We've come along way from electronic football

Published 8:13 pm Saturday, December 28, 2002

By By Paul Keane
I don't know how many people remember those little hand-held electronic football games. The kind with the five "blips" on offense and five on defense that you played with just a few buttons. And when you scored a touchdown, it played this really neat song.
When I received my first one back in eighth grade, I played it until the paint on the buttons was worn down. My parents would send me to bed, and I would turn off all the lights, pull the blanket up over my head with my knees propped up and play the game until late in the night.
Sometimes, if I got lucky, Mom would turn off her "mother hearing" – the kind that hears things mumbled under your breath from 40 paces or more – and I could play until late, late into the night.
At school and on the school bus, we were constantly playing those games until they were confiscated by some mean teacher who just didn't understand that beating your best friend in electronic football would serve us much better in the corporate world than some old English literature. At least we tried to explain it that way, pointing out that the game would give us the competitive edge we needed to succeed in the business world.
Teachers didn't buy it, though, and I think at least one or two of my teachers had a side business or selling used electronic football games. I always wondered why they drove those really nice cars that were purchased in February, usually after about two months of taking up those games.
This Christmas, I was reminded of those little football games as I watched my three kids play with the plethora of electronics they received for Christmas. We've come along way from an electronic football game that worked off a nine-volt battery.
We now have Playstation 2, Game Boy Advance, Xbox and a myriad other varieties of games and toys to keep kids entertained.
Even my five-year-old received an electronic "Mr. Potato Head," which allows you to build the old fashioned Mr. Potato Head on a screen while holding a device much like those old electronic football games. Only the graphics are better.
The youngest son did receive a "Leap Pad," which teaches things like phonics, reading, basic math skills and the like. But it does so with technology that we never thought possible when I was a kid.
The daughter got a Game Boy Advance and a karaoke machine that hooks up to her television. She also got a handheld "PDA," something that I'm still trying to figure out. She swears it will keep her better organized, but it looks like too much work for me. Just give me my portable filing cabinet – also called my wallet – and some scraps of paper, napkins and the like. I'll stay organized fine, thank you.
The oldest boy was playing football on his new Playstation 2 on Christmas Day, and I was amazed at the graphics and all the information that one little card can hold. Not only does it give you complete statistical packages – something an old sports editor like me eats up – but it uses either real players from the present and past or you can develop your own teams.
In addition, the announcers follow the game and give detailed play-by-play, and the sounds from the stadium area just like what I've heard during 25 years of covering high school, college and professional football.
Heck, the players even talk a little trash, which can be something of concern.
We just seemed to have moved up a notch or two this holiday season when it comes to electronics for kids. Kids of today are more computer literate than we ever thought of being. I remember in school when the head of IBM said computers in the home would never happen because they were too bulky and too expensive for home or school use.
Now, all the papers for my children are typed on a computer and they can surf the Internet better than I ever thought of doing.
It makes you wish for those days of the little, tiny "blips" on a small screen, dogging and dash across a screen toward the end zone just so you could beat your best friend before the teacher confiscated your game.
I was reminded of those simpler days late Christmas Day when the youngest son kept going around in circles on the new bike that he had received that day. It was nice to see that some things never go out of style.
Paul Keane is Publisher of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached by e-mail at paul.keane@atmoreadvance.com.

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