Have you ever been really good at something, and eventually you weren't? You became obsolete or that thing evolved to the point you didn't enjoy it anymore. I don't know really what motivates this post. I spent most of the day cleaning and thinking.
I first played paintball in 1995. I really sparked interest in it in 1998. I was reading magazines and going to the local field, Wild Word maybe twice a year. I got my first gun after I got a job as a grocery boy. Of course, it was broken to the point it wasn't fixable. I saved up and got another one. I eventually started working at Wild World on the weekends.
I got in because I wanted to be "Rambo". Camo up and sneak around in the woods. I quickly learned that camo doesn't mean anything in paintball and there is no such thing as "a sniper" paintball gun. I was one of the only people in high school who played regularly. I got a lot of crap from people claiming I sucked and I lost games to people I never had actually played. There was a guy in band who paintballed his ex-girlfriends car. The next day our assistant band director mentioned it in band and glared at me. It was always frustrating. It was cool that I was actually unique about something, but the ridicule and rumors were big downers.
I quickly learned to like tournament paintball. At the time, guns shot a max of 13 balls a second, but gravity would only allow 6 or 7. You could compete well with non-electronic guns. I dumped camo without hesitation and dawned a jersey. I wasn't on a team for another two years however.
I played my first paintball tournament in summer 2003 I believe. I played on Refs Gone Postal - Pink. One of my teammates thought it would be funny to add Pink to it because he knew I didn't like it. We did really well for our first run. Turns out that the guys running the tournament were also kinda running a tryout for their new farm team. We played another tournament ran by a different organization, and took first place. Got screwed out of $400 prizes (that's $400 each) and I was offered a spot on the "Dirt Kidz".
I had looked up to Team Dirt ever since their conception. All I wanted to do was play for them. They had all the players I looked up to while reffing at Wild World, Ed, Bill, Wyrm, Heck, Palmer, and tons of others. I was more than happy to join their farm team. I played on the Dirt Kidz for about three or four months. It got to be real expensive and I really didn't fit in either. I was a pushover who tried to be a good sport. I had apologized to a player on the other team for a bad play on my part. My team captain ripped me apart and told me to never apologize for anything. I understood where he was coming from, but it just didn't feel right to me. Probably my biggest flaw is I want everyone to be happy and I'm a pushover to let people have their way.
I eventually left with a buddy, Kyle, to start the University of Arkansas paintball team. We did really well. The team was started in late 2004. I played through spring 2007. It was much more affordable than normal tournaments. I didn't have to have two jobs to play. We placed in almost every tournament we played in. There were several instances where my "good sportsmanship" paid off.
At a KState tournament in 2006, we played the KSU team in the tournament finals. We played really well during the tournament. KSU walked all over us. I ended up being the last person left. I moved positions, got shot in the process and shot one of their team members. I had a ref check me and I was hit. I went up to the head ref and told him what happened. The points were deserved to KSU. Turns out in the end the two points for my honesty awarded KSU the 1st place spot. We always had a good relationship with KSU and this definitely strengthened it. Their team captain even posted a thread about how classy our team was on PBNation.
I loved playing paintball when I first started. Paintball tournaments evolved from the equivalent of bolt action rifles to full auto machine guns. In 2004 or 05 a gun mode called "Ramp" was introduced that essentially had full auto at 15 balls per second as long as you pulled the trigger once per second. My team had practiced for hours to learn to run and gun, shoot left handed and other gun handling skills. This mode just about killed all of that. Sideline coaching was also introduced. I was always good at sneaking around a field. Sideline coaching killed that.
I enjoyed the slower games. It seemed more like a chess game for me. You'd have to do a lot more thinking than shooting. Now you have to constantly shoot in the direction that the guy in the side line is telling you to. It also requires a lot more training. Fat players eventually became obsolete. Games when from 10 minutes to 1 minute. It's just not for me. I think if I could have started 5 years earlier I would have enjoyed it much more.
I did a lot of reffing in paintball. I reffed almost 25 tournaments. Only two or three I wasn't the head ref. I played 15 tournaments. In every tournament I had a bad call or got screwed somehow, but I understood where they were coming from because I had been in their position before. I had a lot of respect from some teams, but I had even more that hated me. I had two teams quit in the middle of tournaments, one guy verbally assault me after a tournament claiming I was the reason they didn't win (they cheated and got caught), and I had been threatened to be jumped in a parking lot once. A really stressful experience, but I highly respected the people who ran the tournaments and I felt like I owed it to them. I really pity referees and umpires. They are put in a lot of stress to make split second game changing decisions. They are also in the middle of the action, so they have a lot better view than you do 100 yards away in the stands.
By the end of my college career, I didn't enjoy competitive paintball as much as I use to. I played at D-Day that summer. I had made fun of D-Day players for the longest time. I loved it. I realized what I loved so much about paintball again. It's all about being with friends and having a good time. It's sometimes hard to do that in a competitive environment.
I haven't played in over a year. After getting married and buying a house, I don't have as much "blow" money to spend on paintball. I'm very satisfied with my short career in paintball. Even after being inactive in the tournament scene for a year I'd still hear people call my name while I was pulling up to the shack at Wild World. I had kids that looked up to me and it felt real good to be a role model. I'll always miss playing paintball, but I feel like I left at a good time.
Paintball was always kinda "my" thing. My brother played for a little bit. My parents never once saw me play. I only had a few girlfriends go to the field with me. I kinda liked it. It was like a second life. I had a feeling what it would be like to be a rockstar. I made a ton of really good friends from all over the place.
I'll leave you guys with one of my favorite pictures of me playing. It's from my last tournament. National College Paintball Association Nationals in Dallas Texas in spring 2007. Note the Mario Death Mushroom wrist band on my right wrist. Next to my left hand, you can see a Legend of Zelda wrist band on my tank. I was the geekiest person on that team... next to Kyle. :) It's from Warpig.com. I always felt if I could picture on WarPig I could retire happy and i did.
Thanks for reading.