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Tecmo Bowl, Part 2

Everything I know about football, I learned from Tecmo Bowl.

  1. Walter Payton is the greatest football player of all time.
  2. Bo Jackson’s career was cut way too short.
  3. Lawrence Taylor was the most dominant defensive player in the history of football.
  4. Chicago is awesome when they have a great running back and a dominant middle linebacker.
  5. Special teams can win or lose a ball game (the ability to block extra points by choosing the second guy on the line from the top with Chicago, is an extreme advantage).
  6. A good tight end can bail  you out of a lot of problems (especially when calling Pass 2 with Chicago).
  7. Tackling with one man is good, tackling with two or more is better.  And when tackling, it is very risky to leave your feet.
  8. Nothing is more embarassing on a football field that getting thrown into the air by your opponent.
  9. You need a balanced offense – If your plays are 3:1 in favor of passing, it is too easy to shut you down, no matter how great your quarterback is (sorry San Francisco and Miami).
  10.  Halftime shows are always too long.
  11. There is nothing wrong with a high-five after a touchdown.

Any more things you learned from Tecmo Bowl?

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Tecmo Bowl – the first great sports game, Part 1.

Last week I picked Super Tecmo Bowl as one of my top 5 favorite video games of all time.  The reason I picked it over Tecmo Bowl is that it was a perfect sequel.  It kept the game play similar, but added a few dimensions.  I believe that Tecmo Bowl was a revolutionary sports game.  I’m no video game historian, but it was the first game that I remember that used things that are common in football video games today. 

  1. The scrolling screen.  Before this, almost all sports games had the entire field on one screen.  Using a scrolling field allowed for much more realistic scale and better gameplay.  Madden, the most popular sports game in history, now uses the scrolling field, but switched it to a vertical field, whereas Tecmo Bowl was a horizontal field.  The horizontal field better simulates the way we watch football on TV.  The vertical screen makes for a more realistic players’-eye-view.
  2. Player’s names.  Tecmo Bowl had permission of the NFL Players Association, so actual players and stats were used.  These stats were also used to individualize each video game player.  Even though they all looked alike (except for skin tone), each player had different attributes.  Oddly enough, they did not get permission from the NFL, so the teams did not use team names – just cities, and a loosely patterned color scheme (the San Francisco team was red and gold, but Seattle was pink for some reason).  Super Tecmo Bowl remedied this problem by getting the NFL’s permission – I think the first game to do so – and used the actual logos.
  3. An ongoing season.  The game simulated a season by randomly selecting a team for each “week.”  You were given a password after each week, and if you kept winning, you would advance to the playoffs, and then the Tecmo Bowl.  Super Tecmo Bowl took this a step further, by keeping some basic stats as the season went on.
  4. Play calling.  Tecmo Bowl coaches had four plays to choose from.  For most teams there were two runs and two passes, but for some teams, the ratio was 3:1 (Miami and San Francisco had three passes, LA had three runs).  Super Tecmo Bowl expanded the play calling to eight.  The defense called plays too, guessing which of the four offensive plays their opponent would call.  If they got it right, the defense would overrun the offense (most of the time).

You might be wondering, “Why the sudden interest in Tecmo Bowl?”  Well, I just downloaded it on the Wii, and it is as fun as I remembered.


Now, my two-year-old daughter wants to type:


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On Saturday my wife and I went back to our alma mater for the wonderful event that is Homecoming.  It was a sunny fall day, a little warmer than we expected.  Our football team lost a heartbreaker to a disliked (but not bitterly hated) rival, and during the game we talked with several of my fraternity brothers who were back for their 10th reunion.

Whenever I meet an old friend who didn’t know that I was a pastor, I always hold my breath for a moment before I tell them.  I anxiously await the small-talk to progress because, “What do you do?” is always among the first three or four questions in a conversation such as this.  I’m not sure why I have anxiety about telling an old friend what I do for a living.  Perhaps it is because they just know too much.

“I’m an accountant for Bork Bork Inc. in Chicago,” says Fraternity Brother A.  “What do you do now? Are you still doing the sportswriting?”

“No, I’m a pastor of a small United Methodist Church in Chenoa.”

At this point I fear a mainly two different responses:

  • “Oh, that’s cool. So uh… Oh, there’s Fraternity Brother B, I’m going to go say hi.”
  • “Really? You’re a pastor? Didn’t you pass out in my bathtub once?”

I think most of my fear comes from the absurd mental juxtaposition of me as fraternity brother, passed out in someone’s bathtub, and me as pastor, baptizing someone’s baby.  But I know that’s not entirely fair.  We all have pasts.  Pastor or not, everyone has moments of which we aren’t particularly proud.  I know though, that I am not imagining all of the uncomfortableness.

Most people get very antsy when religion is suddenly thrust into the conversation.  It’s not that they aren’t good people, or religious, or even Christian.  It’s just that they were not expecting religion to come at them while talking in the end zone during a football game.  Luckily, Facebook has had the effect of dulling this blindside attack, but still, saying, “I’m a pastor,” is a little bit of a conversation killer.

People aren’t sure what that means.  It is one of the few jobs that has so much societal baggage attached to it.  I guess I could say, “I’m an abortion doctor,” and people would be slightly more uncomfortable (mental note for my own 10th reunion).  It is like people suddenly feel obligated to talk about their faith, which is uncomfortable for most people.  “Oh, my wife and I go to church pretty often.”  I’m not sure if they want me to give them some special blessing, or pull out some Communion bread or what.

As the initial uncomfortableness wore off (or was it just in my head because of my own fears and self-doubt), the religion stuff faded again.  We went back to a campus bar after the game, and I ordered a round of beers, and as we gathered around the golden elixir that was the focal point of so many of our gatherings in the past, the years seemed to fade away.  I wasn’t defined as “pastor” any more than my buddy was defined as “accountant.”  I was just Mac again.  I actually had a great conversation about the church and the struggles of being a new dad and a Pastor with a guy I hadn’t seen in ten years (who happens to be Jewish, and I’m not sure if that is significant).

We talked about old parties and new adventures.  And then the conversation drifted to a brother of ours who came out of the closet during his junior year because he wanted to take his boyfriend (who we all blindly believed was his cousin) to our formal.  Suddenly I remembered that I was a pastor again and said, “When he brought Jeremy to formal – without any backlash whatsoever – That was when I was the most proud of our fraternity.”

I was reminded again that I was a pastor at 9 p.m. on Saturday, when I knew I had to get going. I pulled out my favorite worn-out line, “Well, I have to work in the morning,” shook some hands, shared some hugs, and went home a few hours before I really wanted to, just when the stories were getting good.

The fact is, I certainly had many moments of which I am not proud during college.  There were things that I did and said and drank that were not highlights of my life.  But I would not change a thing.  I learned more from that group of guys than I did in four years in the classroom.  I learned about people in that house.  I learned about conflict.  The wealthy kid from the suburbs that felt entitled to everything, I knew him.  The farmer from southern Illinois with the chew in his cheek, he lived down the hall.  The pot-head wasting away on his couch, I hung out with him.  The alcoholic with anger issues, I worried about him.  The homosexual from a small town learning how to be “out,” I hugged him.  We all had stories.  We all had moments we weren’t proud of, but we learned how to live together.  We learned how to be men together.  And wouldn’t change a moment of it.  Even the night I spent in the bathtub.

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