and STP Severe.
In the same manner Organized Chaos and LTZ beat both of their opponents in a two game streak pitting Just Paintball and Paintball Mart against each other for the finals third and fourth place finishes.
Finals wrapped up in the afternoon on Sunday after a double win for Infamous secured them first place over XSV's single win for second. Dynasty won two games off of the bat against Avalanche for a third place win, 'Lanche taking fourth. Division I showed TX Storm facing off twice for a double win over Colorado Shooters for first place. Farside and Nemesis played three games for a double win to Farside for third. Fury continued their lead with two wins in the finals against Mox Nix for first and second place. Third and fourth were held by STP Severe over Shooters & Looters Div 2 with two wins and no losses for STP. Division III crowned Organized Chaos after a solid two game win over LTZ. Paintball Mart and Just Paintball butted heads three times trading games until Paintball Mart won their last match giving them third place.
While the cross-over teams were coming in to play from the NXL, none of them made it to the final four. Denver broke in a new venue for the league and a new playing surface. It also saw continued gun testing with the league's trigger bot, the most progressive program any league has undertaken to date to weed out equipment cheats. Testing led to the disqualification of two teams, and continued to set the pace rule enforcement.
From the mountains, the NPPL now heads west, to return to the location used as the second event of 2003, the training fields of Sam Boyd stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.