Did you ever have one of these? In the low-tech era that was my childhood, when the people who would later invent video games were still children just like I was, every boy had to have one -- an electric football game. The fascination with this quaint marvel was a sort of precursor of the gadget fever that strikes some of us these days. Maybe you saw one of these in an ad and imagined hours of fun coaching your own team, controlling the outcome of a game with the brilliance of your own strategy. And then you owned one. What a colossal disappointment!
Bill Bryson wrote a terrifically funny book about his childhood in the same era: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir. The book captures my sentiments about a lot of things. (I recommend it.) Here's what he had to say about electric football:
"The worst toy of the decade [the 1950s], possibly the worst toy ever built...it took forever to set up each play because the men were so fiddly and kept falling over, and because you argued continuously with your opponent about what formations were legal and who got to position the final man...it hardly mattered how they were set up because electric football players never went in the direction intended. In practice what happened was that half the players instantly fell over and lay twitching violently as if suffering from some extreme gastric disorder, while the others streamed off in as many different directions as there were upright players before eventually clumping together in a corner, where they pushed against the unyielding sides like victims of a nightclub fire at a locked exit. The one exception to this was the running back who just trembled in place for five or six minutes, then slowly turned and went on an unopposed glide toward the wrong end zone until knocked over with a finger on the two-yard line by his distressed manager, occasioning more bickering."