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As we fired into the village and as they fired back, we were in a large-scaled stalemate-we weren't about to move into the storm of paintballs and they weren't about to leave the protection that their buildings provided. "What do we do now?" I thought to myself as suddenly, I saw a paintball assault vehicle driven by a Mercenary (a neutral player who could be "bought" by an officer) pull up behind us. It was covered with armor and had a double-barreled paintball gun on the front of it that was being operated by a guy who was in a cage that was covered with paintball safety netting. In other words, he had the firepower and didn't have to worry about being hit! He yelled through a loudspeaker: "Yellow team-get ready to charge!" as he gunned the gas and opened fire. Suddenly, "Flight of the Valkrye" (the helicopter assault music from "Apocalypse, Now!") started pouring from the vehicle as it spearheaded into the village. The red team routed as we cheered and ran into the village, pumped-up with adrenaline. It took us about a minute to clear it out and we took position the buildings for a few minutes and caught our old breaths as the young teenagers that represented 75% of our team re-filled their $1000 electro-markets with paint. "This is unreal," I gasped to Mike as he nodded in agreement.

The PUB CRAWLERS from Keene NH

A good portion of our time was spent crouching and crawling through the heavy woods. It seemed easier nine years ago but heck I was a lot younger and a hell of a lot skinnier back then! Total paranoia entered our minds as we crawled from tree to tree, cover to cover, trying to find an unseen enemy that could be hiding in hundreds just over the next hill or behind the next clump of bushes. Even with contact lenses that gave me 20/20 vision, I was amazed that Mike was able to spot camouflaged players deep into the woods. He would open fire and I would just squint, trying to see whom he was shooting at. "I got one!" he yelled, as I didn't even fire a single shot. We crawled deeper and deeper into the dense foliage. Every once in a while, a firefight would break out as we moved closer and closer to our objective, one of the many bases in the field. I can honestly say that I shot around ten paintballs in the first two hours of the game and most of those were at a movement in the bushes. I never had a clear shot on anyone and never had an opportunity to get one because if someone of the other team showed-up, the dozens of players on our side would open up and eliminate him real fast. Such is the sometimes-sad power of a "big game."

Just the end of a very long line

I finally saw someone and tried to see what team he was on. Red armband! I raised my Auto-Cocker and squeezed off a few shots when he opened-up on me. A ball hit me in my gut and bounced off. "No break!" I yelled. He answered with a couple of paintballs that nailed my gun and my arm. "I'm out-you got me!" I put my barrel sock on and ran out of the battle. I began the long and hot walk back to the staging area and had to cross behind the village, in the "out of bounds" area. I held my gun up in the air and yelled, "I'm out!" as I jogged past the hundred of players who were in the midst of a battle. A few errant paintballs clocked me on the mask and blasted me on the chest as I ran through the gauntlet-no longer jogging. Once back at the staging area, I took off my mask and let my hot, steaming face soak in the cool air of the beautiful Michigan morning.

The spectacle the HSI put on at the Monster Game was amazing. There was pizza-galore there, McDonalds had a booth, the National Guard was there recruiting, and underneath the big tent, there was a ton of booths with people selling paintball markers and gear, as well as a hot blonde model who was signing autographs. I was tempted to get one for myself but had a vision of my wife smashing in the top of my head with a frying pan.

I got to meet Rene Boucher of "Paintball News" and it was great to put a face to the person who I had talked-to on the phone during the last ten years as I wrote the occasional article for his magazine. His son, Rene, was also here and showed-off his early-model Cocker, a great predecessor to the one I was holding. "It doesn't have to be new to be effective," he told me. "I agree," I replied as I pointed to my buddy Mike. "He still uses an F2-Illustrator from the early 90's!"

Mike said, "I have a cousin named Rene." Rene smiled and said something in French, and Mike, also of French-Canadian descent answered, "Oui."

During the two-hour break between the stages of the Monster Game, Dave Massey raffled-off several expensive paintball guns, nitro kits, gear packages and gift certificates. I never win these kind of things but laughed when a dude in a pink bunny suit walked away smiling with his new expensive marker and shook my head in disbelief as a guy won a $1000 tournament-ready electro-gun and didn't even seem excited as he walked through the jealous crowd with a blank, dumb look on his face, like this was an everyday affair and that he could give a care less. Let me win a $1000 gun and you will see excitement, I promise!

Here are some final thoughts and brief memories from the 2004 Michigan Monster Game:

I met a bunch of guys from Kentucky who called themselves "Team Hillbilly." They all played without shirts and one of them, who looked like Willie Nelson minus the two-front-teeth, got shot in the chest with a blue paintball leaving a nice, read welt. "I'm not gonna shower tonight," he told me. "I'm gonna keep this paint on me until tomorrow."

The man that created this monster

There were guys wearing prom dresses while playing. There was a guy in a bunny-suit (the same one who won the $1000 gun) and a ton of players, braver than me, played without shirts and in shorts.

The officers weren't leading the players. The people who made all the cool strategic and risky moves were privates. We saw officers by themselves in the middle of nowhere and asked, "Where are your troops?" One of them (a Major, I think) answered, "I sent them all up ahead." What a wimp!

The Refs did a great job-I saw them in the deepest part of the woods observing the players and doing paint checks. You could tell that safety was the number one priority with the HSI Staff-they had zero-tolerance for lifting masks and did a great job keeping the players chronographed.

Even though I personally had trouble getting into the swing of large-scale battles, it was still an awesome sight to see hundreds of players shooting at each other in close proximity. It is a visual that is deeply imbedded into my mind.

And on the very final thought-the Michigan Monster Game rules and should be attended by EVERYONE interested in the sport of paintball. I promise that you will have a great time and that it will be a highlight in your paintball life.

Questions or comments? I can be reached at Until next time, "Happy Long-Balling!"

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