Why I am no longer recommending participation in Space City Pinball League tournaments, and other related notes

So, you may have noticed small “advisory” boxes I have added to all previous posts mentioning Space City Pinball League (SCPL) events where I have played in the past. They have been there for a while (since late 2022) without a full explanation.

I regret that it was necessary to add these. However, after some careful deliberation, it was the most reasonable choice to protect my interests. Alternatives included deleting the posts in full (which would leave big huge gaps in the blog), massive edits to prior posts (“butchering”, really) to the point where their historical value becomes rather dubious, or taking down the blog in its entirety (not happening). So, that left preserving the posts as they were with the advisory note added.

These were necessary after it became obvious to me that the board of SCPL intended, from the beginning, to ban me from their events permanently at some point. That point finally came sometime in the last few months. This includes all tournaments at The Game Preserve (despite a previous conversation with Rusty Key indicating that SCPL did not have a monopoly on events at The Game Preserve), all tournaments at the Wormhole, and just about every other pinball tournament that a reasonable number of people show up to in the Houston area.

Whatever ban there was should have been revisited and lifted by now. That it still exists, and has been referred to as a permanent ban as of the last event I tried to pre-register for, can be interpreted in one of two ways.

The first, the way SCPL’s board intends it, is as a commentary on me. SCPL is saying I do not belong near (at least SCPL’s) pinball tournaments and, likely, should also not be allowed to organize or direct tournaments. It could be interpreted to say anything that it’s simply the preference of the few people that comprise SCPL’s board that I am not present at SCPL events, to SCPL’s board speaking on behalf of everyone that has ever played in an SCPL event that I have done things which are unacceptable and my standing cannot be redeemed. The reality is that most people, by continuing to play in SCPL events, are endorsing this permanent ban, even if it’s just because they don’t know about it.

And then there is the other way it can be interpreted: as a commentary on the kind of people in charge of SCPL now. I certainly think those evaluating the situation should look at the totality of the circumstances. The first time I was refused entry to an SCPL tournament came right after I won a non-SCPL tournament at EightyTwo. Prior to that it was well known I was a skilled player (and I still am).

The more recent commentary came after I asked a simple question about a raffle SCPL was having. Specifically, I asked the identity of the qualified organization (QO). Not getting an answer, having David Pollock say “You’re overthinking it”, some messages on Facebook from Marc Gammons which were unnecessarily abrasive and rude,  and Rusty Key’s insults (see previous post) pretty much gave me the answer. Unfortunately, that answer was that SCPL’s board was violating Texas law and didn’t care, and apparently took great offense that anyone dare ask such a question. This, despite it being a legitimate inquiry to determine whether or not I might be supporting illegal activity (or even breaking the law myself) by buying a ticket.

Basically my inquiry unintentionally exposed unlawful conduct by SCPL’s board, and at least one other person in the Houston area pinball scene viewed it as in poor taste. I was told I should have inquired in private. Given what’s at stake, I cannot consider that an acceptable course of action.

What should have happened: SCPL’s board members should have taken a look at the law and/or asked an attorney, then after realizing this “raffle” was an illegal lottery, canceled it and made alternative arrangements to raise funds for Tyler Hunter’s family (including the sale or auction of the pinball machine that formerly belonged to him) inside the boundaries of Texas law.

Obviously that did not happen. Instead, SCPL’s board chose to ban me from their events permanently, summarily dismiss or trashcan any pending requests that I be reinstated, and plow ahead with what they now knew was a lottery being held outside the boundaries of Texas law. I consider this abominable and abhorrent, not only as a Houstonian and competitive pinball player, but also as a law-abiding citizen.

Those who work in certain professions, most notably including the field of security and private investigations, any profession involving education (teachers, school librarians, school counselors, etc, as well as research scientists), any medical-related profession, those employed by a government agency like NASA, and those who hold themselves out to be ambassadors of pinball have no business getting anywhere near an illegal lottery. Really, nobody does, but I consider it particularly egregious for those in the named professions/groups to run illegal lotteries and otherwise support illegal gambling.

As previously mentioned, I have chosen not to give up on competitive pinball. That remains my course of action despite this obstacle thrown in my path.

I do plan to grow the Bayou City Pinball League (BCPL) into a reasonable alternative. That has taken much longer than expected, unfortunately. I was finally in a position to start getting things rolling in early 2020 and had the first tournament lined up and ready to go. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, pushing things back a year. In early 2021 things finally got to a point where I could try to run tournaments and leagues.

Here we are in 2024 and attendance has been spotty at best. I have canceled many more events than I have directed to completion; that is not how it should be.

Given some people involved with SCPL have accused me of sabotage, unfortunately, I suspect at least one person involved with SCPL in some capacity (tournament/league director, board member, etc) to have been sabotaging my events in some form. I rarely, if ever, get a reply to anything I email to SCPL’s shared email account, but some time ago, someone did make edits to the website implying that their calendar includes all Houston area pinball events.

(In the same email where I pointed out that verbiage, I sent them info on a BCPL weekly league which they would have needed to add to truthfully keep that verbiage. I did not expect them to actually list the event. Reading between the lines, I was asserting it was time for them to “**** or get off the pot”.)

In addition to organizing/directing, I plan to keep playing in pinball tournaments as circumstances allow. Right now I cannot travel as much as I would like, due to many factors. It is a minor miracle that I actually attended the Texas Pinball Festival last year and played in tournaments there. Given my performance in the Wizards tournament in 2024, I certainly feel the risks I took to get to Frisco were at least somewhat worth it.

I think the Houston area should have a competitive pinball scene, and I feel I should be part of the competitive pinball scene, both in the Houston area and beyond. Also, I feel those who are in a leadership role have a duty to comply with the law both as part of basic citizenship and as those responsible for the reputation of competitive pinball, the reputation of residents of the Houston area, and the reputation of the competitive pinball scene specific to the Houston area.

Of note, I practice what I preach and the tournaments and leagues I run uphold the highest standards of citizenship and good character. It is difficult to accurately interpret the lack of attendance and support of pinball tournaments and leagues I have tried to organize in light of this.

Yes, there will be a little overlap between this post and the next one, though they do cover two quite different things.