SIDELINE SLANTS- In the memories of this grownup, electric football was a magical game

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Ryan, my 9-year-old son, must have wondered what was happening to dear ol’ dad. One moment we were sorting his football cards. The next minute I laughed so hard it nearly brought tears to my eyes.

OK, you had to be there.

The source of my laughter was triggered by a flashback to a childhood game of electric football.

Just for fun, I did an Internet search to see if this particular football game still existed. I didn’t expect much, because I haven’t seen it in stores for a long time.

For the uninformed, an electric football game is played on a surface that vibrates when you turn the power on. After spending an inordinate amount of time lining up offensive and defensive players, you flip a switch and watch the play unfold. The play ends when a defensive player touches the player with the ball.

It sounds simple, but that’s not how it worked in my memory bank.

More often than not, the players vibrated and gyrated every which way but loose, and if the running back actually went the right direction it was cause for great celebration.

That was like Christmas in that it happened only once a year, but, like the Second Coming, we knew neither the day nor the hour.

For all its unpredictability, though, there was something tangible about it that Madden 2007 on PlayStation or XBox can never match.

It was a game you could reach out and touch, even if you wanted to throw it through the window.

Well, imagine my surprise when I found several kinds of electric football games available on a Web site. There are three possible explanations for electric football games to still be in existence: My memory is bad, the game has been improved, or there’s a sucker born every generation.

The lowest-priced game I found was an NFL Portable Electric Football game for $39.99. According to the ad, this is true-to-life football that comes with two NFL teams sculpted in poses and their official hand-painted uniforms, one home and one away.

The hands-on game allows players to make offensive and defensive calls, as well as set plays for kicking. The game claims to be for ages 6 and up.

But that’s not all. I found another electric football game for $59.99. This game, recommended for children 8-13, allows you to control the speed and movement of all 22 players and includes two “triple-threat” quarterbacks who run, kick and pass.

Why stop there when you can purchase the Official NFL Superbowl Electric Football game for just $99.99? It’s touted as a game of strategy and skill for men, women and children ages 8 to 88.

It’s supposedly the only 3-D hands-on game where the player is both the quarterback and coach.

If you’re willing to spend a mere $149.99, you can be the proud owner of the ABC Monday Night Football Electric NFL Football Game with Lighted Stadium.

For ages 8 and up, it comes complete with all accessories to play the game, including rookie, and total team control bases, working scoreboard, magnetic first-down marker, 10-yard chain, two goal posts, rule book and a new player/rookie instruction sheet.

Assembly required.

Requires eight AA batteries (not included). It claims to be so real you can almost hear the crowds.

If you believe that, perhaps I could interest you in some oceanfront property just outside Hillsboro.

If you are looking for a game that replicates real football, electric football isn’t it, but it’s fun, sort of, just because it is goofy and unpredictable.

Even the Kansas State Historical Society Web site had this observation from Joel Davis, Sacramento Business Journal, Oct. 25, 2004:

“As any sports-loving male over 40 can attest, electric football may be the worst board game ever invented. Imagine the real 49ers playing the real Raiders after each side got off the Tilt-A-Whirl.”

Perhaps I should buy a game for my boys and see what they think.

Better yet, I could gift wrap one for my dad’s birthday. Now that he’s retired, he should have plenty of time to set up the 22 sculpted, hand-painted NFL pieces.

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