Today is Tecmo Madison 11, the de facto world championship for 1991 NES classic Tecmo Super Bowl. Two hundred fifty competitors — all of them playing on native hardware and CRT televisions — will vie for a $2,200 grand prize and the right to say what millions have boasted to friends, siblings and roommates: “I’m the best at Tecmo Bowl.”
If you’ve never been, Tecmo Madison is a must for any sports fan with an interest in video games. The tournament is held in a quintessentially midwestern location, a bowling alley in Madison, Wis., and is scheduled at the midpoint of the doldrums between the Super Bowl and the beginning of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. There is plenty of drinking there (and even guys wearing Zubaz).
If, like me, you’re not any good and go winless in the group stage, it’s still a legitimately compelling spectator event, and you can catch the action here (or on TecmoBowl.org’s Twitch stream.)
Watch live video from TecmoBowl on www.twitch.tv
Things should begin around 10 a.m. ET with a “reading” from “The Book of LT,” Lawrence Taylor’s biography/love note to crack. Then 32 groups of 6 to 8 players will commence a round-robin taking all morning and most of the afternoon. That will be followed by a knockout stage whittling 64 players down to eight. There’ll be another reading from The Book of LT, then a double-elimination final concluding sometime around 10 p.m. ET.
Last year, Kyle Miller of Elkhart, Ind., made his third straight appearance in a grand final against tournament co-founder Chet Holzbauer and finally broke through, winning 14-0 with the Denver Broncos against the San Diego Chargers.
Because they’re playing the original game on original hardware, watching Tecmo Madison is a throwback for NFL fans to 1991, with names like Hardy Nickerson, Marion Butts and Haywood Jeffires running around all day. They’re joined by players like Green Bay’s Bob Nelson and Tampa Bay’s Wayne Haddix, who thanks to ratings irregularities found football immortality in a video game instead of on the field.
Don’t expect to see much of Bo Jackson, however. Under Tecmo Madison’s format, the winner of a pre-game coin toss picks the two teams that will used; the loser then chooses one of them. It is suicide to offer any matchup involving the ultra-powerful Los Angeles Raiders, who were never seen in last year’s tournament, even if the other team is the San Francisco 49ers (which were only seen five times at Tecmo Madison 10).
Topflight Tecmo Super Bowl competitors like Francis “Mort” Buennagel and his brother, Louis, of Buffalo, grace the field once again. They’ll be joined by the Vogts of Ohio, led by Matt and Chris; James “Skunker” Thomas, and the aforementioned Miller and Holzbauer. Also-rans like Jon Bailey and Tony “Eat Shit” Orenga also are expected to appear.
For more on Tecmo Madison, see NFL Films’ feature on the game and the tournament from 2012, along with testimonials from NFL players who enjoyed the game as kids.