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The Men First
The final event of the 2004 NPPL Super 7 season retained its name, Commander's Cup, honoring the memory of music legend and tournament paintball player Maurice Gibb. While the name remained the same, the tournament found an all new location, crossing the United States from Gibb's hometown of Miami to a site much closer to the NPPL's hometown in Huntington Beach, California - Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
As has been the Hallmark of the Super 7 series, there was more than just a tournament, but a complete festival atmosphere adding a trade show, and music. The Commander's Cup tied in with the Billboard Rockmemoto tour to put 15 acts on stage, with free admission, utilizing the same stage for awards at the end of the event.
A major rules enforcement change was announced shortly before the start of the tournament. "Speedy chips" from Advantage PB were banned from use within the league. The NPPL has taken greater strides than any other US pro/am league to utilize computer based testing to fairly and impartially ensure that paintguns are operating consistent to the league's rules. When a paintgun is suspect, or merely tested at random, a computer controlled "testing robot" pulls the trigger at preset rates, while a ballistic chronograph is used to determine whether velocities increase beyond the 300 foot per second under rapid fire, and to make certain that only one shot is fired per trigger pull.
The league's testing caught numerous paintguns which had been set up illegally during the 2004 season. A problem comes however, with paintguns utilizing control boards that are designed specifically to cheat. One of the manufacturers to openly market cheater chips was Advantage PB. Their chips, offered for a variety of paintball guns are designed to operate in legal semi-auto mode, but switch into illegal modes when a secret combination is entered on the control buttons and or trigger. Unless tournament officials know the secret code, the illegal mode could not be caught through testing. Unfortunately the type of microprocessors used in most electronic paintguns make checking the software next to impossible. The NPPL rules committee addressed this issue by specifically banning Advantage PB's Speedy Chips.
This step marks a new direction for the league- banning product brands, rather than relying solely on a rule describing what functions and equipment are legal or prohibited. It provides a practical approach to combating a real problem facing all of tournament paintball.
In addition to the musical acts on site, the premiere of Cereal Killerz, the first major release from Monkey With a Gun was tied in as an evening activity. The debut showing was held at the La Paloma Theatre, a historic location in downtown Encinitas. The theatre first opened in 1927, and hosted some of the first talking motion pictures in the area. While Monkey With a Gun is a relatively new production company, the people behind it are not. As a team, Patrick and Bonnie Spohrer have experience both in paintball and film production. Bonnie is well known for her work in sales and marketing at JT USA, and better known for being the first “JT Girl” in the company’s advertising campaigns. Patrick brought his background in surf film production together with his experiences playing for The Family, when he partnered with Bryon Benini to produce Push and later Sunday Drivers. Push set a new standard in the genre of paintball videos, incorporating heavy use of music and a documentary look into the lifestyle of paintball teams, not just the action on the field. Spohrer remains unique among the producers of paintball videos in augmenting the look of his productions by shooting portions on motion picture film, in addition to video tape. Cereal Killerz opened to a sold out crowd of over 400 viewers.
The preliminary rounds of competition ran Friday and Saturday. With one hundred and seventy five teams competing on only five fields, these were two long days for the field crews and referees. Games started at 8:00 am, and ran to 8:00 at night, with the help of artificial lighting. Three of the five fields were afforded a 9-minute lunch break in the schedule.
As has been the case through the full 2004 season, the NPPL has been putting technology to use, to verify whether player equipment is meeting the letter of the law as set down in the NPPL rules. Limiting a paintgun to fire one shot per trigger pulls sounds like an easy task, but with light, sensitive electronic triggers, and the potential for software to add extra shots, or boost velocity, the only way to accurately check is with purpose designed test equipment. During the preliminary rounds an Entourage player was found with a paintgun operating outside of the limits. When tested by the league’s scrutineer Dave Zinkham, using a computer controlled test robot and ballistic choronograph, the paintgun fired 29 shots when the robot pulled the trigger twenty times at a rate of ten pulls per second. According to Zinkham, the ‘gun was a Dynasty Shocker equipped with a Tadao board, with the debounce setting at one. Zinkham stated that he believed the problem lay not in the board or the paintgun, but in how it was adjusted. When previously testing Tadao board Shockers, Zinkham has found a debounce setting of four or higher to be most reliable at properly filtering out switch noise, and operating within the rules. As a result, of the gun penalty Entourage was disqualified from the event. That was not the only technical penalty Zinkham had to deal with during the event. Dynasty received a zero score on one game when a player initially refused to hand a paintgun to a referee for inspection. According to Zinkham, Oliver Lang pressed a button on the grip frame before eventually relinquishing his Shocker for analysis.
For the 32 pro teams competing, the Commander’s Cup represented the last shot at gaining series ranking points which would be used to determine which teams were eligible to compete at the professional rank in the 2005 season. For TonTon Flingeur and Nexus, the tournament would be crucial, as they were both tied with the same number of ranking points coming into the event right on the break. Nexus had the ranking edge, having played more of the Super7 events than the Tontons (Super 7 series points also take into account rankings in Europe’s Millennium Series)
In SanDiego, the top ranking pros were all practically neck and neck through the prelims. Avalanche ranked first at 700 points, followed by XSV and Famous. Eighth place Ironmen were a mere 18 points away from top ranked Avalanche. Rage took the 16th position, capping off the list of teams going to the quarterfinals. They beat out Bushwackers International for the slot by 6 points.
The Edge led the 12 D1 teams going into the quarters, though there was a greater point spread between these teams. Fusion and Texas Storm followed in second and third rank, while Colorado Shooters beat out Arsenal A for the bottom slot.
In Division 2 it was Mox Nix on top. They were ahead of United by a single point, just like the top two teams in D1. Deadbox Factory Team went in the third slot ranking lower by just another point. Captain Carl’s Factory Team beat out the B*Slap Factory team for the 16th and last position moving on to the quarterfinals.
PTI topped the 16 Division 3 teams where were moving on. They were closely trailed by Less Than Zero (LTZ) and Organized Chaos. Circle Factory had enough lead on So-Cal Paintball Factory to claim the 16th quarterfinal slot.
For the pros, the Ironmen topped their division, beating out Avalanche who’s recent record had pegged them as likely to make it into the final four. XSV beat the other teams in their division as did Nexus and The Men. In Division 1, Justice, Fusion, and Regime topped their divisions to advance. With fewer teams competing that the other player classification, Division 1 only had three semifinal divisions. In addition to the top team in each division advancing, a third, wild card team was selected for having the highest score of the remaining nine teams. Texas Storm made it into the semis as the wild card. For Division 2, the sorting of the quarterfinals produced DeadBox Factory Team, United, Invasion and Atomix as semifinalists. In Division 3, it was Just Paintball, Organized Chaos, Stormfront and NTK Factory who led their divisions to move on.
In the Super 7, semifinals don’t eliminate teams, they simply re-rank them for the finals. The highest ranked advancing team from the quarterfinals plays the lowest ranked, while the second ranked plays the third ranked. These pairings play for the best two out of three games. The two winning semifinalist teams move on to the finals to play the best two out of three to determine first and second place, while the two losing teams play the best two out of three to determine third and fourth.
In the pro division Nexus beat the Ironmen in their fist game, but lost the second. The Ironmen won the third. XSV lost their first game against The Men, but won the second. The third game went to The Men.
Regime won their first game against Justice in the Division 1 semifinals, but lost the second, and won the third to win the round. Texas Storm defeated Fusion twice in a row.
In division 2, Atomix beat DeadBox Factory Team the first game, but lost the next two. United won their first game against Invasion, but lost the second, and picked up the round with a win in the third.
NTK beat Just Paintball in their first game during the Division 3 semis, but lost the second, and won the third for the win. Storm front posted back to back wins over Organized Chaos.
It all came down to the finals. In the pro division The Men beat Ironmen twice in a row to take first, with The Men in second. Nexus posted two consecutive wins over NXS to grab third place.
In Division 1, it was Regime with a
pair of wins over Texas Storm that took first. Fusion defeated Justice
twice in a row for third. DeadBox Factory Team lost their first game
against United, fighting for first place in Division 2, but they won the
two following games and took the trophy. Atomix defeated Invasion
twice for third place. The Division 3 trophy went to Stormfront after
a pair of wins against NTK Factory, while Organized Chaos took a win, then
a loss, and a final win against Just Paintball for a third place finish.