The Art of Painting War

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.

Seriously, until they put one of these in your arms for the first time, you don’t know what love is.

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.

I guarantee this guy has a Medal of Valor from the Paintball Congress.

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.

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12 Responses to The Art of Painting War

  1. Maweesa says:

    Paintball: another reason God isn’t letting us move back to you. I can already see a new obsession.

  2. Jeff says:

    Paintball does really make you respect what real soldiers do and how randomly you could be shot.

    Man paintball on wave runners would be so fun. You have my mind running hear and I was thinking of some ideal locations for water paintball. Lake Powell would be so great. Water, cliffs and sand. I’m already picturing getting pursued and heading to the nearest cliff and jumping to escape enemy fire. If we could figure out something to prevent the guns from malfunctioning, this is something we need to start planning!

  3. Wade says:

    Great stuff Davis.

    Another way to test your valor in war is at a continuous fire shooting range. At these ranges, instead of periodic “cease fires” where everyone walks out to change their targets, they have a trench where you can go behind the paper target stands to change them (by raising and lower the target posts from the trench) WHILE THE OTHER GUNNERS ARE STILL SHOOTING AT THEIRS. Bullets. Yes, real bullets, are whizzing over your head while you try to staple a new target to the post with shaky hands and raise it up to get blasted. Even though the trenches are plenty deep to safely stand up in, it took all the valor I could muster not to hit the deck and army crawl down the trench the first time I had to change my target.

  4. Ryan says:

    Paint ball is war. No two ways about it. Anyone who’s ever taken a round to the head, or been splattered five times in the middle of a sprint knows the glory and ugliness of war as well as any Spartan did. Not the death of it, but there’s still plenty of ugliness (they tell you the paint washes out of your clothes, but it often leaves a greasy residue).

    I laughed really hard at your tangent about comparing raising a dog to a child. I love making inflammatory comparisons. That was funny.

  5. Davis says:

    Maweesa, God is preventing me from pursuing paintball because He knows that after a few more sessions the CIA would catch wind of my courage and prowess and would forcibly recruit me into the service.

    Jeff, I am not exaggerating in saying that the very first thing I would do upon becoming fabulously wealthy would be to buy 10 wave runners, 20 guns, and fly my friends to Lake Powell. I literally can not think of a better time. You’re a genius.

    Wade, that sounds terrifying. I’m in.

    Ryan, it is funny, but but honestly, it’s true. Call me and we’ll compare notes on Lyla and Molly.

  6. Ben Pratt says:

    I just finished reading The Hunger Games, and I related strongly to the main character, in that I am awesome and clever and could hold my own in a fight to the death against people from all the backwoods corners of my country. I think the book accurately describes the effects of war on the psyche. This is just one of the things that *I* know, mostly because I’m an accomplished and decorated fighter (against math and physics problems).

    Not that I’m equating fighting differential equations with fighting axe-wielding Vikings, but only comparing them.

  7. Christian says:

    Burst out laughing when I saw the picture of the dishonorable coward who sat crying and shaking with a big gun and lots of ammo as his comrade was stabbed by a Jerry, with the simple caption “Kook” under it.

    Paintball is warfare, not two ways about it.

    Wave runner warfare does sound awesome. Don’t you have a teency problem staying balanced on wave runners though? Has the situation changed since last I knew?

  8. Troy says:

    Kook, waverunners are like small boats. Most models are very very difficult to flip or fall off. You’re thinking of stand-up jet skis like the ones on Miami Vice.

  9. Davis says:

    Let’s just take this convo about my balance on wave runners off-line. Nothing to see here.

  10. Troy says:

    No I don’t think you two understand. Wave-runners are extremely stable. I’m telling you. You can be very inexperienced, not very athletic, slightly overweight, and still have very good stability on a wave-runner. Believe me, I know you probably think they’re unstable, but they’re not. Look, I’ll prove it to you: When was the last time you were on a waverunner, Davis? And how did that go?

  11. Davis says:

    Troy, we’re not referring to balancing on a wave runner once you’re on it. We’re referring to a slight incident with getting back on a wave runner once you’ve fallen off. Don’t worry about it.

  12. Serene says:

    *clearing throat*

    Well, I may or may not be the only girl here who has actually gone paintballing, more than once.

    The first time I went, I thought it would be “fun”. But when the very first shot I ever received from a paintball drew blood, I quickly re-thought the “fun” part.

    Then there was my brother, who I found rather enjoyed shooting me in the butt. He once gave me matching bruises, one on each cheek.

    But when the guys were going and said I should come, I could never say no, had to save face and all that. But I was always terrified of getting shot, then relieved once I was and it was finally over with.

    So yes, I TOTALLY agree with your assessment of both war, paintball, and Hollywood. Because once I made the mistake of running for the flag.

    I’ll never try to be that brave again.

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