"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our team was lucky to be sponsored at an early age, picking up an Angel Paintball contract when we were still in high school. Thanks in large part to coaching and guidance from Tom Santo, Oliver Eichhorn, and Peter Vlassis of the New York Assassins, we succeeded as high school scenario players with a predominantly speedball oriented company.
Multiple additional sponsorships rapidly fell into place, giving us our first taste of what many at the time considered paintball "success". Years later, as the sport continued to evolve, we have done the same as individuals. "Success" has grown to encompass a different set of parameters. A decade ago, being sponsored actually meant something. Nowadays, it feels like every company in paintball throws the word around blindly, offering any ragtag group a 10% discount if they commit contractually to only using that company's gear. "We're sponsored!", they can say. If only it meant now what it meant then. Oh, how far we've fallen.
I recall seeing Pearl Jam in Hartford, CT in October of 2013, with a crowd so energetic it would get to the lyrics before Eddie even finished his intro, leaving him in awe on the stage as 16,000 people made it through an entire song by memory. He started it over of course, that time singing along with everybody. When he finished, he had something profound to say that remains with me today.
"You know" he said, as he stared out across the sea of fans, "playing music is a lot like surfing. You can be the best surfer in the world. Just, god-given talent, the best there's ever been. You can be incredible. But if there aren't any good waves to ride, it doesn't matter. None of that matters. You're the best surfer in the world with no waves to ride, you can't do a thing. You're useless. And this crowd....these are the best waves I think we've ever ridden."
As I thought about it some more, I realized that music and paintball have a lot in common. Both need their larger-than-life "Look at me!" personalities to keep things interesting. Both need dedicated followers to make gear worth producing, and events worth hosting. Those who truly succeed, who transcend the spectacle, are those who never forget the reason they're around in the first place: not themselves, but everybody else. That's the difference between the genuine and the fake; who are we still going to be talking about 20 years from now?
We felt in 2015 that far too many companies have forgotten the roots of paintball and instead pushed to save as much on advertising as possible by offering "sponsorships" to nearly anybody who would take them. It became a race over the years, a measuring contest of sorts, to see which teams had the most, as if there was a medal at the end for one-upping everybody else on the amount of 10% off coupons you owned. At the same time, we recognized the handful of good guys, who oftentimes didn't even ask for anything in return, knowing that the representation they received was two-fold, because it promoted them AND paintball as a whole.
In 2016, SPECTRE continues to represent only Paintball Sports New York and Enola Gaye USA as we feel that both parties have gone to great lengths to support those who support them.
Though this was a maelstrom of different thought processes over many months, and the debating between options was arduous, we ultimately elected to sever ties with the majority of our sponsors, opting instead to become more of a factory team and self sponsor, beginning in 2016. Without contractual gear obligations, we are better positioned to help promote the players that make a difference in the sport, not because it's good for us, but because it's good for paintball.
Somebody's gotta make the waves, Eddie.
Owner, SPECTRE Paintball