October 01

News :Meet the Sharpes, Pinball’s Royal Jewish Family : The Scroll

The Scroll has written an article about the history of the Sharpe family and how they influenced pinball.

Josh and Zach Sharpe’s parents used to tuck them into bed each night by the soothing glow of pinball machines in each of their rooms. Plus, there were two more machines in the dining room, eight in the living room, and another dozen in the basement of their suburban Chicago home. “My poor mom,” Josh recalled about their dad’s pinball collection.

That beginning, with the coolest night lights a kid could dream of, is a big part of why Josh, now 36, and Zach, 34, are among the top competitive pinball players in the world. Zach, who plays as ZAC, is currently the No. 4-ranked player in the International Flipper Pinball Association; Josh, or JLS, pings in at No. 15.

Zach and Josh Sharpe, then just kids, playing pinball with their father, Roger, a larger than legendary figure in the pinball community. CAPTION AND CREDIT HERE

Almost everyone in competitive pinball knows the names of these Jewish brothers, and not just for their finesse with the silver ball. In 2005, they created the first international player rankings in the game, reaching out to the world’s top players and spending months hunting down past results to build their system. A year later, they resurrected a dormant organization, the International Flipper Pinball Association, starting with 500 players and 50 competitions worldwide.

Now, IFPA boasts 43,980 members internationally who flip, bob, cheer, and sometimes curse their way through some 2,800 competitions every year. The growth of the competitive gaming league has shocked even the Sharpes, who believe membership in the IFPA could reach 100,000 one day. “It’s already surpassed where I thought it would ever get to,”Josh said, “and the growth isn’t slowing down.”

At tournaments, machines are set in competition mode—faster play, often with no possibilities for extra balls—and serious players know it’s a physical activity.  They nudge the machine to prevent the ball from plummeting down a side drain, or gently cradle that silver sphere on a flipper before blasting it upwards for a jillion more points.

Josh’s first big tournament win came in Minnesota in 2005, with a field that included 12 of the top 25 players in the world.  That gave him an initial boost of confidence, eventually leading to wins in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and other state competitions, and stellar play at world meets.

Zach’s turning points included his first World Championship as an adult in 2005, when he made it into the finals against three of the top players in the world, including two world champions. He won last year at ReplayFX, what he calls “the largest pinball tournament on the planet.” One side benefit is the prize money, though Zach says it’s not a big motivator for him. “I can be competing for $5 in the basement of someone’s house, or for $10,000 on a stage in Pittsburgh,” he said. “It’s always the same level of fun, but it’s a little more fun when you win.”

Read the rest of the story below :

Thanks to the Scroll and Andrea Cooper for the story and pictures.