austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Sure plays a mean pinball

Tiebreaker with LEF. I'm already done so much better than I could have imagined. The tournament official declares the tiebreaking will be on a randomly drawn game from the two banks we hadn't just played. He picks number six. It's the Gottleib 1977 Jungle Queen. It's an electromechanical table. Good for me. It's one of the tables that MJS has in his pole barn, so I know the table. Also good. (Properly, MJS has Jungle Princess, the two-player version of the table. But the only difference Jungle Queen has is that it's got four rather than two score reels.) I choose to go second.

First ball. LEF has a great ball, scoring over 50,000 points. That alone would normally be a good score. That alone would have got him third or second place on any of the rounds leading up to that. I have a good, solid plunge, getting the central lane of 'B'. I get to roll over the 'A' and 'C' lanes, too, giving me double bonus, the sort of thing you have to do to win an electromechanical. Now to hit drop targets and lots of them, to build the bonus's base value. I come up short of this, around 40,000 points, but it's still doing well. At that pace either of us would roll the table; it shows a maximum 199,990.

Second ball. LEF doesn't have as good a ball, but he's still got around 70,000. When I plunge I miss the 'B' lane on top, which is trouble. 'A' and 'C' have lanes at the top of the playfield, but also on the left and right inlanes; they're easy to get. 'B' is hard. If you don't get it on the plunge, you have to shoot the ball to the upper playfield and hope. I can shoot for the upper playfield, but I don't get lucky. I'm falling behind.

Third ball. LEF has another good ball and beats the 100,000 mark. That's already better than my typical game on Jungle Princess. But if LEF has a bad ball --- very easy on electromechanical games --- I can still take the lead. I once more fail to shoot the 'B' lane on the plunge, and I get only up to about 80,000 or so before losing the ball.

Fourth ball. LEF has a relatively weak ball, but 'relative' is the key word there. He's sitting at something like 130,000 before he loses the ball. I plunge, and I hit the 'B' lane at last! Just where I want to be. And the ball races down the outlane. I've now had not just bad balls, but a house ball.

What could I do? I shrug, laugh, turn around, and bow to the audience and the cameras.

The last ball. All I can do is hope that LEF has a house ball, and that I have the ball of my life. He doesn't have a great ball, considering the last ball starts with double bonus and lanes don't matter anymore. But he gets to something like 160,000. I have beaten that score on Jungle Princess. Once. I will have to have the ball of my life.

But I know what to do. I can knock down drop targets, assuming I don't lose control along the way. Or I can shoot for the scoops, good for 5,000 points each, at the far top of the tables. Shots that far and distant away are hard, yes, but it's a fairly safe shot too. If I miss, the ball bounces off the pop bumper and maybe it even hits the lanes for sake of pride. I just have to shoot it ... twelve times? Sheesh, that's a lot. But ...

After maybe six times, I bobble the ball between the flippers. I've got something like 140,000. It's one of my best games ever, but it's far short. I've got second place.

I smile, and step toward LEF to shake his hand. MWS is there. He'd planned to grab and lift me into the air if I won, and now he's there to console me. I'm baffled that he's there already, but hug him, and go on to congratulate LEF and thank the official. And then hug bunny_hugger, also trying to console me.

I'm honestly not crushed. I'd wanted to win, of course, and did my best. I had some bad luck; most people have one or two house balls on an electromechanical game, and LEF had none. I played my second-best game ever on that table, and boy, there's nothing to be embarrassed by there. I have honestly been more upset by lousy games I've played in the Lansing Pinball League, as non-competitive a league and a format as it's possible to get and not just be playing Pinball Arcade, than by this.

The tournament official gathers together all the finalists, including the long-waiting MAL, and BEN who could've won first place for me. He gives us each one of the ReplayFX medals. He announces our names and league affiliations. He mispronounces my name, in the same way that RLM --- whose Genesis gave me the experience to get to finals --- does at Grand Rapids league. Perhaps thrown by getting my name wrong, he forgets to announce my league affiliation.

bunny_hugger is offended on my behalf. I find it deeply funny. I could not have written something to better tickle me.

The A Division finals are still going on. Most people were watching that. PH and AJH, sitting where they can look up on stage or over at my group, congratulate me, and I'm busy shaking hands and hugging people and thanking them for their enthusiasm.

And then the sordid business of money. As finalists in the division both bunny_hugger and I win part of the cash payout. There's no cash. There's not even checks; this year, they've set up an electronic-wallet thing that is supposed to make it better, somehow, for distributing money to winners. It's probably better for them, and maybe for people who expect to win money from multiple tournaments. For us, it's a form to fill out, and an account to be created sometime later (it came through this week, in fact), and a promise that we would get money shortly after that. bunny_hugger and many people are offended that, as we read the format, it appears impossible to get our prize money without paying something to the electronic-wallet people. This seems to have been a misunderstanding of the rules, but I don't know what the correct understanding is.

No matter. This has been an expensive summer for me, between the computer disaster and my car's reaching 100,000 miles. This does a lot to make things better. It's almost as good a result as I could have hoped for.

I wear my medal, without quite believing it, for hours. We watch some of the A Division finals, but not for long. We're hungry.

Trivia: The average sale price for lots in section 16 of every township --- set aside for the support of education by the Northwest Ordinance of 1785 --- in Michigan was $4.58 per acre, about a dollar more than Indiana and Illinois' averages and about three dollars more than Wisconsin's. Source: Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State, Bruce A Rubenstein, Lawrence E Ziewacz.

Currently Reading: The Improper Bohemians: Greenwich Village In Its Heyday, Allen Churchill.

PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: L-function, which you never heard of before either but gets to something you grew up hearing about.

Tags: pinball, pinburgh
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