Friday, March 09, 2007

Top 5 Sports Video Game Countdown #1

Continuing my theme of laziness, I'm going to finish a countdown that I started last August and has now taken nearly 8 months for me to complete. I know my writing is erratic and I've been apt to take weeks, and occasionally months, off between postings but even I can't believe it's taken this long for me to finish this list. In my defense I didn't forget about the list, it's just the #1 game holds such a special place in the heart and soul of my friends and I that I wanted to do it justice. I didn't want to slap together a few incoherent and rambling paragraphs and call it a day, no this game is much to important to receive such a short shrift. Now I fear I've raised the bar too high, I'm sure this post will still be strife with misspelled words, riddled with poor grammar, and contain many factual errors, so don't expect an eloquent post that will be included in the 2007 Best American Sports Writers book, (because 90% of that book is reserved for that asshat Rick Reilly....yeah thats why this wont be in there...). Also I apologize for these long ass introductory paragraphs before every post, they are probably really tiresome to read through, but I feel it necessary to explain all of my actions. I do this in real life and most people find it charming and endearing.....wait I mean painfully annoying, but indulge me on this. Anyways on to #1.

# 1: Tecmo Super Bowl: This is the perfect sports video game, no forget that, this is the greatest, most transcendent, video game ever created. Wait, that still understates the importance of this game, o.k. let me try again...if Jesus, Mickey Tettleton, Thomas Edison, Alfred Nobel and a thousand monkeys programming a thousand games for a thousand years combined their efforts they would not be able to come up with a game that equalled the sheer brilliance of Tecmo Super Bowl. That's how strongly I feel about this game as the absolute apex of human innovation. To put it another way if I had to chose just one item to put into a time capsule to be opened hundreds of years into the future as an example of American life and culture, it would be Tecmo Super Bowl. Forget "Catcher in the Rye", forget "Nighthawks", and forget Elvis Presley and rock n' roll, just leave Tecmo Super Bowl and watch (well I guess we'd all be dead by then, so we'll just have to imagine) as future generations worship Lawrence Taylor as a God and spend lifetimes trying to understand his power, grace, and ruthlessness.

I remember the day I purchased Tecmo Super Bowl. I was 8 and my mom and I were browsing through the electronics section at the local Big Wheel (Clio used to be a sprawling metropolis, we even had an Ampitheater) shortly before Christmas looking for gift ideas. That's when I saw the huge display touting the release of Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES, and I knew I had to have it.....right now. I begged my mom for the game and after much wrangling, and promises that I'm sure went unfulfilled I managed to procure a copy of the game two weeks before Christmas morning. After I got back home I raced to the basement, where the NES was set up, loaded the cartridge and started playing....and I never really stopped.

When I was a kid I was much more patient and easily amazed, and whenever I would rent or purchase a game I would always watch the title screen and whatever back story the game had programmed. These screens always ranged from terrible to just not making any fucking sense, (see Monster Party), with the lone exception being the intro to Tecmo Super Bowl. I remember sitting there in the basement and hearing the first strings (I know I wrote strings, like the game's music was produced by an orchestra, when in real life it was a grating synthesized MIDI file) of that memorable music as the camera panned over a packed out stadium. Then came the cut screens came. Wow! Joe Montana dropping back to pass. No way! that's Barry Sanders and the Lions, Holy shit! Lawrence Taylor is pissing on Mark Rypien after a sack.

Anyways, I always forget how groundbreaking this game was for the time, as it was the first game I can remember that had a full 16 game schedule and playoffs, compiled player statistics, and had in-game injuries, which were always amusing because two little trainers would come sprinting on to the field as the crowd sat stunned, and dramatic music started playing before Webster Slaughter limped off the field. This was the first game that contained all the elements that would make sports games so addictive for me, culminating in the 30 season franchise option available on the most recent version of Madden, which in turn means Tecmo Super Bowl is responsible for ruining any semblance of a social life I might have thanks a lot you big sweater wearing Tecmo rabbit who mockingly smiles at me every time I turn on my console...jerk.

I'm not going to continue to bore you with the technical details of the game and anyone who is reading this and doesn't know how amazing this game is or has never played it before, just stop. Stop reading this, stop working, stop going to class, stop everything, and go out and buy this game or download an emulator and play it on your computer, and then a couple of weeks from now when you've grown a scraggly beard, you reek of body odor from not showering, your girlfriends left you and you've lost your job/flunked out of school you can e-mail me and thank me for changing your life...for the better. Instead of the technical nonsense I'm going to close this post out with a rundown of the top four games of Tecmo I've played in my life. I know a list within a list is a new apex for my lack of creativity and re-affirms my disinterest in transition sentences and writing coherent, cohesive paragraphs, or cause some shift in the space time continuum, which could cause the earth and moon to collide into each other, but I'm willing to take that risk. On to the list.

#4: Stephone Paige Goes Crazy: My friend Bill is the only person I know who is my equal in Tecmo Super Bowl, (o.k. I'm exaggerating, I'm slightly better but we're splitting hairs here). Anyways when we found out about our mutual affinity for the game we immediately engaged in some good natured trash talking before we played our initial game against one another. Bill, being an amateur, insisted on a warm up game because he hadn't picked up the sticks in a couple of years. I grudgingly agreed to this match up and picked Kansas City mainly because its always fun to run over guys with Christian Okoye. However on my first play I picked a pass expecting Bill to guard against Okoye's power and select a run play. I snapped the ball and Shit! Bill picked this play and his whole front seven is coming at Steve DeBerg. Since I'm such a friggin' gunslinger and refused to take a sack I tried to zip the pass into double coverage and immediately regretted the decision, until Stephone Paige dove in front of both defenders and made the catch. Bill yelpped in disbelief and I sighed in relief. Next play same thing, Bill's defense does a jailbreak, DeBerg throws into coverage, Paige dives and catches, Bill becomes outraged and I sense something special happening. Sure enough Paige played out of his mind the whole game. Everything I threw his way he caught. He snared cut screen jump balls against defenders, and at one point, to really rub salt into Bill's wounds, I ran to the back of the end zone and threw a 110 yard bomb to Paige who leaped into the air snagging the ball while crossing the plane for the touchdown. By the end of the game Paige had accrued 15 catches topped 300 yards and made numerous trips to the end zone, hands down the greatest offensive performance I've ever had against a respected opponent.

#3: Al Toon Saves the Day: I introduced my college room mate Mike to Tecmo our freshman year at the Michigan State dorms. While everyone else on our floor was cutting loose and beginning the debauchery and boozing that make up college life, my friend Mike was getting a crash course in the finer points of Tecmo Super Bowl. I figured the best way for him to learn was through frequent beat downs at my hands and if he ever got discouraged, taunting, goading and humiliating him until his competitive nature took over and he played again, (I know I'm going to make a wonderful father, Marv Marinovich is going to be jealous). Mike got progressively better but never could get over the hurdle of beating me, until one day I was playing with the New York Jets against the Lions. I was losing 14-3 with about 1:45 left in the game and Mike was becoming giddy at the possibility of finally winning a game. That's when I took a Freeman McNeil screen pass about 50 yards for a TD making it 14-10, needing an onside kick and score to win and things were looking bleak. I recovered the onside kick with time for a single play. I snapped the ball, dropped back with Ken O'Brien and watched Al Toon streak for the end zone, lofted the pass and watched Toon leap. catch the ball and land on the five, where I was immediately tied up with Ray Crockett. Mike and I furiously tapped the A button and I shucked Crockett and ran for the end zone only to be tackled from behind as the ball crossed the plane, Touchdown J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! I jumped in the air to celebrate and immediately had the wind knocked out of me. See, Mike didnt take this loss to well and decided to time a right cross to my xiphoid process, knocking the wind out of me. I fell to the ground and Mike jumped on my back holding me down and working over my kidneys with a series of punches. I was desperate and out of breath so I used the one thing I learned from Jackie Chan movies (other than the finer points of calculus) and utilized the closest object available to defend myself. I blindly grasped about with my free hand for something, anything. A box of Kleenex? Too light. What's this? A full box of Capri Sun, that'll do. I grabbed it and flung it backwards towards Mike and heard it connect, then a howl reminiscent of a dying werewolf turning back into his naked human form. I had struck Mike in the face leaving him groggy, slightly bloody, and most importantly still a loser.

#2: Mike's Revenge: Over the four years Mike and I lived together he vastly improved in Tecmo, and became my equal, (honestly, turning Mike into a great Tecmo player is my proudest achievement from college) and eventually avenged his defeat at the hands of Al Toon several times. The most memorable being a game between his Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This game went into overtime and I received the ball and began my drive towards victory moving within the Lions twenty. This is where I let my arrogance get in the way and I decided to score a touchdown to win instead of kicking the field goal. I picked a passing play and snapped the ball. However Mike had picked my play and Vinny Testaverde was getting rushed from all directions but was nimble enough to roll out and avoid the sack. Everyone downfield was wide open and I scrolled through my options before selecting Gary Anderson to throw to. Problem was Anderson had been wiped out during the blitz and was laying on the ground ten yards behind the play. This resulted in Vinny turning around 180 degrees and throwing into a pack of juiced up blitzing Lions, and into the waiting hands of Dan Owens. I was stunned, Mike was stunned and there was nothing I could do but watch as Owens sprinted 80 yards the other direction, protected by the other Lions defenders who were laying waste to everyone in their path, for the deciding touchdown.

#1: David Fulcher: Fulcher was a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals and is the single most dominant player on the game. I will not argue this point either, I don't care about Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor, Babe Laufenberg....wait he sucks anyways. Even Fulcher's Wikipedia page has a small section devoted to his prowess on the game, and I could probably come up with a Top 5 most memorable David Fulcher moments list if I wanted too, but I won't punish you readers with that. Anyways the one defining Fulcher game, which is still talked about in hushed tones amongst my friends and I, is the game in which Fulcher intercepted seven John Elway passes in one game, returning one of them for a touchdown. Mike had selected the Broncos thinking Elway's strong passing arm would neutralize Fulcher's closing speed, a theory that seemed sound in reasoning, but proved fatal in execution (that sounded like something you would hear on the History Channel special about Operation Barbarossa before a commercial break, but I digress). The game started with Fulcher intercepting a pass intended for Clarence Kay at about the Denver 15 and running it in for an easy six, and that ended up being the highlight of the game for Elway, because it was the only time he would see a pass of his make its way to the end zone. By the time the game had finished Mike was scared to death to throw the ball with Elway as Fulcher was flying around the field snaring everything Elway dared put in the air leading Mike to continually pitch it to poor Bobby Humphrey who was pounded into submission by Carl Zander, James Francis & Co. For the game Mike ended up throwing more interceptions than he had total yards, and the Broncos were completely discredited as a team worthy of playing with. Only David Fulcher could single handedly ruin a Hall Of Fame quaterbacks career and leave an entire franchise in shambles.
Well, there are my top Tecmo memories, I would love to hear any other similar stories in the comments or through email,

1 comment:

Fat Albert said...

best post ever