Saturday, October 17, 2015

New York City Tecmo Super Bowl Tournament V

Travel and Arrival

I went to bed around 11:30 PM on Wednesday night.  A few hours later I dragged my son out of bed and left our place a little after 3:00 AM on Thursday morning.  After a quick drive-thru breakfast and a stop to fill the cooler with ice to get trip beverages and snacks cold, my son and I embarked on our very first trip to the Big Apple.  We made a quick stop in Barberton, OH for an ATM and some gas. The lack of sleep was wearing on me so I had to stop at a rest area in Reynoldsville, PA for about an hour nap.  When my son and I went to use the restroom, there was an aspiring musician in the foyer of the rest area building who was belting out some lyrics with an acoustic accompaniment.  I thought it was pretty good, but the man cleaning the restrooms said he was too loud and kicked him out. They got into an altercation outside.  That was our cue to get back on the road.  Dolan did pretty good on the road.  We only stopped when necessary.  The iPad kept him busy and he pulled the frequent hour-at-a-time naps.

Traveling through eastern Pennsylvania was a treat.  I have seen the Appalachian Mountains many times as I have family in western Pennsylvania, but eastern Pennsylvania is where it is at for scenery on a long drive.  The trees all turned every variant shade of red, orange, yellow, and green as if they were perfectly blended in an painted masterpiece.  All were stacked atop the towering mountains of the Appalachians on a side which I was unfamiliar with.  At times we felt engulfed by them, but it felt so peaceful and the drive to Stroudsburg, PA was smooth and calm.  While we were in Stroudsburg, we stopped for more gas.  We grabbed a slice of brick oven pizza from a local pizza place attached to the gas station.  It was great.  I had a buffalo chicken ranch slice while Dolan had a traditional pepperoni.

This is where the travel gets dicey.  I knew I was somewhat close to New York City.  I hate large crowds and I hate traffic just as much.  This is the person that travels 70 extra miles to avoid tolls and the Chicago Skyway on the way to Madison.  Traffic started picking up in New Jersey, and it wasn't horrible, but the closer we got the more anxious I got.  Once I saw the buildings I was nervous. Dolan was excited and pointing everything out, but my eyes couldn't veer too far from the road to look. Crossed the George Washington Bridge and paid a $14 toll.  That's not a typo.  Cars were packed like sardines, swerving in and out of traffic.  I was praying to the big man upstairs that I wasn't going to wreck the rental car.  I was also at the mercy of the GPS on my phone which kept sliding and falling from the dash.  I paid another toll of the $8 variety to cross over into Queens.  Then shit hit the fan. I got stuck in an intersection.  Car horns and finger gestures ensued like a well conducted orchestra.  I am trying to nudge into the correct lane changes.  After an hour and forty minutes we finally arrived at the hotel in Queens.  I unpacked the car and crawled into the hotel room like a hermit crab and not prepared to go back out until the next day.  I played four practice games with Dolan.  Most of which he held his own.  James Brooks got off in one and he had no chance.

James Brooks 9 carries for 448 yards

Friday and Sight-seeing

On Friday morning we indulged in some continental breakfast and left to meet Brian Rausse at a subway station.  On the way, I suddenly realize I left my belt back in Indianapolis.  My jeans are falling off my hips and I am constantly grabbing and pulling them back up.  Knowing I would be walking somewhere between 10-15 miles to do sight-seeing in New York, I stopped some electricians on the road and asked them for zip-ties.  I told them the story of how I used to use zip-ties for the saggy jeans of students and it was an effective way to keep them from sagging.  Three zip-ties later, I was safe and we met up with Brian at the Queens Boulevard Subway Station.  Brian took the day off work to take us around.  Without him I would have been completely lost.  He showed me the ropes on getting and using the MetroCard.  Dolan soon found out what the poles were for on the subway. We went to Grand Central Station, saw the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, and then to Times Square. When I asked Dolan what he thought of New York, he replied, "It's so busy."  Far cry from what we have in the Crossroads of America.

In Times Square, Dolan took pictures with famous mascots from Sesame Street and Disney.  I figured this wasn't a free thing.  Next thing I know, after we paid Elmo, three other characters grab Dolan and I find myself spending away Dolan's college money on selfies with mascots.  We checked out Toys-R-Us which featured a Ferris Wheel inside.  Next, we hit up a souvenir store after a New York scarf caught my eye for my wife.  The day of the tournament was my wife's birthday.  It was bad enough that she has been very ill, and then we were leaving her on her birthday to play Tecmo.  The scarf was in order.  Next, the three of us grabbed some early lunch at the Times Square Grill.  Then we ventured off to Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, and Madison Square Garden.  We didn't stop there.  We saw The New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, the Statue of Liberty (from Battery Park), and then worked our way to the World Trade Center Memorial.  Best thing I saw by far.  The history teacher in me is a sucker for memorials anyway. Seeing all the names put this well documented, and what I thought I understood event, into perspective. Very emotional.

After a drink and subway ride, we waited for the Tecmo Ninja and Chris #2 in Union Square.  Loved this place as well.  I am a people watcher.  Everyone there had a story or was unique in their own special way.  Even the squirrels who would literally jump on the park benches on your back were friendly.  When "Chris Squared" showed up we ventured across the streets of Manhattan.  On the way to Little Italy, we stopped at a retro video games store.  Heaven in a 300 square-foot building.  We saw a white font label Tecmo Super Bowl variant.  I also snagged a factory sealed Tecmo Super Bowl.  This made my trip.

Tecmo Ninja owns an Italian restaurant.  He was in Pizza Heaven.  I feel like every corner store or stand he picked up a slice or wanted to stop.  This was all on the way to the Mecca of Pizza, Lombardi's.  Lombardi's is the oldest family owned and operated pizza restaurant in the U.S.  It is the only pizzeria that has/still uses a coal oven to bake their pizza.  Zagat surveys claims that Lombardi's is the best pizza on the planet.  I will not dispute this.  During this time we found out that Louis (red98sethuthut) made it to the Big Apple, but his car broke down.  Louis was staying with Dolan and I at the hotel, but at this time there was no way to get to him.  I felt bad.

By this time Dolan and I were exhausted.  Legs on the verge of cramping and just physically and mentally spent, Brian put us on a subway and gave us directions to get back to the hotel.  Here is proof that I can not live in New York City.  I followed his directions to a T.  Then on our final subway (we had to transfer) I saw that the next stop was Hunter's Point Avenue .  This was the same street we were staying on, so I was like let's just get off here.  Turns out it lead us to a 30 minute walk down one of the poorest lit streets in New York.  Scared to death.  On the way, Louis said he got a jump start and we finally made it back to the hotel.  Dolan immediately passed out.  Louis and I stayed up until almost 2:00 AM playing practice games. I was playing pretty well.  I felt like if I could play at that level at the tournament, that I would have a shot of finishing near the top.

Tournament Day

Next morning, Dolan wakes up early and plays Louis.  Both games were relatively close.  We packed up all our equipment and got a free Uber ride to the venue (thanks to my brother Kevin).  Break Bar and Billiards had great space and a good set up for Tecmo.  I set up the stream on my laptop and helped set up equipment.

A new tournament experience for me was having my son be apart of this special hobby of mine.  It was also a different element because I have never had to worry about keeping tabs on my kid while I was playing.  Dolan played his first game of Tecmo at four years old.  He played sporadically from ages five to six.  He played next to nothing for a year and then practiced hardcore with me before Madison, as he was supposed to go to with me this year, but plans fell through.  He then didn't play a game until I prepped for the Indianapolis tournament in June of this year.  Since June he played a total of six games.  The four with me Thursday night and the two with Louis this morning.

Dolan's Group Play

Dolan started out by playing a matchup he has never played before.  His opponent called WAS vs MIN.  Dolan took MIN.  He got an INT on the first WAS drive and then converted a cross-field TD bomb to Hassan Jones.  After some possession exchanges, his opponent went into Up and A mode and Dolan never adjusted his play calls.  He lost 31-7.

Second game was against Erik Merliss (last year's runner up).  I didn't get to see most of the game as I was playing, but Erik was up 14-10 with 2 minutes and change.  He scored a late TD to win 21-10 in the PHX (Erik) vs DAL (Dolan) matchup.  I asked Erik how Dolan played and he said he played well.

Third game Dolan found out what Tecmo is all about.  Someone told me he lost three fumbles.  He also threw a couple of picks with BJ.  His opponent cruised to an easy win with the Broncos.  Dolan scored his first TD late in the game.  After getting the ball back I instructed him to kick a FG at the buzzer so his opponent would't get the 28 point maximum.  He lost 35-10.

The final game Dolan finally got to call a matchup.  He went S.F. vs. GIA.  Dolan played well and won 24-0 with the Giants.

Daddy's Group Play

First game was against Ryan H.  Same Ryan vogtcd11 and I spoke with on Tecmo Talk Radio.  I was thinking he lived in Wisconsin so when he told me he lived in New York, it threw me off.  He called MIA vs. S.D.  No hesitation for me here.  I have learned to quit thinking with my heart and start playing Tecmo with my head.  I took the Dolphins.  I ran early and often.  Smith and some descent carries.  Logan chipped in as well.  Dan operated the quick passes.  Chargers scooped a fumble return for a TD and had another really nice TD drive as well.

Second game I played TecSpectre (Ray B.) from Philadelphia.  He called RAI vs CHI.  I went with the defense.  Neal, at WR, got an early TD.  Singletary got into the backfield way too much to keep Bo in check.  Bailey ran well until he went into BAD and then Neal took carries to end the game.

Third game I played Juan I.  Real cool guy.  I will get you on that FaceBook page by the end of the week brother.  I got to call one of my only two matchups the entire day.  I went with S.D. vs. DET. He took the Lions.  He ran Right and A and soon realized I was calling it every play.  He then left the run game and went to the pass.  Byrd was able to shut it down.  BJ and Butts were solid.

Fourth game was a cross-pool game since I was in one of two groups with four players instead of five.  I had to play the other 3-0 group member Jim Teta.  I know Jim was good.  He made deep runs the past several years in this tournament.  He doesn't know, but I did some scouting.  I know he is a runner.  I know he LOVES the Raiders.  He called PHI vs. RAI, so I took the Raiders.  I scored early. He fumbled away and I scored.  Up 14-0 early I really played some tough defense and forced several first half punts.  Jim was a great guy and I know that final score is not indicative of the type of player he is.  He had a bad game, bad luck, and I had good luck and played some of the best defense on the day that game.  I finished 4-0 in group play and claimed the number 1 seed.

Raffles, Raffles, and Raffles

Every tournament participant had their name put in a bag for the chance at some cool nostalgic prizes ranging from a Barry Sanders or was it Mel Gray throw pillow to the complete first season of 30 for 30 on Blu-Ray.  Each person selected, got dibs on which prizes they wanted.  They let Dolan draw the names.  He was so excited.  The crowd made him feel welcomed.  It was a big day for him and this was a big deal.  So whoever came up with it, thank you. Obviously it was rigged (joking) because Dolan's name and my name were pulled.  Dolan selected the mystery box which included a 1990 football magazine, Barry Sanders in box Starting lineup, Bo Jackson pin, Bo Jackson card, Bo Jackson VHS, and Bo Jackson two-way baseball/football LCD game.  I selected original 8-Bit artwork from NES games.  I originally thought I'd get to choose one, but I actually got all of the artwork in the box.  I also threw in $20 for an arm's length worth of raffle tickets for a Bo Jackson autographed Tecmo Super Bowl cartridge.  No bueno.  I believe Ryan H.'s brother got this.

Dolan's Elimination Bracket

Dolan snagged a win in the opening round of the elimination bracket.  His opponent called PHI vs. GIA.  Dolan loves the Giants.  He got up early on 7-0.  The game went back and forth.  Dolan got some goal line stands in the third quarter.  In the fourth quarter Dolan tacked on another score to win 14-0.

Next game happened before I could even get over there.  I was talking to Matt D. and Shawn S. and realized he was playing a MIA vs. ATL matchup.  His opponent called it, but Dolan took to the Falcons. WTF!  Lack of preparation.  He thought the Falcons were better.  Ugh!  Down 7-0 in the third, he got a JJ to Rison to make it 10-7.  In the fourth he stopped the opponent and had two minutes to go 70 yards.  Plenty of time.  On a run up the middle Rozier fumbled.  Final stayed 10-7. Dolan went on to play several people in scrimmages and was successful in most of them,

Daddy's Elimination Bracket

Group winners and top finishers got byes in this tournament set up.  By being the top four seeds you automatically made the sweet 16.  My first game was against Joe B. of Philadelphia.  I also scouted this guy.  Pass, pass, and more pass.  I called pass plays 100% of the game.  He called N.E. vs. SEA. I took SEA.  I controlled the game by calling plays he didn't.  I felt like this was one game I had total control over.  His only offensive score game on a ghosted triple coverage dive catch.  I was up 21-7 with just under 3 minutes to go in the game.  I was running and short passing near out of bounds every play.  I fumbled a short pass near the out of bounds line which was returned for a score making it 21-14.  Then I do the same thing.  I was fully confident in sealing the deal, but after I ran out of bounds the ball fumbled and bounced back into play.  He drops back for a three-quarter field JJ.  He got it at the one and I out-tapped him to avoid over-time.  Unbelievable how well I played to almost lose my first game.

Second game was against Brian Rausse.  He won the toss and said, "I hate to do this to you, but N.E. vs. SEA."  I don't know why people call this against me so much.  I actually enjoy using Seattle.  I have only had one really bad outing with the matchup, but it is what it is.  To me, it felt like a carbon copy of the game previous.  I was up 17-0 in the fourth and Brian managed a score to pull it to 17-7. I did the same type of short passes and runs I did the first game.  The only difference this game was no fumbles.

Semifinal game was against D.T. of Buffalo.  I finally won a toss and got to call a matchup.  I called DEN vs. S.D.  As expected he took the Chargers.  His first two possessions he threw INTs to Dennis Smith.  I was able to score 14 points early.  I felt super comfortable.  The game changer was when I was driving right before half.  I think I was on the 8 yard line.  I ran forward with Elway and instead of tapping A to run in for the score I accidentally hit B and passed, but the ball was intercepted at the 1.  If I score there, the game is 21-0 and I am getting the ball after half, but instead I lose a grip on the game and in the second half D.T. tacked on a TD late in third or early in the fourth making it 14-7.  I am forced to punt with a minute and some change.  D.T. gets a long Butts run and then the CC attempt to Anthony Miller fell incomplete in the back of the end zone.

Erik Merliss knocked off two-time defending champion Matt DeGeorge for the right to take on Shawn Suchy on the other side of the bracket.  Shawn got a fumble or two early and never looked back in a JETS vs. DAL matchup.  Merliss then played D.T. in the third place game.  D.T. won with ATL over T.B.

The championship game was set.  Shawn won the toss and called CLE vs. PIT.  This is a matchup I was actually ok with.  Matty V. once told me that it was unfair because the Steelers were so much better.  I also have my second highest OG win percentage with the Steelers.  After my game with D.T. we were forced to move the system, TV, and, laptop to a different location because of the Mets game.  During this switch my capture card fried and we were unable to to stream straight from the NES.  So, we took the HD webcam that was originally used to video the competitors, and we turned it to view the game play on the screen.  Here is the championship in its entirety:

1st place:  Derek R.
2nd place: Shawn S.
3rd place:  David T.
4th place:  Erik M.

As soon as the tournament was over, there was a rush to pick up all equipment.  I got all my stuff outside and waited for the Uber.  Not long after we got back to the hotel we all fell asleep.  These tournaments are exhausting.  Louis lived up to his snoring reputation.  I have an audio recording if anyone needs evidence.

Return Home and Conclusion

The next morning Dolan and I left around 10:45 AM.  Traffic wasn't nearly as bad on the way home. Stopped and ate at a Dutch Pantry in Clearfield, PA.  Listened to the Colts vs. Patriots game on the radio.  Got to hear the worst play call of all-time and then the memes and social media about it the following day.  We got back home safely around 1:15 AM.

I originally had no plans to come to NYC.  My wife, son, and I had been planning a family vacation to Disney for the past several months.  A day before we were supposed to leave my wife had to cancel the trip.  I won't go into detail, but she is very sick right now.  It has put quite the stress on our family and myself.  I would ask that you keep my family in your prayers or thoughts moving forward during this difficult time.  When my son found out we canceled, he was devastated.  This was his birthday present a month prior, so I told him anywhere he's always wanted to go was fair game.  His first place he said was NYC.  I said deal.  After jumping online, I realized that Saturday was the weekend of the NYC Tecmo tournament.  It made sense to me that we should play if we were going to be there anyway.  When I found out how excited he was about participating it got me excited to go.

The fact that I got to share this time-honored tradition with my son is indescribable.  I realize that he only plays because it gives him something in common with his dad.  I realize that some people in the tournament felt like a catch 22 when playing him.  If they beat him they are "picking on the little guy" and if they lose to him then they feel embarrassed.  The fact of the matter is that Dolan does have talent.  No one should take it easy on him.  I beat him bad all the time.  I never "let him win". That teaches him nothing.  He's learned a lot the past four years about the game.  I am astonished how fast he picked up things that took me years to understand on my own.  With that said, I am a hundred times more happy and proud that he played and won some games than me winning this tournament. The expression on his face was priceless.  He isn't clinically diagnosed, but I am positive he lives with social anxiety.  This was a huge step for Bubby and it is one of my proudest moments as a father.

To Brian, Ryan, and all the other people involved with NETSBA, thank you.  Quality tournament, with a great venue, and overall experience.  I love the format, the byes to reward the group winners, and the raffles.  This was my first NETSBA tournament and it won't be my last.  It ranks up there with Madison and Midwest in my book.  Nice work as always.

Besides Hendershot and Louis, nearly all of the people in this tournament were first time acquaintances or long a waited face-to-face encounters.  I am so glad to have met Shawn and Matt.  I have played online with these guys for the better part of five years.  They were in my first league that I ran as a commissioner and I had a short stint with them in Bits and Glory.  You can tell that these two are quality guys in conversations online and meeting them in person was no exception.  They remind me of people I would have hung around with in high school or college.  I just wish we lived closer and could do this more often.

To Shawn, the championship game was Tecmo at its finest.  I am sure it provided get entertainment for those watching even if it didn't live up to the Mets game being displayed behind the TV.  I'm glad it came down to us.  Great run.

I couldn't have asked for a better Tecmocation.  Dolan got to see the biggest city in America thanks to Brian.  These memories will live with him for a lifetime.  I snagged a sealed copy of Tecmo Super Bowl which only leaves me the Tecmo Super Bowl Prototype cartridge to have a "complete" collection.  I got a chance to have the greatest pizza on the planet.  Dolan and I cleaned house on the raffles at the tournament.  I took home another trophy in 2015 (four) even though I broke the hand of the football player.  I have since super glued it back on.  I had the opportunity to share this great hobby with all of you in attendance and those of watching from a far.  Last, but importantly, not least, I got to share an extended weekend with my son to further develop a bond with him as he grows older.  What a vacation!

Until next time, Long Live Tecmo.