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Norman Sas, inventor of Electric Football, dies at 87

Steve Snodgrass
Norman Sas invented Electric Football in 1948. The game was popular before the video game era.


 

A few decades ago, before we wrote entire posts dedicated to Robert Griffin III's likeness in a video game, Electric Football ruled the world. The man who invented the sublimely popular game, Norman Sas, died last week at the age of 87.

Electric Football was simple. One metal playing field and 11 plastic figures on a rectangular stand on each side. The human players would carefully put their figures in position, flick a switch, and the metal would vibrate them into action. The "players" would rumble all over, caring not for field position or their coach's gameplan. Every so often, the figure holding the tiny football would find one of the end zones. This could be for a safety or a touchdown.

I remember my dad taking his dusty Electric Football game out of the attic one day and showing me how it worked. (That it was still operational is a testament to my father's famous fastidiousness). I was hopped up on Nintendo's "Tecmo Bowl" at the time -- and also, being 11 or so, a little jerk -- so Electric Football looked to me like a relic left behind by cavemen.

But for people of a certain age, Electric Football was "Tecmo Bowl." It was "Madden."

According to the Hackensack Record (via PFT), Sas invented Electric Football in 1948 and introduced it a year later. But the game didn't take off for nearly two more decades, when Sas signed a deal with NFL Properties in 1967. It wasn't long after that Electric Football was under Christmas trees across the country.

The emergence of video games in the early '80s quickly turned Electric Football into a dinosaur staring down the fiery meteor. But by then, the game -- and the man who invented it -- had already left an indelible mark.

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