Also at the start of July, before our first big summer event, was the new Grand Rapids Pinball League season. The league has over a couple years grown so big as to be unmanageable: put seventy or so people into one hipster bar with two aisles of pinball machines, plus often the crowds there for a Wednesday show, and you have an unmanageable mess. The attempted fix was a couple bold format changes. For one, you could play on Mondays or Wednesdays, instead of necessarily Wednesday. For another, instead of head-to-head play you'd play one (1) game of each of a designated set of six. League standings would be based on what your score was compared to everyone else's. You'd play with other people, picking up groups as you liked or by whoever was there by the deadline to start play your night. (This for the sake of honest score reporting, although if we were going to lie, we wouldn't say we put up a two million point game of Medieval Madness. A skilled player can expect to break 50 million points on that game, and a hundred million is plausible.)
This made the league much more like our home and favorite league, Lansing, in its organization. Since nature abhors an ironic vacuum then you know already we didn't really like the change. I'm not sure precisely why. I think part of it is in diffusing the league across two nights, and across many hours --- you could start play anytime you liked as long as it was between when organizer RLM got there and maybe 8 pm or so --- the sense of being part of a group was lost. And maybe organizing your own groups is part of the problem; while it's fun to play with your friends, there's also a certain sameness to doing too much of it. Especially when our best pinball friends are CST, who can pretty reliably clean our clocks, and MWS, who will generally but not invariably beat us. Lansing league organizes groups by random draw. Former Grand Rapids seasons tried to position people with roughly their skill equals. It makes for more unpredictable nights. It's hard to say.
The experiment was worth trying, but they're not sticking with it. League attendance was way down, possibly a summer effect but still noticeable. And the bar's owner was apparently not very happy about it, possibly because of the diffusion of the crowd. It was nice being able to play in a less packed venue, one where you didn't have to retreat from the pinball machines to wait your turn. (It's natural to watch, from behind, a competitor; you can learn a lot about how the game is playing that way.) Rumor is they're going back to something closer to the old format for the coming season. No idea how they'll handle the too-large-crowds problem.
I finished the season --- it only had three meetings --- in ninth place of about fifty people, and sank in the finals. I do better over league seasons than in match play, generally, although there'll be some follow-up on that to come.
Trivia: Astronomer John E Mellish observed craters on Mars in November 1915, but his drawings were unpublished and were lost in a fire the year before Mariner 4 flew by Mars. Source: Planets and Perception, William Sheehan.
Currently Reading: Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, William Lee Miller.