Of Balls and Men

16 Aug

This week, adventure propositioned me while I was at a frozen yogurt shop.  As I rounded the corner to pay, I saw a stack of flyers that directed me to my destiny: The World Pinball Championships.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday Folks.

Thanks to a recent post about my overwhelming Facebook anxiety, it appears I have some noobs in the house.  Hey: thanks for reading another post.  I’m flattered.  So allow me to explain that Lollipop Tuesdays are a special series on my blog where every week I try something completely foreign to me and blog about my humiliation and learning experience for your entertainment.  For more information on this exciting day of the week , see the top of this page and click the link that says “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?” Now: onward!

So with flyer in hand and no idea what to expect, I took a day off work and drove out to explore the wonderful world of pinball.  I pulled into the parking lot of what looked like a warehouse, with middle-aged men sporting bandannas and their best game faces hopping out of trucks and piling into the place.

I opened the door and stepped right into a nerd’s wet dream. 

It was beautiful.  Nerdtastic, if you will.  There were rows upon rows of lit up, music-making, pinball machines.  They had doubles and triples of some of the more recent games and old school machines in great condition.  And every single one was plugged in and playable. But it wasn’t enough to just gawk; I had to register and compete.  Because what’s a Lollipop Tuesday without a chance for severe humiliation?

Glorious. Simply glorious.

I don’t know what I expected.  I guess in some small way I thought my life of video game rocking would somehow pay off here and I’d be able to at least spare myself embarrassment.  But as I was standing in line to play one of the four machines that would compose my ranking score, I was approached by a tall, pleasant gentleman who asked me what my story was.  I explained that I didn’t really have one, but that I was actually there representing a blog and learning about the underbelly of the pinball world as an active participant.  

He told me he was there to be the first Canadian World Pinball Champion.

No, seriously.  He was.  Because he flew in from Vancouver and up until the scrappy Canadian playing on the machine in front of us entered the picture, the guy I was talking to was the reigning Canadian Pinball Champion.    And I’m not sure if he dug the blog idea, he wanted me to get hooked on pinball, or I was one of the only five females in the room and the only one under 40, but he was kind enough to walk me over to another gentleman and introduce me and my blog.

That gentleman just happened to be the three-time, reigning World Pinball Champion.

He seemed thoroughly unimpressed with me, but I was definitely impressed with him.  Because even if I didn’t know a shred about the world of pinball before I walked in the door, I had taken some time to play on a few machines while I was there for fun and in one corner were a row of machines that were saved as relics, with little cards on them stating who won the World Pinball Championship on it in what year and what their score was.  I was staring at a guy who had his name etched on three of them, and the most astronomical scores I’d ever seen on a game.  Ever.

So after I’d had my moment to acknowledge the company I was among, I realized I was about to really suck some pretty awful rearend in front of these people.  

Allow me to further explain my relative suckness.  On the particular day of my arrival, the Classics tournament was underway. The Classics is a competition in itself where only machines made before 1987 are used and there is no skill division – it’s just one big pool of merciless competition.   On some of these old school machines, the score is not digital, but like the odometer on a car.  And as I stood in line to play one of my four games, the gentleman in front of me rolled over the score on his machine.

Twice.

These people weren’t messing around.  There’s a $10,000 prize at stake for the newly crowned World Champion and a trophy that would stand almost as tall as the winner.  There were folks walking around with gloves on, folks in the ready position at the front of the pinball machine as if they were playing hockey and not just flicking flippers.  And most average Joes walking that refurbished warehouse floor owned pinball machines that they had in their homes

Where the magic happens

The two people I spoke to had over ten.

So of course I played, and of course I sucked.  In fact, on one of the machines I had the absolute lowest score out of all the people who played that day.  But on another, 100 folks went at it and my score rested safely at twentieth position. And that ain’t so bad.  I know this because The World Pinball Championships are actually pretty darn organized.  And as soon as I signed off on my score, it was uploaded into a database that is searchable by anyone who wants to go to the Pinball Association website and check out scores for a particular player, machine, or tournament.

I must admit that I went online to check out the final standings at the end of the 4-day tournament and was sad not to see my Canadian friend’s name as the reigning champion.  But after a bit of networking, I found that there’s another tournament coming up in March.  And aside from the overwhelming suck I brought with me that day, I actually had a fantastic time.

Who knows: maybe I’ll brush up on my game, throw on a pair of gloves and a bandanna, and try to give my new friends a run for their money in the Spring. 

For more information on the World Pinball Championships and other Professional and Amateur Pinball Association tournaments, check out www.papa.org
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24 Responses to “Of Balls and Men”

  1. Ro August 16, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    You’re a brave girl. Haven’t you seen Little Miss Sunshine, Kingpin or The Wizard? People take even the silliest of things VERY seriously. I even saw a documentary once about the international air guitar competition. I kid you not.

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Listen: Little Miss Sunshine was serious business. I haven’t seen Kingpin or The Wizard, though I may have to after the suggestion. Also – SO CURIOUS about the air guitar comp.

      Like

      • Ro August 17, 2011 at 10:07 am #

        I’m not necessarily suggesting Kingpin, I just saw it once many years ago and remember that it’s about people who take bowling a little too seriously. The Wizard, on the other hand, I will suggest. Seeing as it has Fred Savage and features the world’s introduction to Super Mario Brothers 3. Booyah. Air Guitar Nation. Check it out. NetFlix rocks my world (no pun intended). I don’t know how it came to suggest this film, but I’m so pleased it did. Maybe because I also watched Darkon, a documentary about live action role playing games. See, I’ve viewed far too many films, both real and fiction, about these sorts of things to ever be brave enough to do what you did. …God, I’m a nerd.

        Like

  2. misswhiplash August 16, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    and you had a very delightful ‘lollipop Tuesday’

    Like

  3. freelancingkelly August 16, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Do you do these Lollipop Tuesdays all by yourself? You are so BRAVE! I would chicken out and never leave the car…but I find nerds super intimidating.

    Did you ever see the documentary on the Donkey Kong champion? Suuuch a good movie, even if you hate video games…it rips your heart out!

    Like

    • deenie12 August 16, 2011 at 11:09 am #

      I was going to leave a comment about this! The documentary is called ‘King of Kong’, and it is fabulous.

      Like

      • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

        I’m such a sucker for a good documentary. Thanks for the recommendations – I’ll certainly check it out!

        Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

      Actually, I take my man along. Not only is it a great relationship-builder, but having a black belt with me makes me feel safe when I’m traveling all over tarnation with strangers of all sorts. LOL I find it hilarious that you called nerds intimidating. Also – Seriously can’t wait to check out this documentary after so many suggestions to do so.

      Like

  4. pegoleg August 16, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Good for you – another first knocked over!

    I saw a documentary recently on a young guy who was going for Canadian Natl Champ. He was autistic, but phenominal with numbers and geometric relationships. Maybe he was there.

    Hey, big shout out on another Freshly Pressed – go girl!

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

      Definitely going to check it out. I’m a doc fiend. FIEND! Until I drop Netflix Instant Streaming because of the price hike effective 9/1. But until then – FIEND!! 🙂 and thanks for the grats. It’s a much-needed inspiration when I’m staring at 4 months left of daily posts. I’ve made it so far but it seems so. far. away.

      Like

  5. blacklisted August 16, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    This is epic.

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

      haha I thought so too! I wish I had a super awesome camera so that I could have caught a glimpse of the entire place. It really was quite a sight.

      Like

  6. misswhiplash August 16, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Congratulations on being FP’d…I was going to send this message on the FP blog but when I saw 226 comments ..I thought ‘ no way’

    Well done Jackie this is indeed a very good Lollipop Tuesday…the highest accolade

    love Patrecia

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      P, I would have seen it even if it were buried under all those – especially from one of my most loyal readers! Thank you so much for the kudos and (as always) for stopping by 🙂

      Like

  7. robblog123 August 16, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Jackie,

    Looks like you did okay in the classics……131 points is not bad for a first time entry. You should come back in the spring for sure. Bring some female friends with you, they may actually enjoy playing as well. The hobby could use more women, there are some that can play pretty good if not better than alot of the men in the hobby etc., It would be nice to see a woman win the world pinball championship or come close. It will happen eventually….

    Rob

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

      Hey thanks! I had no benchmark to know whether I did all right, though I must admit that when two balls dropped straight through the middle of the flippers with only a few points on each before their death, I knew I couldn’t have done well 🙂

      I had a fantastic time and I’d love to come back in the spring! See you there?

      Like

  8. Jules August 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    The only female under 40 in the tournament and a creepazoid didn’t approach you?

    Success.

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      That may be a testament to how unappealing I am, even in that environment 😛

      Like

  9. curiositycat August 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Ha ha ha! This is awesome. I will be back for more Lollipop Tuesday. 😀

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

      Thanks! I look forward to seeing you drop by again! 🙂

      Like

  10. yeyexu August 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    You are so brave! I want to do that sort of thing too because you have got to give everything a go once, right?

    I absolutely loved this post! Keep blogging.

    YeYe

    Like

    • Jackie August 16, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

      Thanks! You should definitely give something new a go. It’s tough at first but once you break that barrier of fear of trying new things, it gets to be a good time 🙂

      Like

  11. mctell2 August 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    Great and neat post on a Tuesday. I played pin-ball in college…..mostly Elton John’s Pin Ball Wizard…..I can still hear the bells and cacklers….

    Like

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