Football to Buzz About

I remember the first time my dad introduced me to electric football. I was probably 8 or 9 years old and it was everything I loved: sports, little plastic men, electricity, scoring, strategy, comedy. I was captivated.

Like everything else that interested me at that age, it was all I wanted to do for about a month. I didn’t know anything about football, but it didn’t matter; I’d draw up formations on paper that were unbeatable. I only played against my dad, so he’d let me bend the rules and do things like position players horizontally around my ball carrier to protect him from getting tackled.

Inevitably, that would fail. My ball carrier would fall down or run straight out of bounds, or in the worst possible cases, go backwards into my own endzone. That was the best part.

What I remember the most was not celebration or victory, it was the concept of what could be and the hilarity of having no control over what actually happened. That was almost 20 years ago. I’ve grown up quite a bit and it turns out, so has electric football.

9072-hero-sf-nyg-800pxA little while ago, Tudor Games sent me a copy of this year’s Red Zone electric football game. I was feeling nostalgic (basically the only thing I do on this blog), so I thought I’d give it a try. I cleared off a spot on my living room carpet on Saturday morning, assembled the field and pieces and turned the whole thing on.

The game I remembered was more laughing than sporting, more electric than football. Red Zone still has all the joys of players running straight into the sidelines and fumbling in the open field, but there’s actually a real football strategy element to it. There’s a lot for a football mind to enjoy. In the Stone Age game, playing was more or less just cheering; you lined up the players, turned it on and hoped your backs ran forward and your tacklers didn’t fall down. Unless the run was up the middle, in which case, you kind of hoped they did fall down because they took up more space that way.

Tudor’s version of the game has a quarterback that throw passes, kickers that punt or kick field goals and (get this) cleats. The players have cleats. Not actual spikes or anything, but the bases of the players are fitted with either a thick plastic band (to broaden their base and make them harder to push) or a pair of thin plastic runners (to make them move in a desired direction. Both sets of cleats are angled to virtually ensure your players move forward, or if you want, backward, in the case of a cornerback or safety.

That running back comes ready for a Heisman

That running back comes ready for a Heisman

Speaking of cornerbacks and safeties, that’s another way you can customize the game. Among the 11 players on each side, there are five different player builds. The linemen have low centers of gravity and have elbows out wide to block the most effectively. Receivers have a hand held up to catch (touch) passes up high. Running backs have a stiff arm out to push away would-be tacklers (tackles are made with the bases, not the hands). Pair the player builds with the different cleats, and you’ve got an ultra-customizable electric game that actually takes skill to play.

Speaking of taking skill, the Red Zone quarterbacks can pass. No joke, the quarterback has a spring loaded arms that aim aim and fire at receivers. If the ball hits them, it’s a catch. As far as electric football technology goes, it’s literally the invention of the forward pass. Sure, it takes some practice, but the rules recommend beginner players get multiple shots at completing a pass to make it more accessible. The way pass plays work is that the offensive player declares a pass but lines up essentially like a run. Then the field is turned on and the receivers make their way down the field. At some point, the offensive player stop the play, replaces the ball carrier with the quarterback and launches the tiny football at a receiver. It makes the game a lot more fun, but it takes some practice. Of course, if you’re into the old school style of play, you can always just play all runs and enjoy the other advances.

New this year is also an NFL version of the game that comes with stickers for all 32 teams. Sure, you have to kick off from closer to the end zone and a touchback only gets you the 20 instead of the 25, but now you get a two-minute warning at each half. You’ll have to step up the passing game for the pro version, because receivers have to get both feet down.

Today’s electric football is literally not your father’s game. It could be if you wanted to play that way, but it could also be a lot better. If you’re into experimenting with new electric football technology, the kicking game is also significantly upgraded. The spring-loaded kicking can introduce kickoffs, field goals, punts and PATs. You don’t need to try them all at once, but it’s really easy to do (you just load, aim and fire) and makes the game a lot of fun.

There’s a lot to Tudor’s new and improved version of electric football. I spent a morning and afternoon playing with it and still feel like I was just getting the hang of how I could play better. Should I line up a secondary blocker who only moves sideways to clear out early breaks through the line? Should I send two or three wide receivers directly next to each other so I have a better chance of completing a pass to them? Better yet, can a lineman jam a receiver on a pass play instead of requiring an extra secondary player to muddle things up?

The first thing I did when I stopped playing was call my dad and tell him about my new toy. It’s been almost 20 years since he first introduced me to electric football and the game has changed a lot for the better. It was kind of a trip down memory lane to turn on an electric football game, but it’s something I would definitely recommend to anyone who even remotely likes football. Or electricity.

Actual game film. Notice the double receiver set. Also the sideways jam cornerback defense.

Actual game film. Notice the double receiver set. Also the sideways jam cornerback defense.