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Tecmo Super Bowl championship raises funds for My Brother’s Keeper

By Joshua Staloch

HOWARD – Before there was Madden NFL every season on four different platforms in high definition and 7.1 surround sound, and long before the era of multiplayer online gaming brought faceless competition from all corners of the world into your living room, there was Tecmo Super Bowl for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

The 8-bit, button-mashing classic was wildly popular during the early days of home video gaming and still enjoys a huge cult following today.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, more than 80 retro gaming enthusiasts from as far away as Washington state and Connecticut got together at The Watering Hole in Howard for Tundra Bowl VII, the Tecmo Super Bowl National Championship.

The event is put together by Green Bay’s own Nate Smithson, himself a top ranked TSB player, and has been growing in popularity every year since its inception.

This year’s championship featured 18 Nintendos on 18 boxy old 19×23 inch televisions, which the Watering Hole is kind enough to store year round for the event, and an array of the old two-button rectangle controllers.

It went from late morning until 8 p.m. and when the dust settled, it was Joey Gats of Green Bay on top of the Division I bracket with Troy Hansen of Franklin, Wisconsin (the all-time leading scorer in Tundra Bowl history) in second and Chicago’s Jeff Gilson rounding out the top three.

“This is a good time, we get together and play a game we all love,” said Smithson, who is comfortably ranked anywhere between 12th and 18th worldwide at TBS. “There’s a generation of gamers our age now that have grown up with Tecmo Bowl or played it in college. Now, it’s time to start passing it on to the next generation. I think we’ve got a really good thing going here. We’re just going to continue to bring in guys from all over the country who are very good at the game.”

And make no mistake, this is a full-scale event taken seriously in the gaming community.

Saturday’s championship at The Watering Hole reached more than 45,000 people via Facebook (facebook.com /tundrabowl) along with additional viewers on Twitch, a video gaming livestream service that also reaches viewers worldwide.

Smithson recruits the help of eight other contributors to make the production happen each year.

There is a production table involved where six games can be streamed out at once, with no less than two people, plus an announcer who flies in each year from New York, commentating on the marquee matchups and big games.

There’s a bracketologist on hand to analyze how the day is playing out plus an analytics and stats specialist, all there to provide as much color and info to the championship as possible.

“It’s a great event, they do a very good job of putting this together,” said Billy Betts of Marinette, who was 1-1 after two early-round games on Saturday. “It’s an all day thing which makes it perfect for a cold Saturday in January. The nostalgia thing is a factor in having fun at this for sure. Growing up, I had an uncle who was really into Tecmo Bowl and we’d play every weekend at my grandparents’ house, we really played it a lot. So it’s nice to get back to that. And some of these guys are just so good at this game. It’s very competitive and just a ton of fun.”

Now that the National Championship has cemented itself as an annual event, Smithson has figured out a way to use the interest generated and put it towards a good cause.

This year’s Tundra Bowl marked the second year of a partnership with My Brother’s Keeper, a male mentoring program in Green Bay started by Harry Sydney, formerly of the San Fransisco 49ers and of course, the Green Bay Packers.

“We try to help guys, young and old, understand what it means to be a man of integrity,” said Sydney. “We try to help our clients take control of the one thing in their lives that they can control and that’s themselves. Anytime we can get support in the community, it’s a great thing. We’ve got Tecmo Super Bowl the game and I’m on that so people want to talk to me here. It’s a great opportunity to tell a few more people about what we’re doing.”

Tundra Bowl VII raised $585 dollars for My Brother’s Keeper this year, bringing the two-year total to more than $1,100.

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