The nation's largest Tecmo Super Bowl tournament will be played March 2, 2013 in Madison, Wis. Tecmo IX—Marino Royale boasts a field of 224 competitors. Interest in the already-popular tournament increased significantly after NFL Films featured the event in a 2012 documentary.
Madison is the king of Tecmo tournaments—for now. Other tournaments, such as the Midwest Tecmo Super Bowl Tournament, the Lincoln, NE Tecmo Tournament and the Southwest Louisiana Tecmo Super Bowl are growing in popularity every year.
Now a new player has emerged on the Tecmo scene.
The North Alabama Tecmo Bowl Association held the first annual North Alabama Tecmo Championship Saturday night at the Chelsey Oaks Golf Course in Fairview, Ala. Twenty competitors from three states comprised the tournament field.
The competition began with group play, after which the top two players from each group advanced to the QB Eagles Elite bracket; the remaining contestants were seeded in the David Fulcher bracket.
The competition was fierce. Once the dust settled, the Derrick Thomas Award was presented to the first-ever North Alabama Tecmo champion.
Here is how it went down.
Tournament organizer Jason Pearce billed the contest as "The toughest two buttons in video gaming history." The going got tough early in group play.
The red, blue and purple groups each had a three-game winner and a two-game winner, while the green and yellow groups both had three-way ties between players who finished group play 2-1.
Pearce dominated the red group. In three games, he gave up only three points—a performance that earned him the Defensive MVP for group play. The lone mark against Pearce on the scoreboard was a field goal by Jason Payne. After losing to Pearce, Payne posted solid wins against Dustin Tanner and Adam Harris to secure a spot in the QB Eagles Elite bracket.
Clint Crane came out of the blue group undefeated. Crane scored a total of 91 points in group play—good enough for the Offensive MVP award. Brian Neal was the blue group's runner-up. Neal beat Zak Watson 20-14. Those six points put Neal in the QB Eagles Elite bracket and Watson in the David Fulcher bracket.
In the green group, Green Majik, Cale Abernathy and Gridiron OG each won two and lost one. The rules stipulate that in the case of a three-way tie, the point differentials determine who advances to the QB Eagles bracket. Abernathy easily took the top spot with a point differential of plus-45.
The second spot, however, was decided by only two points: Green Majik (plus-nine) over Gridiron OG (plus-seven).
Point differential was no issue in the purple group. Had it been, Seth Silverblatt would have been in good shape at plus-72.
Silverblatt concluded his 3-0 group-play run by beating Al Burns 21-0. Burns took second place in the purple group, an accomplishment that ultimately earned him a rematch with Silverblatt.
I would like to report on the games above in more detail, but I was busy...
I can speak with more insight regarding the yellow group—because I played in it.
The 2013 North Alabama Tecmo Championship was my first Tecmo tournament. Going in, I was unsure what to expect from the level of competition. Nonetheless, I felt I would have a chance to win. I knew this was not Madison or Lincoln; I assumed some contingent of the field would describe themselves as recreational players. Many surprises awaited me.
I found out several days before the tournament that my first opponent in group play would be a gentleman who calls himself Suicide King. I did not know what to make of that. I could see from his posts at TecmoBowl.org that he was a successful online player and an established member of the Tecmo community.
When I sat down to play against Suicide King, I was nervous. I began playing Tecmo in 1991; I had never before been intimidated. He took an early lead, and then I started to out-think myself.
In the second quarter, my psychological state got the better of me.
Thinking it a rational decision given the limited possessions in a game, I tried to convert a fourth down that I never would have gone for in a casual game with a friend. I turned it over on downs, and my opponent made me pay. Final score: Suicide King (K.C.) 24-Dowdy (CHI) 7.
I was not too discouraged after the loss. I thought I might have just lost to the best player in the tournament and that I would face him again in the QB Eagles bracket. From a pre-tournament discussion with Jason Pearce, I got the impression I was better than either of the remaining players in my group, Josh Abernathy and Jullian Gagnon.
Imagine my surprise when, prior to my next game against Jullian, I saw Josh Abernathy defeat Suicide King 13-7. Suddenly, the yellow group picture was not so clear.
My matchup was a heck of a game. I got took a 10-0 lead, but then Jullian started making plays on both sides of the ball.
The stats show just how tight the game was:
After five quarters, we were tied at 10. We started a new game to create a second overtime. I had to punt my first possession of overtime, but then Gagnon fumbled, and I kicked a field goal to win 13-10.
I then beat Josh Abernathy 24(DAL)-3(ATL) in a game much closer than the score indicates—he fumbled twice deep in his own territory. The victory ultimately caused a three-way tie for first in our group. My score differential was eight points better than Abernathy's, earning me a play-in game for the QB Eagles bracket.
The play-in game was as far as I got. Green Majik shut me down 24(G.B.)-21 (N.O.). I made a couple of bad plays; he made several good plays. I was down 14 in the fourth before heaving a long touchdown pass to Eric Martin. Majik then threw an interception, and I tied the game at 21.
Unfortunately, I botched the ensuing kickoff, resulting in an inadvertent onside kick, which Majik recovered. Already in field-goal range, Majik made a few good plays to get close enough for a very high-percentage kick.
That is how my first Tecmo tournament ended—in a mix of satisfaction and frustration. I was glad I competed, though I felt like I could have done better. I was happy to have won a couple of games.
I was done, but the action was not.
Dustin Tanner defeated Tyler Thomas, and Wesley Thomas beat Derek Moody in the play-in games to make the David Fulcher bracket. Josh Abernathy, Jullian Gagnon, Zak Watson, Adam Harris, Jay Loony and Gridiron OG filled the remaining spots.
The closest game in this bracket was Gagnon's 17-14 win over Watson in the quarterfinals. Gagnon beat Abernathy in the semifinals and then Wesley Thomas in the final to win the David Fulcher bracket.
All the work of establishing the North Alabama Tecmo Championship, as well as all the action of group play—every blitz, every fierce tap-out, every desperate scramble—culminated in the seeding for the QB Eagles Elite bracket. After Green Majik and Al Burns won play-in games, the final eight players were three wins from glory.
Of the remaining players, Burns was easily the biggest surprise. He did not preregister for the tournament. He came along with a friend, but after one of the registered players cancelled last minute, Burns was coaxed in to playing, his entry fee paid by Cale Abernathy.
By Burns' own account, his Tecmo experience was limited. His tenacity, however, was not.
During downtime between matchups, while everyone else was making small talk, watching games or drinking beer, Burns was at an empty station, playing the computer and taking notes. The clearest indication of Burns' unfamiliarity with Tecmo was his playbook selections, comprised of plays unpopular among most accomplished players. He used slow-developing runs and easily identifiable passing formations.
Conventional wisdom would have predicted little success for Burns. To the contrary, he won two games in group play and then a play-in game to reach the quarterfinals, where he faced previously unbeaten Jason Pearce. In a back-and-forth game riddled with close calls and fumbles, Burns came out on top: Saints 21-Chargers 20.
Burns' victory was not the only quarterfinal decided by that score. Clint Crane guided Detroit to a 21-20 win over Green Majik and the Jets.
The other two quarterfinals both featured outstanding defensive efforts. Jason Payne used Indianapolis to defeat Cale Abernathy and New England 10-3. Seth Silverblatt, playing with Washington, eliminated Suicide King 14-0.
In the first semifinal, Jason Payne (Chargers) matched up Clint Crane (Broncos). Crane was considered the favorite by tournament competitors familiar with both Tecmoers, but Payne pulled off the upset 28-17.
In the other semifinal, Al Burns faced the one competitor who had beaten him in group play: Seth Silverblatt. Here is where Burns' run—at least at the Derrick Thomas Award—comes to an end. Silverblatt shut down Burns' unconventional playbook and poured on the offense: Denver 37-San Diego 14.
Nonetheless, the curious case of Al Burns concluded with a win. He beat Clint Crane in the third-place game to win the first-ever North Alabama Tecmo Championship QB Bills Award.
The field of 20 was now down to two.
With 47 games (including the David Fulcher Bracket) on the books, only 20 minutes of Tecmo remained.
Jason Payne selected the matchup—Bills vs. Raiders. Seth Silverblatt chose to play with the Raiders. Payne would soon regret giving Silverblatt the opportunity to run the ball with Bo Jackson.
Silverblatt established his running game early and never looked back. He forced Payne to focus on stopping Bo—that was no surprise.
What drew reaction from the crowd was that Silverblatt also ran successfully with Jay Schroeder, both on the run-4 QB sneak and from passing formations. Silverblatt's strategy and execution produced a 25-10 victory.
For finishing second in the tournament, Payne was presented with the Bo Jackson Award—an ironic accomplishment both because Payne is an Alabama football fan and he had just surrendered 255 yards to Bo in the championship game.
Seth Silverblatt took home the Derrick Thomas Award as the first-ever winner of the North Alabama Tecmo Championship.
After the tournament, Silverblatt spoke about the keys to victory.
"I went into the NATSB with a lot of confidence, and that carried over throughout the tournament. I stuck to my bread and butter of playing great defense and running the ball, which solidified my title run. I did not let nerves get to me, and it helped to never be trailing the entire tournament. I kept my opponents on their heels all night long with my play-calling, but in the end, defense wins championships."
Silverblatt is currently on the wait list for this weekend's Tecmo IX in Madison, Wis.
Jason Pearce and other tournament organizers are already scheming for next year. The 2014 tournament likely will be held under a different name to reflect a broader geographic scope (e.g. The Southeastern Tecmo Championship). Pearce said the goal for 2014 is to have at least 48 players.
The North Alabama Tecmo Championship was a lot of fun. The level of play was high, and the event was well-planned and efficiently operated. Much gratitude is owed to all those who worked to make it happen, especially the supporters who handled setting up the facility as well as preparing and serving the food. Next year's tournament promises to be even better.
Josh Dowdy is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.