By: Michael Jeffrey
Those October mornings in Florida are always eerie. Before dawn, that low mist hangs off the road, and, when you pull through the gates at Fantasy of Flight, into the gladiatorial air of World Cup, the grass shines silver with dew so thick you wonder if it might’ve rained in the night. But then again, you’re almost certain it hadn’t—you didn’t sleep much. You would’ve heard it patter on the roof of the house.
By Sunday morning, you aren’t used to the field sitting so silently as it does, then. There’s a certain element of apocalypse when you show up to a nearly empty parking lot, roll bags into a quiet pit area. The cut after the prelims strikes deep. Those still here are the survivors, the few that have lasted. All week the screams of sideline coaches, the shouts of “Win World Cup,” the wailing moans of clock buzzers, the blaring music of tradeshow tents, and the thunderous echo of paint bouncing off of bunkers have competed for space in the air of Polk City, Florida. But now, as the Sunday morning sun sneaks into view over the hanger in the east, and the shadows of bunkers and players hang long on the fields, it is quiet.
But even when the noise returns, when teams scream at each other in circles one last time, surrounding a fire whose kindle is called collective will and whose flames are called heart, even when the games begin and fates unfold loudly and dramatically, there exists a quiet underneath it all that has nothing to do with decibel levels. Hiding below the deafening exterior remains a stillness in the deep recesses of the mind where instincts live.
This is the silence of a mind utterly focused. When the human mind, so constantly berated as it is by sources of cheap stimulation, is enraptured by one goal, by one challenge so incredibly difficult and impossibly rewarding as to require total mental faculty, it becomes silent.
For a sport consisting of loud colors and loud guns and loud fans and loud chants, paintball is so truly about quiet.
At World Cup, as a year’s worth of work comes to pass, some will feel this serenity of being in their element in a moment that will define them. This is what the monk chases in a mountainside monastery, what the surfer seeks in ocean swells.
When the pads are pulled on, and you don the jersey with a name you pride on its back and with a name you bleed for on its front, and you pull the mask over your face and can feel the wetness of your breath on its plastic, can see the reflection of your eyeballs in its lens, and you step through the nets into air thick with consequence and humidity, into the light on the field that shines with that sepia quality that makes everything feel important, there are no words or completed thoughts, only quiet. That’s purpose. And that’s life affirmation. And that’s love. And that’s why you play paintball. And when you search the eyes of the four faces following you onto the field and you see that same look behind their irises, that’s brotherhood.
Over the blare of the crowd and the sound of your gun and the three people shooting at you, the sense of calm that penetrates through panic is what allows you to hear the voices of the paintball gods as they lean down from above and they whisper into your ear, “Now.”
When all is said and done, and the sun dies on the water behind Fantasy of Flight, and the tents are torn down and the fields deflate and the season is over, one team will celebrate. And they may yell and hug and thank sponsors, and maybe they’ll say, “We won World Cup,” but ask them to describe how they feel in their champagne-and-sweat-soaked jerseys and they will undoubtedly say, “Speechless.”
Not another word needed.
Mark your calendars for the biggest tournament in the world, the 2013 PSP World Cup, which takes place at the Fantasy of Flight, in Orlando, Florida. The best teams in the world will be fighting across multiple divisions of competition to determine who’s the best. Paintball Access will be bringing all the action live, October 18th-20th. Don’t miss it!
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