Think Twice Before Crossing the Seattle Pinball League

The members of the Seattle Pinball League are a tribe. They play together, drink together, occasionally partner up and generally look out for each other. This is what happens when an outsider threatens one of their members.

This week's cover story is on Robert Gagno, the 22-year-old "Rain Man of pinball" who, despite the fact that he hails from Vancouver, B.C., has very much become a part of that tribe. He's currently sitting in first place in the league standings, and tomorrow he'll play in the finals for a chance to cement his position for the year.

Last month, while playing at a tournament at Shorty's, the clown-and-carnival-themed bar in Belltown, a fellow competitor yelled "I can't believe I lost to a fucking retard" after Robert beat him. I wasn't there when it happened. But I got the story second-hand from a number of people who were. And what struck me about the moment is what Robert's tribe did next.

Brad Johnsen, owner of a scooter repair shop in Fremont and a member of the SPL, says that the jerk who called Robert a retard wasn't a regular. In the parlance of the league, he was a "neighborhood player": a guy who just threw in a few quarters at the bar every once in a while. And to Brad, he was now someone who had to get got.

The Shorty's tournament is double-elimination, meaning that even though the jerk lost to Robert, he still had a chance to move on by winning his next match in the loser's bracket. This didn't sit well with Brad. Especially since the jerk's next opponent was nowhere to be found.

Worried that the jerk would get a free pass into the next round and potentially have a chance to yell something libelous at another one of his friends, Brad did what any good tribe member would do: he kicked his ass. Figuratively, not literally.

Even though he wasn't actually registered to play in the tournament, Brad pretended to be the jerk's opponent and then beat him so badly the guy left Shorty's in a huff. The lesson: think twice before you cross the Seattle Pinball League. Because they will lie, cheat, steal and otherwise do everything necessary in order to fix you, and fix you good. (Or just eliminate you from one of their tournaments.)

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