College football media days got underway this week, and while they're not as bizarre and decadent as the Super Bowl's — yet — the reporters attending are coming up with some novel ways to get coaches and players to open up. Here's the best I've seen so far.
Joe Ovies, of Raleigh, N.C.'s WRAL-FM, brought his Nintendo Entertainment System and a Sony Trinitron to the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff in Charlotte. He wanted to see how the coaches shuttling from table to table would respond to the deep playbook inside the landmark Tecmo Super Bowl, which launched in December 1991.
Unsurprisingly, there's a generational gap among those Ovies talked to. But it's the older guys who show more knowledge. State's Dave Doeren, who is 44 and was in college from 1990 to 1994, seemed to be the only one literate in playing Tecmo Super Bowl itself. His team was always Kansas City, and that’s a solid pick (you see it all the time at Tecmo Madison).
But apparently he didn't break down plays like head coaches Larry Fedora of North Carolina and David Cutcliffe of Duke. Neither of them are video gamers (Fedora is 52, Cutcliffe 62). But handed the controller and asked to pick four passing plays for their playbook, and the coach just leaps right out of them. They can’t help themselves.
They instantly recognize the plays and why they’d be useful (of course, they're coaches). But then they call out how that play was used in 1991 and the specific personnel it was designed for that season.
This leaves me with an even more profound admiration for the Tecmo designers, working in practical isolation in Japan, in coming up with the best licensed sports simulation video game of its time. It's almost specimen A of the genre, and the coaches' finger-snap understanding of its 8-bit playbook underlines that.
Still, "I can think faster than I can punch buttons," Cutcliffe said. So don't expect him to be very good at Tecmo Super Bowl.