Sports: Training for Battle

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Traditionally many cultures have trained their new generations of warriors by introducing them to sports. These games were designed to develop skills such as teamwork and strategic thinking. Games like Rugby and American Football really bring home the concept of War-as-Sport. Even soccer/football, arguably the most popular sport in the world is based on this tradition. The teams each have to defend their home base (their goals) and maintain possession of a strategic item that can be used to defeat the opposing team (the ball). Strict rules are enforced to make the game uniform and also to make it so players can be compared in relative skill vs each other more easily.

The ultimate example of War-as-Sport is paintball. Platoons of players armed with pump paintball guns that fire gelatin balls filled with dye at high velocity basically act out real life, modern day combat scenarios. No one dies, but it’s a pretty darned good simulation. The invention of the paintball gun and subsequent invention of the relatively cheap and highly effective safety equipment that is necessary to play the sport safely is perhaps the greatest achievement in sporting history since fencing.

It is perhaps an even greater achievement than fencing since fencing only really simulates one on one combat, and even then it’s on a two-dimensional plane (fencers can move forward and backward, but not right or left to any significant distance). Paintball is literally a battlefield with soldiers on both sides. For players who take the game the most seriously, if the situation were altered drastically, all the paintball guns were real and all the players knew it was life or death, kill or be killed, it would still play out in much the same way. These people are training for war.

That is not to say paintball is warlike or violent any more than someone who is playing a first person shooter video game is. People who blame real violence on video games are silly and don’t know the facts because millions of people play violent video games and there is no statistical connection with actual real life violence whatsoever. This is because even children know the difference between reality and a video game. The same goes for pump action paintball. This is clearly a sport, just a game. In the long tradition of making war non-violently through sport, paintball just stands out. During the cold war many people commented how the U.S. vs U.S.S.R. was a fierce competition, almost as if our countries’ athletes were fighting a non-violent war of proxy. Maybe we could do the same with paintball and resolve international disputes over a tournament instead of with real bloodshed.

Hey, it could happen!

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