First of all, I have actually gotten to the point where I really don't have a dedicated group of players / friends to play with anymore. There's a few of us sure, but not enough. For a while, I tenaciously hung onto a small group, refusing to give up. I would plan days to play, only to have half of the guys dog out at the last minute. It's a strange phenomenon in the paintball world. You can get a bunch of very enthusiastic YESes when you try to plan a day of playing, but you can usually plan on at least half of them backing out by the time the day arrives. Lots of really lame excuses too... like, "Sorry man, I really wanted to go, but had to mow my lawn." Shut UP! I have to mow my lawn too!
ANYWAY... It got to the point where I was tired of being the man in charge, always making the arrangements, begging people to play - I felt like a dang Amway salesman half the time - , making the phone calls, sending the emails, etc. So, last summer I kind of threw in the towel on all the bull crap and just decided to start playing with other groups out there. For once, I figured, it would be nice to be just some dude who showed up to play paintball, instead of the big leader in charge of everything. I put myself out there on some Facebook pages and before long I was invited to a group of paintballers and started going with them. I had to pay a little extra, since these were actual paintball fields, ie places of business but the $5-$10 field fee is worth it to me. I'm with people who ACTUALLY want to be there and didn't have to be coerced by my forceful pleading.
PAINTBALL STORY #1
Through Facebook, I heard about a group that was going to be playing on a field in some river bottoms not too far from where I live. I decided that I was going to go. I tried to get some friends to go with me, but nobody could - too busy mowin lawns. I almost didn't go because I was nervous to just show up all by myself, but in the end I determined I would go. And boy am I glad I did!
After driving around a bit on a dirt road, I finally reached the paintball field and parked my car next to several others. As I shouldered my gear bag, gun, and folding chair, I could hear the sound of shouting, and paintball guns firing rapidly in the trees. A ball of ice formed in the pit of my stomach. Who were these guys? Would I be any good today? It had been over a year since I played. Would this group of players accept me?
I eventually turned a corner in the path and some of my fears were instantly realized as I saw a large group of what I would call college kids standing around in groups, laughing loudly and telling war stories from their previous game. Now here I come strolling up, a lone dude and stranger, wearing old, faded camo, and surely and old man to them. I could feel their eyes upon me as I found a place for my stuff, and started setting up my chair and gearing up. I felt awkward and nervous as I zipped up my tactical vest and aired up my Tippmann Phenom off to the side, away from everyone else.
The field was pretty dense river bottom land with some towers and bunkers scattered around. It turned out to be much smaller than I imagined, and that resulted in me getting eliminated pretty quickly from my first game. The opponents being able to get to our side of the field much quicker than I had anticipated and I was hit while moving forward and not being as cautious as I should have.
But, I am happy to report that after that game I became a lethal force to be reckoned with! I can't recall too many paintball days where I racked up so many kills. LOL By the end of the day, they were all calling me The Terminator and fighting over who's team I would be on for every game. I left that day feeling deeply satisfied. That's one thing about this sport that I think appeals so much to me. I might have been twice the age of these kids, definitely slower than most, and yet because of my age comes experience and knowledge and I was able to use that not to just level the playing field, but completely turn it to my advantage.
PAINTBALL STORY #2
There's a local paintball field in this area called Crossfire Paintball run by an avid paintballer named Gary Taylor. Gary happens to be a big fan of GI JOE ( a man after my own heart ) and every summer he has a big all-day GI JOE scenario paintball event. It's usually based on GI JOE vs COBRA in some fashion or another complete with props. He usually has a professional paintball team travel over to play the part of COBRA while the rest of the disorganized mass takes on the roll of GI JOE forces.
It was mid July sometime and I convinced my little brother, Blake, to come with me to the GI JOE game. He had come with me the year before as well. We got there totally excited to play even though the temps were in the mid 90s. COBRA this year would be played by a pro team out of Salt Lake City called Bad Karma, seen in the video below:
I remembering eyeballing the Bad Karma guys as my brother and I were getting our gear on and preparing for the day. Bad Karma looked sharp: matching uniforms, unit patches, radios with mics, and a sweet array of weaponry. Intimidating? Yes. But some of the coolest paintballers out there too.
Just before starting up, Gary did a quick head count, and decided that the GI JOE forces were maybe a little too many, even for a team like Bad Karma to be expected to deal with. So, he gave Bad Karma (COBRA) the chance to select two extra players from out of the rabble to be on their team for the day. After a quick glance over the group, their team captain's eyes suddenly came to rest on my brother and I, and he pointed right at us, and said, "We'll take those two."
I would be lying if I didn't say I was pretty stoked about it. Here was a chance to play with professional players, not against them, but along side them. Not only that, but it would be a fun challenge as I think we were probably out numbered at least 3 to 1 if not by more. I like being the underdog, I like having the odds against me, but knowing I'm on a team that possesses the capability to overcome those odds and be victorious. As Gimli The Dwarf once said in The Lord of The Rings movies, "Certainty of death, small chance of success... what are we waiting for?"
I won't go into the details of the day's triumphs and failures as this post is already long enough. But, I will just say that it was a blast and a pleasure to be a part of a good team that practiced sound tactics and discipline. I look forward to playing in the GI JOE scenario again this summer, and hopefully meeting up with Bad Karma again, although it's unlikely I'll get chosen to be an honorary member yet again. But, one thing is sure... it will still be a good time. Enjoy a few pics below...
Over and Out.
The team pauses for a moment to listen before moving forward
Yours Truly making a mad dash across open ground.
My brother, Blake, sees an opposing force coming our way!
Me taking cover... waiting.
Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
My brother and I posing with Bad Karma.
We're the two dudes in the middle.
Bad Karma posing with some of the GI JOE team.
In paintball, war is Hell. And then it's over and everyone is friends again.