The Odyssey, And An Ode To Electric Football
As I write this week’s blog post, I am on the eve of Christmas Vacation, when I look forward to catching up on Christmas shopping, binge-watching some of my favorite Holiday movies, and maybe even (if the weather cooperates) getting in a bonus round of golf. Unlike Clark Griswold, I will not be teetering precariously on a ladder in an effort to make my house visible from outer space with 50-thousand twinkling lights. This year, I purchased one of those star-shower projection light thingamabobs (“as seen on TV”). No, they’re not as good as actual icicle lights, but very few people are going to wander down my trail to look at my Christmas lights, and I don’t really get to see my exterior illumination from my living room. To me, $25 well-spent…
I saw a factoid on my TV screen this week while listening to the Holiday Music channel that took me back in time. Did you know that the first video gaming system came out in 1972, and was called the “Odyssey?” It was made by Magnavox, and we got one that Christmas. Kids from all over my neighborhood converged on the Woodward household to see a white square move up and down on a black screen as we played video tennis. The bowling game was a white square mowing down 10 other white squares, and we shot down menacing alien white squares with (you guessed it) white squares!
How far we’ve come with video games, as the graphics now are so realistic, that I’m sure one day soon, we will have holographic football players and soldiers doing battle right in our living rooms. It all began, though, in 1972, with Odyssey by Magnavox.
On a related note, I saw a commercial this week with the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, playing electric football with the fictional self-proclaimed inventor of the College Football Playoff, Larry Culpepper (of Dr. Pepper fame). In case you don’t remember electric football, it was made by a company called Tudor, and was basically a metal football field that vibrated when you turned it on. The vibration caused the 22 plastic football players to move randomly on the “field”.
In the beginning there were 2 teams: a yellow team and a white team. Tudor then added replicas of every NFL team, and the fields got more elaborate with cardboard stadium attachments, scoreboards, etc. Greatest thing ever! There were several flaws with electric football, however:
It took 17 hours to play one game, because after each play, you had to re-set all 22 men in formation.
There was no way to control where the players went, and more often than not, opponents and teammates alike would lock arms and go around in a circle. Most plays looked like one big square dance to the sound of a loud electric hum.
Passes were attempted with small felt footballs placed in the arm of the quarterback, and completed by the pass hitting the intended receiver. many times the pass would sail over the entire board, sucked up by the old Electrolux and lost forever.
Despite those things, Electric Football has become a part of pop culture, and I’m pretty sure a member of the Toy Hall of Fame. I sometimes wonder if kids today will look back on PlayStation and X-Box as fondly as we look back on things like electric football, Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots, and the Easy Bake Oven. I will ponder this, as I get ready for another classic battle between the yellow team and the white team…
I’ll be back in the Booth in 2 weeks. Until then…