Monday, March 23, 2015

The Riddle of Steel

“We who found it were just men.  Not gods.  Not giants.  Just men.  The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery.  You must learn its riddle.  Steel.  It you can trust.”
So I was sitting in my living room, licking my wounds from yet another 2nd place finish and feeling sorry for myself, when sure as shinola, Chuck Norris came on the TV.  

He was doing an interview or something or other…. And he spoke to me.  He literally looked away from the interviewer, looked out of the TV and into my soul because that is what Chuck Norris does.  He said to me, “I've always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you've got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish.”

Well alright then.  Thanks Chuck.  Now shut it.  (Yeah… that’s right, I told Norris to kick rocks.  What about it?)

Shortly after this happened (and I mean literally within minutes), my son, whom is homeschooled, was reading about Christopher Columbus.  He says to me, “Hey Dad, you are a lot like Christopher Columbus!”  Intrigued and amused at the same time but still not over feeling sorry for myself, I responded, “Really?  How so son?”
He says, “It says here that he said, ‘By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.’  You are always telling us to never quit, never give up, so I figure he must have been a lot like you.”

Children say the darndest things…

Paintball is a sport that has shown me every spectrum of emotional and physical capability.  I have seen men openly weep from the joy of winning or I have seen players vomit from the sorrow of losing.  I watched some idiot guy duct tape his knee to keep his patella in place so that he could play the next point.   I watched a friend pick his gun up after he dislocated his shoulder diving into the snake and win a point.  And I have seen players complain about being hurt at the pinnacle of an event only to be perfectly fine afterwards.  What separates these men?  They are all paintball players.  But which wants to win more?  Who has that warrior soul?

Birmingham Prime entered the 2015 Dallas PSP in Division 1, our maiden voyage at this new level of competition as did PR1ME 2, who entered Division 3 after a season in D4.   It was interesting to me as none of us seemed to really notice it.  “It” being that we were now playing up a division.  It was another tournament and another opportunity to play Prime paintball.

Kill, kill, kill, kill and…..kill.

All things being equal, the D1 team took home the silver after an incredibly disappointing yet hard fought match against a very adept and solid Seattle Uprising team.  It came down to who would make the mistakes.  It was us.  The D3 team took home the bronze (3rd place) after struggling a little in prelims.  Once they were given that second life, the fought on like the champions they are only to fall short at a crucial moment.

So how do you come back from that?  How do you refocus and reset the teams fighting spirit to the level it was prior to the event?

Here is how I have come to terms with Prime’s 4th 2nd place finish at a PSP in the last two years.  Prime is a sword.  A Japanese Katana to be more specific.  To make a katana, it took the swordsmith many weeks to complete and it is said that a piece of his soul was imbued with it during the manufacture (our coaches and experience would be that soul).  There are actually 3 types of metal that go into this process but I won’t bore you with the fine details of Japanese sword making (however, the point of the 3 metals should not be lost as the ingredients i.e. the players on the team, are very important).  Rather I will share with you what most consider the fine point of the process; folding the steel.  The swordsmith will heat the steel, hammer it out and then fold it again.  He then repeats this process, over and over again ultimately folding the steel as many as 20 times.  This is what gives the steel its strength.  It is bent and hammered and burned again and again… and each time it is beat, hammered, folded and heated… it becomes stronger and stronger.  Between each heating and folding and beating, the soon to be blade is smothered with ash, clay and water.  This actually creates the outer layer of the blade and pulls out impurities until it becomes as tough as it can be.  Getting the analogy yet?

That is Prime.  Those losses only strengthen us, unite us, and take our impurities out so we come back stronger and better until we are razor sharp.

Who wants it?  You? Then go hard until you get it

Learn from your losses.  Learn from your heartbreaks.  Learn from each other.  Be that team you know you can be.  Forge yourselves into the weapon you wish to become. YOU have to do that.  No one will do it for you.  YOU have to decide what it is you want out of this paintball thing… if it isn’t worth the hardships and the sacrifice… take that silver and go be a spoon.

Be water my friends…

Michael Bianca
Team PR1ME

PS Thanks to Gary Baum of for the amazing photographs!