Decades before Madden, or Tecmo Bowl ... heck, decades before those little hand-held Coleco games, there was the wonder of Electric Football. For those too young to remember, the game was set on a metal sheet, with players spinning around the "field" as it vibrated. After the "coach" placed the players in position, and the "ball" was in place, the play would go off, leaving 11 men whirring and spinning around the field with limited directional sense and remote odds to ever reach the end zone. Kind of like the 2010 Carolina Panthers offense.
In any case, and though it doesn't seem like much now, Electric Football was a major deal in the 1960s and 1970s as generations of young football fans looked to simulate the game they loved by any means necessary. On June 28, Norman Sas, the inventor of the game, passed away at the age of 87.
Sas, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering, started running Tudor Metal Products, his father's company, in 1948. He had seen a vibrating horse-racing toy and decided to see if he could transfer the technology to football. Thus, Electric Football was born. From NorthJersey.com:
"Actual football thrills for armchair strategists!" said a 1949 New York Times display ad touting the game, available for $5.95 at the A&S department store on Fulton Street in Brooklyn.
The headline blared: 'MEN' ACTUALLY MOVE IN NEW ELECTRIC FOOTBALL GAME!
The game was a hit right away, but it really took off when the NFL started licensing it. Sas told the Washington Post in 1998 that for a decade-long period of time, Electric Football made more money for NFL Properties than any other entity or product. Of course, the same was taken off the major market by the video game surge that started in the late 1970s, but there's still a fairly large group of hobbyists who remember the game.
A company called Miggle Toys (recently purchased by Seattle-based Ballpark Classics, Inc., and renamed Tudor Games) still makes Electric Football, and there's a Miniature Football Coaches Association that still holds tournaments. "It's a sad day in toy land when someone of such renown dies," said Doug Strohm, the president of Tudor Games told NorthJersey.com. "Electric Football is a meaningful toy that enjoys a cult following."
At the time he purchased the company, Strohm was unaware that Sas was still living -- otherwise, he said, he would have reached out to the inventor. Sas sold the company in 1988 and eventually retired to Florida.
Earl Shores, who is co-authoring a book about the game entitled "Unforgettable Buzz," told NorthJersey.com what he liked best about Electric Football.
"You'd sit there and on the 10th try, your running back would turn to the left and magically go down the field for a touchdown," he said. "You played Electric Football for that one moment."
Ah, sweet deferred gratification. More seriously, though, was Shores' appreciation of Sas' business acumen.
"To be able to run your company for 40 years with the same toy — that puts you in the same company as Monopoly."
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