Sunday, July 23, 2006
High on Skee-ball
The good times roll in the East Village.
BY STEVE BLOOM
The Sunday afternoon clientele at Ace Bar deep in the East Village is not what you might expect. At 5 pm, Brewskee-Ball action begins with three-player teams facing off against each other.
Brewskee-Ball? The “Brew” part is pretty self-explanatory, since the action takes place in a typical dark bar. But the “Skee-Ball” part is the novelty.
Eric Harris Pavony and Evan Tobias are Skee-Ball-aholics. They love playing the old bowling-style arcade game (it debuted in 1909) so much that last summer the duo bought two used machines and convinced Ace Bar to install them at a buck per nine wooden balls.
But these holy rollers of Skee-Ball had a bigger idea: a league, consisting of 32 teams, competing twice a week (also on Wednesdays) for the ultimate bragging rights of the best Skee-Ball team in New York. This is their third “skeeson.” The top team will be decided August 27 on “Championship Sunday.”
An old hand at Skee-Ball myself, I’ve been known to roll a 300-point game or two. (You aim for the 30-, 40- and 50-point holes.) But watching the match between the league’s top two teams – Skee Amigos and Caucasian Asian Invasion – I’m not so sure I’m ready to pony up crisp dollar bills to take on these Skee-Ball hustlers, who regularly notch 300 scores with beer bottles in their back pockets.
As I play a few practice games, Pavony – the league’s grand poobah – offers a few tips. “You’re moving too much,” he advises. “No extra body movement. Nothing else should move except your arm.”
Then I nail a 300. Not bad. Put me in, coach!
Not on this Sunday. The teams have all arrived with their requisite players, many of who are female. In fact, the bar is crowded with athletic, but not jocky-looking women.
“The league is 60% women,” Pavony boasts. “Unlike competitive pool and even darts, women can challenge guys in Skee-Ball.”
His Skee Amigos’ teammate, Lindsay, is a good example. She averages 250 points per game. (To simplify scoring, the zero is deleted – 250 is scored as 25.) “Women keep it from getting too competitive,” she says. “It’s fun. I only miss getting the little tickets.”
She’s referring to the red tickets that spool out of Skee-Ball machines in places like Coney Island. Play for a few hours and you can redeem the tickets for a cotton-candy goat – or a back scratcher. Something you can take home, a prize for all the hard work and concentration.
Pavony cut his Skee-Ball teeth at Chucky Cheese birthday parties. “I was into being the best,” he recalls. “It’s perceived as a childhood game, but it’s actually quite a skill.”
Pavony proves this point frame after frame (each Brewskee-Ball game consists of 10 frames, like bowling). When it’s his turn, he aims for the 50-point hole, rather than the easier 40-point pocket just below it. One frame his total is an outstanding 410.
But “The Hundo Kid” – a chunky six-foot dude wearing a Met cap – tops Pavony’s feat with three straight frames of 490, 540 and 450 (you get a free game when you hit 400). What’s his secret? Hundo strictly targets the two 100-point holes in the upper corners.
“One day I was having a bad game,” he explains. “So I went for 100 on my two last balls and hit them both. Now I’m a one-trick pony. But it’s a pretty good trick.”
As for me, I’m ready to assemble a team for the fourth Brewskee-Ball skeeson starting in September. I’m thinking of calling it Live Skee or Die.
Ace Bar is located at 531 E. 5 St.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BREWSKEE-BALL. TOP: STEVE OF THE SKEE-LO'S & SARAH OF UNHOLY SKEES AS "THE HUNDO KID" LOOKS ON; MIDDLE: EVAN TOBIAS & ERIC PAVONY HARRIS; BOTTOM: JANET OF SKEE'S COMPANY AMID GENERAL FRIVOLITY AT ACE BAR