I’d Rather Play Tecmo Super Bowl [Friday Thoughts W/ Troy]

Good morning. Or afternoon. Or dinnertime. It’s Friday, January 20th, 1995. The weather in Chesaning is 38° & gloomy and somewhere, somebody is hunting. Somewhere else, somebody is making dinner. Somewhere else, somebody is drinking a beer at a bowling alley. Also, there’s a guy playing guitar somewhere. He might be inside the radio or inside of a bowling alley or even inside the radio inside of the bowling alley. He’s probably wearing sunglasses. I know this because I’ve seen adults do this, so I figure that it’s always happening somewhere. Mr Bretall told me that the world is big and whatever it is that I’m doing, there’s probably somebody else doing it. He also told me to demonstrate how Scott Norwood should kick field goals and I almost kicked Jalayna in the face. Mr Bretall is a weird guy. I want to be like him someday. But in order to be like Mr Bretall or any adult, I think I need to write a bunch of words. I see them doing that all the time. So I’m going to tell you about last year.

– It was sometime around Memorial Day that my parents had a yard sale. For days, there was a bunch of junk out front and people would stop by and buy something for a few cents. There was a really scary Chucky doll in one of the boxes. I guess one of my cousins had it and it probably came to life and tried to kill him, so he gave it to my Mom to sell. But nobody wanted it, so it just sat in a box the whole time. I made sure the doors were locked before bedtime. But there was another thing that nobody wanted that was much cooler and didn’t try to kill anybody. It was a Nintendo game called Tecmo Super Bowl. And since nobody wanted it, Mom said it was mine. That’s the beauty of yard sales. You either make money or you get to keep your stuff. Everybody wins! Tecmo Super Bowl is a football video game. I didn’t know much about football, but I knew that my Dad liked it. One time, I asked him what the score was and he told me to shut up. I guess the Lions make him really mad. Or maybe I’m just really bad at asking questions. But I like my Dad and I want him to like me and I want to ask him good questions, so I tried playing Tecmo Super Bowl. I chose to play as the Bears, because their kicker’s name is Kevin Butler, which is really funny. I can’t believe people call themselves Butler. Mr Belvedere is one, too. And it’s okay for these people to say the word, “butt”, because they add a “ler” at the end. Butler is my new favorite word and Kevin Butler is my new favorite kicker.

So, Kevin Butler kicked the ball to the other team and then the game went to a screen that I couldn’t understand. There was just a bunch of scribbles inside of boxes and pictures of the Nintendo controller below them. In the corner of the screen, it said “1 Qtr”. Well, I know that a quarter means 15 minutes, so I guessed that I had to wait 15 minutes before football could happen. I thought, “if this is the case, football must be really boring”. That’s probably why Mom complains about it all the time. Finally, my babysitter showed me that I have to hit buttons on the controller to “call a play” and then football happened. And from there, I learned how the game was played. My babysitter challenged me to a game once I got the hang of it. I chose the Bears and she chose the Lions. She beat me 110 to nothing. She was always doing things like that. She called me a wuss when I couldn’t shred cheese onto a pizza. She took me for a ride on a 4 wheeler and I got really scared. I was watching the Mighty Ducks for the millionth time and she decided to shave her legs on the floor. It made me really uncomfortable. I didn’t dare to look down at her and my eyes stayed locked on the TV. That’s not something for a kid like me to see. I’m a gentleman. Anyways, she beat me 110 to nothing. The Lions running back, Sanders, ran really fast. The Bears running back could barely move. The Bears really stink. That was when I started to not like them. That lady wasn’t our babysitter for very long. My cousin Mandy got a purple car so she would watch us all summer. I don’t know what having a purple car had to do with babysitting. All that I knew was that Tecmo Super Bowl was fun. And the more I played, the more I understood football and by the end of the summer, I was excited to watch the season with my Dad.

When Nicole/Mandy let me watch them, there was a lot of football shows on ESPN in the afternoon. They talked about football players from before I was born. There was lots of videos of people running in slow motion to really dramatic music. Something about it must have made me happy, because I found myself watching it more and more. There was a guy that they showed sometimes that I really liked. His name was OJ Simpson and he ran really fast, probably faster than Sanders. He played for the Bills a very long time ago. I know it was long ago because their helmets were white and now the Bills helmets are red. I also thought he was cool because I figured that he was probably related to Bart and Homer, or at least they’ve met a few times at family reunions. He also made me want to drink orange juice, which is something that my Mom never buys. She says that I would waste it and makes me drink Sunny Delight instead. One day last summer, I was doing a Garfield puzzle in the kitchen and my Dad called out, “The Juice is loose! The Juice is loose”. I ran to the living room to see what was going on and there was OJ Simpson, in a car being chased by the cops. Dad said that he hurt his wife. I don’t think he did it, though. Simpsons are supposed to be funny, not bad.

– I got really sick towards the end of the school year. Like, my throat hurt really bad and it wasn’t getting any better. Mom pulled me out of Mrs. Ambrose’s class to see a doctor in Owosso. It felt cool to be outside of school on a school day, but I knew something must have been wrong. The doctor looked at my throat and talked to my Mom a lot. Afterwards, she took me to Wendy’s and we ate in the car. She said that I needed to have surgery on my tonsils, but I really didn’t know what that meant. I hoped there wouldn’t be any needles, though. I hate needles. But that wouldn’t be until after we went to Disney World, which is way more exciting than needles!

– Mandy took us to see The Lion King. We even got Lion King candy bars to sneak into the theater, but by the time we got to Owosso, the bars were melted. Mandy’s friend put the air conditioner on full blast to try to make them candy bars again. It kind of worked, I guess. The movie was way better than melted candy bars. But I think I still like Aladdin better.

– During Showboat Week, my Dad took me out “camping”. He set up a tent in the back yard and we were going to sleep there for the night. But we also needed entertainment, so he ran an extension cord from the house and hooked up a black and white TV. We watched the MLB All Star game, but I fell asleep by the end of it. It was the last baseball game I saw all year, because the players went on strike. I kind of knew what that meant, but it had nothing to do with baseball. There was an episode of Rocko where there was a movie about garbage men going on strike. They did a lot of singing and trash built up. So I guess all of the baseball players started singing instead of playing baseball? It doesn’t seem right to me, but it happened. When I woke up, it was really dark and storming outside. I got scared and ran into the house where my night light and Blanky were.

– Disney World was a lot of fun, but the drive was really long. Mandy told me it was going to be boring, but I didn’t know it was going to be that bad. I was told that Georgia was going to be the worst and we spent the entire second day driving through it. We got stuck in traffic in Atlanta and my Dad had the Braves game on the radio as we sat outside of the stadium. I thought that was really cool, to be that close to something that was on TV. Greg Maddux was pitching. He’s really good. We stayed at a hotel next to a giant orange, which I found to be funny, because Nicole hates oranges. I don’t remember much from the trip. I was really distracted, thinking about the surgery coming up and being scared of the needles that could be stuck into me. I thought Epcot was really boring, but I remember the most from it. There was a building that had a bunch of stuff from the future in it. High tech stuff. There was even some kids playing Sega Saturn! Here I am stuck at home with a regular Nintendo, and there’s Sega Saturns to be had! I was very jealous of those kids. There was also this weird ride where you spun around in a room and there was a video screen wrapped all the way around. It was the biggest TV I had ever saw in my life! There was a really cheesy old song from the 80’s, singing about “The Universe Of Energy”. I didn’t quite understand the point of the ride and it kind of reminded me of the HBO song. That’s probably why it stuck with me. It was too much like HBO. There was also a really weird water ride where you were in a cave and at one part, it looked like you’re going to go down a HUGE waterfall but instead you go backwards! It was a lot of fun and I’m glad that it didn’t go upside-down.

On the way back from Florida, I spent the whole ride imagining that I was playing an endless obstacle course on a game show. Just running along the car, jumping over things that weren’t there. It helped pass the time. I was really upset because Nicole got a better souvenir than me. Mom told us we could get one souvenir and on the first day, I saw this really cool X-Men shirt that I had to have. Mom asked if I was sure over and over, and I was sure. Nicole was smart and waited until the last day to get a souvenir. She spent the whole 3 days looking around and thinking about what she wanted and made a good decision at the end. I just saw the first thing that I wanted and took it. So Nicole got to spend the ride home playing with her stuffed Nala while I had nothing but a stupid shirt. I can’t lie though, it’s my favorite shirt. I was just being a brat. On the way, we stopped at a Pizza Hut in Tennessee. The cheese was rotten and weird looking. It was the worst pizza I’ve ever had! It was so bad, a turtle wouldn’t even touch it.

When we got home, there was a new tape in the VCR. There was a new episode of Power Rangers that was on while we were gone, so I taped that. But I didn’t know how long the episode was, so I set the recording for 8:00 to midnight. First was a rerun of The Simpsons that was really funny. Bart won an elephant in a radio contest and they had to keep it in the backyard. I must’ve watched that episode a hundred times since then. I’m really glad that I taped it. After that was Power Rangers. There’s a new villain named Lord Zed and he’s really cool looking. He’s like if Shredder and Darth Vader morphed into each other and turned red. He does something to make the Ranger’s Zords stop working, so they have to get new ones called Thunderzords. They’re way cooler. After Power Rangers was actually a football game! The Saints have a new quarterback named Jim Everett and this was his first game. I also didn’t know that football was on Fox. It’s such a good channel.

[Okay, I need to cut the shit for a minute. There’s something that’s driving me insane. When trying to piece together my memories, I knew exactly what was on that videotape. I knew that because I watched it 500 fucking times, much to the chagrin of Nicole. The tape went, “Bart Gets An Elephant”, “The Mutiny Part 1” and an NFL Preseason Game with the Saints. After a brutal amount of digging and searching, I can’t find any evidence of this game ever happening. The NFL Preseason started on July 30th and the first NFL on Fox game was on August 9th. However, the day in question is July 21, 1994. I even found TV listings from that day. The Simpsons and Power Rangers episodes are spot on, but then In Living Color came on at 9. That’s not right. I’m being Mandella-ed! I even distinctly remember a still bumper before the game stating, “In Living Color will not be seen tonight, so we can bring you this Fox NFL Special” and then it cues into a really sentimentally scored black and white montage of Jim Everett getting ready in a locker room. For the past 25 years, I have known the contents of this tape to be true and now the world is telling me that I’m wrong. This has essentially ruined my day and I just wanted you all to know that. Alright, back to being a kid again.]

– The day of surgery, they put me in a bed on wheels and took me to a small room. The nurse asked me if I liked whales. I told her no. She said that she would give me a whale sticker if I drank this disgusting drink. I didn’t want a whale sticker, but I had no choice. I drank the gross stuff and things got really blurry. When things were clear again, my Mom was in the room. I asked her,

“When are they going to do the surgery?”

“They already did!”

“Oh. Can we leave?”

“Soon. Why?”

“It’s really painful in here.”

Everything adults told me about getting my tonsils out were a lie. I couldn’t eat ice cream for 3 weeks. I was told that I could eat all the ice cream I wanted. They lied to me. The ice cream truck came by and I couldn’t have any. Nicole got me an X-Men ice cream bar to eat when I felt better, but it was gross by the time I ate it. I had to eat a lot of Jell-o and other mushy foods. In a few weeks, Mom said I could eat crackers again, so I had a Lunchable for dinner. It was the best Lunchable I ever had. I missed hard foods. After that, I went to the bathroom and my mouth tasted funny. I looked in the mirror and there was blood running down my chin. I looked like a vampire. It was really cool. I spit it all out and didn’t tell anyone. When I went to bed that night, I felt like I was going to puke. I called out to Nicole across the hallway,

“I’m going to puke.”

“So go puke”

“Okay, I’m going to go puke.”

And then I puked. But it didn’t look like regular puke. It was really red and got all over the bathroom. My Mom walked in and she sounded really scared. She gave me a bucket and let me ride in the front seat as she sped to Owosso. I was in the hospital for a few days, but it felt like weeks. The same episode of Sesame Street kept playing on repeat and that was the only thing I was allowed to watch. I guess the cut in my throat where the tonsil were wasn’t healed yet and I threw up a bunch of blood, which sounds really cool but it made me really weak. My Mom came back with my Blanky and a stuffed whale from the gift shop. She must’ve thought that I liked whales because of the sticker I got. When I finally got home, I had to lay on the couch for a long time. Aunt Nancy came over and she bought me a Red Dragon Thunderzord! It’s so cool because it’s the new Zord! I was really excited to play with it, but I felt really weak and couldn’t do much with it. I just laid on the couch for days and slept a lot. Sometimes, I would wake up and feel something in my hand. Like something squishy. But I would squeeze my hand and it would disappear. I wish I could explain it better, but it felt like it meant something.

[To this day, I still think about that feeling. A lot more than I should. I’ll probably never know what the meaning of it was or what it actually was in the first place. Maybe I was just dreaming. I guess that’s the mystery of life.]

– When football started, I watched a lot of Lions with my Dad. It was cool, but I also wanted to root for a team that wasn’t them. I thought that it would make football more interesting. So I asked my Dad who the best team was. He looked in the paper and told me it was the San Diego Chargers. So I became a Chargers fan. They have Junior Seau, who is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and also has a really cool name, because you say it as “Say Ow”, which is what a guy that hurts people would say. Their quarterback is Stan Humphries, who is way better than Scott Mitchell. Their running back is Natrone Means and the guy on ESPN calls him, “Natrone Means Business”. He also called their kick returner, Eric Bienemy, “Sleeping With Bienemy”. It’s supposed to sound like “Sleeping With The Enemy”, which is a movie that my Mom really likes. I even dressed up as Stan Humphries for Halloween! But the dummies at JC Penny made the jersey #17. But I still pretended that I was Stan Humphries and nobody knew the difference because it was really dark and rainy on Halloween. The Chargers continued to be really good and they even made the playoffs. In the Divisional round, they played the Dolphins. But I spent most of the game distracted because I was trying to make a K-Nex motorcycle. But I did see the end, where the Dolphins kicker missed a field goal as time ran out and the Chargers won! Last Sunday, they played the Steelers in the championship game. I was at Zach’s house and Uncle Alan made us play in the snow outside, so I couldn’t watch the game. But when we got back inside, we turned on the TV and there was still a minute left in the game. The Chargers were up 17 to 13 but the Steelers were at the goal line. On 4th and Goal, Neil O’Donnel threw an incomplete pass and the Chargers are going to the Super Bowl! Zach and I flailed, yelled and rolled all over the floor in celebration. I had never been more excited in my whole life! Football is really good, especially when your team wins. Next week, they’re going to play against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. I think they’re going to win, but Scott Kuchar doesn’t think so. He’s a butthead.

– Our Nintendo stopped working. At first, we had to blow on the cartridges more than usual, but after a while, it just stopped playing games. My parents took it into a shop to get fixed, but it’s been gone for a few months. There’s a store in Saginaw that repairs Nintendos and I think it’s there. It’s right next to a Tuffy. That’s the place that my old cat, Tuffy, has been working at since he ran away. I don’t think he actually works there, because he’s a cat, but it’s fun to imagine that he is. But Nicole and I forgot about the Nintendo because Santa brought us a Sega Genesis for Christmas! I was wanting one for so long and I guess Santa thought I was good. Or maybe Nicole was good so that made me good by association. It came with Sonic Spinball, which is okay, I guess. It’s nowhere near as fun as the Sonic game at Aunt Sue’s house. It also came with a football game called Pro Quarterback, but it’s not really that good. The quarterback makes karate noises and none of the teams are real NFL teams. I really miss Tecmo Super Bowl. I think I might ask for Madden 95 for my birthday. The graphics in the JC Penny catalog look really good.

– We talked a little bit about war in Mr Bretall’s class. I didn’t know much about war, but I had a bunch of Desert Storm trading cards. Also, my Uncle Denny was in the Vietnam war. At first, I thought it was called the Veteran War, but Mr Bretall corrected me. Uncle Denny lives in a little house by himself and watches a lot of HBO. He’s really fun and lets Nicole and I do whatever we want when we visit, but he doesn’t have a wife or kids. I don’t know if that’s a normal thing for adults, but I don’t think it is. I was going to ask him about the war the next time I saw him, so then I could present it to the class and impress Mr Bretall. I never got to do that. A few weeks ago, we came home from school and Dad was home. He looked really sad and made a lot of phone calls in the kitchen while we played Sega. Mom came home and they told used that Uncle Denny had died. Dad said that he had a heart attack, which I can’t imagine in my head, so I pictured him going to sleep while working at Tuffy’s. I wish I was old enough to be his friend and watch more HBO with him. He seemed like a guy that people liked a lot. But I’m glad that I spent the time that I did and that I have a few memories of him. They might be little things, but Mr Bretall said that it’s the little things that make up life.

And I guess that’s my point of writing this. I’m just a kid. Nothing big ever happens in my life. It’s all a bunch of little stuff. But I hope that I remember this little stuff, because I think it’s important. I hope that over 25 years from now, I can remember all of these little things and piece together what my life was like. I think it will work. I can remember a lot of stuff from the last couple of years, because that was when I started remembering little things. Like Nick Newman making a Joker out of chocolate play-dough. Or seeing a car commercial on New Years eve and hearing the words 1993 for the first time. Or being outside with Zach after Aunt Dawn and Alan’s wedding and being told that it’s “Devil’s Night”. Or TJ Bates throwing me into a tabletop sandbox. Or seeing hot air balloon and thinking that it’s funny. Or having my pants fall down while pretending to be Gambit. I’m sure adults don’t really care about these little things, but if they were their little things, maybe they’d mean something to them.

– Try this trick over the weekend: pay attention to the little things that happen. Maybe you’ll remember them when you’re old.

Have a good weekend, and GO CHARGERS!

– Troy Patrick Turnwald