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Norman Sas, inventor of Electric Football, dies at 87

electricfootball

The generation that grew up on video games may find this hard to believe, but there was once a time when football fans could entertain themselves for hours by playing a low-tech game featuring inch-tall plastic players moving around chaotically on a vibrating metal football field. The game was Electric Football, and it grew so popular that more than 40 million copies of the game have been sold.

Electric Football was the brainchild of Norman Sas, who, according to the Hackensack Record, died on June 28 at the age of 87. Sas invented Electric Football in 1948, but it was in 1967, when he signed a deal with the NFL to put team colors and player names on his tiny plastic players, that the game really took off.

For the first decade or so of its partnership with the NFL, Electric Football was stunningly popular: Young football fans couldn’t get enough of strategizing with their 11 plastic players, putting them in just the right formation so that the ball carrier would vibrate his way into the end zone. Of course, the game’s motions were so unpredictable that the ball carrier was liable to go backward for a safety, but no matter: The game was pure fun.

Eventually, however, video games made Electric Football seem as obsolete as the horse and buggy.

“For the first 10 years, we generated more money for NFL Properties than anyone else,” Sas told the Washington Post in 1998. “Then the games came out, and that was the beginning of the end.”

In a 1980 article about Electric Football, Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated wrote, “I’ll take the oldtime Electric Football over some newfangled computer game every time.” Not enough people felt that way for Electric Football to remain the commercial success that it was in the 1960s and 1970s, but for millions of kids who grew up pretending to be Chuck Noll or Tom Landry as they placed plastic players on a vibrating metal gridiron, Electric Football provided endless hours of enjoyment. All thanks to Norman Sas.

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52 Responses to “Norman Sas, inventor of Electric Football, dies at 87”
  1. thankheavenfornumberseven says: Jul 8, 2012 3:11 PM

    Remember they had the “quarterback” who was three times as tall as the other players that you could use to throw the ball? That never worked.

  2. croghan1919 says: Jul 8, 2012 3:13 PM

    and the little felt footballs.
    RIP

  3. Tarkus says: Jul 8, 2012 3:14 PM

    I loved this game, growing up. I bought NFL teams and even had “camp” to find the straightest, fastest players. Had playoffs and even a Super Bowl with friends.

  4. marshmont says: Jul 8, 2012 3:17 PM

    thank you norman. i loved that game. i played it as a kid(i’m 66) for hours at a time. your player would go in circles with the ball(a little piece of cotton). somebody should bring the game back. it would sell. r.i.p. sir…

  5. highlander24 says: Jul 8, 2012 3:19 PM

    Rest In Peace Mr. Sas.

  6. chazzmon says: Jul 8, 2012 3:20 PM

    That was one goofy game that for some reason my brother & I would play for hours when it was raining out.

  7. fc187 says: Jul 8, 2012 3:21 PM

    I use to play this with my Dad.

    In stead of buying new teams, I would paint them the colors of the teams that I liked at the time.

    Sometimes they didn’t turn out so well, but I still had fun.

  8. easyisle says: Jul 8, 2012 3:26 PM

    Hopefully nobody steps on his coffin, it will never quite work the same way again.

  9. tfbuckfutter says: Jul 8, 2012 3:26 PM

    Homer: I know how you feel, Bart. When I was your age, I wanted an electric football game more than anything in the world. And my parents bought it for me, and it was the happiest day of my life….well goodnight.

  10. geauxjay says: Jul 8, 2012 3:27 PM

    Roger Goodell says he has evidence that Jonathan Vilma killed him.

  11. chazzmon says: Jul 8, 2012 3:30 PM

    A silly unrealistic game that my brother & I would play for hours when it raining out.

  12. ttommytom says: Jul 8, 2012 3:30 PM

    I think Vince Lombardi learned the Power Sweep playing this game. That play ALWAYS worked.

    Passing was futile but who didn’t try?

    GREAT contribution to society. Thank You.

    RIP

  13. lks311 says: Jul 8, 2012 3:30 PM

    The teams were almost all-white, back then, so bought a small bottle of brown paint from the craft shop and “integrated” my team a little more.

    Still my favorite game as a kid. How cool must it have been to be that guys kids. RIP N. Sas.

  14. ttommytom says: Jul 8, 2012 3:31 PM

    easyisle says:
    Jul 8, 2012 3:26 PM
    Hopefully nobody steps on his coffin, it will never quite work the same way again.

    HILARIOUS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. ravenseattheirownpoop says: Jul 8, 2012 3:35 PM

    I loved that game!!! R. I . P.

  16. coltsluckdynasty says: Jul 8, 2012 3:36 PM

    If they only had the drew brees version, oh that would be great… An undersized version of the quarterback position, and him vibrating his way to the stack of cash in the end zone! This was the GREATEST disappointment of a game ever, my excitement was so high, to have it crushed by actually flipping the switch… The vibration control was far ahead of the times! December 25th 1984, I was 9, this game did give me more hope than the newly aquired colts….

  17. wwwfella says: Jul 8, 2012 3:37 PM

    pound for pound one of the greatest toys for boys ever made

  18. kevsright says: Jul 8, 2012 3:39 PM

    Played many a game with these vibrating guys going every which way but forward! Great fun.
    Thank you, Mr. Sas!

  19. wideright91 says: Jul 8, 2012 3:56 PM

    Sad news.
    My Bills ALWAYS won the Super Bowl.

  20. bluefan204 says: Jul 8, 2012 4:10 PM

    Oh man, I LOVED that thing! I sort of inherited my Dad’s game when I was 8 or 9. He kept it boxed up for years and finally broke it out to show me how it worked. Hours and hours of fun were had

    RIP Mr Sas, and thanks for the great memories!

  21. 3yrsnfl says: Jul 8, 2012 4:43 PM

    Was there a way to control the men? Or was it just luck? We would line them up and then the guys would just go everywhere!!

  22. jodave5 says: Jul 8, 2012 4:44 PM

    Xmas Day 1970 I got Super Bowl IV with my beloved Chiefs. I fell on it and put a dent at the 20 yd line. Every play culminated at the 20. Have carried the mental scares of that fall for the past 42 years. Still have the board though! Thank you Mr. Sas. What wonderful memories. RIP.

  23. delshofner says: Jul 8, 2012 4:47 PM

    For all of you youngsters with your Madden this, and your XBox that … us old-timers grew up playing with plastic statues on metal field that vibrated to make them move. No, seriously, that was the game! And we actually thought it was super cool.

    The QB was way taller than the rest, and was also the kicker (only one with moving limbs). You had to toss or kick a little felt football and there was zero control on those things.

    The coolest part for me, was that the players came in just white or yellow. So me and my Dad would spend hours painting the red and blue on the white ones for the Giants, and forest green on the yellow ones for the Packers (who were the biggest rival in the early 60’s). They also came with number decals, so I looked through them and put the right numbers on the OL guys, WR’s, etc. Anyway, it seemed way cooler than board games.

  24. dikhurtz says: Jul 8, 2012 5:22 PM

    I always liked to turn the control dial for the vibration on high and watch the players bounce off the field onto the floor. Oh, and never could complete a pass on the first try, always had to do two out of three. Great game !!!!!I guess on a comparison basis that would be like Mcnabb and instant replay

  25. Doug says: Jul 8, 2012 5:24 PM

    We acquired Tudor Games and the entire Electric Football line of products in February 2012. This classic game will be integrated into the digital age! Stay tuned for some great hands-on sports retrotainment You’ll see Electric Football back in stores soon and online now. http://www.tudorgames.com Mr. Sas was a true gentleman.

  26. mjkelly77 says: Jul 8, 2012 5:28 PM

    I had the game in the early ’60’s, before it got fancy. You’d bend the filament under the player in an effort to get him to run an end around. It really was a lot of fun. Wonder what they’re going for on ebay?

  27. bishopdon says: Jul 8, 2012 5:46 PM

    Always like to take apart the control and just touch the wires together.Had the NFL chamspionship set(before NFC) Cowboys in white and Giants in dark.. Much better when the footballs were made of felt before they made them out of foam rubber. great game RIP.

  28. lakermetskins says: Jul 8, 2012 6:04 PM

    My electric field always died, so we had to tap the field to emulate electricity- very easy to cheat by tapping hard. Real fun stuff.

  29. xxbomberxx says: Jul 8, 2012 6:15 PM

    I heard they took hours organizing his funeral but once it started everybody just ran together in a big pile smashing into each other. Norman wouldnt have had it any other way. R.I.P

  30. bradygirl12 says: Jul 8, 2012 6:28 PM

    I had the Rams vs the Cowboys version. I loved that game! Still have it in the attic.

  31. cuffhimbanano says: Jul 8, 2012 7:32 PM

    Let’s keep things in perspective. We only loved this game because it was about the only thing at the time.
    You can live in denial or accept the fact that Madden 2012 in 1970 would have been way way way awesomer than electronic football.

  32. bishopdon says: Jul 8, 2012 7:40 PM

    On second thought , I had the Rams , Cowboy set also. Rams were blue jerseys whith White pants..
    did anybody use that stupid clock?

  33. briang123 says: Jul 8, 2012 7:41 PM

    In retrospect, that game really, really sucked and a total waste of time and money.

  34. td40 says: Jul 8, 2012 8:42 PM

    No strategy. Turn it on and hope for the best :)

  35. hkemp99 says: Jul 8, 2012 9:03 PM

    I owe this guy for a very happy part of my childhood. Thanks, Mr. Sas!

  36. victorycruz says: Jul 8, 2012 9:06 PM

    Must be before my time, I was born in 82 and got into football in 87. I was into anything football related, I even had a John Elway hand held game that had the field already on the screen and when u turned it on u had a mini player on the screen and was extremely hard to play, then came the Tecmo Bowl days. I never came accross this electronic football, but if I had my hands on it in the 1980’s I would’ve been down to play. :(

  37. apcsteel says: Jul 8, 2012 9:27 PM

    Electric football still their are tournaments around the country for a chance to play in the super bowl which is held in las vegas evey year. Google eletric football and find out the details.

  38. hoopjack says: Jul 8, 2012 9:34 PM

    I had the Rams Cowboys one also.
    I grew up a Redskins fan, but always had a soft spot for the rams, go figure:)
    Great game, great memories.

  39. deanok says: Jul 8, 2012 10:11 PM

    I remember playing my buddies and made it to the championsip game only to lose the game while going in for the td my running back reversed course and vibrated all the way to the wrong end zone with a blocker trailing close bhind to insure the loss i was crushed and so was the game .

  40. fatguystrangler says: Jul 8, 2012 10:24 PM

    My dad bought me an electric football set at a Farmers Market 20 years ago. When he hooked it up and showed it to me, I didn’t know what to think at first. We played it a few times, and I put away Sega’s Joe Montana Sports Talk Football for awhile. It was goofy, but did the trick.

  41. warhol63 says: Jul 8, 2012 10:26 PM

    Great memories of a great game. Had the Rams/Cowboys version as well and my brothers and I would play for hours on end. Never could control the movement too well but that was part of the fun.
    RIP Mr. Sas.

  42. bluestree says: Jul 8, 2012 11:24 PM

    Mine had the qb that had the control fin on the back for aiming your passes ( I was career o-384 with no td’s) who was also the kicker. And yeah, you teased the little plastic tabs to make players (either the guard who was in a three point stance, or tackle, who was in a hulking two point) drift in one direction while you steered the qb. My running backs, with their perpetual stiff arm, never got the feltball.

  43. pcoisma says: Jul 9, 2012 1:17 AM

    American jets cant be seen, American might has have NO need to prove. Be seen by AMERICA! Make America uncomfortable.

  44. joetoronto says: Jul 9, 2012 5:56 AM

    I remember my buddy having one back in the 60’s, we played that friggin thing till it died, great game.

    A couple of decades later, “Sratomatic Football” came out and my friends and I would always see the sun come up while we were playing, that’s how good it was.

    RIP, Mr Sas.

  45. fwippel says: Jul 9, 2012 8:31 AM

    As crazy as it sounds for my children and their generation, I loved this game.

    I had one as a kid, and absolutely enjoyed playing it. The vibrating field, the little felt footballs, and trying to keep the ball-carrier protected from the defense. I passed many a cold winter day with this game, while waiting for Sunday’s NFL games to roll around.

  46. johnnythek1 says: Jul 9, 2012 9:03 AM

    My favorite memory was when two opposing linemen, whose arms were raised up to block, would lock arms and then whirl around together in a demented dosey do dance. Definitely the game of choice for the generation raised on Monty Python.

    I also enjoyed pretending to be the P.A. address announcer: “He’s at the 30, the 25, now back to the 30, now to the 50, run out of bounds after a backwards run of -35 yards. Wait! He’s fallen into the carpet! This doesn’t look good, Jim!”

  47. godofwine330 says: Jul 9, 2012 9:37 AM

    My favorite memory was when my brother and I got the game (me born in 77 and him in 78) the electricity hardly worked. We found it easier to unplug it and bang with our hands on the game to simulate the electric effect. We got hours and hours of fun out of a broken game.

    We didn’t have video games as a kid, and being children of the 80’s (basically) we were creative. Our mother got the game for us and we played it from like 87-90. I can still picture us banging on the metal making the little men move. When we got Tecmo Superbowl electric football was pushed under the bed never to be played with the same vigor again, but those memories will last a lifetime.

  48. klownboy says: Jul 9, 2012 9:52 AM

    I remember my brother and friends playing electric football through the middle of the night on weekends. Rest in peace Norman…

  49. randolph32 says: Jul 9, 2012 9:53 AM

    I hated this game, it was just plain stupid…there was an NFL Hall of Fame Game called FOTO ELECTRIC FOOTBALL, with a light bulb. Each player (2) would put a play down upside down and you’d pull back a card that revealed the light, AND then you’d know when the player was tackled, pass completed, etc.

    Didn’t have intimacy of vibrations, but much more realistic.

  50. inallsincerity says: Jul 9, 2012 9:57 AM

    RIP Mr. Sas. I still have mine from the 1979 SB, Dallas Cowboys vs my favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers. It still works too. I even have some of the generic players that I painted with Testors paint in the color scheme of my favorite college team at the time: Michigan Wolverines. I must say, I did a damn good job on those helmets too…HA!

  51. vikings69 says: Jul 9, 2012 12:07 PM

    Mr. Sas

    Thank you for all the contributions. RIP

    VMGTOYZ
    President
    Gayla Beck

  52. footballchic777 says: Jul 9, 2012 1:00 PM

    I played this with my grandpa when I was a little girl….loved it!

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