No Choice - By Nicky Cuba

It’s Friday in Las Vegas, 2nd game of the event. I slide into the snake as the game is closing out, and immediately get in a gunfight down the line. Information filters in from my teammates, who are screaming behind me, “There’s only one more Uprising player left!”

It has to be the sucka I’m battling down the line. My first instinct, go merc this fool. But only rookies run straight into guns, that’s instant death; I have to do this with finesse. I let him think he’s put me in, so he’ll stay out of his bunker, gunned up on the tapeline. If he’s posted up, waiting for me to snapshoot with him, while I cut inside, he won’t know what’s happening until I drop him to the turf with three to his earhole.

So I hop over the snake, and start to run the highway, like I’ve done for the past 15 years, when it happens. My left leg sways like a swing, my knee flamencos. Searing pain rips up my body. There’s no time to think about what’s going on, I have to kill this guy and close out the game. I gather myself immediately, can’t show weakness. Turning to the crowd, I hand gesture a throat cut and take off around the 50 yard line bunker to finish this guy and the game. On my second step the leg completely gives out. I unconsciously let out a roar of pain, alerting my opponent of his impending death, and we torch each other down.

The Refs tell me to take a seat; they saw the injury happen. But I’m a stubborn man. I refuse their help, running off the field.

I finished out the day on adrenaline.

I wake up on Saturday and the leg is stiff as a 2×4. Thank God we don’t play today. I ice the injury down all day and night, and miss watching the games. Sunday comes, and while my leg feels a bit looser, it’s still not 100%, not even close. Something is wrong. I lie to myself, “You’re fine Nicky, it’s just tweaked a little”. I continue telling myself this lie all day, over and over. But in the back of my head I know this can’t be true.

Still, I do what any athlete would do at this point, pull on my gear and get ready to play, it’s Funday Sunday; the whole reason we play the game. Infamous has underperformed all year and this is our last shot at redemption for 2011. And it’s also the last event of John Richardson’s amazing career. I’d love to help him win on his sunset ride; he deserves it more than anyone. He’d play injured for me, and there no way I’m going let him, or any of my teammates, down.

After coming off our perfect 7-0 on Friday, we start out against Dynasty. We won the first game, and could see some light. But then we meekly drop games two and three. With some fight left in us, we win our next round, but Aftershock knocks us out, going on to win the event. Season’s over, we sucked this year, and who the hell knows what’s wrong with my knee. Awesome.

Looking back, should have even played? Did I make a mistake, wanting to be out there for the glory of the win, but instead contributing to the loss because of my selfishness? I remember Matty Marshall’s pop telling us once when I was living out in San Diego, and we were sitting around having beers, “Discretion is the better part of valor”. Which, I guess means you really truly have to think about every decision, when you’re going to do something that has physical repercussions, toughness and bravery have to be tempered with conscious thought, in order to get the best result. If it’s time to man up, then man up, but think hard and fast about it first, don’t just do it out of stubborn reflex. It’s like I said earlier, you don’t just run into guns, that’s a rookie move, you cut inside and run the highway like a pro.

I should have let someone else play, that’s why we have extra guys, but I really thought I could tough it out, or I wouldn’t have done it. Again, I can be a bit stubborn. Hell, it’s got me this far.

With a new addition to my family, my baby girl Izabella, it was easy to get my mind off the injury. She was actually born on the Sunday of World Cup. I had to leave the quarters mid-match because my girl, Kristin, went into labor early.

I try to figure out what I should do as the off-season progresses. I don’t have health Insurance, and x-rays, MRIs, and surgery are expensive. I rested the whole offseason just worked out upper body, abs and gun skills. I wanted to give my knee enough time to figure out how bad I murdered it. I had a store grand opening at Boston paintball where I was doing a meet and greet. But the owner asked if I would play with the kids, I said “of course”.

I was just going to take it easy, sit in the back center, shoot my gun, not move. Ya right. I see a kid dive into the snake, so I had to get right in with him and when I dove, my knee didn’t feel right. I lay there for 10 seconds, gathering myself, ran a kid down, and then got off the field. For the rest of the day I told myself, “No more diving dumbass”. I finished up the weekend and decided I needed to go to the doctor asap.

After a bunch of referrals and about a month I finally got an MRI. During this time, I had another gig at Boston Paintball and went to New Zealand for a tourney and a Nuskool Paintball Academy at Paintball Adventure Challenge. The whole time I’m wondering if I’m screwing up my future. Will I be able to play with my little girl Izabella, without hobbling like an old man? Will I be able to play this sport that I love so much, a sport I watched grow, that I’ve been a big part of, and want to continue to be a part of for a long time to come? I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to only have one injury and miss two events in 15 years.

So after I rolling the dice with my future at all these events, I finally got my MRI done. I have a torn PCL. It’s the ligament on the backside of your knee. Bad, but not terrible, could have been way worse. Now, I have the decision of surgery now, or just continue to man up until the end of the year.

Unlike in Vegas, I’ve had awhile to think about this decision. I have to go with man up, no choice. The Doc said I can strengthen the knee in rehab, which I’ve been doing, and still play, so I’m going on his word, I have a little girl to feed.

I feel good. I feel ready. Come on lucky number seven.

Check back with Paintball Access to hear more about Nicky Cuba and Infamous as their story progresses.

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