For love of the game and bragging rights, pinball lovers compete

Posted April 02, 2012, at 10:52 a.m.
Last modified April 02, 2012, at 5:09 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Flippers flapped, lights flashed and bells dinged as seven teams of two players each took turns swatting the shiny ball in the six machines lined up in the back of Coast City Comics on Congress Street. Winners of the weekly pinball tournament took home bragging rights for seven days and a T-shirt.

The contests started back in mid-December. “It was cold and boring, so we thought ‘why not’,” said comic shop co-owner Tristan Gallagher. “Then it went crazy.”

Scoring works like golf. Each machine has a par. If a player reaches par with one ball, it’s a hole-in-one. If they reach the score with two balls it’s a bogey, and so on. The team with the lowest ball score wins. Two-member teams play each machine three times: once apiece and a third time with one player per flipper.

The $5 entry fee goes to buy Mountain Dew, cookies and a veggie tray, Gallagher said. Coast City Comics doesn’t really make anything on the event. But Gallagher said he’s happy to provide one of the few places in Portland where people can congregate without the expectation of buying beer.

“It’s basically a social activity to bring people in,” he said. “It’s a place to hang out.”