Since my real-life sports loyalties rarely win, sports computer games provide desperate relief.

On the IBM PS2, I had Pete Rose Pennant Fever. You take an expansion team, drop it in one of baseball's divisions, sign free agents from both a pool of rookies and hall-of-famers (some long dead), and win as much as possible in ten seasons. The players on your team had a first initial and last name, whereas the other teams had first names and last initials. I assume the game could not secure rights to current players, but come on, there's only one guy named Chili.

Pennant Fever used an interesting alphanumeric rating system to determine success at the plate. 1-10 indicated greater chance for a hit, with ten the highest. A-F determined power, with A being the biggest bashers. Therefore, the game prized a player with a 10a batting rating. Speed and arm ratings, along with pitching, used a more conventional numeric rating system.

Again, CGA graphics FTL

1-0 Football Manager

My favorite soccer game is not any interation of FIFA. It's 1-0 Football Manager, a DOS game that came out in 1992. It is entirely text-driven, with the actual game a whirling series of keyboard icons racing up and down the field. The concept is simple; take over a team and try not to get fired.

Basics: You choose either the English or Scottish version when beginning a new game. In the English version, you have a Premier League (blue) plus three lower dvisions (green, pink, brown), and a non-league division (purple). There is a Super League (yellow) and a bunch of non-English European teams (red). You can only take over the English league teams, or a Super League team. All leagues are 16 teams.

Players: You can only carry two substitutes per game, and 20 players total on your roster. Ratings, value and skills should be obvious. Players improve, generally, every 2-3 years, peaking around age 27. Skills and value decline around age 29-30, except for the goalkeepers, who last quite a bit longer. Players taken from non-English teams improve at a much greater rate.

Youth players: You can hire youth players (age 15-17) for peanuts if you really need to fill out the roster without breaking the bank.

Staff: You can hire and fire an assistant, a physio and a scout. The better they are, the more improvement you'll see in players, the less time they'll spend hurt, and the less money you'll spend on players.

Formations: You can play just about any crazy formation you desire. I stick with a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2. Outside players like left/right backs, left/right mids and left/right wingers are not as common and harder to acquire for some reason. In a 3-5-2, I usually play sweeper, 2 CB, DM, CM, LM, RM, FM, 2 strikers. One of those left/right midfielders is sometimes another player playing out of position. 

Transactions: The transfer window is always open, featuring players not under contract. You can also bid on players under contract, though expect to pay more.

Injuries: It happens.

Suspensions: Two yellow cards or one red card will equal a one-game suspension.

Internationals: Players not belonging to your team's home nation will miss games periodically for international duty. This generally applies to players worth $900,000 or more. Since you're most likely commanding an English team, it is imperative you have as many Englishmen as possible, otherwise you'll have a hard time fielding a team some weeks.

Cups: English soccer provides a League Cup and an FA Cup. There are three European Cups: European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup. Winning the Premier League lands you in the European Cup, the most prestigious of the three. Winning the League Cup sends you to the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup winner goes to the Cup Winners Cup. You must reach the final of a European tournament to gain entry into the prestigious Super League.

Strategy: I find most satisfaction in starting with a lower-league team and building that team all the way to the Super League. When I downloaded the game for DOS Box and re-learned everything, I took a league two team to the Premier League in seven seasons, and then into the Super League about five seasons later. After several more seasons, they fired me for being 9th in the table about a third of the way through the season. Another English team that had just gotten into Super League immediately hired me because I'm awesome. Sometimes I get bored and take a lower-league team's offer just to build another team up and see how long my old team lasts in Super League. For players, you'll get the hang of buying low and selling high quickly. I like to buy players ages 19-21 and sell them at age 27-28, unless a really good offer comes along somewhere in between. Buy a $350,000 player at age 20 and sell him for twice that price at age 27. Scour the other teams at the beginning of each season for promising young players, especially those from your home nation (usually England). Remember, the players from non-English teams will appreciate much more, even the English players.

Sundries: This is the one variable preventing you from becoming the supreme oligarch of the game. If your team funds exceed $15 million, you'll be hit with a $4 million sundries payment. Think of it as a luxury tax that keeps you in line.

Keeping your job: The higher you are on the ladder, the higher the expectations. I've been fired for being 7th-9th in the table. Relegation? You're sooooo sacked. If you're managing a non-English team in the Super League and you get relegated, it's automatic. If you get relegated maybe one or two seasons after promotion in the English leagues, sometimes you can keep your job.


I also had Micro League Football and Micro League Soccer, where one could lord over huge leagues of invented teams with phony names. I still use many of the names from the micro league games in NCAA Football on the PS2. That's really what I liked anyway, not necessarily exacting my revenge on the sports world, but inventing names and seeing them on the screen next to statistics, and later on the backs of uniforms with numbers selected by me. That is my true joy.