Home > Sports > Football Used To Be Awesome

Football Used To Be Awesome

If anyone asks now, I was a baseball fan my whole life, but I only lived and breathed one sport until I hit puberty and that was: football. National goddamn Football League football, none of this pansy ass collegiate shit, either. Sunday mornings in the fall were like waking up and remembering I was going to Disneyland; every Sunday for four months, three games: one on NBC, one on CBS, and the two networks swapped weekends carrying the third game.

You got to channel swap for one game and for the other one you were stuck with whatever you got, which is still how it works now, except there was no cable and no Sunday night game and no NFL network. And if you missed the highlights, you waited until Monday night when Howard Cosell would run them down at halftime of MNF: “Los ANGELES MemORIAL COLisEUM. The Rams. The Vikings. A MIGHTY TUSSLE ENSUED.”

Sunday mornings I’d wake up and eat bacon and biscuits drenched with little pools of melted butter. Pre-game ritual. Then I’d geek out for the next six hours. When there weren’t games on, I’d geek out anyway. I made my own Rams uniform once. I paired my awesome replica Merlin Olsen jersey with a pair of “football pants” — grey trousers that I had repurposed by stapling cardboard inside to simulate protective padding — and my Rams helmet. I think I also had some shoulder pads. I would wear this shit around the house and tackle chairs and whatnot. I was kind of crazy.

I collected football cards, which were never as popular as baseball cards but were sort of grimly fascinating all the same, given that most of the guys playing pro football in the ’70s looked like Charles Manson’s younger, scruffier brothers, but my real peripheral passion was Electric Football.

For anybody that didn’t come from the ’70s, or had a normal life, the concept of Electric Football was you had a metal surface painted like a football field, and the whole thing was designed to look like a stadium, complete with a scoreboard that could be manually operated. The players were represented by little plastic statues on green bases. They weren’t the most realistic or detailed models, but they got the general idea across. Roughly half of them were “white” and half of them were “black.” The game came pre-stocked with two complete teams, and I think they sold different sets of teams in different geographic regions, because in LA, we usually got the Rams vs. the Cowboys or the Rams vs. the Steelers. Note: not the Niners. San Francisco was such a complete non-entity in the football sense in that decade that they weren’t even worth including in children’s games.

So the whole point of Electric Football was that the metal field vibrated, and the men on the green bases would rumble around and move. They didn’t move very well, and although the base had a little wheel you could turn to point the player in a specific direction, it wasn’t very accurate and thus the figures would more or less end up going whatever direction they felt like. You had a little foam ball and you could tuck it under a running back’s arm, and the play ended when his base got touched by an opposing green base. Then you would flip the switch so the field stopped vibrating, move the first down marker if necessary, and line up all the little dudes into whatever defensive and offensive schemes you were running, and then hit the power switch again for the next play.

The whole process took like five minutes for each play. It was insanely laborious. And it took hours to play a whole game. And this is what we did, because there was no Madden.

Electric Football! A fun new way for dads and sons everywhere to get together and look totally defeated by the process!

Also the game came with a little sheet of number decals. If you were truly anal-obsessive — and I was — you could recreate your team’s actual roster by sticking little numbers on little football men. Some versions of the game actually included a quarterback figure, so you could “pass”… the QB had a little spring-action arm, and you’d tuck the ball in his tiny claw-like hand and pull back and aim at one of your receivers, and if you actually managed to hit a receiver it counted as a complete pass. Nevermind the fact that the receivers always dropped the ball, because they did not have thumbs.

Apparently there are people around even today who cherish these stupid games and even have leagues! And you can still buy custom team sets, hand-painted even. Because there are people who are really into this sort of thing. I say “apparently” because it sounds totally made-up, like Godzilla and Lady Gaga, but there is evidence out there if you look hard enough.

Eventually video games happened and we put away Electric Footballs in our collective national closet, never to come out again until the invention of eBay. And I dunno what happened to my cracked-out football uniform. And the game today is not interesting to me for reasons I can’t even begin to understand: I mostly watch it now to see a blur of colors, like some sort of fleshy, violent zoetrope, play out in front of my eyes for a few minutes on Sundays before my wife gets bored and we go out to the 99 Cents Only store and buy pudding, 240 dollars worth of pudding. And I only really like baseball nowadays. But come gather at my knee, chilluns, and let me tell you more about those ridiculous bygone days when rooting on vibrating plastic men on painted metal surfaces was the hottest game in town…

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  1. brouhahasports
    September 16, 2010 at 06:06

    I remember those games. I played it once at a friend’s house. Found it very difficult and time consuming for one play, then bagged it. But thanks for the flashback.

  2. September 17, 2010 at 21:20

    Lots of comments when i posted this on facebook. It’s a lively shared memory.

  3. George diamond
    December 24, 2011 at 05:21

    The hobby is alive and well. Here is how we make those baess run fast and straight.

    Here is an alternative way of passing:

  4. December 24, 2011 at 10:13

    It’s not dead. It’s still here, better than ever! Check it out. http://www.miniaturefootball.com/forum/

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