For the second year running bunny_hugger's Silver Balls in the City pinball tournament was held in the lee of a beloved rabbit's death. It was a Wednesday again, this time two days after Christmas when we hoped people would be idling and without anything particular to do. And there was some cheerful news: both the hipster bar where the Lansing Pinball League meets and the Silver Balls tournament would be, and Pinball Pete's, who owns and maintains the games, advertised the tournament on their Facebook pages and put up posters for casual people to see. There was no guessing how this would affect the turnout, but we could be optimistic. Or pessimistic: the format was a Strikes Tournament, pairs of people matched up and playing until they got a set number of strikes. The first time we ran this, 26 people showed up and I think it was four strikes and we were still playing until the bar closed. We didn't want to that again, but we couldn't figure out how many rounds to expect to have to play for a given number of people in the tournament.
As it happens, a mere fourteen people attended, down from the previous two years. As with last year, though, there weren't any people who could budge their state rankings, so the higher-profile players just had the chance to win some of bunny_hugger's homemade trophies as reward prospects. However, six of the people who showed up were newcomers, ones who hadn't been to any tournaments or leagues before, or who had only attended the Fear and Trembling tournament in October. It's, we hope, an omen of the area pinball community growing again, or at least being more open to growing.
When we were getting to the bar someone in the parking lot stopped us and asked if we were with the pinball tournament. It was one of the guys we had met a little before, at Pinball Pete's Ann Arbor, as part of that informal league. He wanted to play, and he also brought two 40-pound bags of dog food as a donation in kind for bunny_hugger's chosen charity, the Capital Area Humane Society. And inside we'd see the guy from Pinball Pete's who fixes the games, there to play and also bring a $100 donation, plus a bunch of door prizes, from his employer. That's a great endorsement, and a harbinger of things to come. (He would go on to join the Lansing Pinball League this season, and both the bar and Pinball Pete's have been really supportive in publicizing league nights.) Some of the door prizes were T-shirts, one of which bunny_hugger won.
With sixteen people we set the standard at three strikes and hoped that would be neither too long to bear nor too short to feel worthwhile. One of the new people who'd never played before was eliminated in three rounds, sad to say. Another was eliminated the next round, and a third of them fell in the fifth round. So did one of our regulars. bunny_hugger and the fellow who donated the dog food lost in the next round, and I (and one guy from Bay City who hadn't been to Lansing before) lost in the next.
So the timing worked out just about perfectly, really. With fourteen players and three strikes we were down to the final matches by a little before 10 pm. Maybe we could've dared making it four strikes, although without some analysis on how long various combinations should run we wouldn't have dared. MWS took first place, and the guy from Pinball Pete's won second place, and third place was a player from Bay City who'd never been to Lansing before. It'd be hard to encourage new players more.
We brought the dog food, and a check for the donation total, to the Capital Area Humane Society the next week --- we just didn't have time before that --- and took a flyer abut signing up to be a volunteer assistant. And took some time to sit with and watch the bunnies they had. Those rabbits were a fair bit shy and nervous, but as we sat and let them find their comfort level, learned to just view us with skepticism and worry. Progress.
Trivia: Torino was the first Winter Olympics host city selected after the Salt Lake City bribery scandal lead to rules against International Olympic Committee members visiting candidate cities en masse. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.
Currently Reading: Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection, Catherine Price.
Everybody's look after putting up a qualifying round.
I'm not sure why I'm so tickled by this row of empty seats and people's abandoned drinks but it somehow speaks to me.
Qualifying for the night over! And emergency repairs under way on Bram Stoker's Dracula, a game that frustrated everybody so very many times.