Colt Roberts is now one of the old guard. He’s been around Pro Paintball long enough to intimately comprehend a team’s success can be incredibly finite and fickle, that you’re only as good as your last tournament. San Antonio X-Factor is the best team to emerge out of Texas, period. But are they one of the best teams ever? Well, that remains to be seen. As the 2012 season is about to kick off in their backyard, Colt brings us a brutally honest look at X-Factor’s past, present and future.
I used to know passion.
All of X-Factor used to know it. We lived it. We breathed it. But somewhere along the ride, its potency diminished. Did it just vanish? Was it taken away? Or better yet, was it GIVEN away?
I’ll tell you what happened to our passion…complacency.
During the off-season you spend a lot of time pondering your place in the order of things. You think of what the new season will bring, with all the practices, sore bodies, countless plane flights; time away from loved ones sandwiched between real life and work. But why do we endure it? It all boils down to passion, which is a word we’re all quick to pull up when talking about the commitment to tournament paintball, but do we really know what it means? And if we do know what it means, do we really have it?
So many questions for us right now, as a team and as individual players, and there are not a lot of answers.
This is going to change.
I remember the first time I met X-Factor, they were a few guys playing at one of the local fields here in San Antonio. I was playing with Texas Storm at the time and ran across them at practice one weekend. I helped them out with a few things but didn’t think too much of it. They played World Cup that year as their first national event. This was still in the 10-man days, 2003. They managed to lose every game they played, if I’m not mistaken. Over that offseason, Alex Martinez (the team’s owner) decided the team was going to get serious. I decided to help coach them as they made the transition into X-ball Division 3 the following season. They burst onto the scene with an impressive rookie season managing to win the Division 3 title. After some discussions it was decided that I would leave Texas Storm and start playing with X-Factor full time. We made the jump all the way to Division 1 and ended up winning a second series title. At the end of that season there were talks about X-Factor making the jump to pro. Some players were hesitant to make the move, which lead me to leave the team and pursue a pro career with the Portland Naughty Dogs. Halfway through their second season of Division 1, X-Factor decided to go ahead and make the pro transition.
They continued to see success in the pro ranks, playing very competitively from the get-go and even winning a tournament in Chicago ‘07. Following 2 1/2 seasons with the Naughty Dogs and a short stint with San Diego Aftermath, I returned to my home team and have been playing with them since. We continued to see success in the following years, making the Sunday Club consistently and even winning a Huntington Beach NPPL title in 2008. The title that Dynasty held for, I believe, 4 or 5 years running. We are winners and are used to being on top, but over the last few seasons we have become just another filler team. The great Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” We have found ourselves on the latter end of that saying recently and it has become disheartening. It made a thought, that has never crossed my mind before, appear– the thought of retiring.
We have learned, in the past couple of seasons, to specialize in the unexceptional, never doing terrible, but never doing well either. Somehow we have consistently managed to be inconsistent, often finishing with a 50 percent win/loss ratio and placing in the middle of the pack. We’re a mid-level boss right now, a team who warms you up on your way to a win.
This is unacceptable.
That’s the problem with the success that often follows an influx of passion. Once you get to the top, the passion causing your initial success starts to fizzle ever so slightly. Those two-day, ten-hour practices every weekend get shorter and less frequent. Instead of scouting games you find yourself rubbing elbows with the who’s who of paintball. The guys you looked up to all those years are now your equals. You’re doing interviews, signing posters, hanging out at the vendor booths, partying at night.
Then before you know it, dawn breaks and what stands illuminated scares the shit out of you. Mediocrity. Much like passion leads to success, complacency leads to mediocrity.
Here we stand, X-Factor, the team everyone was talking about a few years ago, the new kids on the block who came in swinging, kicking ass and taking names, now lost in the shuffle.
So what happens now? Where do you go when you’ve known success, and you’ve given it away? Do you decide, “Hey, we made a good run and now it’s time to focus on real life”? Hell no. It’s times like these that define your character. Life is easy when you’re winning, it’s when doubt comes into the picture that you really find out who you are. It’s time to decide who we are. Are we champions or has-beens?
This season feels different. The feeling of going through the motions has started to subside and give way to a spark we formerly knew. I can feel it, smell it, taste it…the passion. It’s not gone. It has just managed to elude us for a few seasons. With the acquisition of Billy Bernacchia to help out in the snake and 2 solid weekends of practice against Russian Legion we are ready to go out on our home turf in Galveston and remind everyone who X-Factor is.
Can we reacquire the amazing fuel we call passion? Or will we simply become by-products of history, one of those names you hear whispered on the lips of the old salts from time to time. I truly feel we can win again. Many have come, some have conquered, few have ruled.
It’s time to choose our own destiny.
Stay tuned for more on Colt Roberts and the ongoing X-Factor story coming soon on Paintball Access.