Space City Pinball League Season 9 Week 4: Down to the wire

The high hopes of the previous week continued into this week. These mini-seasons go by fast, with one week taking the place of two. So this week would effectively be the same as weeks 7 and 8 of a full-length season, where there’s a bit of a playoff feel in the air as the regular season winds down.

And indeed, the A division hopes of yours truly continued to hang into balance as the evening began. I would be grouped with Jim Mueller, Frankie Griffin, and Nichole Buergers, playing fourth in the rotation after Nichole and before Jim. For a week where I would need every possible standings point to try to keep hope alive, this is the kind of group I would want to be in; none of my opponents are pushovers by any means, but none are as dangerous as the likes of Phil Grimaldi or either of the two elder Revnews (Fred and Bryce). We would play Attack from Mars, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Maiden, and Terminator 3. On the floor but not assigned to our group were The Beatles and Monster Bash. The former I lament not getting to play in league play again; the latter, I can take or leave.

We would begin on Iron Maiden, where I would play first (then Jim, then Frankie, then Nichole). I jumped out to a first-ball lead of 11.5M+ to Frankie’s 8.7M+, but my second ball was the one that really sealed the deal. I would lead 72.3M+ to (Frankie’s) 21.2M+ to start ball 3 before finally signing off with an uncatchable 97.7M+ (though Jim would wind up with second place with 64.4M+ leaving Frankie in a distant third). Having started with a solid first-place finish, as well as basically having clinched week 2 as drop week after only one game, I could relax a bit and not feel quite as pressured. But the night had barely begun…

Next up was Deadpool. Despite some pretty solid play, I was doing good just to stay out of last place. I was able to put up 26.9M+ but it would pale in comparison to Jim’s and Frankie’s scores of 68.1M+ and 66.1M+ respectively. Having a real stinker of a Mini Deadpool Multiball didn’t exactly help.

Our third game would be Terminator 3. Now Steve Ritchie did a good job with the Terminator 2 game design in the early 1990s, and he tried hard to replicate as much of the look and feel of that game while still offering something new. That said, the one thing I liked most about this game tonight was “at least it isn’t Ghostbusters.” Again, I’m doing good to hold off from finishing last; my 8.1M+ was good enough for squeaking ahead of Nichole’s 4.8M+ but still fell way behind Frankie’s 11.2M+.

The penultimate game of the evening was Guardians of the Galaxy, a game I felt confident I could do well on. Jim ran away with this one with a 209.3M+, though I’d finish with a respectable if insufficient 40.7M+. Still, second place is not bad given the two previous games.

Attack from Mars would be our finishing point. The real drama began during the third ball; Frankie got Total Annihilation but did not convert the opportunity for very many points, signing off with 1.506B+. I had two balls locked and a score of 943M+ (for a deficit of 563M) when I started my ball 3, so I felt there was hope. Once I started multiball, I felt the game was mine to win. I would surge ahead with an exciting multiball-fueled finish and sign off with 1.819B+. Not a great score, but good enough to put up the last seven of 25 standings points on the night.

Right after finishing this game, I would be tied for 15th place in the season standings, with the top 16 making A division. I hung around long enough for the other games to finish. I would wind up dropping a place and tied for 16th with Lisa Shore. And the way the tiebreakers work this season, Lisa has the tiebreaker over me. Meaning, barring a miracle (specifically, a player qualified for A division not being able to make it to the playoffs), I have missed the A division playoffs for the first time in three seasons. [Note: As of the day I’m posting this (Tuesday, February 12), there are at least three players in A division who have not confirmed their attendance for the playoffs.]

To be fair about it, Chris Palis, the league director, told me I’m not the first to get bitten by this tiebreaker rule (which I think has been around since Phil started the league, and which was probably copied from some other league’s rules), and that between that instance and this one, he will be reviewing the tiebreakers for next season, as the way he sees it, it’s like I’m being penalized for showing up for all four weeks.

I don’t know what should frustrate me more: the egg I laid in week 2, or the fact that finishing one place higher in any game where I did not come in first in weeks 1, 3, or 4 would have been enough to qualify me for A division. By the same token, having one of the close wins go the other way would have been enough to knock me out for sure.

I’m still going to do my best in the playoffs in two weeks, even if it’s B division. Granted, winning B division will be nothing new for me, and it’s certainly not the same prestigious honor of winning A division, but I owe it to myself to be able to walk back out of Eighteen Twenty Lounge knowing I played the best I possibly could. Either way, A division or B division, there’s still money at stake.