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Diablo Mardi Gras Open 2002
January 25-27, 2002
New Orleans, LA

Rookie First Place - SSG
Novice First Place - Exile
Amateur First Place - Brass Eagle All Stars
Professional First Place - Ground Zero Bedlam
Alex Fraige - One-On-One competition

The 2002 Diablo Mardi Gras Open marks not only the third year for this Pro/Am event, but the kick-off of the pro season in North America.  While it is not part of the NPPL series, the MGO is one of the few US tournaments to include a pro division, and is often looked at as pre-season action for the NPPL, especially since the games are played with NPPL rules.  New team rosters make their first appearance and the party atmosphere of the event is bringing in more vendors and spectators than ever before.

If New Orleans is anything, it is a party town.  Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are filled with jazz music and history by day, and by bars and street parties at night.  With the 2002 Super Bowl scheduled for Mardi Gras Week, Mardi Gras celebrations were moved earlier in the calendar year, to put less of a burden on police and emergency services.  The tournament followed Mardi Gras to the earlier dates, to keep hotel rooms available, and for players to enjoy the parties.  The shadow of the impending Superbowl had a visible effect - even one of the Mardi Gras parade crewes had specialo throws which were later selected in a drawing for Superbowl tickets.

The tournament was held in its traditional location, the Alario Center, on the West bank of the Mississippi River.  Like the 2001 tournament, the fields were outdoors and utilized inflateable bunkers.  Some of the fields were made of Sup'Air bunkers while others were Ultimate Airball.  Amongst the unique bunkers were the Mardi Gras Ultimate Airball field in purple, green and gold with Mardi Gras mask logos, and Warped Sportz' Sup'Air field with "dark" logo head shaped bunkers.  The fields were separated from the spectator areas by netting, which this year was suitably strong for the task.  Field layout was overseen by NPPL Site Coordinator Robert "Rosie" Rose.  The 5 man center flag games began on Friday, starting between the scheduled 7:30 am and 8:00 am, and kept up at a fair pace through the day, not getting unreasonably behind schedule.  Rains and wind Thursday night left many of the fields wet, and the walkways between them deteriorated into muddy quagmires very rapidly.  The event staff moved quickly, laying down fabric over the mud and topping it with gravel and sand which made the areas passable.  The Alario Center staff has become very supportive of the tournament, working hard to keep pace with the mud and paint mess, realizing it goes with the terrirory.

Since the departure of back player and field captain Frank Connel from the All Americans at World Cup 2001, many had speculated where he would end up.  His appearance at Mardi Gras reffing with Jax Warriors provided the answer.  Another major change for the Warriors, in addition to picking up Connel was the change from Airgun Designs to Worr Game Products as their gun sponsor.  All Americans 2 also reffed at the event.  Strange made their first appearance as a pro team.  In Fall of 2001 they had discussed  playing Am, going pro at LA Open.

Making its debut, both to the public, and performing on the field was the Angel IR3.  This third generation electropneumatic paintgun from WDP of England is more compact and lighter weight than its predecessors, features anti-chop ball sensor technology, much more advanced operating software, infrared communication technology, and new 90 degree grip frame, adjustable pivot point trigger and more features.  The IR3 was used by members of Dynasty (see picture of Brian Cole at the top of this page), Ground Zero and Avalanche.  For an in-depth preview of the Angel IR3, Click Here

Another debut was Draxxus.  Familiar lines of paint from Pro Caps, Blaze, Midnight, Inferno and Hellfire which have been marketed under the Diablo brand name were available in boxes devoid of the Diablo name.  Draxxus paint will be the familiar Diablo paint brands with either the Draxxus logo, or an event sponsor's logo printed on the ball, produced for special events including theme matched colors and formulations for best performance in the event's expected weather.

In a Friday evening Press Conference, Craig Miller of Diablo Direct and Debra Krischke of Team Effort events made a number of announcements concerning the 2002 International Amateur Open and Spyder Cup.  The Amateur Open, as previously announced is being sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods which will promote the tournament to over 14 million US homes via their advertising inserts in newspapers nationwide.  The tournament is being relocated from it's longtime home in Cranberry, PA to a fairgrounds in Butler, PA roughly 20 minutes drive from Cranberry.  The new game site will feature only concept fields.  Celebrating their 10th anniversary, instead of hosting the Spyder Cup this year, Kingman International is offering a contingency prize for the IAO.  All teams who compete in the 5 man competitions of the 2002 International Amateur Open using only Spyders will get their entry fee paid by Kingman International.  In addition to the regular tournament prizes, an Amateur team coming in first place using all Kingman paintguns will receive a $50,000 contingency bonus.  Novice and rookie first place winners using all Kingman paintguns will receive as yet to be decided contingency prize packages.

Many teams are changing up sponsorships for paint, and or for clothing and goggles in 2002.  JT USA has long had a stipulation in its sponsorship contracts that sponsored teams could not put competing manufacturer's logo's on their jerseys.  With the introduction of the JT Maxim paintball in later 2001 and expanded efforts to market it, many teams had to make a tough choice for their 2002 contracts.  Some, like Avalanche are changing paint to JT, while others like Jax Warriors have moved to new goggles (V Force).

Outdoors a number of manufacturers and distributors set up trailers and tents.  DYE, Diablo (who were showing the new more gas efficient LCD E Matrix), JT, National Paintball Supply, North America, and Paintball Inc. all had trailers on site.  WDP and Warped Sportz had side by side tents.  While the IR3 was the object of attention in the front of these tents, WDP's fabled "Heaven" party lounge in the back was an entertainment mecca.  In an effort to keep raising the bar, this incarnation of Heaven was bigger and better than in the past.  A grafitti lined hallway with effect lighting led to a small padded cell with an IR3 on diplay in the center.  From there another hallway with black flourescent 02/02/02 IR3 release dates painted on the floor and walls led to the main club floor where live DJ mixes, effect lighting and four overhead video screens rivaled some of the dance clubs in town.  An outside patio had plenty of chill space.

Inside the Alario Center the main arena floor was used for teams to stage in comfort.  In the room next door trade show booths displayed the latest in paintball technology.  See the trade show photo gallery for a tour of the event vendors.  Highlight products included the E-Mag Extreme, Shocktech SFL series, AKALMP Excalibur, Racegun, Uprising and Firestorm electro conversions for the Autococker, the low cost Black Dragun electro and more.  At the north end of the room, the stage was covered with trophies, and the CR125 and CR250 motorcycles that were going to the top amateur and pro teams.

Air fills at the event were provided by Paintball Sports Promotions' Bauer compressors and self operated fill stations, keeping the air fill lines minimal to non existant.

Outdoors, on the game fields, the teams played round robin preliminary games in divisions by their classification.  Unlike the NPPL, teams only face like ranked teams (i.e. pros only play pros, ams only play ams).  On Friday, most teams completed 4 of their 8 games, while some only managed 3, and some got in 5.  The turnout for the tournament was slightly less than the year before, but had an increased international contingent with 12 foreign teams.  51 of the competing teams were rookies, 38 novice, 23 amateur, and 19 professional.

Saturday saw the preliminaries wrap up with an interesting showing from the Professionals and Amateurs.  Strange made the cut second in their division at their first pro event.  Ground Zero saw both of their teams in as well as both of Avalanche's.  Dynasty and Ironmen both got one of their two squads in as well as Bob Long's Men making the cut.  The Family played as Amateur (equivalent to NPPL Amateur A a move up from Amateur B/Novice) this event with some new faces and proved their new status with only one loss to Push in their 8 prelim games.  Addicted made a comeback - first in the Amateur bracket.  Nemesis proved well equipped with their Spyders with a favorable score as well as Trauma following their big World Cup win.  In the Novice bracket  N'Control played without any losses in the prelims, setting them apart from their competitors with Strange B right behind them with a 7 maxxed games and a 45 point score.

The Ironmen are mixing up the roster this year with some old faces missing and some new appearing.  Brian Ravenel and Mike Foss from Naughty Dogs will be joining them in LA, as well as Andy Kopcok who used to play with Image.  Matt Schuster will also be a new face for them.  Missing is Shane Pestana, Marty Bush and Brahim Estephan - we will miss you guys!

In a Saturday evening press conference the acquisition of the V-Force product line by the Diablo family of companies was announced.  V-Force will be produced by Airtech, the same company producing the E-Matrix, and marketed by Diablo Direct.  The sale of V-Force followed court ordered financial restructuring of it's previous owner, Leader.  Dramatic news was unveiled as Gino Postorivo of National Paintball Supply North America was brought into the conference.  Diablo Direct's Craig Miller announced that in answer to rumors of a trademark dispute over the Diablo name between ProCaps (manufacturers of Diablo paint) and National Paintball Supply (who had previously marketed a pump paintgun called the Diablo) have been amicably resolved.  Additionally, Miller announced that through negotiation over the name, the two companies had realized they could both benefit from joint marketing agreements.  Miller showed the 93 page contract that was being finalized, and stated that the details of the arrangement would be announced once it was fcompleted.

The games of semi-finals and finals on Sunday got off to a timlely start and wrapped up early.  Games ran quickly with very aggressive play.   The Rookie bracket in semi-finals showed an interesting pattern with the seated 7, 8, 11, and 13th ranked teams going into the finals.  SSG performed flawlessly in the finals taking the top rank in the Rookie bracket.  The Novice bracket had a nice showing from the North West  and Florida teams with Exile taking the top slot.  Brass Eagle performed well in the Amateur bracket with stiff competition from Addicted, Trauma and Brimstone Smoke.  Brimstone Smoke is a new addition to the Amateur bracket - they're the factory team from the Ultimate Airball company and are expected to perform well this season in the NPPL.

In the Professional bracket, Ground Zero showed both squads to be strong into the finals, taking first and third place.  GZ Bedlam made their finish shooting Bob Long's new version of the Intimidator, which is substantially lighter and more compact than the original, without the LCD display on the side.  Strange took second in their first professional showing - an excellent start to their season.  One of Avalanche's squads made the cut into finals and were fourth overall after the scores were tallied. 

One game in particular between Strange and Avalanche was especially noted - an Avalanche player (Eric Roberts) hung the flag with obvious hits, after the final Strange player (Paul Alders) had been shot by Travis Lemanski.   A one-for-one penalty was assessed to Avalanche for the penalty of hanging the flag with hits, eliminating Travis and giving Strange the automatic hang of the flag. 

The one-on-one competition followed the tournament games with quite a few participants - Alex Fraige of Dynasty beat out Little John from Bob Long's Ironmen for top honors and a motorcycle.

Many thanks to Scott Rojas, Blake, Greg and all the hard working staff at the Alario Center for the use of their phone line for our updates.  Thank you to Steve Rabackoff for the support and love.  Cliffy Herring - you are what makes this event run behind the scenes - heart, soul and tons of effort show and make everyone look good.  Thanks also to the GZ crew for the love. 

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