I posted this over on another blog, mostly of non-paintball players, but this should be here too.
I'm going to start with a photo, and explain why it has power at this moment.
A helmet on a rusty old gate post. If it looks like a memorial for a fallen soldier, there's a reason for that.The helmet is one that belonged to a friend of mine. We all called him Borg, his real name is Danijel Jagodic. He lived in Croatia, barely. And this morning, he was found dead by his brother. He committed suicide last night.
He posted on facebook about 24 hours ago " Most of us figured he was just retiring from paintball, not taking this route.
I heard about his death through the comments to my latest show update, and looked in on one of the forums Borg always hung out at. As of now, the thread of "RIP" is about 16 pages, all of which are fans, friends, people who's lives were somehow affected. This in itself is kind of amazing to me, because of circumstances.
As I said, Borg lived in Croatia. He was also an avid paintball player. To do this in Croatia is not cheap, easily he spent 4X the amount that anyone in the states does to do the same thing. So he made do with what he could, and started making videos showing how you can do the most with the least. They became insanely popular, his personality shining through the videos easily. He had a way of infecting you with enthusiasm, and it came through.
One group of players helped him get to the US for a week to play at a big event. He already was a big fanboy of the USA, and this really sealed it. I got him addicted to Mountain Dew, he had greasy pizza and hot dogs, and spent 4 solid days playing paintball. He loved every minute of it, and was genuinely grateful. They helped him get to the next tow year's events as well. CPX was almost a second home for him, in a way. Since the Croatian government wouldn't let him being some things into the country, it was kept at this field for him.
So that's his helmet, the one he used in the states. His Tippmann is in storage there too. He joked on his show that he "buried it" near the field. "It's a tippmann, it'll be fine." I guess you would have to hear him say it to be funnier. The owner of CPX snapped that pic today and posted it on facebook, and now it's quite literally all over the paintball forums.
When the news hit that he had killed himself, the reaction was immediate. Shock, surprise, disbelief, and ultimately sadness. Predictably, being the internet, many are badmouthing him in death, but overwhelmingly it's people remembering the good things, his show, his tips for players, his sense of humor. Many are trying to organize something good from all of this, a memorial, a fundraiser, something.
It has the feel of an immediate wake, really. We all know that we're not gonna get to Croatia for the funeral Friday (In theory, today there), so we're holding it virtually. Funerals, virtual or real, are for the living. I can't help but think that most of this is immediate grief, and that in a week most of these people will forget about things. The big event will be around May of next year. I'm hoping that his memory will not only still be there, but will be there in strength.
In the short term, I'm looking at this with sadness but also a sense of marvel. 20 years ago, I probably would have never met this guy. 10 years ago, I may have -emailed him but that's about all. Now... Now I'm happy to have met him in person, something that never could have happened not that long ago. It's also a marvel of technology that he could say goodbye to us all.
We really are a global tribe now, different customs, different backgrounds, different everything, but if nothing else technology has shown me that in the end, we have a lot more in common than most are comfortable admitting. I just wish I could see it more often in times of happiness, and not in times of tragedy.
So to bring this full circle, paintball may not be warfare but we all feel as if we lost a brother in arms. So when the owner of CPX took that picture, I'm not certain he knew how much of an icon he'd be creating or that he'd be tapping into imagery like he did. But, he did. We lost one of our own, and we cry in anger, we cry in remorse, we cry to figure out what we could have done and we cry because deep down we know there was nothing we could. but mostly we cry because a friend was so far away that we couldn't help him, and yet so close that we would have tried.