I’m going to be that guy wearing hockey pads. That much I know.
I’ve dug into the basics of paintball safety, and as far I can tell, goggles are the only mandatory protective item at most facilities.
Particularly, the place I’m looking to confront my fear — Pittsburgh Paintball Park — only requires goggles, which can be rented on the day a paintballer shows up for open play.
So, I could in theory just drop by, shield my eyes and get after it.
But where’s the fun in that when I could go full gladiator with a bunch of equipment that I already own?
As I’ve written about before, I’m a pick-up hockey devotee, to the point that I try to get on the ice at least once a week, winter or summer. I love the game in its essence, with just a stick and skates necessary to indulge. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a thrill out of strapping on full gear and feeling like some sort of futuristic cyborg warrior, a noble Robocop defending a futuristic ice-covered hellscape.
I have an active imagination.
But much like I probably don’t really need to dress like an NHLer when I go for a friendly skate on Friday night at the RMU Island Sports Center, it turns out that this whole paintball gambit might not be as much of a risk as I thought.
Per nationwide stats referenced on the Pittsburgh Paintball Park website, not only is the speed of flying paintball pellets restricted to non-injurious speeds, the overall rate of injury in the sport is about 100 times lesser than activities like tackle football, baseball, soccer and, yes, ice hockey.
Injury can mean one thing to one person and an entirely different thing to another, but clearly I’ll be putting myself in the line of fire only in the figurative sense. I might come out of this experience with a few bruises, but nothing that I haven’t incurred from a random blocked shot or awkward fall on the various rinks around western Pennsylvania.
On the other hand, facts can only go so far when it comes to emotions. The rate of serious mishaps when donating blood is small, I’m sure, but that didn’t stop my heart from racing and my hands from getting clammy when that needle dug into my arm last month.
So while I feel more confident and actually excited(?) about accessing my inner sniper next weekend, there’s still enough trepidation bouncing in my brain to keep the edge on this particular episode of Scaring Matt.
But, as they say, everything changes when the bullets start flying. (Do they say that? I feel like they should.)
And if you think a few reassuring facts are going to keep me from overdressing, you simply don’t know me that well. The most pressing question is this: Can I hold a paintball gun with hockey gloves?
Next week: Into the cauldron I go … with some brotherly assistance.