By Chris Vogt
AP Tecmo Writer
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — If there’s a Tecmo Super Bowl tournament within a reasonable drive, Francis Buennagel is there.
The Buffalo native won’t coin himself as the country’s best Tecmo player, but he will admit that the amount of tourney experience has him ranked as one of the most sought-after players to ever play the game.
Numerous tournaments from around the nation have been known to put a monetary bounty on Mort, Buennagel’s notorious alias.
“It makes me want to play better,” said Buennagel, 29. “There isn’t any more pressure.”
Buennagel will be making his fifth appearance at Midwest on July 27, and he has expert Tecmo advice for bounty hunters and new participants.
“As for where people rank, I still think that players in their first few live tournaments have a few hard lessons to learn,” Mort said. “Even if you had played online, I think the realities of tourney play are not going to come easy.
“It’s tough to be really consistent and getting tougher all the time,” Mort added. “Yet there has never been a better time to get your first exposure. The environment is more conductive to a newer player than it was just a couple of years ago.”
MORT AND HIS EARLY YEARS
Tecmo Super Bowl was a game Mort said he had to have when he was younger.
“You took one look at it and knew you wanted to play it,” he said. “Even though I think we had to have been the last kids around that year to get it.”
But Mort got the game in 1991. That’s all that mattered.
And so the dedication began.
Just like any other Tecmo enthusiast, he never stopped playing through high school — leading up to this day.
“I would play the computer since no one else wanted to play,” Mort said. “I even bought a new Nintendo in 1994 when mine broke. And despite having newer gaming systems, I just couldn’t go on if Tecmo couldn’t play.
“In hindsight, I’m surprised at how often I would run seasons versus the computer on the Nintendo and Sega versions,” Mort added. “It wasn’t until 2002 I discovered online play.”
ONLINE PLAY: “AN OLD GIRLFRIEND”
But Mort recently has taken his Tecmo talents away from online play.
Mort said he likes online Tecmo, but at the same time he doesn’t like it.
“Online Tecmo I guess is kind of like an old girlfriend,” Mort said. “I like online Tecmo, yet I don’t like it. I don’t think I’ll ever play an online game again till the timing is the same as a live game.”
He said he does recommend it for other people.
“It’s a great way to get games in and to meet people,” Mort said. “You make friends that last forever.
“It’s just that as much as online play can help, it can hold you back,” Mort added. “Winning a live game comes down to precise timing while an online game comes down to imprecise timing. You can pull off great jukes online that do not exist in an offline game.”
TECMO 101: MORT’S TECMO COLLEGE
Mort’s Tecmo expertise isn’t just shown through his live tourney or online experience.
He’s currently the only Tecmo Super Bowl player known to post an updated opinionation blog about how to basically play the best Tecmo you can.
Mort’s first student: his own brother.
Louis Buennagel, without a sign of doubt, credits Mort with shaping him into a well-rounded player thanks to his brother’s TSB training camps.
Louis was forced to play in tourneys with Mort nearly four years when he went 0-5 in his first Midwest in 2009.
With a lesson plan from Mort, Louis made it to last year’s Midwest championship game — when he lost to the unofficial best Tecmo player Chet Holzbauer.
“He’s been an experiment,” Mort said.
NFL FILMS CREATES A STAR
Mort said he isn’t one to talk during his live Tecmo games.
But the NFL Films Presents: Tecmo Super Bowl documentary proved to expose his quirky and eccentric characteristics.
“I’ve been waiting all day to try that move out.”
“The force is with him.”
Those were just a few lines from the feature that made Mort an iconic Tecmo Super Bowl figure.
He even says licking a Nintendo cartridge helps it work better — a gesture caught on film.
“My fame hasn’t really changed my day to day life,” Mort said. “Mentally the feature has made it so I’m even more recognized so I do try harder to live up to my reputation. A little more showmanship, but as for winning, I try to win every game either way.
“The film thing makes it so everyone brings their A game when playing me — which is nice, as I love a challenge.”
AN OCCASIONAL TECMO BREAK
Mort typically doesn’t play year-round, like most Tecmoers.
There’s a small period where he goes into hibernation.
“I take a two to three month break from Tecmo yearly,” Mort said. “Which normally is not much of a problem as this used to be a dry period.”
But with tourneys sprouting up everywhere, he’s surprised if he gets that month or two off.
“I always felt that taking large periods of time away from a problem or challenge makes me better,” Mort said.
After a strong finish at Madison Tecmo in March, Mort said he’s ready to come out of hibernation.
“I gotta start practicing so I am ready for the summer tourneys,” he said. “I feel like my game is always getting better. If all goes well I hope to place highly in the two Ohio (Youngstown and Midwest) tourneys.”
Mort is 23-7 in his last four major Tecmo tournament appearances.
Chris Vogt is a national Tecmo Super Bowl writer. Follow this reporter on Twitter @vogtcd.