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[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry by Dennis Check, who’s been dong a bit of reminiscing about his favorite childhood football game. — PL]
By Dennis Check
A recent visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton with my kids brought back memories of two of my childhood obsessions: the Minnesota Vikings and electric football. Seeing the busts and memorabilia from the dozen or so Vikes in the Hall reminded me of the several Christmas mornings that brought electric football from Tudor.
Accumulating more teams than the usual Super Bowl teams that came with the game was a big deal. After we pored over the Tudor catalog, and made the big decision over “home” vs. “away” colors, the arrival of a new team in the mail was always a time of high excitement. The paint jobs on the product were sometimes a little sketchy, though, and the worst was when you ordered a team that had white pants or shirts—in most cases you got the bare plastic white (or in the case of a team like the Steelers, plastic yellow), not white paint. Unacceptable.
One of the neighborhood kids named Pat Reedy took matters into his own 12-year-old hands by custom-painting many teams for his buddies, adding accurate colors, proper stripes, and painted numbers. Incredibly, he also painted players’ names on their backs (keep in mind that the backs in question were about a quarter-inch wide), and corrected the player’s race depending on whom he was representing:
I have to think one of Pat’s crowning achievements was my ’73 Vikes offense, which included Mick Tinglehoff at center. I remember Pat asking me if painting “T’hoff” would be acceptable, given the length of the name and his tiny canvas. But even as he asked the question, he knew the answer:
This particular Vikes offense featured two future Hall of Famers — Ron Yary and Fran Tarkenton — but I remember just as vividly Chuck Foreman and Dave Osborn at running back, Stu Voigt at tight end, Grady Alderman, John Gilliam, Milt Sunde, and on and on…all immortalized in plastic. I rarely remember where I leave my car keys, but I can still recite each starter on both sides of the ball from this team:
Amongst our group, striving for realism went beyond improving the unis. We rejected the awkward white plastic QB/kicker, instead using hand-thrown passes and, later, drinking straws, propelling the little felt footballs blowgun-style. Many a game was played on a a field covered in spray-can faux snow (especially when the Vikes played), which added the benefit of being able to “track” an especially good play. We even experimented with home-made fields (of the proper scale), with vibration provided by HO-scale slot cars with squared-off tires.
Good times. Without sounding like “old-guy,” I have to think that was the video game of the day. Certainly less sophisticated than Madden, but still a lot of fun. I still have my last board, with an awesome cardboard stadium backdrop featuring some vintage helmet designs, because I can’t bring myself to sell it:
I don’t know what happened to Pat and the rest of the gang, but I became an architect partly due to my fascination with models, miniatures, and good old ingenuity fired by stuff like this.
Anybody wanna play? I’ve got the (home) Vikes.
Paul here. Good stuff, Dennis — thanks.
Shortly after sending me that entry, Dennis sent this follow-up note:
When I first wrote to you, it inspired me to do a little research on electric football. I learned that there’s a recently published book called The Unforgettable Buzz: The History of Electric Football and Tudor Games, which my wife bought me for Christmas. Although 600-some pages on electric football might seem like a seriously “niche” read, it turned out to be a fascinating book, especially for someone who grew up with the game.
The book very effectively weaves together the story of the Tudor Metal Products Company, their competitors, the rise of professional football and subsequent AFL/NFL merger, the emerging medium of television, toy manufacturing and retailing in general, historic events, and how the orbits of all of these things interrelated.
Also included is some great narrative about stuff only Uni Watch readers could love, such as the relative merits of the paint jobs on Hong Kong-produced players vs. Haitian White Shoe players and the like. Great stuff.
That book sounds tremendous. Looks like it was published over the summer — how were we all unaware of it?
A little experiment: Today is Tuesday, so normally you’d be seeing Collector’s Corner here, followed by the Ticker. But today we’re going to try something different: The Ticker will be published a few hours after this main entry (it’s now up), and Collector’s Corner a few hours after that (it’s now up).
Are we doing this to increase pageviews? Yeah, that’s part of it. But we’re also trying to keep the site feeling more dynamic for more of the day. As it stands now, we get a lot of traffic and comments in the morning and early afternoon (Eastern time) and very little after that. I want to see what it’s like to be posting content at a time other than first thing in the morning.
I know some of you won’t like this, and I’m not sure I like it myself. (To put it in perspective, when we changed the Ticker to the sport-by-sport format, I described that as an experiment too, but I was much more sold on that change, right from the beginning, than I am on this one.) But we’re going to try it today. Feedback welcome.
See you in a few hours with the Ticker (today’s installment of which was written by intern Garrett McGrath) and a few hours after that with Collector’s Corner. — Paul