Ryan Clancy is a candidate for Milwaukee County Supervisor and also a Renaissance Man of sorts: he's owned a record shop, worked in the Peace Corps and was a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher. Now, he is also a world record holder.
I’m only a fair-to-middling pinball player. I just have enough disregard for my body to stay upright for 32 hours straight. There’s just a neat community around pinball. My kids have been getting into it, and playing pinball has become something fun to do as a family.
Late at night, I find myself searching for interesting machines online. We have 15 machines at Bounce Milwaukee, the entertainment center I run with my wife, Becky.
But between 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, and 5 p.m. the next day, I only played one of them — Black Knight: Sword of Rage.
A few years back, my son Alex went through kidney failure. He stayed at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. It was a wonderful experience — well, it wasn’t actually “wonderful,” I wouldn’t wish that on any family — but Children’s Hospital is really incredible in making that journey as good as possible.
Alex recovered, and now I wanted to give back. So I started looking for a way for other families to have that great experience at Children’s.
Extra-life.org does this incredible thing called Game Day where one day a year they encourage people to play games — video games, board games, pinball, what-have-you — and raise money for children’s hospitals across the country.
I got help from a friend, Greg Reynolds, to set up livestreaming of me playing the game to help get more people to donate money. I also worked with Guinness World Records and jumped through all their hoops to go after their record for Longest Marathon Playing Pinball — it’s the only solo record Guinness has for pinball.
I also got advice from Jonathan Brostoff, a state rep. representing Milwaukee who has also done marathon plays of Magic: the Gathering.
Jonathan went into full-on coach mode, telling me what I should be eating and how to time out my bathroom breaks. Every hour of continuous play, I was able to bank a 5-minute break. Those breaks can build up over time, and I needed them.
Half an hour in, the ball started getting stuck over and over. I had to keep whacking the side of the machine and bruised my hand real bad.
I thought: “This is going to be a long 32 hours.” Because of Guinness’ rules, nobody else could touch the machine until I was on a break, so I just had to deal with it until I banked enough time.
At three hours, my wife and our video game tech, Anthony Thompson, became a pit crew. Becky got the glass off and then Anthony — who is just a whiz with all things electronic — moved one of the bumpers a little bit and there were no technical problems after that.
My skills peaked about six-and-a-half hours in. But then it became a long slog of losing.
After about 24 hours, I was feeling pretty good… until I sat down for one of my breaks.
I’d been yawning a little bit, but when I sat down on a couch my body was like “Okay we’re done.”
Then, around 30 hours in, my 5-year-old was perturbed that I hadn’t paid attention to her. But I couldn’t stop: the record was 30 hours and 10 minutes, set by a British man in 2016.
During a break, my daughter and I went downstairs and wrote a book since we didn’t have any children’s books sitting around before I started playing again.
Rep. Brostoff told me that “You can’t do caffeine until the very end,” but I was able to stay off that. I got by with a lot of finger foods: whatever I could shove into my mouth between balls, like cashews, fruit and polishing off a veggie tray, and then drinking a lot of coconut water.
My record attempt got a ton of press; I wasn’t expecting that at all.
I was kind of surprised by how much media attention my record got. When I showed up at Bounce Milwaukee that morning, there was already a TV van in the parking lot.
I used to be part of the Peace Corps in the Philippines, and a friend of mine sent me an article from a newspaper in the Philippines that actually wrote a story about it. That was really cool.
After 32 hours, I probably could’ve kept going. But I also hope someone else will beat my record, and they also raise money for a good cause when they do it.
— AS TOLD TO ADAM ROGAN
Edited: Clancy is running for District 4 County Supervisor, not County Executive, as this article originally stated.