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Paintball Long Island
Big Game 2002
by Bill Mills

The month of May means one thing on my calendar each year – time to head to Coram in Long Island, New York for the annual Rec-Ball Extravaganza and big game.  

My wife Dawn and I arrived on Saturday afternoon.  We thought we’d miss much of the action, but heavy rains in the morning held things up until we got out to the field.  As in years past, the Rec-Ball tournament was meant for throw together teams that don’t usually play tournaments – the emphasis was on fun.  While five man teams competed on the fields, players gathered and started getting ready for the big event – the Big Game on Sunday.

Deeply entrenched in their campsite, with BBQ grills going were the Wild Geese and Canadian Contingent.  The Geese, being the oldest, still operational paintball team in the world, had scouted out and prepared their site the week before the event, and the adjoining crew from the Great White North merged in with them as usual.  

A few yards from their campsite a drainage culvert failed to do its job and the morning rains created a lake in the corner of the parking lot.  Geese member RJ Torrell added the finishing touch to the suddenly appearing swamp – a pair of inflatable alligators that made me feel like I was back at home in the Florida wetlands.  Well, maybe not.

Vendors had set up their booths in the trade show tent, and included Warrior Sports Gear, Cousins Paintball, Toxic Toys and more.  Milling about the area were Graham Easton from Smart Parts, and Greg “Red” Hastings of Redz’ Comfort Gear.  The two were slated to be the opposing team generals the next day.  Red plays tournament ball for Ground Zero Silver, and Graham plays for Nasty.

Graham had brought with him boxes of barrel covers that were made in an American Flag theme with “United We Stand” emblazoned on the side.  Smart Parts has the equipment to produce dye sublimation prints (ink printed right into the fabric – like most high-end jerseys) in house, and they produced these barrel covers to raise funds for New York firefighters.  Also on hand from Smart Parts was Franco DiBlassio.  Franco had come on behalf of Paintball Sports Promotions, the company that produces the NPPL’s tournaments.  Franco brought compressors and fill stations from PSP’s air fill system.  I spoke to Franco about this, and won’t be at all surprised if we see this air system leased out for more major non-PSP produced events in the future.  For those who haven’t seen it before, it is really astounding to have so many people getting their air systems filled so quickly.

Dean, one of the Cousins’ owners sneaked us away from the field for a short time on Saturday evening, we took a short drive to Cousins’ indoor.  Two indoor fields are backed up by a pro-shop and feature artificial turf on the floor and Sup’Air bunkers.  Surprisingly, the field did not have the problem most indoors suffer – the smell of bacteria growing in rotting gelatin paintball shell.  The reason we learned was because the floors get vacuumed every night at closing, a process that takes from 20 minutes to two hours depending on how heavy the action had been during the day.  The facility was well lit, setting it apart from the typical indoor paintball facility.  One of the two fields is occasionally folded up while that side of the building is used for a local arena football team to practice – something that has lead to some exciting cross-marketing programs for Cousins with their banner appearing in the end zone during televised games, and the sport of paintball being promoted in arena football game programs.  Another cool feature in the pro shop were the point of sale displays.  Each cash register had a flat panel LCD screen which showed customers their order as it was entered, while half of the screen cycled between paintball action video clips, highlighted products, and the latest news headlines from WARPIG.com.

Saturday night over dinner both Red and Graham began plotting their schemes for Sunday.  Red had brought somewhere between ten and twenty thousand dollars worth of Redz’ gear to the event, and rumor had it that he had spent the better part of the afternoon handing out packs and bags to line up teams onto his side.  

In the morning, the game started just a shadow behind schedule.  Graham was worried that the New Yorkers would have trouble making out his British accent, so he tasked my with addressing the team.  We, the blue team had gathered at the north end of the field, while I explained our objectives for the day.  On the field were seven bases.  Each base had a pair of flags, a red flag and a blue flag.  It was our goal to take over each base, and get our flag raised on the central flagpole.  Each team would start out holding three bases on their side of the field.  One base was worth three points per minute, while the other two were worth a single point per minute.  

There were two more bases on the field – one near the middle, and one nearly to the south end – deep into Red territory.  Our plan of attack on the Blue team was to protect the bases on our side of the field, then work our way down the East tapeline to the missile base (the unoccupied base that was mid-field) which was worth no points and work our way from there to the oil refinery which was worth two points per minute.  This was a switch-up to the field layout in years past.  The 2 point oil refinery used to be near the middle of the field.  The new arrangement of bases gave a decided advantage to the team starting from the south which, in this case were the Reds.

The whistle blew and we were off.  Graham definitely enjoyed leading from the front, and within minutes of the game start we occupied the missile base, and came head to head with blue players who wanted to take it for their team.  I got taken out by a hit during that battle, and headed off field to get more paint, more air, and find out what was happening on the other side of the field.

The Canadian Contingent, I learned wasn’t on either the red, or blue team.  They were banded with silver tape armbands and they, along their human powered tank, were mercenaries for hire.  Either side could hire them by giving up some of their points.  If they weren’t hired for anything – they’d just jump into a firefight where the action looked good.  Paintball author “Durty” Dan Leger had managed not only to get past Red’s security guards, but to get him to surrender with a PGP, and get away without getting hit!  That was a 50 point score for the blue team.  Dan’s target for the afternoon would be Graham.

CanCon’s tank wasn’t the only one on the field – the ArmoredFistPaintball.com tank, a long time regular at the event was on the field blaring music and slinging paint.  In the skies overhead “Doc” Davis leaned out the side of a small helicopter shooting at targets of opportunity.  For safety reasons, the helicopter could not be shot at, so Doc was an invulnerable foe to be avoided.
 

Both sides racked up special mission points during the morning, but at the scoreboard, it looked like the Reds had a phenomenal lead.  I found out that the points for holding a base were only added into the totals when the base changed hands.  As we broke for lunch, the mid-day totals went up, and even with all the points we had gained for holding all of the bases on our side of the field, as well as the coveted oil refinery, The Red team still had a sound lead.  Red left for lunch while Graham puzzled at the scoreboard – the score didn’t make sense for as long as we’d held our bases.  After a quick recalculation, the scorekeeper found that they hadn’t added in the points the Blue Team had earned by holding the Oil Refinery.  With those numbers thrown in, the lunchtime score had the Blue Team leading 950 to 816.       

After a brief lunch break it was back out onto the field.  This time the Blue Team started at the South end of the field, and the Reds were up North.  Since the Oil Refinery was at the South end of the field, our strategy was simply to move out fast forming a line across the field, and not allow the other team past.  Holding that position we would gain more points each minute.  Unfortunately, I plans went awry as it was discovered that the Red tank somehow started off on our side of the field.  While it slowed things up, we still set up our defensive line only moments before Red and his crew came at us hard.

The afternoon did not go so well for the Blue Team.  Bases traded hands on a regular basis, and at times the Reds dominated all of the bases.  While the scoreboard flip-flopped the leaders, paint flew on the fields.  At one point the Red team controlled all of the insertion points, so it was time for a special blue insertion.  The referees dropped a group of about 30 blue players right in the Red team’s back door.  We headed immediately for their capitol – a base worth three points per minute.  The bulk of the Red Team was down at the south end of the field – our side, hammering the main body of the Blue Team.  After a siege that lasted about 10 minutes, we had taken over the capitol – I took a hit on the head while running to the center of the base, and headed to the netted safety area about 20 yards away to await my 15 minute reincarnation period.  Also in the rest area with me were a number of Red players that we had cleared out of the base.  The referee warned them that when their time was up, they should probably walk off field and come back on, rather than reinsert into the “hot zone” of the capitol.

While most of them went out, a handful had time left when a missile hit.  Somewhere on the field, the Red Team had found a card good for a poison gas missile strike, and they called it in on the Blue controlled Capitol.  The refs set off a smoke bomb in the base, and all of the Blue players touched by the smoke were called out.  This pretty much cleared out the base, save for some Blue stragglers on the outskirts.  My time came up and I reinserted while a couple of Reds came in, and thought they could just waltz on in and swap the flag.  A single ball on each of them fired from out in the open took care of that.  Less than a minute later though the Red team charged into the Capitol with at least 50 players – and though the four or five remaining Blues did what we could, we didn’t last long.

The entire Blue team had been alerted to Durty Dan’s assassination plans, so he couldn’t get close to Graham in the afternoon.  There were a couple of attempts to take out Red, but they failed.  Jim Masse of the Paintball Marshals got past Red’s guards by putting down his paintgun and saying he had a message for the general.  As he reached into his pocket to pull out a paint grenade he was hit in the back by a paintball which he later learned was fired by his own team in a charge.  Will Arroyo of Ground Zero tried to deliver a bioweapon to take out the Red General, but was run off by Red’s guards.

As the end of the day neared I found myself once again alongside Graham as we went with a small group of Blue players and took back our own Command Post (3 points per minute).  Normally when I see Graham playing it’s in tournaments on concept fields, but he was definitely at home in the woods.  There were many opportunities to crawl and pop up in just the right place to take out a whole group of Red players before they knew where the paint was coming from.

The end of game whistle blew, and after time to stash their gear, everyone gathered around a makeshift stage (a large wooden crate) where Cousins’ Paul Sattler got things off by drawing names for door prizes.  The large supply of prizes went on for some time, including paintguns, and soft goods.  Paul also ran some contests – the first person to bring up an odd item like a nickel, the first to have the same birthday as Red, or the first male wearing lipstick received prizes.  There were also t-shirt shuffles – contestants were handed t-shirts, each with a letter on them, and had to jumble around until they spelled out a word – WARPIG.  

Paul also continued an annual big game tradition - the Paintball Industry Award (ours from 1999 hangs proudly on our office wall).  This year the Award went to Jerry Braun in recognition for his achievements as one of the founding organizers of the NPPL, producer of World Cup, Publisher of Paintball Sports International Magazine, Producer of both a TV show and tournament for ESPN, and present role in Paintball Sports Promotions.  

Jerry took his moment in the spotlight to tip his hat to some others who were making achievements to spread paintball to the mainstream world.  He announced that Billy and Adam Gardner, owners of Smart Parts had just made arrangements for the production of a paintball oriented film with a major studio, a reality based competitive TV show using paintball, and were negotiating with the effects group working on Terminator III about the use of Smart Parts paintguns for special effects work.

During the hubub of the contests, Graham Easton commented about how much fun he had during the day.  “Awesome fun!” he said, “It was great to be back in the woods again.  I was rocking and rolling.  I lead from the front.”  Easton said he wants to bring all of team Nasty to join in the fun next year.

Red Hastings took a moment to butter us up when he said, “The best part about my day was being able to see my friends from WARPIG.”  On the serious side, Red said that he didn’t have much prior experience at big games or scenarios.  He had attended the first World Record Game at Skirmish USA, and his “VM didn’t work right – I didn’t shoot anyone all day.  This was one of the funnest things I have ever done in paintball.  You get to interact with the real players who make up the sport.  It’s not like the fantasy world of tournaments that I usually play in.”

Will Orroyo, who is also used to the tournament scene usually makes an appearance at the Big Game because of how much fun he gets to have.  “Both generals were really funny,” he said.  “I love coming here because it is between tournament dates, and it is always fun.” 

One of the final items in the contest was the auctioning of a signed Adam Gardner All Americans jersey which raised a couple hundred dollars for New York Firefighters.

One of the final events was the announcement of the score.  Blue finished with 1780 points, while Red by taking over much of the field in the afternoon finished at 2400, once again securing a victory for the Red team.

As the sun set the players went their ways.  The Long Island Big Game always works out as a weekend of pure paintball fun with friend, and this year was no exception.  For me, getting to play with Graham out in the woods of Long Island was a blast.  Off the field there was time to hang out with long time friends – the crew from Can Con, the Geese, the Marshals and many of the other Big Game regulars that I get to see once a year, plus Simon Stevens who’s now made an annual habit of coming all the way over from England to join in the fun.
 


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