Our friends at adidas organized a field trip yesterday for a group of writers and editors here in New York to a paintball facility out on Long Island. I’d never participated in paintball before, but it sounded like something fun and thrilling worth experiencing at least once in my life, like going on a cruise or going to a Wu-Tang concert.
About 40 of us piled on a bus and fought through traffic to get out there. The SLAM crew was repped by myself, Khalid, Konate and Russ (who managed to post 17 comments on SLAMonline while we were out there).
Once there we were given paintball guns and protective face masks and then divided into random teams. My team was captained by XXL lifestyle editor (and frequent SLAM contributor) Branden Peters. Khalid was on our team, too, as well as our friend Kari from adidas, but I didn’t know anyone else on our team. Before we began, we tried to come up with a team name. I suggested Team Zero, in honor of Gilbert Arenas’s Halo squad. That was met with indifference, so I also suggested “There Will Be Blood.”
The facility was basically a huge warehouse with two fields set up inside and each surrounded by netting. The fields were cushioned with artificial grass, which was coated in about five years worth of burst paintballs. Yes, they were gross. The goal of paintball is simple: You’re supposed to shoot without being shot. Whichever team has the last person standing wins. You have several barricade to hide behind and your teammates to help you out, but basically, it’s every man or woman for themselves out there.
When the first match started, I ended up in the back of the field, hiding behind an obstacle while trying to squeeze off a few shots over the top to provide cover for my advancing teammates. As I planted my back foot, I stepped on something and nearly toppled over. I looked down and discovered I was basically standing on top of Khalid, who for some reason was laid out on his belly, pretty much between my legs. He later blamed me for being out of position.
From the back of the field, I planned on taking out opposing gunners like a sniper. This was a bad idea. There is no sniping involved, at least not with rental guns, because every shot flies just a little bit differently, maybe a few inches off to the left or right or up or down, so it’s really more about volume shooting than precision shooting.
Anyway, after avoiding Khalid, I was peering around a corner and looking for an open shot at an opponent. Suddenly, I felt a burning sensation on my left hand, like I’d been stung by an entire hive of bees all at once. It hurt really badly for about five seconds, then the sting went away. I looked down and saw a few of my fingers were covered in sky blue paint, as though Dean Smith had pooped on them. I gave myself up and walked off the field, wiping the paint on my jeans as I went. By the time I got to the sideline, I looked at my hand again and noticed it was now covered in blood. Which was fun.
The most painful hit(s) I took all day came from a guy I can only describe as a professional paintball player. He was a friend of one of the editors and came equipped with his own gear, including some sort of automatic paintball gun. His name was Angel, but I preferred to think of him as Angel of Death (or Angel of Paint) — that’s how good he was. One game, my team was playing against Angel’s team, and as we took the field I noticed Angel inspecting a huge ball-like barricade, so I figured that’s where he was going to try and hide out. When the game started I got behind a barricade that gave me an angle at Angel’s desired barricade and just started firing as much as I could. I saw him duck behind it and occasionally an eye or the top of a head would pop out and then disappear. Meanwhile, I was pulling that trigger over and over and over. I was either gonna hit him or run out of paintballs. And eventually, I hit him. The rest of my teammates took care of their business as well, and we won that game.
After a brief rest we commenced a rematch, and Angel wasn’t playing around. I ended up on the opposite flank this time, hiding behind a giant cone as someone pelted it with paintballs. I tried to lean around the corner and get a shot off, but my gun misfired. I could see a referee standing nearby — an employee of the paintball facility dressed all in bright orange, standing around to make sure the people who were shot actually left the field — and I called him over to check out my gun. As I cowered behind the barricade, the ref took my gun and started turning it over in his hands, I guess looking for a mistakenly switched lever or button or something. As he looked at the gun, I heard about a dozens shots go off somewhere, and the ref got drilled about six times, in the chest and arms. He cursed rather loudly as I shrunk even deeper behind the barricade, and someone ran up from behind and dotted me like 50 Cent. My back looks like an aborted game of Connect Four thanks to that.
Once you were shot, you were expected to put a protective sheath over the tip of your rifle and walk off the field. I believe the sheath was supposed to symbolize that you were finished and out of the game. I think I got shot more times walking off the field than I did during the games. One game I walked off and was waiting behind the protective netting for the game to end, and one of my teammates ducked under just behind me. The paintball officials were very strict about demanding you never remove your facemask while on field, but this teammate (some dude who worked at adidas) lifted up his mask and spit a mouthful of blue paint to the ground. He’d been shot in the face mask, right on the mouth, and the paint had exploded all up in his mouth. Nice. Russ claimed to have been shot in the jaw and on both hands one game. Another time I got shot in the back of the leg by one of my teammates, which hurt like hell.
The fact that there’s actually paint involved in paintball is perhaps the best example I’ve ever heard of the old phrase “adding insult to injury.” Getting hit with a paintball hurts bad enough as it is, but to then have slimy paint all over you is just sort of degrading. I suppose the paint’s main function is to mark the people who have been hit, but the pain from the hit is usually so severe that everyone gives themselves up right away. (Except for the ringers wearing full-body padding. Wimps.)
When I got home last night, I immediately hopped in the shower and discovered that I’d apparently been hit a lot more than I thought I had. And this morning my legs were so sore that I briefly contemplated just staying in bed. But I didn’t. I’m here. Bruised, yes, with traces of blue paint still under my nails. I made it out alive. Barely.
But now I have much more sympathy for this dude than I ever would have before.
• Speaking of adding insult to injury, when I finally crashed down on the couch last night, I watched the tape of of the Hawks/Blazers game, and ended the evening nearly throwing my remote control through the television as the Hawks threw the game away down the stretch. I’ll write more about it on Wednesday over at Hawks.com. But I did get a flood of “Mike Woodson must go” emails this morning. Hard to disagree with that right now.
Earlier in the day, on the way back from paintball, we were talking about the Blazers campaign to make Brandon Roy an All-Star, which supposedly involved sending out iPods loaded with highlights of B-Roy. I say “supposedly” because nobody here at SLAM got an iPod from the Blazers. So the Blazers apparently don’t want us to support Brandon Roy’s All-Star bid.
So, sorry Brandon and Portland, but I’m taking you off my team and adding Josh Howard instead.
• One other thing: Brandon Roy really reminds me of Chris Jackson/Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, both the way he looks and his slight build.
• I watched the election results come in on Saturday night, and every network, even Fox News, projected Obama as the winner with just 1 percent of the results in. How did that work? Anyone understand how that worked?
• Saturday night I finally saw “There Will Be Blood.” Thought it was really good, and as always, Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing. But people are comparing it to “Citizen Kane?” Not so much. I liked “No Country For Old Men” better.