Marital Status: Married 16 years
Children: 3, 1 Boy and 2 Girls
Vehicle: 1974 Chevy Nova with a 400 Small Block
Music: Anything but New Country
Lawrence “TB” Wright is recognized as one of the most highly skilled commanders in scenario paintball, as well as one of the most outspoken and controversial members of the paintball media.
He’s written for the old PB2X magazine, his own magazine Scenario News, as well as his current project, WorldOfTB.Com. In addition to his exploits as a writer, TB is also a consummate scenario game commander. I’ve had the opportunity to play for him and against him. He’s very good at evaluating skill levels and the types of players he has under his command, and then using them to the best advantage of his side.
We caught up with TB as he was planning out the 2009 season with his team, Thunderstruck.
Dale Ford: TB the scenario player is a fairly well known personality. What about TB the person?
There is no TB the person. I was Lawrence, long before I was TB. I have started telling people that TB is simply a persona. I have children, I work a real job (in customer service aspect of all things), and I pay my bills and have friends who don’t play paintball. Lawrence likes all the same kinds of things that TB does, Lawrence is just meaner. I tell people Lawrence is the one who used to get into bar fights, was a bouncer, and was in the Marine Corps and such. TB never was any of that; he came into being in a paintball game in 2000 in Southern California. I like to party, drink and BS as much as the next guy. Most people don’t see that side, I plan on showing them this year. I mean, I will still be arrogant, but I like to think a little more down-home arrogance so to speak.
D: What does your family think of all this paintball stuff?
My wife rolls her eyes, but she has been supportive. I have played paintball for 10 years this year. I have played over 165 games and she has supported it all the way. When I ran Scenario News, she was right there helping me fold magazines and put them in envelopes. My son played a little bit, but the game just wasn’t for him. My oldest daughter on the other hand has been playing for 5 years now. And she gives more then she gets. They call her G2 (for Generation 2,) and she is a much better paintball player than I am. She takes quite a licking in games as people try to use her as a weakness for me, but she has taken to shooting people in the face or other ‘sensitive’ areas so they leave her alone for the most part. The smallest one can’t wait to play, so we shall see. She is the girly one of the bunch but I am working on toughening her up.
D: When did you first start playing paintball?
My first game was in 1999 in Mayflower, Arkansas and was produced by Tommy ‘Big T’ Hill. It was at that game I met a few folks that really got me into the sport. I took MVP my first time, and it was a 3 way game, 6 months before Star craft in Texas. I have played 2 days of rec-ball and no tournaments. I have been to a few tournaments and rec ball days, but it just seems a waste to me. So I played scenario games, a lot of scenario games.
D: What motivates you as a player and/or commander?
As a player, that’s easy. I want to win; I want to win it all. I want the awards, I want the score, I want the base, and I want it all. And while some people think that I ‘win at all costs’ I don’t cheat. Have I played in the gray area? Sure, who has played the game in the last 10 years and not? The game used to be nothing but gray area and I think my original mentors in the game for that. I mean who else can say that they played with Spiro ‘Black Cat’ Mamaligas, Bobby ‘Darkman’ Gogolin, Diane ‘Mother’ Howe, Patrick ‘Packman’ McKinnon, and Kerry ‘Viper’ Rosenberry? I mean not who they are today but who they were then. Up-front, calculating players still building their reps as players not as producers and staff. I got a front row seat to the Silver Age of scenario paintball and it helped mold my playing.
As a commander, that’s a little harder to get to. I still want to win, but I do want my teams and my side to have fun. I don’t care about the other side and I never really have as a commander. That to me isn’t my job; my job is to provide my people fun and win the game because everyone knows that winning is fun. But I have read just about every leadership book I can find, and I try to apply them all to scenario paintball. Some look at Tactics, I tend to look at Strategy and let the tactics fall where they need to. I tend to target morale of the other players, and I love the mind games. I always have, psychological warfare is one of the most powerful and under-utilized skill in scenario paintball. It is more than the proverbial “I’m better than you are” smack you read on the forums. You get in people’s head and you can cause some real psychological momentum to start steam rolling your way.
D: Pride can be a destructive influence on a team, as in a team or their commander thinks that their team is something special, until they shown up by someone who’s better. Have you ever experienced this phenomenon from either side, and if so, how did you deal with it?
I have indeed, however while Pride is indeed my favorite deadly sin, Pride is what people need to succeed. I pride myself and my team in consistency. I am sure that is a weird thing to say as most people would say they pride themselves on their markers, or snap shooting or ability to run missions or drop bases. But not me, all of that is included in what I pride myself and Thunderstruck on. Consistency to impact the game, in any way, on any field, in any format. I have some of the best people in the sport that play on my team and we travel the country playing teams of all calibers in all manner of formats. That in and of itself is what has led to the success that we have seen as a team. In 2007, we took over 25 awards in one year. There hasn’t been another scenario team close to that, you add in the awards we have accumulated since we started in 2004, as we are over 65+ awards in the 4 year history. And we aren’t liked, yet we still win them, so we must be doing something right.
But how I deal with Pride is to never forget the truth, we meet afterwards and we talk about the times we got lucky but it looked like we had planned everything. We remind ourselves of if they had pushed a little more they might have gotten us and we know that there are teams on any given day that can beat us. We do lose and have lost even though we hate it. But again, we are back to consistency and I think that is what lets us stay prideful and still be successful.
D: Over the years you’ve been associated with two major producers of note, MXS and Viper. In both cases those relationships suffered after time. Why?
That’s a little hard to answer. But, to sum it all up it would be people and money. See being my friend and a friend with my team isn’t conducive to your business if you are a promoter or a field owner. Why? Because our mindset and play is that we destroy people. We target their morale, their playing ability, their very fun and we go at them 110%. That makes people angry, that makes people push back and when they try to push back on us, we normally laugh at them. So they push back on the person who has to listen to them and that is the promoters. I am not a bad guy, I have feelings just like everyone else, yet there are people out there who hate my very name. Hell half of them have never even played with me, but they have all heard about the time that TB shot some 12 year old in the throat. Sure it happens, but TB laughs about it. I mean the list goes on and on. And in the beginning the promoters like that, they like the fact that I speak my mind and that most of the time if I like something I tend to let things slide. But in the end, I eventually hold the mirror up to them and they don’t like what they see. And that causes friction, promoters start feeling threatened and they lash out. Just like anything, in time all things change. I have yet to meet a promoter who could follow through on the promises that they made me that they could take the heat being my friend. I don’t think that there is a promoter out there who can weather the storms of hate that are generated around me. And some don’t even try, but that is another story.
D: It seems like everyone with a blog and a keyboard are out there trying to shape the paintball world. What makes you different?
I am not trying to change the world. The world sucks and so do most people. I am simply chronicling the downward spiral, fiddling while Rome burns so to speak. But I was one of the first, and I am certainly one of the most opinionated (well outside of yours). To me, scenario is going to have promoters fail, teams quit and players fall by the wayside. I can’t wait, because as things come in cycles that mean that we might get another Golden Age of scenario paintball in before I decide I have had enough.
D: What’s your opinion of major paintball media organizations out there? Any one of them stand out for good or ill to you?
Well, we shall see where Paintball X3 goes. This is a dangerous time to start a print magazine, the burn though rate is going to be huge. The online readable media is cool, but copyrights are too hard to enforce and while blogs and online content are cool, you can’t read them at the paintball field or on the john. So I am hoping that you and others will help John and that he will follow through with his support of scenario. Not woods ball, what the hell is woods ball? Recon was a waste; I knew that when I saw it, but people know how I feel about Special Ops. If not just read my website. The Ford Report is good to go, would love to see some more content like that other website you used to run, but hey we can’t all get what we want. Would love to see a return of FB Radio, or you step in with Mousetrap radio. Blast-radius is cool, if they could get Special Ops privates out of their mouth. I like Tech PB, Mike seems to be my kind of trash. Other than that, there isn’t much out there. Jungle is ok, the photography is great, but the stories just leave something to be desired. And bless Bea Young’s heart; Fooleybear isn’t the only expert in scenario paintball.
D: Your team was one of the first to attract enough attention from the paintball industry. Given the lack of attention given to woods ball in general over the years, how did this come about?
Well we were the first scenario team to be fully sponsored by Air Gun Designs. That’s right fully sponsored. 20 Tac-One Emags, and 6 Tac-Ones and the invoice read $0.00. No one had ever seen that in scenario before and it came from playing D-Day with Tom Kaye. We sported AGD even after we split from Blitzkrieg all the way up until Tom wasn’t running it anymore and another year after that. We moved on to Smart Parts and that has been awesome. With our kind of hate and exposure people tend to go after your sponsors when you piss them off. And everyone knows how much Smart Parts is hated. Even now they love Sean Scott but hate the Gardners and Smart Parts. So I think we fit with all of that, there are members of my team that most people like, but that hammer they put on their back generates a lot of hate. We weren’t the first team Smart Parts sponsored, but we have been one of the top ranked and Sean and Smart Parts has really taken care of us. Deadlywind has done an awesome job with taking care of us, and they don’t get the exposure because Colin is a one man shop and a small business owner, but his whisper barrels and StinkOps body kits are the best out there.
As for this year, we shall see. To me a 30% discount isn’t a sponsorship and there are tons of teams out there that are ‘sponsored’ but hey good for them. But I am sure that the sponsorship dollars are hard to come by even if the eyes of the industry are on scenario paintball right now.
D: Any parting thoughts or shout-outs?
I would like to thank Wayne Dollack; I mean he made this game possible. And of course my team, Thunderstruck, they take a lot of heat for me and they are always standing there beside me when the chips are down. And I would like to thank the people who got me into the sport and taught me how to play it. Regardless of my personal or professional opinion of them, those people impacted my life forever, Spiro ‘Black Cat’ Mamaligas, Bobby ‘Darkman’ Gogolin, Diane ‘Mother’ Howe, Patrick ‘Packman’ McKinnon, and Kerry ‘Viper’ Rosenberry. And of course, the man who got me started that no one really knows, Captain Gordon Gregson, Arkansas National Guard.