Select Page

justin rabackoff

Because fans, followers, supporters and advocates for the game generally tend to get carried away. Before you know it one notable event or killer move preserved on video or unexpected move to a new team for the rumored big pay day and another “superstar” is born. The term has been over-hyped. Excessively. (Although at the time of their original formation XSV was intended to be a “superstar” team built to compete with Dynasty.)

But the issue isn’t undeserving players given too much credit or publicity. That’s largely how the business of paintball has gone about promoting the products of paintball and under those circumstances it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that real contenders for titles aren’t the biggest collections of superstars but instead are the teams that best bring together the talents they have and function most like a team.

At this point the argumentative might offer up a variation of the chicken or the egg debate; which came first? They will grant the team concept but insist without the superstars even the teamiest team is unlikely to succeed at the summit of competition. And it’s a tough egg, er, argument to crack because there is some truth in it. Certainly, everything else being equal, talent should win out. But of course all other factors are never equal—which is why the history of sports is awash with unfulfilled greatness; teams that should have won yet never did.

By way of example let’s look at the success of the latest superstar team in the NBA, the Miami Heat. If you’re being generous they have 3 superstars. If you’re being honest they have 2 and a half at best on an active roster of 12. And if you are paying attention you’re aware than they play a fundamentally sound aggressive team defense and that failure or success, as a team, wasn’t dependent on LeBron and D-Wade heaving up 25 shots a night apiece. Could they win some games that way? Yes they could. But they won a championship with tenacious team D and when it mattered most a commitment to a style of offense (attacking the rim) that opened up the floor for their teammates. Did the superstar factor matter? Yes, it did but if you look at the rest of the best teams in the NBA this past season the thing that stands out is that they were all very strong teams often short on superstar credentials. Superstardom alone is not a guarantee of success. In team sports team always comes first.

That said, there’s more to it than that. Imagine a couple of engine blocks on work benches surrounded by parts. One block is engraved Ferrari and the other, Porsche. The assorted parts are for the two torn down motors. Nobody who knows anything about engines would assume that just because they are both high end world class motors that the parts are interchangeable so why do we tend to assume players are? Yes, switching players around is a more flexible process than made-to-match auto parts but while using the right parts guarantees your motor works choosing the “right” players is also harder to do. It’s also true that players don’t have to always get along in order to succeed but it’s certainly easier if they do—and then we come to the superstar’s bane, ego. At the top of every sport there’s lots of talent and what often sets the superstar apart is will and unshakable confidence. Two awesome qualities to have but two qualities that more commonly work against team cohesion than for it.

There’s more but that should be enough to illustrate why superstar teams aren’t automatic winners and when the next so-called superstar team comes along reserve judgment until you see how well all the pieces fit and whether or not the superstars are willing to be part of their team.