Paintball: The Sport of Kings

These guys know how to kill a deer with a sack of rocks and are willing to use the same tactics on you.Bloat-gutted hunting enthusiasts, former and current military personnel, and adult children who refuse to give up their glory days of playing soldier in a vacant lot seem to be the crowd most commonly drawn to the game/sport/whatever of paint ball. If you're not familiar with how it works, please allow me to give you a brief tutorial: A bunch of raving gun nuts and some college kids home on vacation square off, usually into two teams, to either capture a flag or eliminate every member of the opposing team. This is done by using a paint ball gun, naturally, which is a pump-action or semi-automatic projectile weapon that propels marble-sized spheres of washable paint using compressed carbon dioxide. I say weapon because if you've ever been shot repeatedly in unprotected areas by a paint ball gun you know that they do a little more than sting, they will raise welts, bruise you, possibly even break your bones if you have that disease that Samuel L. Jackson had in "Unbreakable".

Despite the fact that actually being shot by a paintball gun sounds about as pleasant as having your toe-nails pulled out by a Colombian drug lord's hit squad, the game is actually extremely fun. I haven't played it in a few years but I used to own a paint ball gun and play every month or so. Like with any hobby there were (and I assume still are) two general levels of people involved in paint ball. There were the passing enthusiasts like me, who maybe owned gun and a mask, maybe just rented gear on the course, but just enjoyed the simulated event of shooting another person to death. Then there were the raving fucking paintball batshit loonies. These people scared the hell out of me, not because they were intimidating, but because they were spending thousands of dollars to play a game against a ten year old boy who cries when you shoot him in the back from 50 feet away.

If all you walk away with are a few welts like this consider yourself either skilled or lucky.My personal style when playing paint ball was always to catch people off guard with my daring and downright idiotic bravado. I would sing really loud stupid songs while I was playing and charge forward to capture objectives and yell taunts at ex-Navy SEAL members who were wearing some sort of fiber optic camouflage that made them blend in with the trees and using guns that called in paint ball bombardments from orbital weapons platforms. One of my favorite anecdotes involves a group of these guys who played ever week at a local course. The first time we played them it took us about five seconds to know we were out classed. They had camouflage netting they wore over fatigues, state-of-the-art paint ball guns (you'd be surprised how high-tech and expensive these things can get), combat webbing, custom face masks, and I think at least one of them had human ears on a necklace.

Of course they kicked our asses. I don't have an underdog story to tell about how we rallied to beat the crazy Vietnam vets at their own game. I think in 5 consecutive matches maybe one of them got shot and the ball didn't even break on their netting shit so it didn't count. However, in between matches one of my friends and I made an interesting note. They were using two-channel voice activated radios to communicate with one another. After getting our asses handed to us for the last time that day my friend and I went out to radio shack and bought the cheapest set of multi-channel walkie-talkies we could find. The pieces of junk were like ten dollars. A few weeks later we showed up at the paint ball course and the death squad was there again, ready to take us down. So we explained the plan to our friends; we would stow the radios in the bullpen where you go when you've been "killed". The people who are eliminated can then use the radios to continue a little informational warfare against Cl4n D43th's H34d out there.

Some people take the game a bit too seriously, for example people who would purchase this 2,000 dollar paintball MORTAR.Right away I got pegged. I either do really shitty or really good (for a lazy amateur) in any given game of paint ball, and I think I actually wanted to be the first out so I could try to mess with them. So I hoofed it to the little shack where everyone stows their gear and pulled out one of the Radio Shack radios. I tuned through the channels on the walkie talkie and very quickly found the one they were using. I then listened to them for a minute or two, knowing I didn't have long before the noose tightened on the besieged defenders of our flag.

Doing my best impression of one of the guy's voices I said "I have the flag, pull back". A second later I heard "confirmed". Stifling a girlish giggle I waited to see what would develop. It didn't take long before "this is Bravo, please verify flag position" crackled over the radio.

I didn't wait for someone else on their team to respond, I cut in "I'm under heavy fire (pulling the trigger on my unloaded paint gun so they could hear convincing pops of compressed air) I'm by the big log."

I didn't know if there was a big log or not, but I was going to try to convince them there was one. They were good though, as amusing and effective as that brief distraction was it was only maybe ten seconds later that I realized the jig was up.

"Say again? Who is this?"

"This is Echo Charlie," I replied, "I'm by the log! Dammit I need help here guys!"

"This channel has been compromised." Cold, calculated, I think I pissed them off.

But I wasn't done yet. A few more casualties from our team had returned to the base and I could see one of their guys solemnly walking to the dead pool as well. This was a major victory! We'd bloodied their nose!

Frantically, telling the other guys from my team to shut the hell up, I dialed through the channels on the radio looking for the alternate channel. The enemy team members were just chattering with one another, asking for status and various other bullshit. I looked down at the walkie talkie and saw my path laid before me in poorly molded yellow plastic, assembled in Taiwan. I motioned for the guys to watch the dead man walking from their team and they leaned across the benches to see. I hit the yellow button.

The poor guy looked like he had been shot for real, and he tore his headset off in frustration, letting it drop limp on some sort of complicated clip that attached to his ridiculous battle harness. I think it took them a disastrous ten whole minutes to mop up our entire team, but we got one of them, and ten minutes was a lot better than the five it normally took. The angry looks in their eyes told us that we had won the battle and lost the war. Another hint was when they put their radios in their duffle bags after that match and proceeded to whip our asses three more games in a row. But they were shaken, and I had achieved my favorite goal in life; making something that much less fun for someone else.

– Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons (@sexyfacts4u)

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