As I’ve mentioned before, times are tough. In my ‘real’ life as a copier repairman, this has had the unintended consequence of making my job more secure, and encouraging my supervisors to invest time and money into me for training and certification. See, right now everyone’s chimped down, holding out as long as they can on big ticket purchases like a $20,000 copier and guys like me are busier than ever keeping the old copier running.
It makes for long days from time to time, but right now I’m actually pretty happy. I’ve got good bosses, I work for a good company, and aside from the frayed nerves of my customers, and the AC crapping out in my truck, all is pretty well in my world.
As in real life, paintball is a microcosm of real life, and it has entered an interesting phase. A lot of people are hiring or associating with experts who also happen to be media. It’s a tough business, so you have to be flexible and willing to work hard to make a living. In my case, it’s doubly so because I’m “controversial”. Along with “Unfortunate” and “Hypocrisy”, “Controversial” is one of my new favorite words. “Inglorious” is coming up the list as well…I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the title itself promises good things.
Before I go too much further, let me explain a few things that will shed light on my perspective. I grew up near a small town in Indiana, the eldest son of an X-Ray technician and a Metallurgical Engineer. My father is an extremely intelligent, self-taught man who chose to become expert in a highly technical, specialized field. My mother is also extremely intelligent, and while she went to college like most women of her generation, her real education occurred in the real world. In addition to my father’s cold demeanor, and my mother’s inherent bluntness, I’ve also inherited their intelligence. Of course I also inherited their stunning good looks, but that’s not germane to this editorial. I thank God every day for these blessings, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
What I don’t have is a ‘formal’ education. I graduated high school just like a lot of other kids at Brown County High School in 1988, but unlike a lot of those kids, I didn’t immediately head off to college. I wanted to see a bit of the world and do some things before I cloistered myself at an institution of higher learning. After a false start in the military, and some time out in the world working and learning things the hard way, I ended up at technical school in Oklahoma. I graduated with an A.A.S in Avionics and Instruments and went to work for a subsidiary of Hughes Aerospace building aircraft instruments.
Along the way I rediscovered paintball, and after a failed marriage, new marriage and a discovery of God-given talent, here I am. All controversial and stuff. Call me a black sheep.
Before I get myself looped into a self-serving advertisement for my skills, I’ll stop right here. This isn’t necessarily about my skills, or lack thereof. The point I’m trying to make is that education can be helpful, but it’s not the total package. Likewise, the education doled out in the school of hard knocks isn’t totally where it’s at either.
Here lately I’ve been watching some of my brethren in the media spreading their proverbial wings in order to make a living. I can understand that, and nobody wants to be like a certain over-educated individual who’s running a formerly respected media outlet into obscurity by way of mediocrity. A lot of my colleagues are ‘consulting’, which is a nice way of saying they’re hiring out their talents to those in need of them. I do it, and I have several clients who are extremely happy with the assistance I’ve been able to render them.
Here lately though, I’m starting to see a trend of some offering themselves up as experts when their expertise could be held up to question. Personally I don’t have a problem with this…if people and businesses are willing to spend money on someone’s perceived expertise, then by all means, have at it! My experience in the business side of paintball is limited to running media websites, freelance writing, reaching the novice level in the PSP in 2004, playing lots and lots of scenario games and running a small shop here in FL, which unfortunately (one of my favorite words, even though the situation sucked) failed. So while I have nearly 21 years experience as a player, 9 years of that as a writer and media guy, I’m probably not the guy you want teaching you how to run your field or store.
So, what’s my point here? The point is, paintball as a whole is in a downturn, and perhaps it’s time to depend on a mixture of hard-earned experience and education to get things going again. It’s my opinion that there’s a genuine need for people in the sport with educations in journalism, marketing, and other relevant educational paths to help apply the theories they’ve learned in order to make the hard-earned experience of those out in the hinterlands actually running fields and stores more effective for everyone. Rather than looking from the top down and trying to ‘help’ field and store owners, how about getting down in the weeds with them and working with them to make their businesses more successful, which in turn means that they’ll have need to buy more products from your business?
Just some random thoughts from a controversial, unfortunate, potentially inglorious player out here in the hinterlands. We have voices too, and perhaps it’s time to start listening.