You can have NCAA Football 2002. You can have the whole PlayStation genre. Give me my youth. Give me, at the risk of tooting our own horn, Sports Illustrated College Football, a board game that introduced me and my pals in Alabama to the thrills of staying up into the wee hours before we knew what girls were.
The game was sold in the '70s; my version included 32 of the best college teams from '60 to '70. Though the best of the best were the '67 USC Trojans—trust me, we staged a playoff—we tended to stick to the SEC teams that we knew. Offenses had nine plays, each with 30 possible outcomes determined by three dice. Defenses, with dice of their own, could run six formations. Winning didn't depend on the thumb-eye coordination necessary for Nintendo. It depended on calling the right play and rolling them bones.
During sleepovers, my best friends, Eddie and Lewis, and I took turns competing against each other long after our three TV stations played the national anthem and signed off. Emotions ran high—I once cracked the green plastic football field by slamming my fist down in disgust.
I was obsessed with Sports Illustrated College Football, and over the years I wondered whether my intensity had ruined the experience for other players. I ran into Lewis last week and asked him. "Are you kidding?" he said. "I loved that game!" I keep the game in my office as a reminder of my youth. Nearly 30 years later, I'm still sheepish about the crack in the field.