SI Vault
Jack McCallum
November 24, 1980
Every year around Christmas I have an urge to celebrate the rituals of the past, especially those of childhood, which is why I have been thinking about Electric Football lately. The game was one of the constants of my boyhood, a gift that I or one of my friends always received on Christmas morning. It was given to us annually because, perhaps by design, it was inevitably in disarray after a year's time.
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November 24, 1980

Electric Football Is A Shaky Game That Nonetheless Gives Good Vibes

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When your ground game was stopped by factors out of your control, your only option was to take to the air. For this you would need your 12th player, a sort of spring-loaded quarterback who, at least in theory, could propel the piece of felt at one of your receivers. If springman hit the receiver, it was a completion; if he hit a defensive player, it was an interception; if he hit the television set in an adjoining room, which is usually what happened, it was an incompletion and you could ship him back to the Philadelphia Bulldogs. You couldn't be too hasty with that move, however, because springman was also your punter. If you think he couldn't pass, you should've seen him kick.

After a scoreless half hour or so, you became a little tired of the game and stopped it to do something constructive—like taking the wings off moths and placing them on the vibrating field. You could turn the vibrating to high, for example, which would make a horrible loud noise guaranteed to drive your mother to distraction. Or you could line up the players and have races, confirming your suspicion that the linemen were actually the fastest and straightest runners. In the throes of a deep adolescent ennui, I once placed kernels of corn on the field and just watched them jump around. There wasn't much to do in those days.

A young friend who has one of the 1980 Tudor Electric Football games tells me the technology is much improved. Roy Riegelses are the exception rather than the rule, and dancing linemen are considered flakes who can be replaced. Further, the "runners" are interchangeable, so if a lineman has a "good bottom," as my young friend says, he may be obliged to lend it to a running back, a bit of bionic surgery that seems to go against the rules of the game. One thing that hasn't improved, though, is springman; my friend says that he leans toward running plays even on third and 25 because springman's passing is still so erratic.

Though Electric Football sales are still brisk, according to Tudor, the game is no longer the rage it was 20 years ago. Computer football, it seems, has taken over. But I'll take the oldtime Electric Football over some newfangled computer game every time. There's something vaguely sinister about using computers to play football, whereas with Electric Football you just have good ol' cheapo technology breaking down.

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