I once participated in a paintball free-for-all (rhymed on purpose) in high school and one guy got shot right in the mouth and had to go to the hospital. That pretty much sums up every paintball experience on the planet. It sounds like fun. It looks like fun. It should be fun. But it is the opposite of fun.
We all grew up playing “War” or “Cops and Robbers.” We’ve all seen the action movies. We all want to be heroes or at least pretend to be heroes. Paintball offers all of that to you and, yet, somehow it doesn’t fulfill it. Paintball is like that herbal supplement you buy to increase your memory but somehow you’re not sure if it really does anything. It is the ginkgo biloba of alternative sports.
There is a simple reason why paintball is not that fun. A reason that some of you who have never played paintball might not know:
That. S**t. Hurts.
When you get hit with a paintball you feel it. It leaves a big ass welt wherever you have been hit. And that welt can stay there for over a week as a reminder of how not fun your paintball experience was. Seriously, you are basically getting shot with something that resembles a rubber ball at a very high velocity. It’s not enough to kill you, of course, but enough to make you say to yourself, “Hmm, this kind of sucks. I should have spent the afternoon at a bar drinking multiple IPAs. IPAs don’t hurt. They only love.”
Yes, you could rent out all of the protective equipment, looking like Glen when he donned that badass riot gear in the last season of “The Walking Dead.” But that costs some bank even if you are renting for only an hour. And unless you officially declare, “Paintball is now my jam” and decide on becoming a paintball enthusiast, you certainly aren’t going to buy all of that gear. So you do what most people do; Put on the heaviest sweats you have, get the required goggles so you don’t go blind, rent a standard, fairly crappy gun and run around getting shellacked by people who are better than you.
And to add insult to injury, it is really hard to aim when you are playing paintball. Partly that is because looking through used goggles that constantly fog up makes it challenging and partly because aiming any type of gun at any moving object is hard as hell to hit. I will blame Kiefer Sutherland and “24” for this (which is having a great run this season – but I still blame it). It looks so easy to run and shoot at the same time. It is not. Running full speed and unloading on your opponent is in truth super fun, until you realize you’re out of ammo and the only two things you’ve hit are the back wall and your unsuspecting teammate. Then it just becomes sad.
And yet anytime I watch paintball on TV (usually on ESPN2 around three in the morning) I think, “Damn, that looks like a good time.” Or if one of my friends out of the blue says, “ You know, we should get a group and go paintballing sometime,” my gut reaction is always, “Hell yes!” But deep in my heart I know that if I do participate in the sport then at best I will have a mediocre experience. Paintball is the classic trickster character in literature, offering much but delivering little.
I actually have done paintball a few times since my first experience in high school. The most recent was at my friend’s bachelor party a few years back. As we were getting ready, the girl behind the paintball counter (best described as “super white trash yet super hot”) who was getting us set up with our gear was getting ragged on relentlessly by her male co-worker. After a couple of minutes the girl turned to the guy and said, “Why don’t you go f**k yourself, that way you’ll finally be able to get some p**sy.”
So yeah, paintball still sucks, but paintball girls are awesome.