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Have you ever sat down on a Sunday to watch your favorite football team play their most competitive rival? The excitement looming in the air and the smell of chips and onion dip permeating the senses. Your ice-cold beverage looking you straight in the eye and tempting you to take a drink. You grab for the remote and turn the volume up just a hair above what would normally be considered too loud for any other television show. Your kids settle in with you and your spouse is off in the distance finishing up on some well-needed house cleaning.
Does any of this sound familiar? Now suppose that in an instant you hear one of the players on the field shout the queen mother of “F” words at an opponent. You might think to yourself “maybe this was a freak occurrence” or “maybe I should turn the volume down so the neighbors three houses down don’t have to hear the game in this manner”. Well, sadly enough to say it but if you sat down today to watch a video of your favorite paintball tournament coverage, you might consider sending the kids out for ice cream at the time of viewing.
In today’s society, it is not yet fully acceptable to have somebody shout expletives while you and your kids walk through the streets let-alone while your watching your television. Being a parent myself, I would hope that this type of behavior never becomes second nature to our society. It would do nothing more than cripple a parent's attempt to raise a child willing to abstain from such obscenities. However, it would seem that these actions are not something that the sport of paintball is short supply of.
To better understand what I am getting at here, let me bring you up to speed as to how the present mainstream sports; i.e. baseball, basketball, and football, became so popular. I won’t bore you with the full history of each sport but I will sum up what each of these sports have that the tournament scene in paintball slightly lacks.
It is a must for any sport to compete with the rigors of what any future might hold for it. Without sportsmanship you are left with only a set of rules that dictate how a game is played and no soul to the sport. Sportsmanship is the very blood that flows through the veins of each and every mainstream sport to this day. It is what sinks the hook into young boys and girl’s hearts as they grow up watching professionals compete. Kids are naive to the money issues and contracts that we adults hear about in the world of sports but they know one thing, it is an honor to them just to become their favorite player for one game when pretending to become a professional. Sportsmanship - it is the life that breads a future to any sport.
So to wonder if the sport of paintball and it’s future lies within the respect of players and the need for more sportsmanship is not a thought too far off base. Fields across the globe are enforcing better conduct on the course and in the staging areas. This is a good start as it teaches the newer players some discipline when it comes to keeping the game clean but what about the tournament scene? Why are there no rules for sending a player to the dead box when they cuss out the ref for a bad call? What about the guy that flips the bird to a player on the other side of the field to gain attention? I know we don’t live in a perfect world but if a pro basketball player were to do any one of these actions they would be given a technical foul and possibly wind up riding the pine for the duration of the game.
When a player brands the sport of paintball with language and actions displeasing to the public they give any parent of a new player reason to believe that this is not the sport for their children. With that in mind, many kids luck out because mom and dad have decided that they did not like the attitude that comes with playing paintball. Hence, the future of the game suffers, as each individual is lost to another more mainstream sport. Having rules in place to put an end to the trash talk we see today is not a bad idea but it is not where the buck will need to stop.
Players in the tournament scene not only represent the sport but they are also representing the companies that sponsor them. Granted some companies have no problem with a foul reputation and believe that the public feeds off of such obscenities but they are the epitome of what I would consider a fad. Companies come and companies go but those that take pride in their product don’t allow for some team of paintball players to discredit their name in the business with foul language and obscene gestures. Disrespecting the rules of the game by shooting the refs and by laying a few bonus balls on the players that are walking to the dead box are not the signs of good competition and any respectable company would be displeased to find their players doing so.
In a recent PSP event in Chicago a company having found that their team representing their company name dismissed several players indefinitely for such conduct. Seeing this gave me feelings of both joy for the company standing up for what was right but it saddened me for the player’s sake. I say this only because we all have bad days and perhaps this was one of theirs but with the lack of discipline to their tactics and morals they decided to express their anger in an unacceptable manner. Perhaps if somebody would have urged a better practice in how to handle himself or herself on and off the field they might have saved face and kept from doing what they did to be removed not only from the team but being disqualified from the event.
Maybe with examples like this other sponsors will feel free to do the same. Without a sponsorship, players would be nothing and without players, sponsors would amount to the same. If they both work together and help clean up the sport, maybe we will see a growth spurt in the sport of paintball. I know this may be all wishful thinking but in the end it only expresses the passion I personally have for the sport. With a cleaner sport there is a great chance for public television to start airing the tournaments more. Making the sport more public would then create a larger audience. With a turn out of nearly 250,000 visitors to the NPPL Huntington Beach event this year it is a wonder what would have happened had the sport seen more air time from local and nation wide television stations.
Making this growth happen starts at home and it starts at your local fields. Keeping yourself from cussing the ref out at your local field and representing the sport on as well as off the filed in a manner pleasing to any parent looking to let their kids play is the best thing anybody could do. Put the sportsmanship in to your game and see what happens. Watching guys my age mentoring the younger guys and gals on the field is an awesome thing to see. Watching the same guys mentor the younger players with respect for the rules and keeping their language clean is even better. In the end it’s a win-win situation for both new and old players. Caring about the sport your playing is the cornerstone to building your skills. Playing paintball with respect for others will only show the public that this is a clean sport worthy of the same public viewing that Baseball or basketball gets already. Who knows, maybe in the future you’ll be able to sit down on that Sunday afternoon with the kids and enjoy a game on television watching your favorite paintball game and not have to worry about what goes into your kid’s ears. Play it clean, play it safe and most of all, lets all play with a little more sportsmanship.