Sad news today from The New York Times for those of us sports fans of a certain generation: Norman Sas, inventor of the electric tabletop football game, has died at age 87.
To my computer-gaming kids, the old Tudor electric football game must seem hilariously primitive. I only wish I still had my father’s mid-50s vintage version of the game to show them.
Dad’s version had simple, identical player forms affixed to aluminum platform with a metal sheet underneath that could be bent to give each figure a vague sense of direction when the field vibrated. The figures of each of the two teams were identical except for their colors (either blue and silver, or gray and silver; I can’t quite recall). There was a separate kicker with a spring-loaded launcher.
The football was a fuzzy white thing that looked suspiciously like the cotton end of a Q-Tip. The more I think of it, it probably was a snipped off Q-Tip end that we used, likely because the original ball was lost.
In later years, the Tudor games were gussied up and figures had poses appropriate for their positions: lineman were shaped to block, running backs looked like they were carrying the ball, and so forth. Eventually the figures were painted in team colors.
In the mid- to late 60s, I had a Tudor baseball game, and somewhere in a box I still have the figures that slid into slots at positions around the field.
The Tudor games were the height of realism in childhood game play half a century ago, and how we kids wished games could be developed that would simulate the real actions of players the way video games do today.
I’m astonished by the realism of sports video games, but curiously I have not gotten hooked (a year or two of EA Sports’ NHL Hockey notwithstanding).
Thank you, Norman Sas, for all the fun.