The Spirit of Paintball

by Mark Maher

Now that I’m home from Cup, fed, and showered, I’ve had time to do some thinking. I took our last loss this weekend very hard because my entire paintball world came full circle in a way I had never imagined. It’s hard to explain without going twelve years into the past.

Twelve summers ago, at Liberty Paintball…my Godfather is taking me out for my first paintball game ever. We’re playing 10 man capture the flag on a densely wooded field. Not knowing what I should be doing, I follow everybody else around, until I realize that everybody else is dead. Not knowing anything better to do, I run back to our flag and hide in a logpile behind it, waiting, and waiting….and waiting…It takes a minute or two, but half a dozen players from the other team saunter over to capture our flag believing in error that they had eliminated all of our players. Little do they know, there’s a 10 year old newbie with a stock 98 custom waiting behind the woodpile. That 10 year old lets them round the corner, aims his shots, and watches as they land true, eliminating every player on the opposing team.

I was a hero to 9 other players that day. What we were playing for at that point in my life amounted to nothing more than a few quick ribs in the parking lot and nothing more, but it was my first game, and you can be damn sure that it instilled a hunger for the sport that would last for years to come…

Dusk, September 11th, 2010

We’re playing for more than parking lot jokes. There’s money on the line. But more importantly than that, there’s the respect of the paintball world on the line. I’ve spent most of the day in shambles. While everybody else was waking up and getting their gear ready, I was sitting at the bottom of the flagpole crying. The gravity it adds to the team’s desperate situation is slim compared to the gravity it still holds as a day I’ll never forget as long as I live. We have 2
games Sunday morning, and if we lose, we go home. I’m focusing all this emotion into one thing tomorrow; making it to the finals.

Dawn, September 12th, 2010
We have a rough start to the day, and we lose that first game. Fortunately, so does the other team we’re fighting over a Finals spot. If we win the second game, we’re still guaranteed a spot in the Finals. The second game begins and we all make it to our positions without losing a man. A firefight ensues for the next five minutes What happens in the next ten makes me realize that no matter how badly you want it, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to have days where life opens your mouth and ***** down your throat. Seven minutes in they punch a hole in our right flank. Chaos ensues, and we drop from 10 players to 2 in a matter of seconds. Recognizing
that our flag is exposed and that this time, 12 years later, it is in fact the best move I could possibly make,  I run back to our flag, and hide in a logpile behind it, waiting, and waiting….and waiting…It takes a minute or two, but half a dozen players from the other team
saunter over to capture our flag, believing in error that they had eliminated all of ours. Little do they know, there’s a 12 year veteran with the enthusiasm of that ten year old and the same 98 that’s pulled him out of more storms than he can count hiding behind the woodpile.
He lets them round the corner, aims his shots, pulls the trigger, and – the gun jams. That half a second seems like a thousand years, and you know how the story ends…

Just like that, it ends as fast as it started. But I learned something this weekend…we learned something this weekend; that no matter what your background, your skin color, your age, or your experience, when you get out on that field, you’re fighting for your life with 9 of your brothers. And regardless of how much bull**** there is between you in the parking lot, you’re one tribe on the field, and none of that is going to come between you. How far we came as a team, as a fighting force, and as a family in 48 short hours is so astounding I could never, EVER, hope to put it into words. But even if things did go horribly wrong, there’s no way in hell it’s going to stop me, or us, from coming back next year and getting the job done right. Anybody else may not understand it, but anybody who saw how far we came in two days would be genuinely afraid of seeing how far we’ll have come by next year. “They don’t understand the battle, our battle for glory, for the people you believe in – but mostly for respect. And for this fight that nobody understands, we travel hundreds of miles around the country, to different towns, been shot thousands of times, slept on hotel floors and in cars, because we want to be the best at this. Because it’s hard and humbling, and some days you really can be a hero to your friends.” Any given Sunday, we can win the World Cup. Next year might just be that given Sunday.

I think Matty Marshall put it best when he said “It’s worth the sacrifices, it’s worth all the bull****. Because if you work hard enough a Sunday will roll around and you will be in the huddle, screaming with your hand in, one among ten playing for the world title. And suddenly, all those cliches you ever heard make sense, and you are defined. You say it to yourself and it means everything. I am a paintball player, and this moment, right here, is my life.”

This IS my life. Did I get to be that hero this time around? No. Would I have had it any other way? HELL NO.

~~~

Mark Maher played in the Woodsball World Cup with the Magic Men.

Mark  started playing paintball 12 years ago and founded SPECTRE in 2006.

Something about the camaraderie and ability of the sport to completely
drown out all of life’s worries has prevented me from escaping so far.
Though I’ll pepper a modern 20 bps down range with the best of them, I
have a soft spot in my heart for my original SL68 pump. I’ve been an
avid scenario baller from day one and have spent the last two years
playing many General and XO roles in scenario games across the
Northeast. I pride myself on bringing 110% to every game and expect
the same of my team. Paintball Sports Inc in Plattekill NY is my home
field and have been privileged to consider among my mentors since
2008: Daniel “Barney” Alamo, Kevin Donaldson, Chris Masi, Jerry Braun,
Eric Engler, Noah Harper, Matt Erenzo, and Andy Sanchez, among others.
Outside of the paintball realm I work as an EMT and am an aspiring PA
student.

2 Responses to “The Spirit of Paintball”

  1. Very well written and to the point of what many of us pber’s feel.

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