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NPPL Miami 
Commander's Cup 2005
November 4-6, 2005

San Diego Dynasty - 2005 Pro Series Champs

San Diego Dynasty - First Place Pro
XS NRG - First Place SemiPro
Voltage - First Place DI
X-Factor - First Place DII
Atomix Nation - First Place DIII

As the final event of its 2005 season, the NPPL Super 7 World Series from Pure Promotions descended on the South Florida nightlife capital of Miami.  In 2003, the NPPL unveiled the Commander’s Cup as its finale event in Tamiami Park, Miami.  The event took its name from Maurice “Commander Mo” Gibb, music industry Icon, knight and player of both tournament and scenario paintball.

In 2002, Gibb worked on plans for the Commander’s Cup, a tournament to be held on the beach at a Caribbean island resort.  After his untimely passing in early 2003, NPPL, Inc., chose to name its season ender in honor of the man who used his entertainment industry connections to promote the game rather than promote himself as a player of the game, and to donate a portion of the tournament's proceeds to the Gibb Family Foundation, a not for profit charity. 

The first Commander’s Cup was filled with tough competition, but heavy rains before the tournament combined with Tamiami Park’s sports fields to provide a less than stellar playing surface.  The following year, the tournament was relocated to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, with NPPL Action Turf giving an even playing surface to every field.  For the Super 7’s third season the Commander’s Cup came back to Miami, but this time with a new venue.

Bicentennial Park, located right on the shore of Biscayne Bay is in the heart of downtown Miami.  It consists of wide open, level and lush grass fields built to handle Florida weather.  Biscayne Bay is protected from the Atlantic Ocean by the barrier island of Miami Beach, but is close enough that ocean breezes make their way through the site even on the hottest days. 

The park is no stranger to paintball.  In 2002, Shutdown Productions held the Beyond 2002 extreme sports and music festival on the site.  Twenty-two teams, including Maurice Gibb and his Royal Rat Rangers competed in the park surrounded by skateboarders, inline skaters, ski-jumpers, freestyle motocross jumpers, and live music acts including Fatboy Slim, Less Than Jake, Stone Temple Pilots, Third Eye Blind, The Offspring, Snoop Dog and more. 

For 2005, weather became more of a concern than it had been in 2003.  The year’s record breaking Atlantic Hurricane season had been extended into the month of November, based climate changes over the previous year.  Hurricane Wilma ripped through South Florida, impacting Miami and Fort Lauderdale just a week and a half before the Commander’s Cup was scheduled to begin.  While damage to the park wasn’t such a concern – grass isn’t likely to up and blow away – the infrastructure of Miami was.  In the days following the storm over 6 million homes and businesses were without electrical power in the region, and gasoline was in such short supply that some people were driving as much as three hours to the north to load up vehicles full of gas cans. 

Before giving the green light that Commander’s Cup 2005 was still on as scheduled, Pure Promotions CEO Bart Walkerdine scouted out the region, and not only looked over the venue, but also met with hotel operators, and city officials to ensure that teams, vendors and tournament support staff could all do their jobs without overburdening the recovering city.  Assured that Miami was ready for the NPPL, the go-ahead was given, and Pure Promotions confirmed that they would start the sold-out tournament on schedule Friday morning, with the event site alive on Thursday with teams walking fields and finishing last minute registration tasks.  Being held just a week after the PSP Paintball World Cup in Orlando, many teams and vendors hit Miami early, taking the week to practice, or simply relax in Florida rather than returning home between events.  While downtown Miami was still in pretty good shape after the storm, a few toppled trees and non-functional traffic lights remained as signs of the rough weather.

As has become standard fare for NPPL 7-man World Series events, Commander’s Cup wouldn’t be just a paintball tournament – it would also have one of the largest trade shows of the series with paintball manufacturers selling direct to the public, and it would take advantage of two stages on the site for a music festival along with the games.

As the final tournament of the NPPL 2005 season, teams at the Commander’s Cup would be competing not just to win the tournament - though the $50,000 prize for first place pro will probably be on a few minds - but battling in their last bid for ranking points in the series title competition. 

For the Pro and semi-pro teams, series rankings became critical in 2005.  The leagues’ new closed-pro structure means that at when the Commander’s Cup is done, the lowest three pro teams will loose their right to compete as pros next year, and the top three semi-pro teams will be bumped up to pro.  With the visibility the pro division gets, as well as the exposure it will be getting on the new television series which are covering the NPPL, rankings will definitely play into team sponsorship dollars in 2006.

As for who will come out of Miami as the 2005 champions Dynasty was definitely the pro favorite.  Ranked at 101 points compared to Sacramento XSV’s 95, a win would not be necessary for the boys in Blue to be the champions.  First place would earn 26 series points, and second 23 points – a margin much smaller than that of Dynasty’s lead. 

Dynasty had earned their strong position by winning Huntington Beach, Tampa and San Diego, while finishing second at Denver.  Second ranked XSV was the winner at Denver, coming in second at San Diego and Tampa, but was down in points because of a weak season start at Huntington Beach.  Looking at the two teams performance at major US events in 2005 (both NPPL and PSP,)it is easy to see that XSV had a slow start, but picked up momentum, and was direct competition for Dynasty by mid-year.

Picking the likely first and second place winners based on their 2005 performance was straightforward, but after that the field was more widely spread.  Of the third through eighth ranked teams, third ranked San Francisco Avalanche did not perform well at San Diego as they did at the start of the season, while both Oakland Empire and Stockholm Joy Division were on the upswing.

Games started on Friday, with the pros slated to play on the NPPL center court field, and number two field, getting their prelims out of the way in a single day, so their quarterfinals, semis and finals could all be held on the center court field, recorded by a production crew for later airing on one of the ESPN networks.  Meanwhile, divisional teams played their preliminary rounds on the remaining four fields. 

Super 7 World Series tournaments are scheduled to run at a rapid pace, with little room for error and Commander’s Cup was no exception.  The time limit for each game is 7 minutes, with two minutes allotted to turn around the field for the next game.  Fields were scheduled to play for twelve hours from 7:00am to 7:00pm.  On Friday, not all of the fields could keep to schedule, and despite playing through the originally planned lunch break a number of Friday’s games remained to be played when the sunlight faded.  These games ended up having to be bounced to a 6:30 start on Saturday.  On Saturday, some games were delayed even further, as a group of referees facing a 12 and a half hour non-stop shift, took their own lunch break, rather than continue working straight through.

The layout of fields on Bicentennial Park allowed for the player’s paddock and public access areas to be completely separated, while giving most of the fields at least half of one edge visible to spectators.  The primary field, the NPPL stadium field offered raised seating on both side lines, for excellent visibility.  End zone platforms, and even a manlift reaching over 40 feet in the air allowed for several viewpoints to be captures on video.

The Pro Prelims on Fiday played as a closed division, the pros only playing against each other.  With eight games each, the pro teams were playing in two divisions of 9 teams each.  At the end of the prelims, the top four teams from each division ranked by their total game scores moved on to the quarterfinals.  The Portland Naughty Dogs came out of the prelims with the highest ranking, at 699 points, they had only suffered a single loss.  Sacramento XSV ranked in second and San Diego Dynasty in third.  OC Bushwackers made the cut in the fourth seed.  As the next to last ranked team in the league, their finish in Miami would be critical to maintaining their place in the pro division.  London Tigers came over in the fifth position, Sockholm Joy Division in sixth, New England Hurricanes seventh and Chicago Evil in eighth. DC Arsenal, HB Redz Sedition, Los Angeles Infamous, Oakland Empire, Tolouse TonTons, London Nexus, Manchester Shockwave, Miami Rage, Pittsburgh Smoke, and San Francisco Avalanche were all stopped in their tracks by the prelim cut.

The semi-pros had their preliminary round games spread over two days.  Famous, Trauma and Dynasty Dynamics were the top three teams in the division, where 16 of the 38 registered teams (Influence was a no-show) were advanced to the quarterfinals on Sunday.  Team Strange and Doc’s Raiders were both tied at 526 points, but a tiebreaker determination sent Strange on in the 16th slot, and sent the Raiders home.

In Division I, Jax Warriors finished prelims at the top of the heap.  Triple Tap and Voltage were hot on their heels.  E-Jam Vendetta made the cut in the 16th position, edging out Urban Quest by 4 points.  Quest and the other dozen teams below them were knocked out by the prelims.

Colorado Raiders, United and were the leaders of Division II, where 16 teams went to the quarterfinals, but the rest of the 45 teams were done.  With 66 teams registered, Division III was the largest of the divisions.  While two teams didn’t make the event, the remainder did, and were trimmed down to the 16 best by the prelims.  At the end of the round Oklahoma Impact, RXN and DSO were the leaders of the group.

The Pro quarterfinals, which started on Saturday used best two out of three wins to narrow down the field of 8 teams to four, all the while under the watchful eyes of the camera crews shooting for the ESPN networks.  The team that has dominated the Super 7 since its foundation, San Diego Dynasty finished the pro quarters in the top ranked slot, followed by Sacramento XSV, Stockholm Joy Division and the Portland Naughty Dogs. 

The Semipro quarterfinals whittled their pack down to Arsenal A, Bob Long’s Assassins, Bad Company and XS NRG.  In Division I, it was Triple Tap, Critical, Texas Storm and Voltage.  Division II’s quarterfinal survivors were X Factor, Colorado Raiders and Miami Devious.  Division III was trimmed down to Anarchy, Sinful, Atomix Nation and DSO.

For each division, the quarterfinals left only four teams standing.  These teams would end up in first through fourth place.  The semifinals and finals would not eliminate teams, but they would decide their order of finish.  Based on their performance in the quarterfinals, the top ranked team would play the lowest, and the second would play the third.  The best two out of three games would re-order the teams.  The winners would play against each other in the finals for first and second place, while the losers would play against each other for third and fourth.

Re-sorted by the semifinals, the teams headed into the final rounds with the sun creeping lower in the western sky.  In Division III, DSO defeated Sinful twice in a row for third place.  Anarchy lost their first game against Atomix Nation, but turned it around for the second.  The third they lost, giving Atomix Nation first place in DIII and 2nd to Anarchy.

Untouchables Redz beat Miami Devious, then lost to them, and then beat them again for third place in Division II.  Colorado Raiders won their first game against X-Factor, but lost the next two, taking home second place and putting X-Factor in first.

The first Division I game between Triple Tap and Texas Storm was a tie at 21 points each – no pull or hang.  Storm won the next two games outright and finished in third place.  Voltage won the first round against, but lost the second.  They came back for the third and won the division, with Critical in second place.

In the SemiPro Division, Arsenal A fell in their first game against Bad Company, but rallied to win the second.  The third round went to Company, who finished in third place.  Bob Long’s Assassins defeated XS NRG in their first game, but fell the next two, finishing second with XS in first.

For the Pros, the finals weren’t best two out of three – they were best 3 out of 5, giving the TV cameras more opportunities to capture the top games of the tournament.  The battle for first place was between San Diego Dynasty and Sacramento XSV.  Bam, bam, bam – Dynasty took place with three wins in a row.  In the fight for third place there was much more drama.  The Portland Naughty Dogs won their first game against Sockholm Joy Division, but tied the second.  They won the third on body count by just four points, with neither team getting a flag pull.  In the fourth game Joy Division won.  This game also had no flag pull or hang, but was won on body count.  For the fifth and decisive game the Naughty Dogs kicked it up and won 97 to 9 – their third win which gave them third place.

After three non-stop days of paintball, the 2005 NPPL Super-7 World Series paintball season came to a close, but that was not the end of things.  In NPPL and Pure Promotions style it was time for the South Beach player’s party, an end of year blowout celebrating the league’s winners.  With footage in the can, video crews would next be preparing to bring the Super-7 to one of ESPN’s channels, and the league would begin preparations for 2006.

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