In the spirit of the season, I thought I would tell a story about how I learned the dirty little secret about Christmas. I can imaging parents rushing to their radios to shut them off before I can go on--but don't worry Moms and Dads--I'm not talking about that secret. I'm talking about the other dirty little secret--that the toy your want so much as a child--the toy that you think will make life perfect--and the toy you think you can't live without--will turn out to be a big old piece of junk.
The toy that taught me that lesson was Super Electronic Football. For those not familiar, Super Electronic Football was a tabletop football game that included little plastic players on little plastic bases that would move around the metal field with the flip of a switch. I can still remember the TV ads that ran during the Saturday morning cartoons showing boys my age completing perfect passes to little plastic receivers and little plastic guards executing sweep plays that would have made Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston jealous. Remeber, this was in the pre-Madden video game era--where kids actually went out to play football in the yard or they used their imaginations in tabletop games.
I included Super Electronic Football on my wish list for probably two or three years until that magical Christmas Day when I was ten years old that the flat, rectangular box finally showed up under the tree. Oh the excitement I felt that day--imagining my team running a wide open offense like the Air Coryell attack of the San Diego Chargers and dominating defensive schemes like the Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh.
Once we were done with breakfast and visiting the Grandparents houses on Christmas day, I was finally able to play my beloved game. Well, I guess play was a bit of an overstatment--because first you had to assemble everything. That included breaking each of the players free from the little plastic tree and sliding them onto their little plastic bases. Then you had to stick the little plastic numbers on them. And why were my players yellow and green? Was this a sinister subliminal message to a child of a Packer Backer family who hated the Pack because they were a bunch of losers?
Anyway, I finally got the players all set up--and the little brown foam football punched out of its perforated sheet--and was ready to play. I set up the little kicker guy--snapped his leg into the ball--and watched the little foam football soar into the brown pile carpeting that just happened to be the same color. I don't remember many NFL games being delayed as officials and players looked for balls that went off of the field--but game one of the Jonathan Krause Football League was in a lost ball delay after the opening kickoff. After brushing my hand over the entire living room floor a dozen times hoping the ball would pop up out of the carpet I finally gave up and punched another one out of the sheet.
GAME BACK ON!! I carefully set up my offense and defense for my first play: a fly pattern bomb to my wide receiver--who would have one-on-one coverage down the sideline. The players are set--the imaginary crowd is roaring--and I throw the switch to put the field in motion. What followed more closely resembled the LA Riot than NFL football. The primary receiver just kept turning in circles as half the offensive linemen fell on their sides and the quarterback decided to head for his own endzone.
Obviously, I needed to adjust the little wheels on the bases of all my players. After a quick adjustment, some of the players actually went where they were supposed to. I flicked the quarterback's arm--and watched the little brown foam football soar into the pile carpeting never to be found again. In fact that was a fate met by all twelve of the little brown footballs in less than a week--forcing my players to use little fragments of the brown foam that was left over from the perforated sheet.
I never did figure out how to get any of the players to go where I wanted them to go--no matter how many times I adjusted the dial in their bases. That became a moot point after I leaned on the thin metal--putting a permanent crease in the field that attracted all of the players on all of the plays. It was just a matter of weeks before the toy I could not live without found a permanent home in the back of the closet.
Don't worry my faith in Christmas was restored the next year when Caleco introduced Head-To-Head Football. Sure the "players" where little red dots on a screen--but you couldn't lose the ball in the carpet. It also taught my parents another dirty little secret about Christmas--batteries are never included.