NorthJersey.com – Well before Madden NFL video games, there was a quirky tabletop toy called Electric Football… Norman Sas, a former longtime resident of Alpine, invented Electric Football in 1948 and introduced it a year later. But it wasn’t until 1967, when he signed a deal with NFL Properties, the National Football League’s product licensing division, that the plastic players represented actual NFL teams and Electric Football really took off. Mr. Sas, who died June 28 at age 87, was “one of the real innovators of toy land,” said Chris Byrne, content director of timetoplaymag.com, the toy review website.
It’s been a rough few days for my childhood, what with losing Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine and Norman Sas all in the same week. Granted, all three geniuses made their mark long before I came along. But so profound was their impact on pop culture that us post-Baby Boomers grew up catching the waves in their mighty wake. And for a football-obsessed kid of the era, no giant stood as tall as Sas. If you ever played Electric Football, no explanation is necessary. If you didn’t, none will suffice. As my comic friend the brilliant Jimmy Dunn describes it, Electric Football was a cookie sheet with a blender motor underneath it. You’d set up the players and when you turned it on, they’d spin around at random in circles like little plastic state workers until maybe, just maybe, the ball carrier would break free and make his way across the goal line. Was it perfect? Did it really simulate real football? Not by a long shot. The players went all over the place and it looked more like an urban riot than a football play. And the only way to pass the ball was by putting it in the hand of this extra large QB guy with a spring-action arm and try to fling it and 9 times out of 10 the ball went under a sofa or something. But for generations of kids starving for football-themed entertainment 365 days a year… something that wouldn’t be coming for another 40 years or so… it was a revelation. Sure Madden is 10 million times better. This is no “Back in my day we didn’t need XBox because we played with sticks” rant about how using your imagination is better. This is just paying tribute to a visionary who helped me waste hundreds of hours of my youth. And gave American boys what they needed: toys that involved OJ Simpson. So RIP, Norman Sas, as you wander aimlessly around that big vibrating piece of sheet metal in the sky. And thank you. @JerryThornton1
Editors Note - What age did kids stop playing Electric Football? I had it as a kid. It was that and I bought those little helmets from the grocery store dispensers for a quarter and played imaginary games. Was 10 Yard Fight the end of electric football? In other words at what age do kids not know what electric football is? Do 30 year old’s know it?