Cheap Seats: In My Dreams
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2004-09-16
Category: Washington Redskins News
I have won the Heisman Trophy. I have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. I have drank from Lord Stanley’s Cup. I have also felt the glow of the spotlight after being named the Most Valuable Player in those same leagues. I have challenged Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach and won. And I have won NASCAR’s Winston (now NEXTEL) Cup so many times that I should be their cover boy. I am so talented that I can throw for 300 yards to win a NCAA or NFL championship the same night that I score 3 goals in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals and then take the checkers at Daytona. In my dreams, right? Wrong.

Thanks to the wonderful video game industry, (my special thanks to the folks at ESPN, EA Sports and Sony (Playstation I &II)), many of us can now live out our dreams of playing professional sports. Now, before you start rolling your eyes because you’re not a “gamer”, you should understand that the video gaming world has been growing exponentially since the advent of the Atari 2600, the Colecovision and the Activision. I can still remember getting excited when Atari rolled out their “Real Sports” series in which the baseball game included such huge innovations such as a small cloud of dirt that arose when a runner slide into a base as well as ball carriers who actually went down when tackled in the football title. We have come a long way since then and so too has the video game industry as each year it seems the games get more “true to life”. Since Nintendo first launched Tecmo Bowl, a game that many consider to be the genesis of sports games as we now know them, fans have demanded more of their games and the producers have answered those demands.

The games being made today are so realistic that some innocent bystanders may mistake the ESPN cut-ins and post-game wrap-ups as real ESPN programming. In fact, many drivers in the NASCAR series (both BUSCH and NEXTEL) have used the EA Sports NASCAR titles to assist them in driving at some of the newer and more difficult tracks on the circuit. Most of the sports titles now have big name sports figures being used as consultants as well as capturing their real movements to be used in the game. Many games have long offered the “create-a-player” option which allows the user to create themselves in the game (and no, I don’t have to lie about my dimensions in the game). I mean how cool is it that you can see yourself lining up with Lavar or slamming Cowboy quarterbacks to the turf. Add to that the new option of being able to import your actual picture to be used as your face and it isn’t hard to see that for a few hours reality could take a back seat to fantasy.

I have played video sports games for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite stories is the year that I got Tecmo Bowl II for Christmas. My brother and I found it in the stash of Christmas gifts in my parents closet and one night while my parents were out for the evening my brother skillfully sliced the plastic at the bottom of the package and out came the familiar gray cartridge that would occupy our minds for the time until that Christmas morning. It would be only then that we would be able to finish the season that we started that night.

I believe that children should be active in sports and other extracurricular activities and spend as much time away from the television as possible. But I find the video sports world a place to escape after a long day at work (where I am far from being a hero) or a stressful day at school where a kid might not have the skills necessary to excel at his or her favorite sport. No, it doesn’t replace the benefits of participating in physical activity, but there are far worse things that a kid (or adult) could do than play video games. Even if they do have to wait until their kids (and wife) go to bed so they can get some precious uninterrupted game time. Speaking of which, I hear the bed time stories coming to an end in the kids’ room, that can mean only one thing…its game time!

Be sure to stop back next week and check the view from the Cheap Seats…

-Wingman
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