Stern Pro Circuit Championship: The Beginning?

After reading the itinerary for the day that Stern just posted, I feel like this might be the 1st commercially big event for pinball. This event is transforming into a pinball-rock concert with celebrities hosting/attending and over 200 people paying to be there and watching Pinball (amazing). I really believe a tv channel like TruTV could pick this idea up for their network.

This event could be the 2003 poker main event where Chris Moneymaker made a name for himself and brought poker into every household for many years to follow.

Stern is definitely marketing this super well. Here’s what Stern just posted:
Here’s the tentative schedule for this Saturday’s event (times always subject to change because it is pinball!). Make sure to tune in to the live stream action if you weren’t able to purchase a ticket in time -

Stern Pro Circuit Championships 3/24 Event Schedule:

• 9am - Check-in for Circuit Finalists and guests
• 9:15-9:45am - Open practice on all Circuit final machines for finalists only.
• 10am - Doors open to the public. Circuit final round one begins. (40 players)
• 12pm - Circuit final round two begins. (down to 20 players)
• 1pm-1:30pm - Brian “Q” Quinn from the show Impractical Jokers on TruTV does live commentary on Impractical Jokers episodes.
• 2pm - Ladder-style bracket of remaining 10 players begins.
• 3pm-3:30pm - Brian Johnson from the show Comic Book Men on AMC does live commentary on Comic Book Men episodes.
• 4pm - Meet and Great with Brian “Q” Quinn and Brian Johnson. (photos and autographed event posters)
• 6pm - Blood People perform right after the Stern Pro Circuit Champion is crowned.

#SPC IFPA - International Flipper Pinball Association PAPA - Professional & Amateur Pinball Association Replay Foundation


So, the Brians are doing live commentary on material unrelated to pinball during the time when elimination games are being played. I am assuming 2h blocks for 4p 4 games that the 1h mark is the most exciting times. #sceptical #skeptical #cantfigureoutcanadianspelling

I’m still curious about this.


As someone who has paid to watch tournament pinball, I hope none of this other stuff will interrupt the tournament viewing.


Oh God, please tell me it’s “wait for another game”.

I’m sorry but you’d have to be absolutely delusional to think that any TV network is interested in anything like this. It’s turning into a “big event” not due to some kind of massive organic interest from the public but because there is a lot of money to throw around in the small pinball community. That’s not inherently a bad thing but let’s not pretend like anyone outside of our (yes, our) community has much interest in this.

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25 years ago, Papa was getting 6 minute segments on major networks. If we can get back to that, that would be an excellent start.


The only thing I see growing the hobby rapidly is getting machines into more homes, I think the pinball arcade video game is a good start.

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I can only hope pinball will someday become as big as Putt Putt Golf.

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I disagree, mainstream media like the Today show and GMA is an archaic media format that is slowly dying. With more people cutting the cord and sticking with online entertainment mediums like YouTube and Twitch, I think the measure of success would be when a steamer is actually able to play pinball on twitch as a day job.


Wow sweet. Thanks @DEADFLIP

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I have thought about this at length for quite a while. What pinball production is really lacking are good commentators and dedicated broadcast teams. I don’t mean pinball players who jump on the mic during a live stream. I mean people who can speak professionally, clearly, and get the point across efficiently to people who are novices.

Since pinball is a long-run format, you have to have people who can fill the dead air. Bowen is the one person I could see calling pinball on ESPN because of these reasons. The problem with that scenario is that he’s often playing deep into the tournament, so we end up with the people who got knocked out early and are often talking like they’re hanging out with their buddies in the garage. The commentary can make or break a broadcast and be the reason someone would sit for 4+ hours to watch tournament action.

We need pinball broadcasters like you would find in an NFL game. That’s what I try to emulate (though often poorly since I, too, am an amateur) when I do commentary on our league recordings (Magic City Pinball League on YouTube).

In terms of production, Karl’s stream comes pretty darn close to being ESPN ready, but it really only functions at its peak when he’s producing because he knows the system inside and out. When he’s running the tournament, playing in the tournament, and running the broadcast, the stream often falls on people who are less knowledgeable. He’s a tremendous ambassador for the game, but one man can only do so much.

Pinball is best broadcast live. In my opinion, pinball would suffer from over-production and the trying-too-hard syndrome that Drone Racing League faces if it were recorded and then fluff was added later. With that said, I would rather have something like that on regular TV than nothing at all.

I know we’re still gaining an audience, and the current streams have a lot to do with that. There is always room for improvement. We have to get to the point where Average Joe Gamer can tune in at any moment on Twitch, understand what’s going on, and enjoy what they’re watching immediately enough to come back and watch again. Otherwise, it becomes more like golf on TV for new people. If we’re able to get enough people tuning in, then advertisers will start wanting to get involved. Once that happens, production can be ramped up. Production companies don’t want to waste their time with something unless it can be monetized.


I always enjoy when Steve Bowden and Jeff teolis are on the mic as well.

Many talented/qualified people with dynamic personalities and rule knowledge to be on the mic and do a great job. Jon Replogle and Karl Deangelo come to mind as well.

Have Mr. Danger rock out the streams with color commentary as well and you have a fun show.

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I agree a lot of these guys are entertaining, but in the sense that it’s like hanging out with your friends on a Friday night at the bar. I was referring to something more like a professional production.

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The only problem I could potentially see is that a “professional” team will not have the adequate insight and rule/skill knowledge to properly commentate. It takes many years of playing and I fear a “professional” paid-for duo wouldn’t cut it.


I’ve thought about that too. The more you expand your audience, the more likely you are to find the person who is a professional TV personality (even locally) and a pinball enthusiast. Plus if you limit the number of games shown on TV like a 4-game finals, then the broadcast team only has to know those games really well.

There’s a good (long) thread discussing much of this: What technology can be used to improve the pinball viewing experience for the casual observer?

Besides having entertaining voices/characters on the mic, and knowledgeable people on the mic, the one element that I think we should implement ASAP for every commentary team (even ad-hoc ones) is establishing roles: who is going to do the play-by-play, who is going to provide the color commentary (on the players, the pin, or the event), and who is going to interject aspects of the tactical and strategic choices that players did or didn’t make. It will lead to less interrupting / talking over each other between commentators (which I’m guilty of as well!)


I love this. This is exactly what I am envisioning. Maybe like a 30-second clock between balls to show replays or dive into strategy too.


Telestration is one of the best things I’ve seen on a broadcast to help beginners, pointing to specific shots, circling parts of the playfield so that when a commentator on Aerosmith says “hitting the scoop lets the pllayer start crank it up” the viewer doesn’t have to know where the scoop is, since specific features can be hard to identify if the viewer isn’t familiar with a game.

Pinball suffers a bit from jargon, though. A casual player, with a handful of games on Stern Star Wars at his local bar, may not know that the Tatooine shot is a scoop. To them it might just be a hole. Diagramming the playfield for different games, and then walking through them before the game starts could help casual players learn, and more experienced players without experience on that specific machine understand the shots the commentators mention.


@PinballProfile (Jeff Teolis) is a professional broadcaster.
Have you ever seen the media notes for a professional sports game? I’ve seen them for NBA (basketball) games. They list name pronunciations, year drafted, college attended, recent match-up results, and many other bits of info a broadcaster can use to inform and/or entertain their audience.
We could make a useful document with much of this information and have it available for any interested party.