Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mike's Rant of the Month: The Gran Torino Lineup

I’m generally a pretty Zen, relaxed guy. But every once in a while, with no warning, I come across something that makes me angry...VERY angry. This conveniently happens around once a why not turn it into a monthly feature on Grey Ops?

The following opinions are mine alone, and don’t necessarily represent the views of Connor or any other writer on the Grey Ops team. Please direct all wrath, angry comments, law suits, and profanity towards myself (Mike), and spare all innocent parties.


During this month of love and bliss, I'll be toning down my rant somewhat. Instead of ranting against one particular injustice or travesty with a vengeance, I'll be focusing on some things in Milsim Paintball that I don't exactly hate, but really don't like either. Do you remember the way Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino would see something and growl disdainfully? Well that's what we're talking about here.

The following things in Milsim Paintball make me spontaneously growl in anger:

Paintball E-Store Bullshit

I'd like to start with a gripe that pretty much everyone can relate to. How much does it piss you off to order something that a web store displays as "In Stock", only to receive an e-mail saying that the item is on backorder? Or worse, your order shows up and an item is missing from the box, with a note (or not) saying that the item is out of stock and will be sent to you God-knows-when. Often, you check the web site again and see that the missing item is still showing "In Stock", leaving the net wide open for another poor sucker to drop his cash on a ghost product! This kind of thing would never fly in a brick-and-mortar Paintball store, so why do we put up with it on the e-commerce side?

Imagine going into a pro shop and seeing a nice shiny new marker that you want hanging on the wall behind the counter. You ask the clerk how much it is, and he says "$299.99". So you pay him the money, he puts it in the cash register, and goes back to reading his Facefull magazine while you wait. When you finally say something, he tells you "Oh that's just the demo model. We've got some more of those markers coming in at the end of the week, or maybe the week after that, or maybe next month. Anyway don't worry, whenever they do come in, we'll give you one". When you ask for your money back to buy it somewhere else, the clerk either refuses and says "Don't worry, it'll be in soon", or tells you your refund may take a few days to be released to you (PayPal's hold). Would you stand for this? I know if I were in that situation, and a business had just taken 300 of my hard-earned dollars with nothing in return, I'd be screaming bloody murder at them while the cops dragged me out of that store by my ankles. Yet somehow this is seen as normal and acceptable when ordering from Paintball retailers online.

Aside from FLASC, I have yet to find a paintball store that takes online orders seriously, and really puts their back into getting your order out to you. Staff can take days to reply to your e-mail question about their product (if they even reply at all), and usually adopt a Cheech & Chong pace in shipping out your stuff. This desperately needs to change, and the first step is to maintain an accurate inventory tracking system for the web site so that customers aren't spending their money at an e-store for products that aren't there. This is just a matter of respect for your customer! Right now everyone prefers to shop online because of slightly lower prices, but if the status quo keeps up we'll see a backlash where customers are driven back to brick-and-mortar stores, willing to pay a bit more to avoid being jerked off.

Paintball Celebrity-Worship

As it stands right now, Paintball (especially the Milsim side) is still a subculture and a novelty to most people, and not quite mainstream. So anytime I see someone pioneering in this field and trying to expand the "subculture" to just plain "culture", it gives me a nice, warm feeling in my cold, jaded heart.

Unfortunately in these situations, cults of personality can develop, and the Paintball Celebrity is born! Fans heap praise on him for getting them into the game, ask his advice on what marker to get as if they were Moses speaking to God at the Temple Mount, and carry on sometimes like they would take a real bullet for him. You see this pretty often on the comments section of their YouTube videos or blogs: Disagree with the celeb, or leave a negative comment, and rabid fans jump to the defence of their idol with personal attacks, as if the celebrity shits gold-trimmed RPS Evil paintballs filled with Moet Champagne.

I appreciate that these guys are helping to grow the sport/game, but most of these Paintball celebrities are just some cool guys who happen to have free time on their hands to talk about their hobby + decent blogging or video editing skills, and a “studio” (their kitchen or garage with a fancy backdrop). They’re just regular people who can be wrong, and can make mistakes like you and me. So get off their jocks already!

Lack of Life Balance

We only get around 80 years on this planet (and even that number goes down when you engage in bad behaviours from a list that grows almost daily). So it only stands to reason that you need to use those years wisely, and experience as much as you can of what life has to offer. With that said, life is about more than just Paintball. But some people don't realize this, and get just a little TOO into it, to the point where it's not healthy.

At the extreme of course is the Speedballer working 3 jobs to pay for his habit of shooting 20,000 paintballs at every Saturday morning practice, who lives with 3 other Paintballer roommates, and lives to go to tournaments every weekend during the season. Very rarely (just as in any sport), this guy gets to turn pro, get endorsement contracts, and make a decent living for the few years he's actually relevant to the industry. In sports in general, the unusually driven (obsessed) and/or naturally talented end up in the top spots, so there's something to be said for the "Paintball is life" Speedball crowd's enthusiasm.

However, on the recreational and Milsim side there's no equivalent apex of achievement - no national tournaments, no huge endorsement contracts, and no stardom - so you need to temper how much time and resources you dedicate to what's essentially a hobby. Some people have a tendency to let the game take over a little TOO much. If you’re a decently-paid responsible older dude with a family and your finances under control, then this is pretty harmless, and isn’t really a problem. Hobbies have a tendency to come and go, and when that new baby is born or your job requires you to work weekends, then Paintball naturally takes a back seat. Until then the worst that happens is your old high school friends who add you on Facebook have no idea what you look like these days, because every photo you post features you wearing a Paintball mask and aiming at something. OR maybe your family lives with that old 32" TV for a little longer, because you blew your extra cash on a new RAP4 marker instead of the home theatre setup you've been putting off.

The real harm comes if you're a younger player who's still pursuing education and developing socially, and/or with limited funds. Staying up until 3am posting on Milsim boards, and watching TechPB videos on the 'Tube when you have to be up for class at 8am, can be really destructive to your future. Likewise, when you choose a Bob Long MTAC over a car, spend all your allowance/parents' money/part-time job paycheck on Paintball, and have to take the bus to meet a girl for a date (if you can even get one), it can be pretty destructive too. We’re talking eventual 40 Year-Old Virgin territory here. In fact, there’s an easy way to tell apart the guys who spent too much time on Paintball/Airsoft/Dungeons & Dragons/reading comic books in their earlier days instead of having a balanced life: Just watch them pose in photos with attractive women, and see how they have no idea how to touch one. Note the HOVER HAND:

Smelly field trolls

The smelly field troll is the guy who’s taken the Paintball-life imbalance to an extreme in his adult years, to the point where he has nothing else. Everyone who’s played Paintball regularly for at least a couple years has run into a guy like this at one point or another. He’s the guy who seems to be at the field every single time you’re there, like he’s got nowhere else to go. And there’s a good chance that he doesn’t.

In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s wearing paintball pants, and holding an autococker from the mid-90s (which is probably the last time he took a real shower), you’d mistake him for a homeless man and cross the street to avoid him. Often this “Paintball hobo” will be living out of a rusty old hatchback with an expired licence plate. Sure he’s had quite a history in the game, and he gets that thousand-yard stare every time he thinks about all those flags he’s captured, but he’s got nothing else going for him. Often the field owner will give him a job (just because he’s there all the time anyway), and he masters the technical skill of filling air tanks, and handing out Cokes and bags of chips at the snack bar.

Some people look up to a guy like this, listening to all his stories and admiring how he's “dedicated his life to Paintball”, but there’s nothing admirable about a man who pays for sex, and then uses what’s left of his welfare check to buy field paint.

Morale Patches

So-called "Morale Patches" are something I've despised with a passion for a while, but I've kept silent about them until now. I'm not sure what they're supposed to do for morale, because they're NOT funny, and are actually corny as fuck. Let's look at a few of them here that I've seen slapped on some Milsim Paintball players' velcro:

Major League Doorkicker

This patch is a corny rendition of the Major League Baseball logo, which is enough reason to hate it already. But unless you play at some place like PRZ or CQB Tactical Paintball, there are generally NO DOORS in Paintball!

Pork-eating crusader

This morale patch is downright offensive, with the message even translated into Arabic just to make sure it pisses everyone off. The douche-force is strong with this one, and if any real soldiers, PMCs, or operators deployed in the Afghan or Iraqi theaters were actually wearing this patch, then they'd be absolute fucking morons. A key goal in both campaigns is to win the hearts and minds of the local Muslim population to defeat the insurgency, and this won't happen if they were to insult their culture and joke about a genocidal campaign against Islam misguidedly waged in the name of God. Nope, the only people wearing a patch this stupid on their vests are redneck gun nuts who fantasize about one day marrying Ann Coulter, and the occasional idiot Airsofter or Milsim Paintballer.


Ok, where do I start with this one? Most people wearing this patch and others like it know absolutely nothing about "The Suck". Getting rained on at the field and getting your BDUs dirty may "suck" in the sense that you now have to do some serious laundry, but you don't know THE suck until:

1) You've been woken up in the morning by your Section Commander with a kick to the back and having your sleeping bag pulled up around your neck to strangle you;

2) You've had a breakfast of coffee grinds washed down with warm canteen water, because your platoon is bugging out in less than 2 minutes;

3) You've gone prone during a night exercise, only to realize that you're lying on your belly with deer shit all around you, and you can't move because that's your security position while your leader tries to make sense of his maps; or

4) You've had to execute a "Trench Jack", because the only privacy you've had all week is one night in a chest-deep muddy hole in the ground.

Now, just to be clear here, I don't hate ALL morale patches. There are some of them that are kinda cool, but most are just plain DUMB - like the ones above! People need to learn that just because they have some available Velcro space on their vest or BDU sleeves, doesn't mean it has to be filled with the equivalent of a regrettable bumper sticker.

Special Forces Unit Patches and Logos

Still on the subject of patches, Airsofters and Paintballers wearing knock-off Special Operations unit patches is something else that makes me pull a Gran Torino. There's a reason why it's so damn tough to get into a Special Ops unit. You have to be the best of the best, physically fit beyond belief, and have a touch of insanity that manifests itself at the right times to make it into the ranks of the elite. Let's look at a couple things that these guys do. Here's a photo of South Korean special forces troops practicing Tae Kwon Do shirtless, in the middle of -20C winter weather:

And here's a photo of a Saudi Arabian Special Forces operator eating a live snake as part of his graduation ceremony:

British SAS recruits have to swim in a vat neck-deep in pig guts and blood as part of selection, and with all SpecOps units a common thread is that the recruits have to be awake for days at a time with no sleep. If you want to see more about induction into Special Operations units, check out the Military Channel programs Surviving the Cut and Two Weeks in Hell.

By now you get the idea: These guys are BADASS MOTHERFUCKERS, and it takes a lot of hard work and achievement to get where they are. What do you think the Hells Angels would do to some wannabe they caught with a tattoo of their logo on his arm? You can bet said wannabe would be missing some skin in short order, with an additional beating to really drive home the message. Likewise, if a real deal Navy SEAL came across some punk Airsoft or Paintball player wearing a DEVGRU patch at a Paintball field, without having earned it, there would be a whole lot of hurtin' going on! They may not be as likely to physically harm him as a biker gang, but at the very least that player would have a sizeable chunk cut out of his replica tactical vest.

Bottom line: If you really have to wear a team patch, then get your own custom team patch made. These guys earned theirs through blood, sweat, and probably even killing, so don't step on their toes by wearing a Chinese knock-off of it.

Stay tuned for more monthly Milsim hate/intense dislike (directed at all the right people), here on Grey Ops!

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