Apologies for my failures as a Houstonian and Texan

This is a difficult post to write, but I need to get this out there. This post is long overdue, and with the end of the year coming it makes much more sense to end a year with a post of this type than start a new year with it.

I’m not going to tell the full backstory or even attempt to get my side of the story on record at this time. That was part of the original idea behind this post, originally conceived as a series of posts.

What I am going to do is set the stage by summarizing what I have observed to be key points about the culture of Texas and Houston. Some of it is well summarized at An Outsider’s Guide to Texas Culture (however, note that I do not endorse the politics of the rest of the linked site). I will briefly quote from that article here:

  • Texans are proud of Texas. We like where we’re from, and we know our state. We take Texas history in junior high school, where we learn about how Texas was under six different nations during its history and about how Texas was once its own country.
  • Texans are independent-minded. We’ll listen to what you think, but we’ll make up our own mind. We expect to have to solve our own problems, and we expect you to try to solve your own problems as well. We expect no help, but we’ll offer to help and accept help when you offer. We’re confident in ourselves, and have no expectation that your way will be better. It’s not arrogance, it’s experience: our pragmatism has served us well in the past. Politically, we resent the influence of other states on our politics. We don’t want Washington DC, New York, or California telling us what’s best for Texans. Texas political independence is valued by many Texans, and many of us want a chance to make our voice heard when it comes to Texas’ future.

Taken together this generally means it is expected that native Texans should solve Texan problems, as opposed to outsiders (those from other states or even other countries). In its most liberal interpretation, it also means a native Houstonian is better equipped to solve a problem in the Houston area more than, say, a Dallasite or an Austinite (but that’s not nearly as relevant here).

It is at this point that I would like to be able to tell a proud story about how I personally embodied those values and stepped up to lead Houston’s first real pinball league back in 2014 or 2015. Unfortunately, that story would be complete fiction; I cannot truthfully tell that story as that is simply not what happened.

I played in a lot of the early tournaments and leagues through 2018 (as you can see by going through old posts on this blog). But as far as helping run the events, that’s not something I did at that point in time.

Many of the events were (and some still are) run by a group known as the Space City Pinball League (SCPL), founded by a native of Cleveland (Ohio, not Texas) who found himself in Houston for educational reasons and then decided to stick around despite the lack of a local competitive pinball scene. For that matter, many of SCPL’s leaders are not native Houstonians or even Texans; at least one of them is not even originally from the US, and at least one may as well have been born in Buffalo (New York, not Texas). This isn’t intended to be an attack, simply a statement of facts.

Back to the topic at hand. By not stepping up, I failed Houston and I failed Texas. That failure falls far below any standard of acceptability, especially given that I am a lifelong native Houstonian and Texan. I deeply regret and am extremely remorseful for my inaction which has allowed the leadership of SCPL to effectively monopolize the competition pinball scene in the greater Houston area (at least for the moment). This is my mistake and I own it. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize just how big of a mistake that was until SCPL banned me from their events. I had hoped clearer heads would have prevailed and any ban/suspension would have expired or been lifted by now. That’s why you’ve seen a bunch of arcade visits and even content with no pinball or video game connection, with little exception.

However, in the same breath I ask for the chance to fix this mistake and the damage thus caused; if not all of it, whatever I can. While this is a really big mistake on my part, it is one that I have definitely learned from, and it is my endeavor that as many people learn from it so that it may not be repeated going forward. That’s part of the reason I’m making this post, and possibly others to follow.

My continued participation in some competitive pinball events, at least some of which may be outside the Houston area (including the Texas Pinball Festival coming up), may successfully be interpreted as a sign I am not giving up on pinball, particularly competitive pinball. I think it is only fair that those I have failed give me a chance to “make good” for that mistake.

“Failure isn’t about falling down / Failure is staying down” — Marillion, Rich (1999)

Are there mistakes (related to the pinball/arcade community) that I made after this one? Yes. I have offered an apology for most of them. sent earlier this year directly to some of the people involved. However, I feel like those mistakes would not have had the chance to happen if I was the founder and the one in charge of most of the Houston-area pinball tournaments/leagues. Taking a leadership position where one is expected to lead by setting a good example is a surprisingly powerful motivator to do the right thing and act in the best interests of the community at large.

To my credit, I have started the Bayou City Pinball League and announced some events. The coming year, 2024, may decide the future of those efforts. (I had plans to start an alternative league as early as 2018, and finally almost had something going in 2020. Of course, fate in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible until early 2021.)

There may be other apologies I may decide are necessary in the coming days, weeks, or months. For the moment, however, this is it.

In closing, I wish everyone a happy new year, but more importantly, I want to do my part to make it happy for the larger Houston area pinball scene, including the many potential new competitive pinball players out there.

Brief notes regarding the final posts of 2023

I would like to share a few notes regarding the last few posts of 2023. Unlike the last couple of years, I will not be attending the New Year’s Eve event at Cidercade Houston. This should not be taken as a negative review of that event in past years; this is simply due to my personal circumstances and desires on how I wish to celebrate the arrival of the new year this time around. If you want to go to Cidercade for New Year’s Eve, go ahead and get your ticket(s) and don’t let my planned absence get in the way.

There is an important post scheduled for the 31st (New Year’s Eve). It is not a typical event or arcade visit summary, but it is nominally pinball-related. For a while I considered putting that post over on Rant Roulette instead, but what I needed to say is too closely intertwined with the storylines that have been told in this blog’s archives. With that in mind, making that post elsewhere doesn’t make any sense.

I may have one final arcade visit post to make this year, but there’s a chance I will not be able to finish it before the calendar flips over.

Happy new year to all, and I am looking forward to an exciting 2024!

December 23: Last date with Godzilla for the year

This entire week before the major winter holiday left me in dire need of a pinball break. And so, Saturday night, after a chaos-filled week of dealing with novelty toys, greeting cards, gift cards, and other miscellaneous merchandise and elements of retail, I finally had the time and energy to stick my head in at Del Mar Lanes for what will likely be the last time in 2023.

The first thing to notice was that there was a new grand champion who put up a score well over 500M. Many of my mode-specific high scores were still intact, and the romp that the new champion went on appears to have been limited to one game as the previous high scores had only been pushed down one place.

Not surprisingly, the score to get a replay had spiked dramatically, to 52.75M. Between me and whatever other wizards haunt this bowling alley, apparently the replay percentage finally went high enough.Despite this I was still able to win a couple of replays from my original three paid credits on this visit; in both games I scored double the replay score and then some. This was despite having a few balls end early due to some kind of issue with the machine (reported via Pinball Map).

Despite no stratospheric high scores, this was a pretty good visit.

December 1, 3, 10: Eighth Wonder Brewery, Del Mar, Lightnin’s Good Times

The first week of December brought another trip out to Eighth Wonder Brewery (on December 1), as well as a brief stop by Del Mar Lanes to satisfy my Godzilla fix (on December 3).

(The original intent behind the December 1 trip was to get in a few quick games at Lightnin’s, but that would have to wait as there was a private event taking place that night.)

According to Pinball Map, there was a Deadpool (modern Stern) and The Simpsons (Data East). What was actually there was a Deadpool and a Twilight Zone. I mostly played the latter, as you do not often see a Twilight Zone out on location, much less set for coin play in an establishment not really aimed at hardcore pinball players. Indeed, the upper flipper’s performance left a lot to be desired, and I resorted to skillful and/or lucky rebounds to make the player piano shot. I consider 329.3M+ pretty good given this issue.

There was nothing obviously wrong with the Deadpool though it may have been a bit off-level.

On December 3, I decided to drop back in at Del Mar Lanes for a few quick games of Godzilla. I was able to put up a 199.3M+ (high score #4) and some mode champion high scores as well.

Finally, on December 10, I was able to make my way back over to Lightnin’s Good Times. This location has a Stern (old) Stars like Einstein’s, and a Stern (modern) Godzilla like many of the other locations around town. I did not play Godzilla, focusing entirely on Stars. Out of 18 total games, I won six replays: five by matching, and one by a playfield special. Hitting special, I might add, is quite difficult on this game. First, one must light all five colored stars, and then keep the ball in play long enough to hit the lit special target (which changes position with slingshot and rubber hits, as well as with each tick of the spinners). There is also another way by making the drop targets four times, though this is even more difficult (at least for me). I am posting photos of my two best scores this time, if nothing else to prove that the first wasn’t a fluke.

November 20 Einstein’s

There was a bit more variety on this trip to Einstein’s. In addition to one of my better runs on Stars, I got in a few rounds on some of the other games in the pinball room.

You may notice Game of Thrones among the games I played. I found a credit left behind on this machine as I was getting ready to leave and decided to go ahead and give it a try. That one credit I started with wound up being about six games after winning replay after replay, either from matching or hitting the replay score. While 211.8M+ is far from a personal record, I still feel that was one of my bigger accomplishments on the night. The Powerputt score was also from credits left behind (probably from someone putting a $5 in and not realizing there were still credits remaining).