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The love/hate of electric football

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Before Sunday, I had never heard of Norman Sas. But now that I know that Sas, who recently died at 87, invented the game of electric football, his name will become part of the blend of fascination and frustration that comes to mind whenever I recall the love/hate pastime of my youth.

For anyone who grew up before the Madden game transformed video football (Intellivision had a decent, albeit flawed, version before that, with a cumbersome play-calling system and a center and nose tackle who never moved), the only alternative to arranging football cards on the floor and using a pen cap as the ball was Tudor Electric Football.

I spent some time reminiscing about the game during Monday’s PFT Live, and we included some funny videos of game play and photos of some impressive custom figures folks have made.  (By the way, I’m not in the picture accompanying this article; I found it on Flickr.com.  I looked much dorkier at that age.)

For most of us who played electric football, the experience often went something like Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall after he recovered a Billy Kilmer fumble in 1964.

Coincidentally, I recently started reading Chris Spielman’s excellent tribute to his late wife Stefanie, That’s Why I’m Here, and I got to page 55 this morning, where he mentions that he had experiences similar to the rest of us when playing (or trying to play) the game.

“I had a competitive streak to match my overwhelming desire to play in the NFL,” Spielman writes.  “I ruined an electric football game [Vikings G.M.] Rick [Spielman] and I received for Christmas one year because the players made me mad.  They wouldn’t go where I wanted them to, so I smashed it.”

(In fairness to the game, maybe Rick told Chris that the Ukraine is weak.)

Either way, thanks for the memories, Mr. Sas.  The good and, more often, the inherently frustrating.

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12 Responses to “The love/hate of electric football”
  1. Carl Gerbschmidt says: Jul 9, 2012 7:12 PM

    Jim ” the wrong way” Marshall, I always love that one.

  2. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Jul 9, 2012 7:17 PM

    Exactly.

    Electric football somehow was both a really cool must-have back in the day – while also being frustrating as hell. It’s kind of fun thinking back to those days.

    And yeah, Intellivision had the best football game out there. In terms of moving the chains, playcall 5814 was unstoppable. [As an aside, Intellivision Baseball and Sea Battle were pretty cool too.]

    Atari’s football was friggin’ HILARIOUS. What the hell was that? How did that company sign off on that product?

    Mattel had a little beep-squeaking version of a battery-powered handheld game that was fun -at least when you’re a 10 year old and your only other indoor options were Hot Wheel tracks, G.I. Joe and those cars you’d pull a toothed plastic rip strip to cut ‘em loose.

  3. truthhurtstoo says: Jul 9, 2012 7:20 PM

    A simpler time…. better in many ways.

  4. hempoilcures says: Jul 9, 2012 7:22 PM

    Best games for football to play at that time was Negamco and Strat-o-Matic…I was a junkie, kept books of stats of every game, football, hockey, boxing and some baseball. Me and my best friend would play for hours. Some times we wouldn’t speak for days after a huge come back win or just all out fluke win.

  5. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Jul 9, 2012 7:33 PM

    @ flannlv:

    Intellivision Baseball 101 tip: if you’re “on defense” (i.e., fielding) -and- the batter hits the ball to Left or Center Field, hit the Second Baseman with the cut-off and then peg it to First.

    You’ll get sharp cleans throws. It actually expedites getting the ball to First by eliminating the possibility of the candy-armed throw outfielders would float out at times.

    Fun game back in the day.

  6. mikeheruki says: Jul 9, 2012 7:39 PM

    This and Bas-Ket with the ping pong ball for hoops games. And of course the hockey game with the rods and metal players that came with three pucks; wood, magnet and plastic with the ball bearing in the middle.

    Never could beat my dad.

  7. finsfan71 says: Jul 9, 2012 7:43 PM

    I remember begging my father to buy the electric football game. I also vivdly remember him telling me it was garbage. Well, he was right and after wasting 1 hour watching the players move around in a circle, back to the store it went.

    Also had an Intelivision. Their was this end run play that would always score. My friends couldn’t stop it.

  8. thegreatgabbert says: Jul 9, 2012 10:14 PM

    Mr PFT was stuffed in the cupboard in the upper middle of the photo, by the kids playing the game. Again.

  9. kingcarlbanks says: Jul 9, 2012 11:18 PM

    Growing up a Nintendo kid, i logged many an hour playing Tecmo Bowl and Super Tecmo Bowl. Loved playing with the Giants bc LT and Carl Banks were sack machines. Of course on offense the Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen Raiders were beasts, and the Bills aerial attack was unstoppable. Simpler times…

  10. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Jul 10, 2012 12:10 AM

    NFL Films has a clip out there where ex-Houston Oiler WR Mike Renfro describes why he, the Oilers and the rest of the NFL were terrified of PIT MLB Jack Lambert.

    Speaking of Lambert, Renfro says something like, “Uhhhhh, the first thing you notice is that Lambert has ‘limited teeth’.”

    Well, back in our day – we had limited toys.

    So when some of us recall being jacked up over Intellivision, electric football, Nintendo Tecmo Bowl, etc. — it shouldn’t be that whack given the standard.

  11. mackie66 says: Jul 10, 2012 9:25 AM

    I would play my electric football game for hours. At least we could stop the action to really see of the RB scored or was tackled at the goal line. Kicking fieldgoals was a hoot as was the passing game, but all u had to do was line up blockers and hit the electricity,,,what a hoot. I just gave mine to “Faith Farms” about 10 yrs ago, Im 63 now, and it still worked, not as good as it did in 1967 but it worked. I cant remember what teams I had,,,lol,,lol,,lol,,,

  12. raiders757 says: Jul 10, 2012 10:47 AM

    Wow, this has brought back all kinds of memories of staring at players spinning in circles and trying to fix the dial for them to move in the right direction. That thing went into the closet and off on a trip to the Land of Forgotten Toys.

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