11:00. Everyone was there. We gathered more or less around the door between the two rooms of the pole barn for last instructions. Also to get a group photo. They handed bunny_hugger's camera to someone else to get a few pictures. She has a great camera, but you never get good pictures on a camera you don't know, somehow. So it goes.
To the first round! My opponent was SMS, as I'd known would be since early December. She had first pick. I figure I'll win one or two games in the best-of-seven match. She picked Tommy, exactly as I expected, and I let her go first. I'm not good on Tommy; it's an early-90s Data East game and that's a maker and era I never got a sense of flow on. I'd practiced it a lot, mostly finding where the mode-start shot is and getting some idea where the mirror shot is, but that's not much. Still, once the ball saver expires it's a dangerous table and one --- oh! SMS's first ball raced to the outlane as soon as it wouldn't come back.
This is a huge chance for me. For one, she's down one ball. For another, she lost a ball unfairly. Not because she played badly, but because the machine threw it away. Everyone takes offense to that. But SMS recovers slowly from that kind of offense. I suddenly have a chance at winning this game. And if that throws her spirits off badly enough, it could carry on to future games. I suddenly have a chance at winning the whole round. If I don't screw up.
I play all right, and she has a slightly-less-rotten but still bad second ball. I finish the second ball at about 100 million and think of how, if she's rattled already I might just make it. On the third ball she starts multiball --- it's hard not to; Data East games of that era light multiball on the third ball if you haven't already --- and milks it. She comes out to somewhere close to 200 million. Which is near the highest score I've ever gotten on that Tommy, achieved in practice the night before.
Nothing to do but keep my cool and play on. I keep starting modes, most of which are pointless. Tommy modes come in two forms, the high-value ones you never get and the ones way too hard to hit. I do get Video Mode, a funny one: your best score comes from taking your hands off the flippers and letting the mode play itself. I get multiball going, and have to shoot the left ramp (easy) for jackpot, or the right ramp (hard) for double jackpot. Or anything, really. Any ramp at all. I keep missing. All but one ball drains. Since I hit no jackpots anywhere the game gives me a second chance, ten seconds to shoot the mirror. I keep missing the mirror. I aim again and miss again. The timer runs out. The ball bounces of its own accord into the mirror, restarting multiball mode.
SMS tells me I've won. Huh? Yes, somewhere in all that flailing around I've gathered another hundred million points and got past her big comeback ball. I'd beaten SMS on one game, and it was the first of the day, and it was even her pick.
Maybe I'd make it into the state's top eight after all.
Trivia: Before Fort Knox, the United States gold bullion depository was in New York City. Source: Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933 - 1939, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.
Currently Reading: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, Kwame Anthony Appiah.