There are some games that you play that really stick out and remind you why you play paintball in the first place. The Toys for Tots game was just such an event and it’s held annually out at Old River Paintball in Oklawaha Florida. No record crowd on hand with vendors taking up 1/2 the parking lot. We didn’t see any beat writers for national paintball magazines and not one out of state license plate with truck loads of players pouring out of the vehicle after a 14 hour drive. In fact, probably the most sophisticated equipment that was carted in may have been the smoker for the pig roast after the game. No, most if not all of the players here on this day were local players gathering together for a good cause and a chance to play the game they love.
The game went along with the theme from the hit movie “Toy Story” and the good natured fun that this block buster promoted definitely spilled out all over the field and lasted all game long. There were fierce fire fights to take bases and mission objectives but that was as far as the competitive juices would flow. Back slaps and handshakes were plenty as players doused with hot pink paint walked off the field chuckling at their demise and those who wondered just how they made it through unscathed. Even in the final battle that’s noted for its high charged action in a confined space was as civil as I’ve ever seen one. No shouting matches to go along with over shot players, the refs actually stood IN the action so they could quickly call players clean or out to keep the game moving and all the while not losing one single ounce of being an intense battle that definitely capped off a great day.
In the end there was just one thing missing but it just sort of underscores to me what this day was about and perhaps why it was such a fun and successful game. There was of course an award ceremony and the Generals thanked those who played for them and handed out special recognition plaques for outstanding play. The ceremony went on and prizes were given away as is tradition but almost every adult who won a raffled prize gave it away to a kid who had participated that day. (there were a lot of kids and they were awesome) Then, at the end of all this when one would expect to hear the score and one side would let out howls of joy knowing they had won and defeated the other no score was tallied or announced. While it did seem odd to me at first and I then realized that as cliche as it sounds the only winner that mattered were the many children who would be receiving the huge pile of toys that were collected from all of those who played the game. Perhaps this Christmas might be a little more joyful for a child whose holidays otherwise might not be so bright. Maybe too, the kids who attended the game and are the not so far away future of this game took notice and will return in kind when their turn comes. And maybe, just maybe we who are adults will seize the opportunity to continue this trend and revive in our sport, the Toy Story we all fell in love with in the first place.