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Volume 71, Issue 135, Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Life & Arts

JASON POLAND

Dad knows best when it comes to NES

I was surprised to find out recently that my dad purchased an old Nintendo Entertainment System on eBay. This surprised me for two reasons: that he wanted a Nintendo to play for himself, and that he was using the Internet to buy something. I usually poke fun at the old man for what he does and doesn't know about technology, but at 65, he's doing a fine job. You should see all the DVDs he owns.

I asked him why he wanted a Nintendo of his own, and he told me something that surprised me even further. Dad actually bought our first Nintendo -- the one I still own, for himself to play. Both my sister Amy and I were too young to play at first; even later, we still had to look away from the TV screen and down at the buttons on the controller to know which one to press next. Here I was all this time selfishly thinking the Nintendo was just a Christmas present for us kids. He said he played all the time before Amy and I took it over; his favorite games were Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, and 1942, a top-scrolling World War II fighter plane shoot 'em up. He always played with us, helping us to remember which buttons to press. There were only a few buttons to choose from, but Amy and I were only about 7 and 4 years old at the time, respectively, and this was our first introduction to the video game.

Dad always periodically brought home new games from Kmart, and Amy and I kept or vetoed them within the hour. It didn't take us very long to find out that the NES adaptation of the Hunt for Red October was as boring and tedious to 7- and 4-year-old as the movie was. He returned it to the store almost immediately. On Fridays, he took me to Fred's Video, where I would pick out a game to rent for the weekend. One time, I made him search all around town for Mega Man 2; I just had to play it and nothing else would do. In retrospect, that was a really bratty thing for me to do to my dad.

In an effort to get me to participate in exercise, another favorite pastime of my father's who was coaching at the high school, he bought the Power Pad controller accessory, and he and I would plug it into the Nintendo and race each other in the game that came with it. He was happy to see me frantically pounding away in my bare feet on the electronic mat, finally beating Cheetah, the fastest runner on World Class Track Meet.

A few Christmases later, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was welcomed into the Poland household and the boxy NES began to collect dust. All of my friends were selling their old Nintendo Systems and cartridges to get money to buy SNES games, and Dad said he had to stop me from trying to sell ours. I can't believe I would've ever thought of such a thing. 

Dad always collected baseball cards and knew the value of holding onto "keepsakes," as he called them. Together, we routinely boxed up McDonald's Happy Meal toys in their original wrappings along with all my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, which are still in the attic. Some people might call it pack-ratting, but I'll always remember the story he told me about the time my grandmother threw out all his baseball cards when he was a kid. His collection now is extremely valuable; I can't imagine how much more it would be worth if his mother understood the value of his first collection all those years ago.

So I kept the Nintendo, thanks to my dad, and still have it to this day, and it works as well as it ever did (with a little bit of blowing into the game cartridges, of course).

This will be my last column about Nintendo games in The Daily Cougar. With any luck, I will graduate this semester, and I know my dad will be especially proud. I would like to dedicate this last column to my father. Without his guidance, I wouldn't have the love and appreciation for the memories and keepsakes of a bygone era. We should never outgrow what we love and we certainly shouldn't throw it away. Keep what you love safe and close to your heart. Just keep it for keepsake, lest we toil in search for it again and again in the heaps of what we choose to forget.

Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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