In February, our sister blog The Dagger covered the new career of former NBA journeyman center Todd MacCulloch. After retiring from basketball in 2004 due to chronic foot problems, everyone's favorite gigantic Canadian embraced a new form of physical activity: competitive pinball. He has several machines in his home, plus a Slurpee machine nearby so he can stay cool while working up a sweat.
MacCulloch is now ranked 193rd in the world, according to PinballRankings.com, down a bit from the 145 spot he held at the time of The Dagger's post, but still very excellent. How do you think he does it? I don't know! What makes him so good? Lauren Rosenthal of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caught up with MacCulloch during the PInball World Championships in Steel City (via EOB):
When standing over a pinball machine, Todd MacCulloch, who is 7 feet tall, cuts a striking figure. As he approached the 10 machines in the B division bank Wednesday afternoon, several of his fellow competitors did double-takes.
Mr. MacCulloch, 35, retired from the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association eight years ago for medical reasons and resettled in Bainbridge Island, Wash. He's now a full-time father to his two children and a part-time competitor on the professional pinball circuit.
"I always loved pinball growing up," he said as he sat near the front entrance, collecting nods and greetings from competitors he has encountered on the circuit before. "Now that I can't compete [in the NBA], pinball has filled that void of camaraderie."
The idea of a solitary pursuit like pinball breeding camaraderie is an interesting one, but it makes total sense. Subcultures (like, I don't know, hardcore basketball fans or blog readers) are communities with friends, enemies, and marginal acquaintances. MacCulloch may stand out in the pinball world, but he's just one of a number of interesting characters, as Rosenthal's article proves.
Many times, NBA players struggle to find a life outside of basketball upon their retirement from the sport. No matter how nerdy MacCulloch's pursuit may seem, he's found a second calling in pinball. Enough people have trouble finding a first passion in life. He deserves our admiration.