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Murch: That stinking electric football game

July 13, 2012
Steve Murch - Managing Editor , The Alpena News

Like many people of a certain age, mostly men, I owe a lot of youthful aggravation to Norman Sas. Who, you ask is Norman Sas?

If the name escapes you, don't feel bad. I didn't know his name either until he died Friday. Sas is a mechanical engineer who made the most frustrating sports game ever - the electric football game where you lined up your players on offense and defense on a "football field."

The players were plastic and there were big players who looked like linemen and small ones for the skilled positions. They were on a plastic base with little legs underneath so they would move, and had a metal plate between the player and the base to hold the magnetic football. The actual size of the players didn't really matter because the bases they were on were all the same size.

After you had them all lined up, you flipped an electric switch to turn on the game and let the play run until someone touched the ball player, signaling a tackle. You could pass with a much larger quarterback if you wanted to, but that was almost fruitless since your passes from the arm that was spring action almost always knocked the receiver over for an incomplete pass.

So where was the frustration? Those players never, ever, went in the direct you wanted them to - some would go in circles and others went in the opposite direction you intended. Invariably, after pulling it out of the box and putting it away several times, players were missing so you didn't have a full team.

It's just as well because I don't know how many times my brother and I actually wound up playing the game. It was too frustrating.

Thinking about that, however, did remind me of some of the "games" we used to play when I was young and we were living in Caseville. Back then, we kept ourselves entertained with our imagination.

One of the games we used to play involved cinders we found amongst the rocks. We called them floating rocks because we could use them for our races.

At the time, our family lived just north of town and had a creek running alongside our property. We would find our racing floating rocks, name them (usually a major league baseball player - the faster the player was the more likely his was a name we chose), then put them in the creek and have them race to where it emptied into Saginaw Bay. Sometimes we would go under the highway and follow them, other times we would cross the highway and find them on the other side - sometimes we didn't find them.

Once it got to the other side, there were branches and grass that could hang up a racer and basically knock him out of the race.

The inside "game" my brother and I used to play probably cost us thousands upon thousands of dollars in the future. Our house had wood floors in the hallway (I can't remember the living room, but I think it did as well), and that made for some great sliding.

We would take our baseball cards and fling them along the floor to see which cards would fly the farthest. Once we got the hang of it and could make them go quite some distance we decided to open the laundry chute at the other end of the house and see if we could get any of them in there. We did occasionally.

So where did we lose all the money?

We destroyed all sorts of cards by rubbing them along the floor and have them smack into walls and damage the cards. I'm sure we had some cards that at one point would have been fairly valuable. Oh well, we were having fun while playing with them anyway.

I don't blame Norman Sas for damaging the cards, I thank him for helping me be creative and find ways to have fun.

Rest in peace Mr. Sas.



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