Friday, September 15, 2006

Football...You Bet

No, not about my NFL picks for the weekend. Every time I publish my picks, they suck. And I haven't made 'em yet. The title, in fact, is a stupid line from a brief TV series called "San Pedro Beach Bums." My mind is filled with these sorts of useless tidbits and I often wonder about the randomness of memories and why I've kept this recollection, but forgotton countless others. Which is why I need help remembering things.

Wil wrote today about the toy which defined his childhood, immediately causing my answer to surface in the somewhat muddy pool of memories I possess. First, I wanted to find a picture. People of my age and slightly less will know exactly the game I'm speaking of. Woman and children, probably not. So, I wanted visual aides. Instead, on, I found the following description of the game which sucked vast quantities of my youth:

...judged to be one of the most historically and culturally significant games published since 1800.


There's a pre-pubescent photo of me somewhere, bent over the game in rapt concentration, wearing a Buccaneers jersey (Ricky Bell). It's the late 70s, my neighborhood as yet unpenetrated by electronic games though on the cusp of Mattel hand-held football, Atari 2600 and cable TV. It could be a snapshot of the last days of innocence, the raw working of mind and hands before the explosion of technology.

The game was Electric Football.

The soothing hum of the vibrating board. The linemen, intimidating with their fists meeting beneath their chin, elbows out and parallel to the lined, green metal field. The ends, arms splayed to the sides, palms up as if feigning innocence. The receivers, locked forever in a sprint and the backs in perpetual stiff-arm.

Each year's edition came with the previous season's Super Bowl teams and for half a dozen years, I had each one. This was largely because the games didn't seem to have much staying power, would break down frequently because of faulty wiring or some other unknown reason. Of course, if the board refused to work, one could always make due by rapidly tapping the gridiron, which would cause the players to move, if in a less orderly fashion.

The players were mounted on green plastic bases with bristles on the bottom. Somewhere in there, the makers added a directional disc so you could theoretically make a player turn. I don't recall that ever working especially well, though many a time the ends, with their arms wide, ended up locked in a circular and infinite dance, spinning unendingly.

The ball was a little piece of foam that you jammed into the painted arms of whatever player you pleased. Eventually, the QB came with a movable arm and a lever you could flip to make him throw the "ball" downfield, resulting in a completion if you hit your target.

Sure, it was about winning. It was about formations and strategy, though many of the preferred arrangements flauted several NFL rules. I always liked the pyramid structure, with the ballcarrier at the point, bulling forward behind three stacked lines of plastic fury. But it was also about the humor, the previously mentioned twirling ends, a back who got turned and would glide mechanically the wrong direction, two adolescents furiously drumming the broken board while shouting.

Imagination, competition, ridiculousness. Historically and culturally significant, too. What more would you want?


At 10:21 AM, Blogger slb159 said...

One of my buddies had that when we were growing up. I thought it was ghey.
I much rathered the handheld LED one. You can get yours for the low low price of $14.99 here:

At 2:20 PM, Blogger BigPirate said...

Greatest game ever! I remember taking notes on Sundays so I could stick the correct jersy numbers on all my players. I don't think we ever completed a pass using the QB with the passing arm nor make a successful kick with the action kicker. Rather, we would throw the football ourselves and try to hit the receiver (with some physical limitation I can't remember right now such as having to be at a certain distance) and kicked field goals using a triangular, paper football off the deck through the tiny goal posts.

The players only had two directions: a straight line 20 degrees right of where they were aimed and circular. I finally gave the game away grudgingly to a nephew who I can only hope experienced a fraction of the pleasure I got from it.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Wil Wheaton said...

It's the late 70s, my neighborhood as yet unpenetrated by electronic games though on the cusp of Mattel hand-held football, Atari 2600 and cable TV. It could be a snapshot of the last days of innocence, the raw working of mind and hands before the explosion of technology.

Dude. I have such a man-crush on you right now, Speaker. I have to go play some football to reaffirm how totally not gay I am.

At 3:36 AM, Blogger geewits said...

Sounds like you took it pretty seriously as a football game. My older brother got one around 1970. I'm sure he started out trying to do the actual football game, but after that it became a betting game of pitting any objects you had around the house in a race. For instance you might race a golf tee against the Monopoly shoe.

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Huge Junk said...

Are you sure you're not confusing your Ricky Bell-Tampa jersey with your Ricky Bell-Bell Biv Devoe jersey, just to sound less ubergeigh?

I know you had one...

Anyhow, it's still one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. Turns out that accidentally shoving your buddy so that he steps on the thing isn't good for running plays. I think I had it for less than a month before that happened.

And although Wil said it, I'm only a few lines removed from that completely gay man-crush blast, so even I may have to go bully a little kid or something.

At 5:21 AM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

You do realize that there is such a thing as the Electric Football World Championship and people get together for a round-robin tournament every year to compete, right?

At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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