Games to end with a splat

From rookie to pro, paintball teams engage in combat outside Raymond James.

Published May 13, 2007

Paint, not footballs, will be flying today at Raymond James Stadium.

The National Professional Paintball League Super 7 World Series will conclude its three-day tournament with some final colorful action.

This is not the paintball of back yards. This a seven-player game with the objective being to take out the other team's players and advance the team flag to the other end of the field. To be eliminated requires only one hit anywhere on the player's body or equipment.

Five divisions - rookie, novice, amateur, semiprofessional and professional - are playing this weekend. Today, the top 16 from each division move to the semifinals, which will be followed by the finals.

The top four teams in each division take home some cash, with the No. 1 professional team earning $25, 000.

Even with cash on the line, professional player Riley Sullivan, 23, said his paintball skills are not enough for him and his family to live on.

It's one of the lowest-paid professional sports, the California resident said, but that is starting to change as more sponsors, including those outside paintball, sign on.

To supplement their income, most players work in the paintball field. Mike Papa, 29, owns a paintball shop in New Jersey. Papa's love for guns got him into the sport. When he was too young to get a firearms permit, he turned to paintball guns.

He has found that hunting a human with a paintball gun is more challenging than shooting at ducks and deer.

But paintball has not cured Papa of all martial interests. He owns a wide range of weaponry, including knives and brass knuckles.

"It's engraved in a man's instinct to hunt, " he said.

The Marine Corps must have gotten the message. An event sponsor, the Marines have a recruiting booth at the event.

The field is not entirely male-dominated.

"It's hard to keep up with the guys, " said Kat Secor, 19, who plays on coed Team Destiny.

The Las Vegas resident lacks some of their strength, but mental strategy is a large part of the sport.

For Secor, the best part is figuring out an opponent's strategy. If she can anticipate what the other player is going to do, she can pick him or her off.

Teams will fly all over the country, and sometimes the world, for these events, which are scattered throughout the United States.

This weekend's roster is full, with 175 teams competing, said league president Shawn Walker.

But the fans still need to show up. People seem to understand what recreational paintball is but don't realize there is a tournament side to the sport, he said.

Kathryn Helmke can be reached at 813 268-5314 or khelmke@sptimes.com.


. If you go

Tournament time

The paintball tournament continues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the parking areas next to Raymond James Stadium. Admission is free. To check it out live online go to www.nppllive.com.