How Tecmo Super Bowl Made Me A Chargers Fan

William RisserCorrespondent IMay 20, 2009

The year was 1991 and I had just finished my first year of high school. "Boyz n the Hood" was in theaters, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was grunging it up, and Tecmo had just released the first football video game the was officially licensed by the NFL: Tecmo Super Bowl.

This was, as I'm sure some of you are familiar, huge. You finally got to play with the real players on the real teams. It was the new and improved follow up to Tecmo Bowl, released three years earlier, which we played incessantly.

So Happy 21st birthday Tecmo Bowl, shots on me!

It seems prehistoric now, but it was a sports video game revelation. My friends and I spent hours and hours playing with NFL teams we seldom saw and weren't familiar with. Some of these friends still play on their iPhones today.

Living in the D.C. area, all we saw were the Redskins, Eagles, and Giants.

But if there was a West coast team on TV back east it was the 49ers or the Raiders. Never the Chargers.

The Chargers, circa 1991, had a solid defense and ran the ball well, which are my favorite attributes in a team. That fact holds true to this day, and from then on, I followed the Chargers.

They weren't the best, but they had it where it counted, which made them fun as hell to play with. So from then on out, when ever we played, I played as the Chargers. 

The backfield featured the three headed monster of Marion Butts, Ronnie Harmon, and Rod Bernstine

Butts was a beast that mercilessly tossed defenders with a blend of speed and power. Harmon was a slick receiver out of the backfield and one of the best all around players of his day, while Bernstine was a punishing third back.

Quinn Early was the lone deep threat while Billy Joe Tolliver's moon-ball arm would spray passes all over the place.

Wide-out Anthony Miller and fullback Joe Caravello were reliable on shorter routes.

There were only eight plays, four pass and four run, to choose from so you got to know the players on every team pretty well. It represented a new era of fanatic fandom.

The better quarterbacks like Elway and Marino had strong arms that would laser the ball, but you could still throw it the length of the field no matter how strong the quarterback's arm was.

It wasn't exactly realistic, but it was sweet. To see the ball disappear off the top of the screen while it travelled the 70 or so yards before reappearing down field was ridiculous.

Just another aspect of Tecmo Super Bowl's awesomeness. There are many.

Gil Byrd was an interception machine at corner and probably my favorite player on the team.

Gary Plummer and Leslie O'Neal led the defense which included a young Junior Seau. They could stuff the run and get after the quarterback. What more did you need?

I watched the 1995 Super Bowl blowout to the Niners on a portable television outside my job at Stanford Shopping Center. Thank God for California's outdoor malls.

I wanted to see the Chargers take it, but Stan Humphries and company didn't have a prayer.

It was so strange to see Plummer celebrating as a 49er after close to a decade in San Diego. 

While back east over Christmas break, I got caught in the blizzard of '96. After doing some extreme sledding on the hood of a car, six of us holed up in a friend's house with some 7-11 vittles for a Tecmo Super Bowl tournament.

That house did not smell all that great after two days, but there wasn't a better way to be snowed in. 

I lived in San Diego this past playoffs, which gave me a front row seat to the insanity of the hometown fans.

It was a good show on Fifth Ave. for the OT win over the Colts and on Pacific Beach for the Pittsburgh loss. I look forward to more of this.

Now it's Rivers running the offense with Tomlinson, Gates, Jackson, and now Sproles, while the defense showcases the freakish skills of Merriman and Cromartie.

A step above the '91 squad to be sure, but that's the team that made me the Chargers fan I am today.