March 18, 2012 by David Gillaspie
(also seen on oregonsportsnews.com)
Each year sports fans lock into the NFL Combine, spring training, March Madness, the NFL draft. College baseball warms up in their bullpen.
They’ve read charts and graphs, reports and newsletters. Filling out brackets is natural, a force of habit.
For a different segment of people such events prove what they’ve always suspected: sports are over-hyped. They say, “I don’t have time to waste on television,” with pride.
These people don’t know ESPN from CNN, Sports from Mechanics Illustrated, a ball park from a dog park. They wouldn’t go to a free gym if you dressed them in Nike Combat then drove them to a year’s worth of training and lifted for them.
We know these people as non-sports fans, or N-SF. They live freely among us. It isn’t a crime, but there are questions. The biggest one for N-SF is, ‘Where can non-sport fans join their peers in fun competition?’
What is the perfect sport/activity for the shy, the timid, the socially awkward? Where can they fulfill the dream of domination when they feel like outcasts from mainstream sports and those athletes? Where is the best venue for non-sports guy to join sports guy on a level playing field?
Welcome to Laserport, where you tag your best friend, parents, and boss, and they tag you. Who’s up for a friendly no-harm showdown? Who wants to shake and bake and get off shots that hurt nothing but pride?
You and everyone you know.
Laser tag means joining an operational team for a brief, shining, moment; where breaking a sweat is an after-thought to getting the drop on others. This isn’t Seal Team 6 training, but they’d like it.
It’s a sport that includes the devout individualist who needs better sneaker-skills, and the student-body president who pops up everywhere; from an older guy with a squint, to a mom holding the base from her laser-sniper post.
If it looks like a sport and feels like a sport, is it still a sport? A real sport?
Laser tag is a sport if bowling is a sport. If a race horse like Secretariat makes a ‘Greatest Athlete Ever’ list, then laser tag is a sport. What would you rather watch, a fishing competition or a cross between Survivor and Fear Factor. Even N-SF knows the difference between athletic events and that stuff.
Is laser tag in the Olympics, the haven of world-sports not often played in America? No, it’s not an Olympic sport, but neither is baseball or softball.
Laser tag isn’t the only option for non-sport fans, just the best.
N-SF could play Ping Pong, but if someone mentions Beer Pong the game changes forever. They could go hunting. What Mark Twain said about golf being a good walk ruined would probably work for hunting. Besides, a group of guys with better controller skills than trigger skills need to much attention.
Out in the field you don’t always get a second-life.
Laserport’s Bill Buhler talks about the people who strap on the power pack and head into the fog, the black lights, and maybe a new discovery.
“Do people use Laserport for fitness? I’ve had groups come in over the years, ladies who want more than a gym has to offer. It is part of their fitness plan.”
“Is there a weight-loss element to the game? Sure. It’s not part of our advertising, but guys have chosen Laserport as their workout because it doesn’t feel like a regimen, or a follow-the-leader exercise.”
My first laser tag games felt like a cross between Terminator and Full Metal Jacket. I knew I was safe, but the environment had enough chaotic elements to grab my attention. It doesn’t take long for the idea of playing as hard as you can sinks in. You don’t want the worst score, but you want to play nice. It’s a fine line.
Afterward you come out of the dark and return the gear. The lingering sensation of playing the best first-person shooter game ever makes you sign up another round.
You want to do better. It’s the same way you felt after your first baseball game, your first basketball game. You can do it, and you want to do it right away. Guys from other teams ask you your score, then ask if you want to play on their team. No one has ever said that.
And you’re ready to go.