Merry Christmas, everyone.
As you know, this is the most wonderful time of the year. We have early sports deadlines this week so your sportswriter can have Christmas with family, so if something is missing from the sports section we’ll catch you up next week.
Like many of you, I’ve always loved Christmas. There’s nothing like the joy of a child on Christmas Eve, anticipating the arrival of Santa. It’s great when you’re a child, and when you get older it’s just as great to watch the children, maybe even better.
I can remember one particular present when I was a child, and it’s right up there with my first bike. I wanted one of those electric football games that were so popular in the ’50s, ’60s and ‘70s, way before the EA Sports folks put out the John Madden game. That Madden game is about as close to real football as you can get without putting on a helmet.
When I was a kid my neighbor down the street had one of those electric football games and we spent hours sitting on the floor playing. If you’ve never played, it’s a simple premise. Each team has 11 little players and a football field hooked up to something that makes the field vibrate. One player arranges his men in an offensive formation and the other does the same on defense.
The play starts when you flip the switch that makes the field vibrate, and the players move around on the gridiron. The play ends when a defensive player bumps the man with the ball, resulting in a tackle.
There’s a lot of strategy to the game. First of all, you have to know your little players. Some of them will go straight and some of them will just go around in circles. Usually the guys that go straight are the backs and the ones who just go around in circles are linemen.
Most of the time you’re going to run the ball in electric football, as passing is very difficult. You have one “passer-kicker” who is shared by both teams. It’s a two-dimensional metal player, and to pass you put the magnetic football in his raised hand, pull it back, and try to hit a receiver with the ball when you let go. It’s almost impossible to complete a pass, sort of like Russell Wilson this season.
As for the kicker, it’s somewhat the same concept. You put the magnetic football on his foot and when you push down on a lever it kicks the ball. You can easily kick the ball the entire length of the field, but it’s tough to put it through the goal posts, so normally you would go for it on fourth down and go for two on extra points. In other words, “just run the ball.” I expect offensive line coaches love this game.
Anyway, my neighbor had the game and I wanted one for myself for Christmas. I let my desires be known and was hoping to open a package on Christmas morning and be playing by noon when my mom was cooking our Christmas dinner. Only thing is, Santa didn’t bring one.
I don’t remember what was under the tree that year but it wasn’t an electric football game. I’m sure it was something nice, as my very middle class parents always made sure my sister and I had a good Christmas. However, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.
Then my grandparents showed up for dinner. I looked out the window as they walked up the snow-lined sidewalk to our front door and what, to my surprise, did I see? My grandfather was holding a large, rectangular package that was just about the right size for electric football. As I ripped off the paper I was not only thrilled to see it was, indeed, the game, but it was the high end of the line model.
Apparently, that was par for the course for my grandparents. My mother often said her dad was frugal with his money, but when he bought something he bought the best. For an example, she always mentioned how she didn’t get a bike until she was 14 years old, but when she got one it was the best you could buy. In fact, our family still has that bike.
The football game was a sight to behold. It had three dimensional characters, posed in different positions like linemen, linebackers and running backs. The playing field was larger than my friend down the street’s game and instead of a metal field it was cork board with cool graphics surrounded by a metal base. It even came with a grandstand that could be attached around one side of the field and a large scoreboard behind the end zone. I played that game many, many times, sometimes with friends but often just by myself.
I don’t know what happened to that football game. I also had one of those hockey games and I know what happened to it. I took it to college one year and it was played 24 hours around the clock at my fraternity house before someone broke it beyond repair.
Upon “googling” electric football I was surprised to see that they still make the game. The Tudor company has a site where you can purchase a game customized to your favorite NFL team. The field has the name of your team in the end zone and the logo on the 50-yard line, and you can even order the players in NFL uniforms. It will set you back over $300 and I imagine some of the figures still go around in circles.
Why you would buy that game today when you can play NFL Madden, I have no idea. However, I do know back in 1962 one little boy got a present he still remembers fondly 60 years later.