‘Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game’ Ending, Explained: How Did Roger Sharpe Become A Pinball Legend?

In the film “Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game,” the director duo Bragg Brothers portrays the story of Roger Sharpe, a young man from mid-western America who finds solace in playing pinball. But soon, his solace and confidence get disrupted when a police raid destroys the only machines that he could find in 1970s New York City, and he comes to know that the game is illegal and considered to be gambling. The story is about how he helped to overrule New York City’s three decade old ban on playing pinball publicly. The film is shot in a faux-documentary style where it starts with the opening comment on how Roger Sharpe had put a stop to the decades-long ban on the pinball machine, but Sharpe scoffs at such heavy comment and mentions that it was merely a ‘footnote.’ The film stays true to its title and does not focus much on the legacy of the pinball but takes the story down a casual and ridiculous route. It focuses on the bizarre story of how pinball can be of importance and not on the unjust, urgent story of how pinball had been neglected and reduced to being a mere gambling machine, forgetting about the broader context of the industry that is present. The story starts with Sharpe being interviewed by Dennis Boutsikaris, who later shows up in flashbacks beside his younger self and even interrupts the course of the narration to correct the director’s ‘understanding’ of the story. While going back to Roger’s story, whenever Roger deviated from pinball to falling in love with Ellen, played by Crystal Reed, the director asked if he was getting distracted while narrating the story. The ‘footnote’ is focused on the history of pinball and how some American men created a new form of entertainment during the Great Depression, which was then misinterpreted as a gambling device.

Spoilers Ahead


‘Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game’ Story

In the story, young Roger, played by Mike Faist, the guy with a mustache, finds himself enjoying playing pinball while he is studying at the University of Wisconsin. Within a couple of seconds, he gets married, then divorced, and moves to New York with the desire to become a writer. The director of the film asks the narrator for the relevance of this story, and the narrator, Sharpe, mentions that to understand his love for pinball, every part of his journey is relevant to the narrative. In the big city of New York, he finds it difficult to get a job with his limited advertising experience, but he somehow finds a pinball machine in the adult bookshop, where he finds confidence in sustaining himself in the new city. The pinball machine attracted him more than the usual things people would do in an adult bookshop.

In a few days, he finds he’s landed a job at Gentlemen’s Quarterly and figures out that pinball is illegal as the police confiscate the pinball machine from the bookshop. The reason behind the ban was a very weird one, as the Mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia, had some personal vendetta against the machine, the game was thought to be an Italian mob-owned and run business, and something similar to gambling was marketed to the kids. In order to play pinball legally, one had to travel to New Jersey. As the story progresses, we see that Ellen becomes an important part of Sharpe’s journey as she types his articles for him, and gradually they fall in love. Ellen had an eleven-year-old son, Seth, played by Christopher Convery, whom Roger impresses by taking him to play pinball in New Jersey.

In the background, when Roger digs deep into the ban on pinball, the backstory is told in newsreel fragments where the New York Police Department smashed the machines on the streets, and LaGuardia was shown giving press conferences on smashing those machines as comparing himself to the men who fought organized crime in prohibition area Chicago in the 1920s. Such a history of pinball fascinated Rogers, and he decided to do an article for GQ on the absurdity of the events surrounding an entertainment device. Later, Roger expanded that idea into a book. In the book, he tries to interview the creators of the game, who helped people survive the Great Depression by keeping them entertained with the pinball device. 


Ending Explained – How Did The Collaboration Of Sharpe With MAA Go?

With the success of his GQ story, he is then contacted by the MAA (Music and Amusement Association), which is an organization working on getting rid of the ban on the pinball machine that had been targeted to fight their case in the Supreme Court of the United States of America. People from MAA wanted Sharpe to testify that the pinball machine is not a gambling machine and is not harmful to kids but helps develop various personality skill for adults as well. Sharpe had to play pinball in the city hall court as a part of the demonstration, which he succeeded in as the law was rolled out and the states were given the order to make pinball legal post-1976.


How Did Roger Sharpe Make Pinball Legal Again?

In the end, Sharpe is successful in making pinball legal in America. He then goes ahead with his life, asks Ellen to get married to him, and buys loads of pinball machines for his personal collection. In the end, we get to see that he did not sell his pinball machine, which the story entertained when he had to urgently travel to California for an interview, but unlike any other docu-fiction, it stayed true to the facts and the story without the hyper-cinematic effects that biopics provide. Sharpe leaves advertising as his book gets published after the win at the city hall, and he treats each pinball machine like his own child and does not wish to part with any one of them for any reason whatsoever.


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