Life After Damage: Interview with Mike Carthy

In most respects, the societal role and function of extreme sport is anomalous and a-typical of that most associated with traditional sport. While the existence of mainstream sport contributes towards advancing overarching sociological end-goals such as group cohesion, economic development and conflict resolution, extreme sport has always promoted individualism, anti-establishment and anarchy. Paintball finds itself in a state of limbo, afflicted with a serious identity crisis. It’s having an internal conflict; a fight between cleaning up its image to present a product easily swallowed by the masses, or staying true to its gritty underground roots that made it so attractive to all the oddball adrenaline junkies in the first place. Mike Carthy is a man that empathizes with both faces of the sport and exemplifies a progressive bridge between the two that could be used as a model for the ideal public paintball figure. As Tampa Bay Damage begins their first event without him, ProPaintball sits down with the man behind the mask (a veteran mask, with more points played than the number of balls most of you shoot at a Sunday practice), to probe for his unabated perspective at a strange (no pun intended) point in his professional playing career.


For a professional franchise to attain any sort of longevity or name recognition, it must exhibit a winning tradition and project a brand face that is attractive and consistent. You have been a valuable member of two of these teams (Detroit Strange, Tampa Bay Damage). Internally and externally, where did Strange go wrong that Damage did not and vice versa?

Mike: Strange and Damage were completely different organizations. The only thing the two had in common was that they both became professional teams. Strange was originally founded by a group of 10 players playing at the novice level. They had a plan to take the team to the highest level possible, using local tournament winnings to fund this dream. These days, that wouldn’t even be possible. Teams that win local tournaments are lucky to even get their entry fees back, let alone put money into a team fund to propel themselves to the national level.

Strange kept winning, progressing through the ranks, and proving themselves at each new level. It was clear that the team had a vision. Companies within the paintball industry took notice and began lining up to put their logos on our jerseys and money into our team fund. However, once the economy started to go downhill, companies tightened their sponsorship budget, the golden age of paintball faltered and Strange dried up with it. In contrast, since day one Damage has received the majority of their funding from outside of the paintball industry. Relative to the days of old, the sponsorship assistance Damage receives from within the industry would not have been sufficient to cover air fare, entry fee, and hotel rooms.

With most mainstream professional sports, an athlete’s dedication and loyalty to a team often seems to go no deeper than their pockets. As I’m sure you’re painfully aware of, the professional paintball player does not suffer from this “problem.” As a player who has now been faced with the adverse reality of starting over twice after dedicated, lengthy team tenures (5+ seasons with each team), does your moral suffer or your faith in the game waiver?

Mike: I don’t look at it as starting over really. Ultimately, I get my enjoyment and satisfaction in paintball by setting personal goals and objectives. The most fundamental goal always revolved around gaining the respect of my teammates and making sure there was a mutual understanding of the sacrifices necessary to make our visions reality. You can’t build a house without a good foundation. I was never in this game to be rich or famous. Every competitive goal I have set for myself as a player, I have accomplished. At the end of the day, the competition is what keeps me going. Paintball is my one opportunity to really challenge myself, and competing against others that are equally passionate about the game is the best way to do it.

Which has been more difficult to comprehend and come to terms with, the dissolution of Strange or the end of your time with Damage?

Mike: Honestly, neither one has been particularly difficult to comprehend. With Strange the writing was on the wall as soon as the industry went downhill and the NXL folded. With Damage I delivered on what I was paid to do, but in the off-season several things transpired within the team that made me question whether I would even want to be affiliated with certain individuals. To be honest, I don’t regret a thing that has happened based on how I reacted. The friendships I have with individuals on the team transcend any sort of paintball politics.

Obviously paintball is suffering in growth and functionality primarily from the top-down. Players provide the extent of their contribution by continuing to play the game, while the companies continue to under-capitalize and under produce from their side of the equation. Do you think mismanagement of professional franchises is one of the main contributing factors to the stifling of industry expansion and the attainment of national recognition for the sport?

Mike: One of the main things that I don’t think the average tournament paintballer understands is that 90% of the business in paintball is gathered from the bottom up. Today’s church group has tomorrow’s pro player on it. The problem lies in the “bigger and better” equipment fallacy. A new player, interested in playing beyond just a friend’s birthday party, goes to a local field and thinks that they NEED to buy 2 cases of paint and have a ramping gun just to have fun. If paintball, even on the most basic level, wasn’t perceived as being such an expensive sport, there would be fewer barriers to entry and more customers in the game. It also doesn’t help that the industry itself can’t present a singular, well refined product to outside sponsors (X-Ball vs. 7-man.. ad nauseum). It won’t gain mainstream acceptance as a sport until the industry can figure out what would make the average person more comfortable about wanting to go out and play paintball. A weekend of fun; without running the risk of not being able to pay your bills at the end of the month.

When the fog of war dissipates, the dead are gathered and there is light on the horizon, where do you see yourself in paintball going into the future?

Mike: There is always light on the horizon. I work at a paintball store part time, and I see a little bit of that light each time a new player walks in to ask questions about buying their first marker. I will be in paintball for as long as it will have me, and I look forward to seeing where the future takes us.


Thanks Mike, great to get such quality insight from a veteran of the game. Undoubtedly more great things to come from you and the game. So all you ballers out there, rotting in your Galveston hotels and everyone beyond that, sound off and let us know what you think.

24 thoughts on “Life After Damage: Interview with Mike Carthy”

  1. One of the most respectable and underrated players in the game.

    It was an honor to play with you, Carthysan, this is undoubtedly a huge loss for Damage.

  2. “…but in the off-season several things transpired within the team that made me question whether I would even want to be affiliated with certain individuals.”

    Here’s the drama – can we talk about this?

    1. I’m guessing it might have to do with the new “feeder” teams that damage is making… DC devastation, Sacramento Damage, Blackout…. From what I have heard about the blackout team in Tampa (I live there), I am not surprised that someone was having problems with the way management was dealing with things.

  3. problem is always with management taking it to far and when someone steps up to management and calling them out on there mistakes, management responds with the boot. this is a huge loss for damage. greed will always bring you down. maybe this will damages last season or maybe a move in the upper office needs to be made to save a sinking ship.

  4. The intro is so poorly written. Save the vernacular for an article not paintball related. What a joke.

    extreme sport has ALWAYS promoted anarchy? are you kidding me? paintball is a team sport. Hardly anarchy.

    1. In a leading study done by common sense, 9 out of 10 participants polled agreed that anarchy is embedded in the culture of extreme sport.

      can’t argue with the facts, brotha.

      1. you know what “brotha”? 9 out of 10 OPINIONS don’t make a fact. This article is an atrocity of epic proportions. sincerely an English major, who would rather chew glass than read your try hard shitty articles.

  5. I’m not exactly sure what that guy is babbling about. But a team has more of a chance to win and win their money back playing at the local level then they do at the national level. Where the entry fees are so ridiculous you might as well be playing the lottery, as winning at that level is slim. Unless you have pretty much unlimited resources. You keep seeing the same boring teams, play the same boring fields and layouts over and over. And people keep wondering why people outside of paintball are so disinterested. Um, go figure!!

    1. He isn’t saying that winning national events had a better monetary return than local events, he was saying that ‘back in their day’ the profit margin of winning a local tournament was much better than it is now, and therefore their team (Strange) was able to save enough from those local winnings to fund their team to pay to enter and travel to national events.

      Nowadays if you win most local tournaments, the cash prizes – if they even have them in that particular series – is enough to cover the entry, paint, hotel, and food that the team uses to pay for event. Whatever is left over is probably barely enough to cover part of the next local event, let alone a nationwide event series like the PSP or NPPL.

  6. I don’t get it. people are so stupid. The stifling of industry expansion and the attainment of national recognition for paintball is due to one thing and one thing only. PRICE!!! It’s so ridiculous paintball is being stifled by the same companies that supposedly want it’s national recognition. They destroy the one thing they want because of greed. These companies continue to try to charge 1200 for a paintball gun and $ 60 for a case of paint and sit back and wonder like morons why paintball isn’t growing as a whole and why it turns off more people then it brings in. My god, get a clue. And all the while the people that should be complaining and boycotting this nonsense, the players are constantly allowing themselves to be told this is the way it is. Instead of banding together and saying this isn’t the way it is, or is going to be. And telling these companies like Dye and eclipse we aren’t going to pay these prices and if you continue to charge these prices we won’t pay and you will go out of business. That’s why people are not coming into the sport. That’s why paintball is being stifled. These companies are not helping paintball grow. And no, charging 500 for a so cold med to low end gun is not good enough either. Because it doesn’t cost that much to make something like that.

  7. you guys are totally right the largest thing that keeps the sport from reaching mainstream attention is the cost 40-60$ for a freaking case of paint which is pretty much a tank of gas or a cell phone bill to some people is totally outragous then add registration fee air and gun rental and your looking at a hundred dollars and over half that cost is paint. and to new players the cost really turns them off to ever deciding to get more into playing. Then looking at ok so if I wanna bring down the cost to play i need to spend more money and buy my own gear. big turn off to some. And then the price of gear and equipment is equally unrealistic we all that most with the exception of some out source there production to foreign countries to cut cost so why do your products cost so much then if the person making the thing only gets paid #3 a day if that. Finally i think the last lynch pin keeping the sport from attaining mainstream is the fact there are two different main governing formats 7man vs five man or xball. you dont see two different formats for football one were you field 14plays and another were 11players are fielded no there is own league one format and until the powers that be in charge decide what format is going to be the dominate format then were kinda going to be at a plateau.

    ( own opinion)
    I know the topic really doesnt match what im about to say but after my last thought i really thought i should put my 2cents out there. Who knows maybe some power will read this and think im a genious. Not to long ago there was a big rumble about the leagues talks of merging which got me to thinking what would be the dominate format and I honestly think that xball should be the dominate format, for several reasons. 7man games are over far to quickly and i feel the as a spectator especially if we as a sport wanna go mainstream that people are like what just happen games move to quickly blink and the games over and the nxt teams are already getting ready. xball is slightly different the individual points are over guickly but the game as a whole is still carring on and I think that xball keeps spectators on there seats 1min left on the clock 6-5 damage 15sec on the major penalty can ironmen tie it up to bring it into over time or will damage win the game. That on edge action is very good to watch it makes for a really good nail bitter. also and you may think this is odd but the psp itself has a reputation of using paintball fields like galvestion island paintball for its venues which will help bring PR to the fields themselves which means more buisness and growth within the industry. before nppl went bankrupt the venues were held at stadium some of which ive played that nice and all but it really doesnt help to bring money to the sport it only sends money outside the industry. I was only after that the company went bankrupt did they start hold events at fields with the exception of huntington beach.

    1. Excellent thoughts and comments brother. Glad to see some people are actually giving some serious thought to the types of things that are happening with paintball.

      1. good to see you gentleman agree with Mike’s answer to Q4.. seems like these are pretty widely agreed opinions, huh?

        think mass action by the tournament players is what it will eventually come to? #OccupyPaintball

    2. Football actually does have multiple formats…The main NFL 11 man football, but there is also arena football, the CFL canadian football (with their own size field), and there is even High school 7 man football.

  8. uhmmm, why not hit up re-ball. price drop, x-ball style, any weather.
    Personally I miss being able to play reball any time of day any weather with anything and anyone.. I also remember a bunch of “rentals” and birthday partiers there. But I also am not an owner or a business man so I assume those types of fields are hard to keep up without money flow from “over-priced” paint boxes

  9. #1
    how about the article itself-MIKE FUCKIN CARTHY
    this man is a legend, one of the best gun fighters that ever lived. I watched this guy pull off numerous 1v3,1v2,1v1 at the first allstar game in mao one year. Truly a beast.
    I feel like if we had a hall of fame for paintball then he would be a first ballot entry, and on top of that a genuinley nice guy, who takes the time to talk to anybody, the sport needs more pros like carthy.
    the companies can’t keep lowering prices, 10 years ago a case was a 120.00 dollars so in reality we were flourishing when things cost more. The largest thing that keeps the sport from reaching mainstream is participation. If we had enough people playing there would be no stopping us. The reason we don’t isn’t the cost it’s ignorance. People don’t know how fun it is. You guys that bitch like crazy, do you grab a ton of random friends and take them out to a field. Doubtful, if we all brought just a few poeple it would make a huge difference

  10. Mike MCarthy is a class act . Always has been an ambassador to the sport , have watched him from kid to now .
    Think the exciting thing is what organization is he going to next .
    Maybe not as big a story as Peyton going to Broncos but pretty dam close in paintball circles .

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