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Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Old Timer Speaks

About.com Paintball
An Old Timer Speaks By David Muhlestein, About.com

I recently wondered where the old timers have gone. Some responded. With permission, here is what Bruce 'Charon' Johnston wrote:

I started the game back in the late 80's just after high school. The game was in its infancy back then, and 12 gram, CO2, Splatmasters was the marker of choice. As I recall paintballs were outrageously priced compared to today, somewhere in the area of $.20 - $.25 per ball. Since paintball was a fringe extreme sport at the time, very few people played the game. We were lucky if we had 10 guys out on any given day.
I played every weekend for two or three years, then university tuition ate into my available funds, working to pay for school consumed most of my free time when not studying. On top of everything else the game started to get boring. The same 5-10 guys, playing the same field started to get monotonous, so I backed away from the game.

Over the next number of years I played occasionally. Work functions, bachelor parties and birthdays, the types of events that are usually peoples first exposure to the game. I went, played, and enjoyed myself and that was that. I had no intention of seriously getting back into the game.

By the mid to late 90's everyone in my circle of friends was married, and getting older to the point that they didn't want to celebrate birthdays, so I stopped playing all together.

My brother-in-law invited my 12 year old step son and I to play paintball for his birthday in early spring of 2005. I had my fill but my son wanted to go. We played, had a great time, and I got that old familiar feeling while playing that I experienced 20 years before. The fields now are much more elaborate, the equipment is infinitely better, paint is cheap, cheap, cheap now but the core of the game has remained the same. I became curious again.

We went to walk on days and played with rental gear five or six times to make sure he wanted to play. Each trip to the field made him want to play even more. That was it, I was back in the game.

I originally started playing again for my son and to get a little bit of exercise for this 40 year old body. I wanted to spend time with my son, for a little guy time, relax at the field, and be one of the boys again. Since my return in 2005 the game has consumed both my son and I. Because I am the "old guy" from the dark ages of the game, a number of the younger players seem to gravitate toward me.

Forming a team seemed to be the next logical step. In 2005 I created the Tippinators which has become one of the most successful in Eastern Canada. With my team, I now play competitive woodsball, speedball and we are playing in the AXBL league in 2008. I'm the crazy old man, crashing bunkers, with and against, 20 year olds.

The sport today is what I envisioned the game could become 20 years ago. The variety of fields, the variety of games, the access to quality equipment, the inexpensive paint, the organization of competitive leagues (both woodsball and speedball), professional leagues, television coverage, have made the sport of paintball into something those of us who remember the early, prehistoric days, very exciting.

Kids starting the sport today have no appreciation for what they have. I have seen kids walking onto the speedball field for the first time in their lives, with their $1200 EGOs, Dye gear from head to toe, trying to look Agg, complaining about having to pay $60 a case for paint, ready to throw a tantrum if things don't go their way.

I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been there at the start of the sport. I remember the $.50 paintball. I remember trying to change a 12 gram in the middle of the field, hoping not to drop any paint because it was so precious. I remember markers so inaccurate that they couldn't hit a door from 15 feet away. I appreciate what I have now and what the sport has become. I love paintball, I always have. As long as I am able, I will be crashing bunkers in the woods and sliding into the snake on the speedball field.

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