There's a video (and lengthy comments section) over at my favorite tourney ball news, rumors & gossip site, ProPaintball. It's the HK Army Chicago 2010 video. Now, the thing is I'm not all that interested in the video--which is okay--but I am fascinated by the general debate regarding the HK Army. For those heroically out-of-the-loop the HK kids (and not so kids) initially parlayed internet popularity with hordes of adolescent fanboys into T-shirt & headband sales in order to finance their paintball. At least that's the myth. They are a bit more commercial these days--which is also fine. The intriguing part is the hook which is a Cali slacker variation of the hard living, hard partying, hard playing way of life (or so-called paintball lifestyle). Much of the "debate"--such as it is--revolves around whether or not this sort of promotion is good for paintball. While I think that "debate" is worth having when it comes to thinking about what competitive paintball is becoming and the dominant image the public has of our sport--that's not where I'm going here.
It's the paintball, stupid.
I am reminded of the high roller world of Formula One racing and the dead head phenomenon. A certain class of wealthy and indolent rich peeps used to (and probably still do) follow the international Formula One circuit; it is the quintessential jet set lifestyle. Do they love racing or is it just an exciting excuse to travel the globe and kill some time? Dead heads followed the Grateful Dead around to catch live shows and get high. At one time it was a prominent enough activity to be considered a subculture, a lifestyle. It seems to me one could as easily lump the
HK kids into the same category--and if that's all it is, it's harmless enough but shouldn't make any claims on competitive paintball. It just turned out to be the activity the "lifestyle" is constructed around.
It seems to me that a priority of a "paintball lifestyle" is, practically by definition, the paintball--and try as I might I don't now and never have seen any evidence the HK kids are particularly serious about competing. Or maybe most of them just aren't that good and the handful that have actually made something of themselves as players have done it on serious teams. There's no paintball lifestyle without real commitment to the sport.