Electric Football, A Good Vibration
I think I was 8 or 9 years old when I got my first electric football game. It was made by a company called Tudor and it came with players that were yellow and white. On the box it said “Plan your offensive and defensive strategies.” Now what sports nut kid like myself wouldn’t love that? The game also came with paint and a brush to actually make some nifty uniform colors. I didn’t paint any of my players. I think my sister one day painted a couple on the white team. Along with the paint there were stick on numbers that came on a wax type paper. The game included 2 goal posts that were to be pushed into holes right on the goal line. That’s right, the goal posts back then were located right on the goal line not 10 yards back like today. They were in the form of an H. On one end was a dial that was supposed to act as a game clock. I never used the dial and seriously doubt that it worked. I played the game until I was tired of it and then the game was over. There was a screw at one end that controlled the intensity of the vibration. To anyone not familiar with electric football the game was played on a vibrating field. With the control switch in hand you lined your players up and then turned on the vibration and watched the action!
Each plastic player was on a little stand. The bottom of the stand had 4 little sticks of plastic that ran straight down. Those tiny sticks actually helped control the players direction as the vibrating field maneuvered them. The ball was just a miniature hard piece of cotton. A specialist player was also provided for each team. This was the quarterback-kicker. This player would not play in the game unless you decided to pass or kick. At that point you were supposed to shut off the vibrations and attempt to press the ball back in his hand like a sling shot. The ball would fly down the field and hopefully hit a player on your team. If it did it was considered a completed pass. The game was stopped for the kicker too. With a flip of the lever behind his shoulder his leg would swivel into hopefully a successful kick of the ball.
In all of the advertisements for electric football, the games were played by 2 friends competing for football glory. My electric football was an individual game. I played that crazy game for hours. I didn’t have much use for the quarterback-kicker guy. I was more interested in seeing how the players advanced down the field. I think there were 3 different poses a player might have. The obvious blocker with his arms folded, the defensive specialists with their arms out, and the stars of the team with their running poses and their right arm in position to slide the ball in.
Naturally my favorite player was one of those star players. I never gave him a name but he was number 89 of the yellow team. I don’t know how it happened but that particular player had a way of dodging the other players and heading up field with an uncanny ability. Well it seemed like great ability to an 8 year old kid anyway. I would usually line him up in a pile going straight, but somehow he would bounce to the outside and straighten himself up and head down the field faster than any of the other players! Over time his number 89 peeled off and I just put a number 1 on his back with a marker. Truly he was the best ever and deserving the top number!
For a couple of years I played with that game so much that one of the wires got frayed. The only way to make the game work after that was to have the switch clicked on all of the time and connect the wires to make it go. My parents must have noticed my game’s sad shape and the fact that I was constantly shocking myself because that Christmas I got a new electric football game. This one was called The Super Dome and it was much bigger and fancier. It had pictures of all of the famous football players of the day on the outside rim of the field. For some reason though I never had as much fun with it as I did that basic little Tudor model.
One thing I enjoyed doing while playing with my game was lining all of the players at one end and having them race to the other end. Usually number 89 and later number 1 would win the race. Sometimes a dark horse would take the honors. Invariably there would be a player taking the lead and looking like a sure winner only to turn on a dime and start going the wrong way. From constant use and the wearing down of their little guider things on the bottom of their platform, players could change direction in a split second. Sometimes they would get tangled up with each other and start spinning around together. Other times they would get turned to the out of bounds of the game and the vibrations would cause them to just stay turned bumping aimlessly into the side. Other players would go in circles. Still others got stuck in one place no matter how much the vibrations were turned up. This was probably caused by completely worn down guiders. Sometimes if I wanted to see a faster race I turned the vibration up. Invariably some would fall down and lay there helplessly spinning on their backs.
It occurs to me all of these years later that we are a lot like those electric football players in the race to heaven. Some may take the straight path, but far too many of us will get tangled up, lose our way, bump aimlessly off to the side, go around in circles getting nowhere, or just continue to be glued to one spot. When trials come many of us fall down and are not able to get up. When those figures fell down I was quick to set them upright, turn them in the right direction and watch their new progress. That is exactly what God does for us. Sometimes it takes falling to get back on the path to victory!
I never gave number 89 a name but I think I’ll name him the Apostle Paul. One who ran swiftly and straight for the goal no matter what came his way. In a distant part of my mind I hear a faint sound of a game vibrating from days long ago. I see 89 (Paul) straightening himself out and gliding down the field. I see the kid in me smiling and shaking his head in amazement!