Why I Spent 32 Hours Playing Pinball (In Short: To Raise $3,300 for Children’s Hospital)

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.

Here’s why.

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.

Ryan Clancy plays pinball with four of his kids.

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.

(Extra Life has raised more than $50,000,000 since 2008.)

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.

To donate to Ryan Clancy’s Extra Life fundraiser, CLICK HERE. As of Nov. 21, Ryan has raised $3,338.

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.

Alex Homann, at right, smiles while at Children’s Hospital, where he was cared for after his kidneys started failing. Next to him is his little sister, Fiona, the youngest of Becky and Ryan Clancy’s five kids.

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.


Edited: Clancy is running for District 4 County Supervisor, not County Executive, as this article originally stated.



Adam is a journalist who recently returned to his Wisconsin home after graduating from Drake University in December 2017. He interned with MilMag in the summer of 2015 and has been a continual contributor ever since. Follow him on social media @Could_Be_Rogan