Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: DETROIT STYLE
Blog 12: Loyalty or stupidity....
“Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another and of strength to be derived by unity” -Vince Lombardi
The temperature tipped the scale at well over 100 degrees and the humidity was just as unbearably high. The kids worked out on the hard, ashy dirt that served as a practice field, even though the scenery hardly represented a sports ground of any kind. The sweat poured down the backs and faces of the boys as they learned to play the game of football in the most grueling of conditions. A late July practice in South Georgia is unforgiving to those who dare tempt the cruel mistress known as two-a-days. As the training came to a relieving halt, the collection of boys walked haggardly off the field dreaming of the relaxing days of summer that had quickly dissipated into the hell known as practice. No one truly loved practices, it broke the players down and wore them out, but everyone loved the games. However, for a majority of the boys, the training sessions were too much to handle and some of the players decided that the coolness of a pool and warmth of a television was much better than the stern beating of football practice. So, as my friends slowly dwindled away from the team, I too quickly lost interest in the game that I had loved throughout my youth. Consequently, after as much contemplation as a 7th grader could go through, I decided to quit the team before the season had even started. Nonetheless, my father was not so receptive to the idea. He wasn’t upset that I didn’t feel like playing the game that I had begged my parents to play four years early, nor was he perturbed that he had wasted hundreds of dollars on equipment for me. Instead, he was bothered that I wanted to quit something that I had already started. So, as I sat on my porch with my father one hour before practice, diligently explaining to him why I should be allowed to quit the team, I remember him telling me “You can quit when you’ve finished what you started.”
At thirteen years old, the concepts of commitment and loyalty were ideologies that did not concern me nearly as much as my Nintendo 64 and the next release of a Pauly Shore movie. However, I finished the season with my middle school football team, even though it was the worst season of sports in my life. But, for some reason I returned the next year because my distaste had evolved into something greater, a peculiar combination filled with a desire to compete and better myself, prove that I was tough enough and win with my new friends. It sounds overly cliché, but it’s a reality that I’m thankful occurred. Unfortunately, football wasn’t my calling as high school proved to be much different when the other kids finally hit their growth spurts and returned the painful favors to me that I had once inflicted on them. Nonetheless, I came away from my time in the game with a sense of belonging and willingness to not just comprehend, but act upon my commitments.
The basis for my consideration of the topic of commitment comes at a time in paintball when sticking around gets tougher and tougher. Sponsorship is drying up at an alarming rate and players are fading away to the serenity of normal life quicker than ever before. However, there are still quite a few teams at most of the tournaments that I attend. And with that being said, it’s interesting to see all the player movements that occur, and not just at the professional level but also as I hear from friends about all the changes in lower divisions as well. Personally, I have mixed feelings and emotions but I have to admit that my perspective is viewed through a pair of very large, rose shaded glasses that are glittered with extra jadedness.
I have played in the PSP/NPPL since 2001. In that time, I have committed to play full time with only four teams. I quit Tippmann Effect to play X-ball with Detroit Thunder because it was my only opportunity to play at the professional level. I left all my friends and embarked on a journey that ended very abruptly when the team folded after only one year. I joined the Philadelphia All-Americans in 2004 when I really didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was a bright eyed 20 year old that still wagged my tail fervently when paintball was discussed and mentioned every five seconds. Truthfully, I had many rough patches while on the team, but stuck out the ride for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to sponsorship, job, friends and some various intangibles. But, much like Detroit Thunder, the ride came to an end before I was ready to get out of my tightly buckled seat. Eventually, I found my way to Chicago Aftershock, which has served as a form of solace for me in my mourning. So, I have really only quit one team in about ten seasons of competitive paintball, thus I must admit that my opinions about loyalty and commitment are heavily skewed.
I go to tournaments and I see the same faces but they are wearing new jerseys every week. I get messages on some of the forums asking me how/when is the proper method and time to “move up the ladder” or “settle for greener pastures.” Personally, I don’t know, I haven’t really done it much. But, it has made me really contemplate the issue on hand quite extensively. This year has made me truly understand the necessity for sponsorship and unfortunately in our silly little game, money often equals success. Call it what you want, but there is a direct correlation. How, and or why, those teams have money is a different equation and story that varies from squad to squad. Nonetheless, I can now truly realize why people leave teams and sometimes leave friends, family and teammates for, not necessarily a better team, but a richer team. In years past, I would have shunned those decisions and actions, but back then my rose glasses were even bigger and rosier. Nevertheless, the 2010 season is nearing an end and people are searching for teams. Pros are looking for better pro teams, amateur players are looking for better amateur teams, or hopefully a pro team, and it seems like only a select few really want to ride out the tidal wave.
Jumping off the boat is a difficult process. You stand at the edge of the bow, analyze and study the peeling, ugly wood that comprises your ship, and then you look over the edge and stare into the murky water and eagerly await a nice, fast jet boat to pick you up and take you to a magical place far away from your scummy looking dingy. But, sometimes it never comes and sometimes it comes before you really start looking. From a personal note while on the topic of changing teams, I had always envisioned my paintball career as the back of a well structured baseball card. Not a card of any value or of any real statistics, but a very simple card. I always enjoyed looking at the pro sports cards of players that had one team on their career list. Maybe it’s a result of my obsessive compulsiveness in regards to order and organization, or maybe my admiration for commitment, but I was in awe when I saw Dan Marino’s 17 seasons with only the Miami Dolphins team name attached to his card or when I saw Cal Ripken’s 21 seasons with only the Baltimore Orioles sitting beside his name. I like the fact that players such as Ryan Greenspan and Alex Fraige have been with Dynasty for so long, Billy Wing with the Ironmen and I respect that Thomas Taylor and Rich Telford have committed so painstakingly at times to XSV. Maybe there are other motives or purposes for their lack of jumping ship, but it still doesn’t change my current perspective, for whatever that’s worth.
In an era when a superstar such as Lebron James would rather join up with good players on a new team than build his own legacy, long gone are the mainstays such as Renick Miller, Adam Gardner and Dave Youngblood who represented their respective organizations within our game. Yes, I understand that they all owned their teams and had other reasons for staying, but it didn’t start that way. On a somewhat similar note, for anyone that doesn’t know, Darryl Trent has the Ironmen logo tattooed on his leg even though he eventually played with the All-Americans. He was able to split his commitments and loyalties, but I can’t fault him for that because his prerogatives and decisions for ever changing teams were based in some legitimate concerns and apprehensions. Nonetheless, it’s amazing to see that 53 years after he left the Ironmen, he still feels some connection and adoration for the team because his original commitment was so strong.
Houston Heat #40
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