Electric Football

Electric Football

When it comes to football, there are plenty of electronic options today that simulate the game right down to the minute details. The grunting players look identical to their real-world counterparts, the stadiums are replicated to the last detail and gameplay options allow one to do virtually anything that’s possible on a real field. In decades past, however, electric football games couldn’t tout realism as a selling point, so they made up for it by offering sheer fun.

The first electric football game was released in 1947 by Tudor Metal Products, a company that had been one of the first to stake its claim in the electric game business. Tudor used the vibrating model for their electric race car game as the technological basis for Electric Football and created an instant hit.

When the motor beneath the playing board was activated, the decorated metallic field would vibrate, shivering players all over the field in a helter-skelter melee of part electricity, part magnetism, all fun. The football itself was really nothing more than a piece of foam or felt cut into football shape with a tiny slit in it for the Triple Threat Quarterback to grip it.

Fortunately, the novelty of electricity made up for the flawed simulation. It’s a tribute to the game’s popularity that people played it in droves despite the fact that the quarterback had the throwing coordination of someone desperately in need of opposable thumbs. The players themselves were somewhat brittle and the bases were easily damaged, causing all sorts of miniature seizures on the field of play. Still, Tudor had made it possible to play an eleven on eleven game of football in April. Enough said.

In the 1950s, other companies tried to mimic Tudor’s sensation. Rivals like Gotham tried to one-up Tudor with various novelties and improvements. Three dimensional figures in dynamic poses quickly replaced the two-dimensional predecessor. Stadium upgrades came in the form of painted borders and cardboard bleachers full of spectators.

Tudor trumped them all, however, when it obtained exclusive licensing rights with the National Football League in the 1960s. The new Tudor NFL Electric Football featured logos and uniforms from such football teams as the Baltimore Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs, and of course, the dynastic Green Bay Packers.

Gotham and other competitors such as Coleco tried to keep up by modeling games after real-life stadiums like the Louisiana Superdome. Prongs attached to the bottoms of each plastic player gave greater control to players. The game resembled foosball in that a dial on the side could control player movement right or left as the electrical awesomeness moved them forward or backward.

Electric Football would enjoy consistent success through the 1970s, but like most electric games, meet its inevitable demise at the hands of the burgeoning video game era in the 1980s. The game’s cult following dug in and formed the Electric Football League in 1985, proving that fans would not go down without a fight. To make their cause easier, Miggle Toys (who now owned Tudor) revisited the classic in 1991 and have somehow managed to keep sales consistent ever since, even on an international scale.

Digital scoreboards, pocket scales, rules, regulations, and all manner of hobbyist eccentricity make electric football as cool today as it ever was. It may not be the real thing, or even a grade A simulation, but it’s a lot of fun – and that’s really all that matters.

If you’ve logged some serious electric football hours in your day, we’d love to hear your memories in our comments section.

5 Responses to “Electric Football”

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  1. dave says:

    I still have the Super Bowl V (Colts/Cowboys) edition from 1971. I think it was the biggest one Tudor ever made. A favorite toy that still works. Bought some other teams on ebay recently. Note: the NFL was founded in 1920, not sure what was ment by the phrase “newly formed….in the 1960s” in the text above. The AFL started in 1960 and merged with the NFL in 1970.

  2. jtsaints says:

    I put washers on the total control bases for better blocking, and I bought two packs of players so i could have offense and defense. I spent hours every day playing. When it broke i even just tapped the board until I could get a new board. I still have two working boards and about 15 teams.

  3. DCNorton says:

    I had Super Bowl IV (Chiefs/Vikings), and enjoyed it for years … I think part of the appeal was the general hilarity induced when the players started grinding around in circles. We couldn’t help cracking up over some of the unintentional antics the players got into.

  4. shinzo says:

    I love this game…played it as kid. Mostly collecting the rare hard to find teams now and trying to complete my home/away collection.

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