There is an underground community in College Park. Instead of the usual characters, this community consists of citizens looking to relive the days when things were simpler – when communication was in the form of face-to-face interaction instead of on a screen, and things could be fixed with screwdrivers instead of software. The embodiment of this ideal is found in the game of pinball.
On Sunday afternoon in the bar side of Town Hall Liquors, located at 8135 Baltimore Ave., a field of pinballers from College Park and its surrounding areas, as well as globally ranked players from New Jersey, Ohio and Virginia who were all in attendance for this summer's Maryland Pinball Championship.
With games ranging from "Getaway" to "The Addam's Family," this group from the local and extended pinball community gathered to take part in the action. Hosted by Iraq war vet Chris Newsom, players competed for plaques and cash prizes on six different machines.
Newsom used this opportunity not to collect money for the (rather extensive) maintenance of his machines but to serve a "whole community of people who like pinball a lot." Among these people was Tim Taylor, a regular customer of Town Hall, who emphatically stated he and his fellow pinball players were "not here for the money."
There's only one company left in the business of producing pinball machines, which require regular physical maintenance and parts. Newsom carried around a toolbox with spare parts and was kept busy during Sunday's tournament, running around clarifying rules and providing machine maintenance.
Songs from Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" to Skynrd's "Give Me Three Steps" to, yes, "Pinball Wizard" by The Who played on the jukebox as players in their 40s and 50s reflected on the aspects of pinball they enjoyed the best. These include the random nature of the game; its inclination toward glitches, which completely contradicts this generation's obsession with perfection and detail, high definition and real-life rules.
Players say machine glitches add excitement to the game and use these occurrences to tease one another. "It's not so random, if you're good," said one participant.
The next tournament Newsom is planning at Town Hall will not be held until this fall, but that will not stop the regulars from coming to Town Hall daily to blow off steam playing the game.