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The love/hate of electric football


Before Sunday, I had never heard of Norman Sas. But now that I know that Sas, who recently died at 87, invented the game of electric football, his name will become part of the blend of fascination and frustration that comes to mind whenever I recall the love/hate pastime of my youth.

For anyone who grew up before the Madden game transformed video football (Intellivision had a decent, albeit flawed, version before that, with a cumbersome play-calling system and a center and nose tackle who never moved), the only alternative to arranging football cards on the floor and using a pen cap as the ball was Tudor Electric Football.

I spent some time reminiscing about the game during Monday’s PFT Live, and we included some funny videos of game play and photos of some impressive custom figures folks have made. (By the way, I’m not in the picture accompanying this article; I found it on I looked much dorkier at that age.)

For most of us who played electric football, the experience often went something like Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall after he recovered a Billy Kilmer fumble in 1964.

Coincidentally, I recently started reading Chris Spielman’s excellent tribute to his late wife Stefanie, That’s Why I’m Here, and I got to page 55 this morning, where he mentions that he had experiences similar to the rest of us when playing (or trying to play) the game.

“I had a competitive streak to match my overwhelming desire to play in the NFL,” Spielman writes. “I ruined an electric football game [Vikings G.M.] Rick [Spielman] and I received for Christmas one year because the players made me mad. They wouldn’t go where I wanted them to, so I smashed it.”

(In fairness to the game, maybe Rick told Chris that the Ukraine is weak.)

Either way, thanks for the memories, Mr. Sas. The good and, more often, the inherently frustrating.