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Sam's Big Game VII
November 15, 1998
Toys For Tots Charity Game
By Bill Mills
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Paintball Sam's annual Toys For Tots fundraiser game remains one of my favorite paintball events to attend. Big Game III in 1994 was the first real paintball event I'd ever been to, and the first event I covered for a paintball magazine. One of the things that stands out in my memory of that day was that I got to meet a lot of paintball celebrities including Bob Long and Marty Bush of the Ironmen and Tom Kaye of Airgun Designs. Not only did I meet them, but I got to play paintball with them, and there was none of the "tourney attitude", or snobbery I had expected to see from what I'd read on the rec.sport.paintball newsgroup. At one point I ended up taking cover behind a boulder with Long. We discussed and executed a strategy to get the people who had a line of fire on us. Here I was, a recreational player that nobody had heard of, playing paintball with the captain of one of the world's best professional teams, and being treated as an equal. It's that attitude of going and simply having a fun time that makes Paintball Sam's annual event what it is.
While Oh Pawlack's name is used a lot in the promotional materials for this event (after all, he is "the pro you know") and he uses his influence as a pro-player to garner sponsorships for the event, there are a lot of people working behind the scenes to pull it off. The location is Paintball Sam's in Sacramento, California. Paintball Sam's, like Predator Marketing is owned by Oh's father Ed Pawlack. The field staff have built up barricades, buildings and bunkers that add to the natural Sierra-Nevada foothill terrain. Probably another reason I like the field is that it's in the same foothills (albeit further North) as where I started playing in Central California. As a recent immigrant to South Florida I rarely get to play on a field with anything resembling a hill, or with a tree larger around than a coffee can. The California Landsharks supplied the labor (fills, rental staff, referees) for the event. They are sponsored by Paintball Sam's and work at the field at events like this in exchange for using the field to run the tournaments that they use to raise team funds. It's a good example of a solid sponsorship arrangement (many teams see sponsorship as a one-way street - gimme, gimme, gimme).
Admission to the game consists of one new toy, donated to the US Marine Corps Toys For Tots Program. This year more than 10 barrels of toys were collected, meaning a lot of underprivileged children will be having merrier Christmases.
After the check-in (which can take a while with more than 600 players), Jamey Strauch a player for the Landsharks, and writer for The Paintballsphere, gave the player orientation and outlined the game format. The players would hit the field in two teams. One team was to be captained by Bob Long, and the other by Marty Tripes of Scott USA. Each team would battle for control of the two flag stations. At each end of the flag station, in a wood fortress, stood a flag pole. Each team's goal was to make sure their team flag was raised. Points were gained by the amount of time a team had control of a station. Players who were eliminated could either go back into the game during pre-set reincarnation times, or at any time with the use of a $1 reincarnation ticket. At the end of the day a special game was to be held in which a special celebrity team of 20-30 players would take on everyone else.
Marty Tripes opted to stay off the field. Instead of playing he spent his time installing and giving away free lenses. Any player with a single pane Scott goggle, whether the Stalker or the BadAss, was provided with a free thermal lens courtesy of Scott. The thermal lenses for the BadAss and BigAss (rental version of the same goggle) are a new product, and proved to work well on the field. Also, the thermal lenses do not say "BadAss" in large white type across the front, which is likely to make them more popular with those who find the wording offensive. In his place, Marty sent Ben "Radar" Post, a well known player from the Las Vegas area. If you've played paintball in the southwest, you may well have run into Ben at a tournament or big game, with his trademark "7-up Dot" on the front of his mask.
A number of players from Bob Long's Ironmen, including Weasel, Oh, Rich Tellford and others headed out to the field opposite Radar and a crew of players from Scott USA's hometown of Sun Valley Idaho.
A new piece of equipment on the field that turned a few heads was the new Millenium paintgun from Bob Long. Bob, a few of the Ironman, and three of his first customers carried this paintgun onto the field. The Millenium is basically a high performance after market body that accepts Spyder internals. I had a chance to shoot Bob's at the chrono range. Many of the internals were after market, like the Bob Long Cyclone bolt, but the paintgun was based on Spyder technology. Shooting at targets 15-20 yards away, I was able to put one ball on top of the other with the field paint (RP Premium). This was very impressive accuracy for a paintgun based on the Spyder. It is sure to become a popular product.
Through the day, the action swung from one side to the other. In general, players from either side would amass in groups before heading in. When the blue team would loose its base because of a strong red team push, the reds, who had thinned out by this point would be pushed back by a fresh batch of blues.
Sooner than it should have, the afternoon came, and it was time for the final game (time flies when you are having fun). In the past, the members of the celebrity team had been given a fighting chance against the overwhelming masses by getting one reincarnation per player (they'd have to get hit twice to go out). This year was a little different..... they got to stay in until they ran out of paint. It is much easier to take on a huge force when you're immortal, but even so, enough paint to take out a team that is about 20 times larger than yours is a bit much to carry. I think there was an advantage to being completely unknown the first time I went to Paintball Sam's, it meant I got to be on the side with the numerical superiority. The game was set-up for the celebrity team to defend a fort on a hillside, and we all looked for places to get settled in. Once the game started the paint flew in torrents. The defending team had an advantage of being able to sweet spot positions. There were a number of bunkers at the bottom of the hill. Most of the defenders had lined up shots on 2 or 3 of these positions. Every 2-3 minutes and attacker would run up and take one of these bunkers, and promptly be eliminated by someone up the hill who had a good angle. And so it went, with player after player not learning from the one who went before. Eventually though, the numbers were too great, and the paint supply up the hill dwindled. The whistle blew just as the hilltop was being overrun.
Tired from a long day of play, everyone gathered back at the staging area for the raffles. Using a rental truck as a stage tickets were pulled and everything from paintguns to goggles and gift certificates from the event's sponsors were given away. Marty Tripes threw a lot of smaller items like Scott shirts, hats, and drink bottles out to the the crowd which resulted in a mass of people jumping one way or another.
All in all, it was yet another successful Big Game at Paintball Sam's, and many players in northern California will be awaiting next year's event. The positive press generated in the Sacramento community from a paintball charity event like this will go a long way to developing a positive image for the sport.
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