I had tried very hard to convince myself that when I played paintball as an eight-grader and high school freshman that it was just a phase, and that I only played then because I was a little punk with pent-up testosterone and no good outlet yet. I told myself that a lot of kids that age do things like play extreme sports or practical jokes because when you’re that age, it’s just hard to get excitement into your very controlled life. When I put my paintball equipment away in my closet at home three years ago, I was pretty sure I would never pick it up again.
Well I didn’t pick it up, I rented. I rented from Austin Paintball in Dripping Springs, but if I could have I would have played with all my old gear. I remember: I have an EvO hopper, a Dye Ion X4, a 3,000 psi tank, and I wore blue Dye paintball pants. I was the studliest pre-pubescent paintballer you’d ever laid eyes on. I loved paintball so much that I infected my friends with my expensive infatuation, and soon enough Marshall, Callen, Michael, George, Fitz, Luke, and even Jay had all begun mowing more yards and saving up more money so we could play on Saturday mornings. I’m not going to lie: those are some of my favorite memories from that time in my life. I loved hanging out with those guys, and as much as I want to rag on paintball now for being a “simpleton,” kind of “war replacement” game, and say that it’s just for people with compensation complex issues, I freakin love it. I love playing paintball.
So, when my FOCUS Bible Study at the UCC (University Catholic Church) decided to have a guy’s day of bonding out at the paintball fields I jumped at the opportunity. Regardless of the fact that I knew only two people going, I knew it wouldn’t matter, because paintball–like fantasy football–provides such a naturally engaging topic to discuss, so that if you play paintball with anyone I bet the rate at which you two were going to be friends, speeds up so much. I met around twelve guys yesterday and I ran into them today at Mass and we were joking around with each other like we’d been friends for years.
We met up at the UCC on at twelve-fifteen Saturday afternoon and got back around six, theoretically in time for the UT game had I watched it. We drove there, ate some pizza, waited for our whole group to arrive, then started playing. The field at which we played was brand spanking new. Not in the sense that it was good, though. It was new. It was getting to be good, but we came to play when everything was just “here until we know where the best place for it is.” Still, there were three main courses and we loved each one. There was a woods course, a spools course, and a barrels course. We played Alien vs. Predator, Respawn, vitals, Capture the Flag, and regular old elimination games. Besides the UCC group, there was a group of auto-mechanics who were doing a corporate-bonding event, but most of them were really good. Those two groups played with each other so we had teams of around eight each time, and we could just play back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back because there was no one else there.
I tore it up. I’m not going to be modest. Mostly because I have fewer inhibitions about getting shot than the others, but also because I’ve played a ton of paintball. I know that newbies are worse shots and react to aggressive acts by taking passive actions, instead of capitalizing on what is typically an advantageous scenario for them. E.g.: I charge at someone’s bunker shooting at the bunker to keep them down so I can surrender them, and instead of popping up once to get an easy shot on me, they cower behind their protection until I surrender them. You can only play that way against rookies because pro’s will know that they actually have the advantage. But I had some Rambo moves, and the ref’s were talking about when “red shirt ran across the field, surrender two people, and then ran all the way back because there was no good cover for him on that side.” I had a blast, and I’m definitely glad that my ego was kept up at its much too high level. I would have been mad at myself if I stunk, so it was a real blessing from God that I got to stand out a little, even though it was undeserved. And I know that compared to anyone that plays on a regular basis that I’m absolute garbage. Still though, I had an amazing time and I’m glad I got to strengthen my community with guys from Church.