Paintball & the Media
Paintball is on the verge of becoming mainstream. With this comes a whole new set of problems for our beloved sport. In an effort to cash in on the "latest craze" (as some would put it), writers and producers are adding paintball to their storylines. Unfortunately, most of these individuals know nothing about the sport, nor do they care what kind of negative impact their misinformation may have. Paintball has enough public hurdles to overcome and does not need the misguidance of the media. Drive-by paintballers, cheating, and a slew of other wounds have already scarred our sport. We can blame the actions of individuals on irresponsibility, but how can we recover from the damage of 30 million homes thinking that we are all a bunch of bloodthirsty Gen X'ers with no concern for the safety or well being of the public.
In an episode of "King of the Hill", paintball was the deciding factor in an argument between the main character Hank Hill ( a 40 something working man) and a punk rocker who played in a band. No problems so far, but as the show progresses Hank and his buddies are pelted in a drive-by paintballing from the punks, and challenged to a duel on the field. During the game, players are removing their mask ( which were nothing but shop goggles), firing at surrendered players, firing at each other at point blank range , and over poor sportsmanship. Not to mention that there were no refs!! This shows the world that we are exactly what they think we are, a bunch of disrespectful deviants. To further promote unsafe practices, they now have incorporated that very episode into a Shockwave game that involves playing paintball in the backyard of a suburban home. The game includes the same poor sportsmanship as the show, and adds the inherent dangerous situations that most players would be mortified to watch unfold on a sanctioned field, let alone someone's backyard in the middle of suburbia. Some of which are the shootings of flowerpots, dogs, the house as a backdrop from which spectators watch the game unfold form behind the "safety" of a plate glass window. Hmmm, I wonder if the folks at Tippmann know about the fact that the markers in the game look an awful lot alike Pro-Lites.
King of the Hill is not the only offender. "Saved by the Bell" had players shooting one another at point blank range with no goggles on, and lets not forget the movie "Gotcha". This is a classic tale of a college game of "assassin" using splatmasters. Players shot one another as they were walking in crowds to their next class. Try that today and you would be arrested. Baywatch has done it as well, with players taking off their mask to "scout" and area, then putting them back on only when THEY are firing.
I wonder how many people where turned off of paintball because they thought that this was the norm? What mother or father would let their teenage son or daughter have their birthday party at a local paintball field with this kind of behavior? What of the Newbies who go into their first game with the understanding that this is how it is supposed to be played. Newbies are so vital to paintball, they bring new ideas, new styles, revenue, and keep our games going for years. The media's view of the sport carries a lot of weight. If these writers would do a little research, or maybe play a few games, they would be a little more accurate in portraying our sport. Let them know what you think. Write to the producers, tell them that you want accuracy in the portrayal of paintball. If enough people yell, they will listen. Also, don't forget that your conduct on and off the field is the only thing that will counterbalance the media. Inform the public, take a newbie to a game, have fun and PLAY SAFE.