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Paintball Long Island

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PBLI Big Game 2001
by Bill Mills
May 2001

Each year it happens.  Paintball players from the northeastern United States and beyond migrate towards Coram, a city on Long Island, New York.  They gather for the annual rec-ball extravaganza - two days of paintball.  Saturday starts with the rec-ball tournament, a tournament for teams that don't regularly play tourneys - each of the games in this event has its own bizarre twist.  Sunday is the day that draws the larger crowds, the infamous big game.  With attendance that is typically over 1,000 players each year, the big game is paintball by volume with rampaging hordes heading through the woods of Paintball Long Island, dodging paint from a helicopter above, and a "tank" below.

More than a big game or tournament, the rec-ball extravaganza is a social event.  Many players camp on site over the weekend, with the paintball games serving as a break between their relaxing and telling stories around the camp stove (dry forest conditions put a lid on campfires.)

I arrived at the field Friday afternoon.  My wife and I had ridden out from Cousin's Paintball with manager Paul Sattler.  A few cars had already parked into the recently expanded and leveled parking area.  The one campsite that was already in full swing, as I expected, belonged to the Wild Geese and Canadian Contingent.

Wild Geese is the oldest paintball team in continual operation, having been founded in 1983.  Canadian Contingent hails from the great white north, and is centered entirely around the fun side of paintball.  These two teams encamped together means plenty of good times to be had, and unbeatable hospitality to all who stop by. 

"Durty Dan" Leger is probably one of the best known of the camp's inhabitants.  Other notable characters include Gary "The Judge" Jones and Ralph Torrell.  Not as many people know what Ralph looks like, but his collection of over 50 historic and unique paintguns fills the pages of The Complete Guide To Paintball.

A stump of a tree in the center of their camp site was quickly decorated with plastic tape, ribbons, and barrel plugs.  Initially dubbed the "Festivus Tree" it was quickly labeled as the "Geestevus Tree."

Friday night came and went.  Saturday morning the parking area was full of cars, the tent full of vendors and the forest alive with players and referees.

Under the tent, Rose Griffith-Smith of Unique Sporting had not only her line of harnesses, barrel socks, and accessories, but also the full line of Paintball Junkies apparel as well.  Cousins Paintball had a variety of paintball products, and their staff, including Steve Cusano of Ground Zero provided tech support keeping player's paintguns running.  Craig Palmer of Palmer's Pursuit shop displayed some custom Typhoons, as well as a Blazer.  Two new products from Palmer's include the STB regulator (an even smaller mini-rock that is easier to clean and maintain) and a trigger shoe with built in trigger stop. 

Adding local flavor, a cigar shop offered not only high end cigars, but also a while-you-wait custom cigar rolling service.  Dennis Tippmann Jr., Ben Tippmann, Thomas Ghee and several others from Tippmann Pneumatics were on hand providing support for their customers.  Dennis turned a lot of heads with a research prototype of a pneumatic drive positive pressure feed system (which may, or may not ever be developed into a product).  While the previous year's Blue Team General, Jeff Orr was unable to attend this year, Worr Game Products was still out in force, with tech support and new products to show.

On the field, the teams were going head to head in the preliminary rounds of the rec-ball tournament.  Since the goal of this event was more about having fun than anything else, the games were not just the same old capture the flag format.  Each of the game fields featured a game with its own twist.

  • Card Trick - Each team started out with 5 cards (two 2s, one 5 and two 10s).  When a player is hit, they give up their card to a referee.  When the game ends from a hang of the center flag or time clock points are awarded for the first flag grab, and for the cards held by live players.
  • Center Kick - Instead of a centerflag, a center soccer ball, which could not be moved by hands, was used.  One game was especially notable to the refs was won with a player who had great trouble kicking the ball where he wanted it to go.  He kicked back and forth around the flag station for some time before finally sinking a goal.
  • Run For the Gun - Both teams started in the center, but their paintguns were in their flag stations.  At the whistle the players ran to their stations, grabbed their paintguns, then came running back for the center flag.
  • Towering Inferno - The flag, rather than being on a pole, started the game in one of several Inferno paint boxes near the middle of the field.
  • Hula's Your Daddy! - Players were each issued a Hula Hoop, and if they stepped out of it during the game, they were eliminated.  Hoop hits did not count.
  • Duckin' Donuts - Instead of a flag, a bag with a box filled with a dozen donuts started out in the tower on the center of the field.  The winning team got to keep the donuts.  At the end of the preliminary rounds, with lots of extras, the last couple of teams were competing for 3 or 4 boxes of donuts at a time.  These were distributed to players in their wake as headed back from the field through the parking area.
  • Delay Game - This was a centerflag game, but instead of all players starting at once, 2 start at the beginning of the game, 2 more enter the game 15 seconds later, and the last joins the game in another 15 seconds.
  • Try-Angle - On a triangular shaped field, the two teams started on one corner, with the flag in the third corner.
  • Split Decision - The unique layout of this field had an open path straight down the middle with no cover making the flag grab quite a challenge.
  • Transport - Each team started off with their own flag, the goal being to get it to the opposite side of the field, a twist on the standard two flag game.
After 6 games each, the 48 teams were culled down to 12 semifinalists which were further trimmed to 4 finalists which competed in single elimination finals.  Kit Kat Club beat Outcast leaving Outcast in fourth place.  Disorderly Conduct beat Phoenix, giving Phoenix third place.  The final game, for all the marbles was won by Kit Kat Club, putting Disorderly Conduct in second place. 

The Diablo field paint was available for both the tournament and big game.  Air and CO2 fills were included with the paint.  Four fill coupons came in each case.

With the sunlight fading, the tiki torches were lit in the Geese/CanCon camp.  It was time for the Canadian Contingent Survivor vote.  One by one, members of the team came forward to cast their sacred and secret vote.  One member of the team would be banished the following day to play not with CanCon on the red team, but instead to play alone on the blue team.  Will Read, having organized the vote was to be immune from ostracism.  One by one the team members cast their vote, while they sat gathered in folding lawn chairs and inflatable lounges.  Will tallied the votes only to find an overwhelming number with his own name on them.  With confusion befitting the election committee of Palm Beach Country, Florida, he burned the ballots claiming they were spoiled.  It was, however too late, the will of the masses was made clear.  Read donned the special edition Canadian Contingent Jersey, and extinguished the flame of the ceremonial torch.  The front of the jersey featured the Can Con maple leaf in blue, while the back read "OUTCAST 01."

The next morning.... The Big game.  Over 1100 players had preregistered, and a few hundred more showed up as walk on players.  Unlike the previous year, the weather cooperated to provide perfect paintball conditions.  The players were divided into two teams, red and blue.  The top billed names for the event were the "sons of guns."  For the red team, the general was Craig Palmer.  Craig is the son of legendary airsmith Glenn Palmer, and an accomplished airsmith in his own right.  The Blue General was Dennis Tippmann, Jr., son of Tippmann Pneumatics Founder Dennis Tippmann.  Dennis Jr. develops and researches new technologies for Tippmann Pneumatics.   Craig took to the field with a custom built Palmer's Typhoon, while Dennis was shooting a Tippmann 98 Custom with a concept prototype loader.

The massive game field featured a number of bases, each equipped with a flag pole.  A loop of rope on the pole had two flags - a red flag and a blue flag.  When a squad took control of a base, they would raise their flag to the top of the pole.  Points were awarded by the minute, to the teams controlling each base.  Each half of the field had one base worth three points per minute, and two bases worth one point per minute.  Almost on the mid line of the field, was the oil refinery, a collection of 50 gallon drums worth two points per minute.

As long as a base was controlled by a team, the general of that team could gather information and relay commands via the referee at that station.  In this way the generals could monitor the progress of the game, and redirect players where they were needed.

In addition to the points for base control, either team could gain 50 points be eliminating their opposing general.  Special missions, were sent out at various times of the day. 

The most entertaining special mission proved to be the briefcase mission.  A group of players were issued an attaché case on the field.  Inside were white cotton briefs which they had to wear over their clothes, from their location to the score table to collect points. 

Players eliminated on the field were not out of the game for good.  They could leave the field, reload, and return, or take a break in a netted "reincarnation station" on the field for 15 minutes.  While waiting in one of these stations, a player spotted a laminated card lying on the ground.  Dan Leger returned it to the score table.  It awarded 50 points to the red team when he correctly named 6 paintguns manufactured by Tippmann Pneumatics.  Moments after the points were awarded, it was noticed that the trivia card was actually from the 1999 big game.  The points stood.

Roving the field was the giant tiger tank, built on a Chevy truck chassis.  Its invulnerability made players run for cover when it approached, while the music blaring out of its sound system lent excitement to the game.  What really got players moving was the chop, chop, chop of helicopter rotors.  In his traditional role, "Doc" from Ground Zero circled the field in a small two seat helicopter.  While the pilot showed his talents making tight turns and side slides at treetop level, Doc let loose a hail of paint from his Angel onto the players below.  For obvious safety reasons, players were not allowed to shoot back at the helicopter making it invulnerable.

Last year, this author erroneously reported that Doc also dropped Tippmann Squadbuster grenades.  In a long held tradition, Doc supplements the fire of his Angel with paint grenades that are lovingly handcrafted for him by members of the Canadian Contingent using a top secret recipe that rumor says was handed down from Al's grandmother.

Warpig webmaster and confirmed roller coaster addict, Dawn Mills went for a run in the helicopter, getting aerial photos of the field.  Unfortunately, the players on the field were expecting Doc in her seat, and scattered for cover, rather than posing for photographs.  The smile did not leave her face for the rest of the day. 

A production crew from "Dateline NBC" was on the field during the big game.  They were very vague as to whether they were planning their story on paintball to have a positive or negative spin, or when it was actually due to air.  The segment producer who had initially asked Dawn for an interview, changed his mind after she stopped his crew twice on the field, for removing their masks.  The audio tech had a problem understanding the idea that protecting his eyes was more important than wearing his headphones.

As the game drew to a close, the players were tense.  Running totals flexed first to one team, and then the other.  Both teams held most of the bases on their side of the field, but bases near the center and the oil refinery went back and forth. 

Finally, after all was said and done, the totals were announced.  The Red Team finished with 2730 points, while the Blue Team finished with 2799 points, one of the closest finishes ever.  When asked how the event went for him, Craig Palmer said he was speechless.  He said he'd had so much fun, he didn't know how to describe it.

Prizes, prizes, and more prizes....  Many players left as soon as the game ended, this thinned the crowd, greatly increasing the chance that those who stayed would receive prizes from the game's sponsors.  Stunts and trivia were used to choose who would win prizes from the massive package including shirts, hats, squeegees, oil, packs, Autocockers, Tippmann M98s, Flatlines, and more. 

Raffle tickets had been sold throughout the weekend for a Tippmann Model 98.  The proceeds from the drawing went to Share and Care, a support network for victims of Cockayne Syndrome and their families.  One of the first prizes awarded was the M98 from this raffle.  Looking to raise more money for the charity, a 2001 Autococker from Worr Games Products was auctioned to the crowd, adding to the charity donation.

Prizes went out to the first of 5 players able to put on a pair of pantyhose with the fewest rips and runs, to the first person to give Paul Statler a beer, to the first person to give Doc a beer (Paul's son grabbed the beer just given to Paul and handed it to Doc), to people with birthdays the closest to Procaps' Richmond Italia and Bud Orr.  The player able to say the sweetest thing to Dawn Mills, and most embarrassing thing to Ben Tippmann also won prizes.

After all the paint, all the prizes, and all the fun, the players headed out their separate ways, making plans to return next year.

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