It is literally impossible for me to watch a movie about war without spending most of the movie obsessing over the question of how much courage I would show if called to arms. I only vaguely remember the plots of “Band of Brothers,” “The Thin Red Line,” and “Saving Private Ryan,” but I keenly recall the turmoil I felt during each as I debated whether or not I would fight or run. Fortunately for me, I saw all those movies before I ever went paintballing.
Now, I recognize that arguing that one’s performance in paintball offers hints about how one would perform in war may sound a little ridiculous, and I hesitated a little before doing so. My hesitation in this case was very similar to the way I hesitate before comparing having kids to having a dog. I’ve been eye-rolled right out of the room several times for making the dog/kid comparison, so I don’t make the paintball/war comparison lightly. I don’t care. All you eye-rollers: it’s a comparison, not an equation. Yes, there are many, many differences between having a dog and having a kid. But there are also enough similarities that certain comparisons can usefully be made. I believe the same holds true for war and paintball.
Getting hit by a paintball hurts, so you try to reduce the amount of times you get hit. Taking a hit also wounds the ego, since it means a buddy got the best of you (and the ineffable satisfaction that comes from shooting a friend with a high speed projectile. Seriously. It’s an amazing feeling.) To say nothing of the fact that in getting hit you’re letting your team down and contributing to a victory for the other team, which is full of buddies to whom you hate to lose.
And that’s the thing: getting shot is just so incredibly easy. You have no way of knowing whether you’ll be able to move to the next clump of trees or be dealt a hail of bruise-inducing fire. You peek your head above a rock and you get splattered six times by a well-concealed foe. It quickly dawns on you how random and cruel all of this is – sometimes a paintball just has your name on it – and how little control you have over the whole affair. The combination of your desire to avoid getting hit and the knowledge that you’re almost certainly going to get hit can lead you to, you know, just kind of hang out a little too long behind some trees, playing it a little too safe.
And we’re talking about paintballs. If we substitute paintballs with bullets, and there is now a really good chance that I could get hit by a real bullet and die the minute I stick my head out? I’m not sure I’d ever move. I mean, I hope I would, and part of me thinks I would. But another part of me wonders. But all of me knows that guys who fight in wars are awesome.
You know what else paintball has taught me? How stupid it is in movies when the good guy can make a dead run while hundreds of bad guys with huge guns continually miss him. Sure, everyone thinks that this is unrealistic, but only serious paintballers like myself know it. I’m tired of this in our movies. It’s time for our movies to reflect the knowledge that paintball has given
us me. And I honestly can’t take the whole “Million bad guys can’t hit the good guy, but the good guy can drop them one by one with a pistol” dynamic anymore. I’m done with it.
Am I being a huge wet blanket about all of this? Probably. But while I’m on the topic, one more thing: Mr. Hollywood, just because computers have enabled you to make it look semi-realistic for a non-cartoon human to do three back handsprings off the wall and then slice a bad guy’s carotid artery with their sharpened pinkie nail doesn’t mean you should. Let’s just have some realistic fighting, OK? I’m looking at you, everyone who made “Salt.”
I tried to find a clip that provides an example of the things I’m talking about, and stumbled onto the mother lode here. Take the time. It’s worth it.
You know what else I realized about war? I realized that if I had to drive a vehicle in combat – any vehicle at all – I would choose a wave runner. I’m 100% serious about this. Has a wave runner ever been used in actual combat? I don’t know. Probably. If it hasn’t already happened then it will when our world turns into this:
Whether I’m fighting in our current world or Waterworld, I’d want a wave runner more than a tank, plane, truck, or motorcycle (which was my second pick). I envision myself driving the wave runner while someone – I’m considering and evaluating a few different candidates, who will be notified shortly for purposes of training – mans a large mounted machine gun on the back.
Why a wave runner? A few different reasons. First, they would make war dangerous AND fun. Would you rather train with a Humvee, or a wave runner? Second, I would rather crash while on water than in the air or on land. (Oh, by the way, this applies only to wars fought on lakes. If you think you’re getting me on a wave runner in an ocean war, where I could get hit, start bleeding, and then fall into the ocean, then you are absolutely mistaken. I’ve read too many books about the U.S.S. Indianapolis.) Finally, I just have a sense about it. I am almost 100% sure I would be very good at wave runner-based warfare. It’s just one of those things I know.