Baseball Stars, a peak in many ways…

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Merry Christmas.

It’s nice to be able to write that and know that a few thousand people might read it.  Or at least glance over it.  I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday.

I used to love Christmas.  I guess I still do, but I used to really love it. Presents. Presents. Presents.  It was all about waking up early and tearing into presents.

My family has never been overly wealthy.  My mother and stepfather are both educators and the most elaborate gift I received as a child was an original Nintendo Entertainment System with 12 games, including Tecmo Superbowl, Duck Hunt, Contra and the almighty Baseball Stars.  That was in 1998, 15 years after the NES came out and close 10 years after most of those games were first released.

But I didn’t care.  I was 11 years old and it was my first video game system.  I absolutely loved it.

You could create teams from scratch in Baseball Stars and run an entire club just like a real-life general manager, hiring and firing at will.  My older brothers Ryan and Evan kind of ran things back then and usually hogged the two controllers that we had with little fight from me.  They created the ’97 Braves, the ’97 Indians, the ’97 Orioles and the ’97 Mariners.  We had just moved to St. Louis, Missouri, so they probably made the ’97 Cardinals as well.  I don’t know, I don’t really remember.

What I do remember is playing game after game until our parents demanded that it was time for bed.  Then I remember sneaking out of bed and continuing the fun.  It wasn’t PlayStation, or Nintendo 64 or any of those other modern systems that my friends at school were playing, but it was a blast.

Now it’s 2010, almost 2011.  I still play video games all the time with friends and I love few things more than my PlayStation 3.  The graphics are stunning, Sony’s MLB: The Show features 120-year dynasties and you no longer have to spend a whole day creating accurate rosters.  The 2010 Cardinals are provided — with spot-on batting stances, stunningly lifelike pitching deliveries and even a deep farm system.

It’s great.  But it’s not the same.

My brother Evan lives in Chicago now (he writes for ProFootballTalk and Rotoworld) and my brother Ryan has called Kansas City home for the last few years.  We talk regularly and get together plenty, but I can’t remember the last time we all crammed on a two-man couch and beat the piss out of the Ninja Blacksox.

I heard Bobby Bowden suggest recently that ‘the good old days’ probably weren’t all that good.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe this nostalgia nonsense is, well, nonsense.

Whatever the case, I’m glad I’ll always have those memories and I’m glad that the holidays force us to reunite at least once a year.  Now if I could just find that old NES…