Eric Pavony is an entrepreneur, all around athlete, and Skee-Ball player who calls Austin, Texas his home these days. He got the idea for competitive Skee-Ball in 2005 and conceived of a Skee-Ball league which he named Brewskee-Ball, and he hasn’t looked back since. Seeking Redemption’s co-author, Thaddeus Cooper, was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Eric for an interview at the end of Skeeson 25 in March of 2017. Early in the interview Eric told SR, “My life is a Skee-Ball story.”
“…one thing led to another and I inevitably challenged Evan to a competitive game of Skee-Ball”
Seeking Redemption: Besides Skee-Ball what other sports do you play?
Eric Pavony: Basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, softball. I run a lot. I played soccer as a child.
SR: When and where did you start playing Skee-Ball?
EP: When I was a kid, I used to play predominantly at Chuck E. Cheese’s for birthday parties. I was born and raised in New York. Lived in the Bronx early in my childhood and then my folks moved to Westchester County. So I don’t know exactly where the closest Chuck E. Cheese was back in the day, but I do remember playing at Chuck E. Cheese’s for birthday parties and always running towards the Skee-Ball machines first thing upon arrival. And I also remember taking trips to boardwalks, you know, probably once a year with my family for summers and, again, racing to the lanes. So a combination of boardwalks on the Jersey Shore and Chuck E. Cheese’s in New York.
SR: How did the BrewSkee-Ball League come about?
EP: [I]t was truly a moment in time. [In] August 2005, myself and my good buddy Evan ran a magazine, a Brooklyn news and arts magazine called BLOCK magazine. It was for Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Great little magazine. Really, really fun and we had a blast doing it. And it was a super-duper hot August day and summers were dead for BLOCK. It was really difficult to get any advertising money. So we were sitting there kind of bored out of our minds in my apartment which we worked out of. And I got this sudden crazy itch to play Skee-Ball. And Evan loves Skee-Ball, too. And I don’t think we really ever talked much about Skee-Ball until that day. And I was just like, let’s go play Skee-Ball! [W]e looked up where you could play Skee-Ball in and around Brooklyn at the time and there wasn’t many places to play other than, really, Dave and Busters in Times Square, which was just not the right vibe. It was indoors, it was in the heart of Times Square on a crazy summer day. Or [we could go to] Coney Island, which is amazing. I love Coney Island. It’s one of my favorite places in New York.
And so we said, screw it! So we just up and left, took the F train down to Coney Island, found some super-duper old Skee-Ball lanes and we just started playing. And one thing led to another and I challenged Evan to a “Skee-Ball Showdown.” Because it was fun, we were rolling Skee-Ball and it was definitely very satisfying. But I’m a pretty competitive guy, certainly when it comes to games. I like to play games and I like to win those games. And the sillier the game, typically the more I want to win them. So one thing led to another and I inevitably challenged Evan to a competitive game of Skee-Ball, which I had never done up until that point, nor had Evan. [S]o we started playing and over the course of a few hours while we were there, we were starting to build a structure and a framework for how competitive Skee-Ball could work. Oh, what if we did this? Oh, what if we did that? We started basically laying the ground rules for competitive Skee-Ball. And it was amazing. It was more fun than I ever had playing Skee-Ball in my life, as an adult and playing it competitively.
And so on the way back on the train, we had plenty of time to talk about what would ultimately become the blueprint for Brewskee-Ball. You know, how many people on a team, what types of strategy people would employ, how do we keep score. You know, do people win things for various frames. How we do we do standings. And then obviously where can we do this? And obviously there was only one answer for where we can host an adult competitive Skee-Ball leagues, and that was at a bar. Because we said the one thing that was missing you know? We were adults, we were competing, but there was no beer. And we were like, this would be so unbelievably fun at our favorite bar with our favorite beer and our favorite friends.
SR: How did you come up with the name?
EP: I came up with the name instantly, Brewskee-Ball. It was really like that. I was sitting there later that night, I think by, myself and it just, boom, lightbulb: Brewskee-Ball.
SR: How do you feel about the Brewskee-Ball league now and how is it growing?
EP: Well, it’s been 11 years and I’m feeling great about it. I feel like I know more than ever what the Brewskee-Ball league is, and what it should be and what it can be. And what I mean by that is that when we started, you know, it was sort of a blank canvas and we didn’t know what it was or what it was going to be. And in time it turned into both a recreational and social league, but also a very competitive league, too. And it still has those components. You had these players that have honed their skills and gotten tremendously good. And so you had new fresh-faced rookies going into the Brooklyn league or the New York league at the time and, you know, fresh-faced rookies going into the Wilmington league or the San Francisco league, and then new leagues starting, you know, which was all fresh-faced rookies.
SR: What drives expanding interest in the leagues?
EP: Skee-Ball’s timeless. You know, Skee-Ball itself is the initial attraction and it’s proven itself to me as the most popular game in American history, you might say. Not necessarily sport. [T]hey say baseball’s America’s pastime, but, you know, you could make the argument that Skee-Ball could be considered that, too. And I think that it starts with the game itself having that just uncanny draw and that unbelievable knack to make everybody happy. And then you layer on top of that this new way to play it, this new way to interact with it. This new environment that we’ve built around it. And then it’s just gasoline on a fire from that point. I mean a lot of people would be happy arbitrarily rolling balls up the Skee-Ball lane for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. We’ve given that context; we’ve given it meaning. And we’ve also given it a community. And so, that combination is amazing. And that’s why it continues to grow.
SR: Thanks Eric!
So there you have it. Brewskee-Ball has taken the naturally fascinating game of Skee-Ball to the next level with context, meaning and community. And what community: Folks have met, fallen in love and gotten married because of the Brewskee-Ball community.
About the author:
Thaddeus Cooper is the co-author of Seeking Redemption: The Real Story of the Beautiful Game of Skee-Ball, a deep dive into the history of the game. You can find more information about Thaddeus, and his co-author, and their book, at: http://www.nomoreboxes.com/.