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Chicago Open NPPL
June 20-24, 2001
The third leg of the 2001 NPPL tournament season is held in its traditional location, The Badlandz - home field to Aftershock in Crete, IL, just south of Chicago.
Two weeks prior to the tournament, the NPPL steering committee met in Chicago to review league structure, and negotiate with Paintball Sports Promotions, the collective pool of event promoters producing the NPPL events. In a meeting that went smoother than many expected, the promoters agreed, among other points, to pay a $5,000 per event sanctioning fee to the league to support its budget (in addition to funds for expenses including the ID card system, and staffing, which the promoters have already provided), and that the league would be capable of licensing its name for apparel and other means of fund raising. The steering committee reaffirmed Tom Cole in the position of president, presiding over the league.
Also, as a result of rules committee decisions, ultimate judge Bill Cookston announced that beginning with the 2002 season the league will allow paintguns capable of pump or semi-automatic modes only (no burst, turbo, or other enhanced modes.) This varies from the present rule which allows paintguns capable of these alternate modes so long as they are "locked out" on the field. Beginning with the Atlantic City tournament (the 4th of the 2001 season), players will be prohibited from wearing metal cleats. Further production of player ID cards moved along the transition to required league ID for all players on the field. ID cards will not be required for 5 man team members in the 2001 season (it is expected for 2002). While required for 10 man, full enforcement was not planned for Chicago until the last day of the event, in order to allow time for the cards to be produced.
The acceptance of barrel bag style barrel blocking devices like the Warrior Sports Gear "Barrel Condom" and Unique Sporting's "Barrel Jimmy" is now complete in the NPPL. Barrel plugs, squeegies in the barrel, or removing the barrel are no longer accepted - all paintguns off the field must have their barrel covered by a bag style barrel blocker which is connected to the paintgun by a lanyard or strap so that it can not be shot off.
In addition to the Badlandz' two Hyperball style fields, and temporary inflatable fields, 2001 saw the opening of a third Hyperball field, with a very unique layout with an end to end alley down the center. This leaves a dead run from flag station to flag station, but bunkers lining the alley protect much of it from angled shots. See the new field layout here.
In 2000, many expressed disappointment with the Badlandz tournament site - especially with netting and trash. Their message was heard. All new poles and netting provided tight 20 foot netting separating the spectator areas from the fields. Between the fields, 10 foot high netting provided protected alleys for on-deck teams and field staff.
The 5 man competition kicked off bright and early at 8:00 am. Changes from the schedules which had been printed before caused some confusion early on, until new schedules were distributed to all of the teams, this due to late entries. The new Hyperball field proved to be an exciting challenge. Most teams brave enough to send a runner straight to the flag on the break managed a first pull, but often lost that player moments later to a shot from a mid-field stand up.
Due to small numbers of teams, the pro and Amateur A divisions went straight to finals, rather than having semifinal games first. While the weather had been beautiful - comfortable and overcast for the prelims, the second day of five man was not so. Light rain in the morning dampened players, the fields, and paint. The 8 pro teams - some sister teams - had entertaining games early on. Ground Zero Chaos vs Ground Zero Bedlam could have been better titled as "The Over 30s" vs "The Under 30s." It started rather even, but player by player, the tide of the game changed, and Will Arroyo started hamming it up for the cheering crowd as youth prevailed.
Unfortunately, the rain did not stay light for long. By mid day it had become an unyielding downpour. The pro teams, concerned over the possibility of mud related injuries like sprained ankles affecting their play in the 10 man competition voted to cancel their remaining games, and divide the prize pot evenly - and many of the amateur players who were sticking it out through the mud, muck and cold, ridiculed them for their choice. Those which voted to keep playing were even more frustrated. "I protest everything," said Dynasty's Marcus Nielson, "I came here to play."
While the 10 player teams got to walk the fields in the rain, their preliminary games on Friday were played under partly cloudy skies with comfortable temperatures.
Scheduling for the 10 man competition was changed up at this event. With the Amateur B teams greatly outnumbering the Amateur A teams, pros played Amateur Bs and other pros in the prelims and almost no As, while the Bs played mainly against pros and As. Though this meant some tougher games for the Amateur B teams, the schedules worked out providing even levels of competition for each team. Scheduling put most of the Pro vs. Am B games on Friday, and most of the pro vs pro games on Saturday.
"I like that," said David Connell of the Jax Warriors, "our games against pros are like warming up for the semifinals - its like having quarterfinals." A few surprise upsets of pro teams by Am Bs cost valuable points on Friday. Connell also pointed out that the Amateur A teams playing mainly against As and Bs rather than pros didn't give them as much challenge by which to improve themselves.
Under the Vendor's tent, Crossfire, Centerflag, Smart Parts, Sandridge, Air America, Airgun Designs, Xtreme Enterprises Paintballs, WDP, and KAPP all showed products and provided tech support to their customers. Outside, National Paintball Supply North America, TC Paintball, Diablo and PMI had semi trailers full of paint for players, while Diablo ringed theirs with tents full of Diablo Direct's product lines.
Sandridge Paintball showed a couple of new products. A metal cover retailing for $30 provides solid protection for the $50 ball sensor on Sandridge Force 5 electronic autocockers. A drop in replacement board for the Viewloader Revolution loader's electronics gets rid of the electronic eye agitating the loader each time the 'gun is fired rather than waiting for a gap in the stack of paintballs in the feed neck. The board measures the minute back and forth accelleration of the hopper due to paintgun recoil. By spinning the loader paddles for a very brief burst with each shot, Sandridge says ball jams are prevented and battery life is extended.
The 10 man scoreboard took a different format than usual. Rather than teams being listed in each of their multiple divisions, they were segregated into three groups - Pro, Am A and Am B. This makes comparison of total scores and who will advance a bit more apparent, while it requires an additional look at game schedules to figure out which teams faced which by division.
Friday evening saw what was billed as "The Player's Party Of The Century." 32 Degrees, Bad Boyz Toyz, Diablo, DYE, Extreme Rage, JT, KAPP, PMI and Shocktech teamed up to sponsor a major players party that consisted of a catered dinner of ribs and chicken, followed by mixed martial arts Ultimate Fighting Championship competitions. Featured fighters were Jeremy Horn, Adrian Serano, and Jim Theobold.
Paintball Sports Promotions invested in 11 booster pumps to handle the air fills, and avoid the delays seen in Gettysburg. Failures on site, prompted a visit from a Teledyne engineer to rebuild failed units. With extra pumps in reserve, the air kept flowing with short lines through most of the event and a 15-20 minute wait at the peak when morning session prelims ended and afternoon session players were getting their first fills.
Through the prelims, Bad Company, which has been a sleeper team the last few years, was on fire. With Image having self-destructed shortly before the tournament, Lane Wright moved to Bad Company, and added to the team's momentum. Their wins against Ironmen and Lockout surprised many onlookers. Recently sponsored by Kingman, most of the team was shooting Spyders with Centerflag electronic triggers. Unfortunately, they could not keep the heat on in the semi-finals on Sunday where they were culled from the pack.
Bob Long's Ironmen, Rage and Ground Zero, were also trimmed out in the semis. GZs' last game was against the Ironmen, and despite not moving to finals, they won the game which adds to season series points. Playing on the gauntlet field, Ironmen lost a player on the break as did GZ. Ironmen sent Catfish up the middle to camp and wait for a shot while their back line spread and Billy Wing made his way to the diamond on the right side. Stacking players to the left side, GZ cleared all but Rich Telford who was on the back right stand-up. They eventually made their push on the left, sending a player into the center alley for Catfish and taking Telford when he went for that player. By the time they took Brahim Estephan out of the back right he had just loaded his last pod of paint, and Ground Zero's Mike "Fritz" Renner managed a flag pull, but could not hang before the clock ran out.
One of the most crowd pleasing games
of the finals was Dynasty versus Avalanche on the Badlandz' original Hyperball
field. Dynasty pushed hard grabbing the diamond on the right side
early on, and making their way to the complex of pipes around the central
tree. Their first attempt to cross the center failed, but the second
succeeded taking out Todd Martinez. Dynasty moved up the tape lines
at the same time, advancing in an even front and holding three quarters
of the field. As they hammered on the remaining back players, they
whittled 'lanche down to Chris LaSoya. A ref went in to check LaSoya,
when he came back out, Dynasty saw an armband he was holding and assumed
it was LaSoya's when the ref had actually pulled it from another player
earlier in the game. LaSoya walked calmly out of the bunker, and
moved about 10 yards before sprinting three fourths of the field, and shooting
all the way. He took out three Dynasty players with his dead man's
walk, and made it safely to a bunker before being eliminated. Dynasty
still had enough time on the clock for a successful pull and hang.
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