Our tournament ended when the ultimate [?] overruled a lesser official’s call (not a hit, player clean, point good) and decided the residual paint between harness sleeves rubbed into the Velcro on Chad’s pack was indeed a hit and called for a 1-4-1. From the time we cleared the field--with 3 alive--until Chad pressed the buzzer a phantom 1-4-1 called on J-Rab–it was mixed colors and looked like he’d bumped up against one of the bunkers--saw Jason pulled and we were left with one live body. And when the ultimate made his call we lost that point and the swing point awarded to our opponents ended the match in their favor. The stain of paint on Chad’s pack was pink. Both teams were shooting the same paint. It was orange.
Our European adventure began, for the majority, with a 2 pm flight out of Tampa to Dulles, outside Washington DC. With everyone together we boarded a flight for Frankfurt Germany around 7 pm. We arrived seven and a half hours later and quickly passed customs then hiked to a different concourse to await the 8:30 am flight to Nice, France. [Say what you will about the Germans but the stereotype of regimented order and sticklers for detail oozes from the architecture in Frankfort’s airport to say nothing of the airport personnel. It may be the only English many of them know is, “Not possible. Against the rules.” It was something we heard with some frequency anyway.] At 10:30 am a prearranged shuttle service picked us up and within the hour we had arrived at the venue approx. 17 hours after we left home.
If it weren’t for the different languages being spoken it’s hard at first to grasp that you’re somewhere foreign. The trappings of modern airports around the world are broadly the same. The people look much alike--although there is a breed of European male that is unmistakable on sight, like a neutered puppy. Landing in Nice early in the morning makes it clear we’re in another place and much of the adventure comes in discovering just what sort of place it might really be. Unfortunately the team finalized our commitment to the MS relatively late and with HB scheduled for the following weekend there was no time for much beyond paintball. As a consequence most of our experience of France was en passant. In passing–and in some of the ordinary routines of daily living--as experienced on site at the ironically named Oasis Village resort. (While neither an oasis or a village it would be an excellent location for filming a low budget zombie movie.) The seemingly random hours of operation for most of the services--a self-serve laundry even--or a restaurant that offered only two meal choices or pizza. Even the front office's and curio shop's daily hours were a mystery.
On site English is more prevalent than I expected. While a dozen or more languages drift around the vendors and stake out temporary ground around teams staging to play many, if not most, seem to speak some English. This isn’t true off site. (And why should it be? After all the French are the Americans of Europe. We, and they, expect other people to accommodate us.) Not even close, particularly in France--where a person may or may not know some English--but you’ll likely never know. Even those involved in the tourist industry aren’t routinely bi-lingual. Or admit to it anyway.
The team has reservations and confirmed in advance that our credit card--AMEX--would be good. But this is France and that was then and this is now. They can't accept the card. As it turned out they couldn't accept any of the cards our paint sponsor's rep produced either. Eventually an African distributor for our paint sponsor produced a credit card that was deemed acceptable and we checked in. By this time we were due at the venue to share some practice time on the CPL field with Amsterdam Heat.
After moving our luggage to our appointed bungalows we walk to the venue. The wind is gusting and the nets haven't been raised yet. We meet the guys from Heat and begin to get ready. The word is that the netting will be raised soon. We all assume that despite the delay the practice schedule will be maintained. (After all the MS requires teams to sign up in advance, choose an allotted time slot and pay for the field time. Heat had the first hour block.) Turns out we are mistaken. It is our first taste of what is to come. Before we know it Marseilles Icon is on the CPL field. A fellow named Thierry (I think)--though it sounds kinda like Cherry to the Anglo ear--is in charge. (At least we couldn't find anybody else willing to take any responsibility.) He has a clipboard with the printed schedule on it. It is utterly irrelevant. He assigns field time as he chooses and gives preference to French teams--and the league's reigning powerhouse, Art Chaos. Every argument, up to and including pointing out to him the printed list on his clipboard, makes no difference. For each point we make he has a different excuse or simply a shrug. He scratches out the printed list and writes in his personal choices in blue ballpoint ink. While Icon practices we are finally informed Thierry has found a place for us--on a different field four hours from now. Without Thierry’s help we arrange amongst ourselves for us, Art Chaos, Icon and Heat to share the CPL field. (Many thanks to Art Chaos and Icon.) It’s not what we, or the other teams, had planned--or what was paid for--but it was better than waiting until 6 pm for the chance to play on the wrong field. Welcome to the Millennium ugly Americans.