By Dr. Ken 


Imagine yourself in high school, perhaps new to the school, and you’re a football fan, perhaps a member of your former high school’s football team with intentions of joining your new school’s squad, and you love the game. If you were told that there was a guy in school who had memorized every American Football League and National Football League roster, knew every player’s height, weight, and college of attendance, could immediately recite the reported statistics from not only the televised game of the week that was played on Sunday prior to Monday morning classes but from all four AFL games and the corresponding six or seven NFL games, you would no doubt think, “Geez, this school has at least one nerd walking the hallways.” I have accurately described what for me was my normal behavior; know everything one could about football at all times. I did not limit my focus to professional football. There was usually but one televised collegiate game each week when I was of high school age and it unfortunately coincided with our normal high school football schedule as games in the New York City Metropolitan area were almost always played on Saturday afternoons. While other states and even upstate New York made the term “Friday Night Lights” rather easily understood long before the book or movie of the same title, violence or expected violence and a lack of properly lighted facilities limited New York City and Long Island high school football to Saturday afternoon kickoff, although the Catholic School League often played on Sunday afternoons. Still, the New York Times Sunday Edition had the full listing of college scores from across the nation and a brief synopsis of the major games and Ivy League, giving me a bit more to mentally ingest.


Perhaps the only thing separating me from the description “nerd” or “geek” was the fact that I was one of the most frequently involved street fighters in the area and was actually bouncing on occasional weekends at private parties hosted by the wealthier few in the school district, and at an adult bar and club while still a 150 pound senior in high school. Repossessing cars for a private investigator at age fifteen, long before I had a legal driver’s license, also gave me quite a bit of separation from the stereotypical version of an adolescent nerd. Playing a number of high school sports, though admittedly not in an outstanding fashion, and being one of the limited number of fellows engaged in weight training activities during the late 1950’s to early ‘60’s era may not have altered my peers’ perception of me as odd, but I was not treated nor spoken of as a total geek! It was my “football thing” that had my teachers and fellow students perpIexed and rather convinced that I was headed towards a bleak future. I was reminded of these past memories during the recent National Football League Combine week, when Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan received a lot of attention during his February 20 entrance to the facility, donned in his Thurman Thomas throwback Bills jersey.

Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan at NFL Combine, wearing Thurman Thomas throwback Super Bowl jersey. He gets points for his fashion sense!

Many of the analysts made note that Rex and Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick walked in together, supposed or perceived enemies hobnobbing in a most public venue. I was more taken with the fact that Coach Ryan was, well, like all of the guys I know and talk football with, wearing a favorite team or player’s jersey in public. Of course, it would have to be a Bills jersey of some sort that Ryan would sport but had professional team jerseys or even college team tee shirts been available when I was a teenager, and for those of the same age range, would we have not saved every spare nickel until we too could have walked through town to the local malt shop, diner, or hang-out displaying the same garment? During the 1960’s and even until the early 1970’s, the only way to get a college team tee shirt or sweatshirt, one that read XYZ College Football for example, would have been to play as a member of the team and have the equipment man place it into your hands. Licensing to print and sell for example, College Of Pacific Football or Michigan Swim Team attire was not yet a reality, so having a “real” athletic team piece of clothing was big time stuff! I can recall returning to my home after completing my first year of college and for perhaps the first month, even in weather much too warm for sweatshirts or a letter jacket, I paraded the streets and the hallways of both high schools I had attended so that I could visit former coaches and admittedly, show off my college football wear. I got the impression Rex Ryan would have done the same.

Of course, with a single-minded interest in football, training to become better as a football player, and reading little beyond classroom requisites and everything that might have been football related, I found that there were football games that were available to assist me in my submergence in the activity.

If this logo is familiar to any of our readers, you are or were, in the most positive sense possible, a Football Nerd like the author!

Two favorites, primarily meant to be played with others but most often in my case, enjoyed alone, were APBA Football and Electric Football. APBA was a card and dice game, requiring some knowledge of the rosters and abilities of each NFL team. I recall owning the 1959 or 1960 version of the game and each of the twelve NFL teams were represented by a card for each player that might carry, catch, or pass the football. Plays were called in accordance with down, distance, time on the clock, and current score situations and even when playing against oneself, it caused one to think about the strategy of the sport and how to best utilize their available players. While I cannot recall the specifics of the cards and dice throws, I very clearly remember using a draw play, always to Rick Casares if I had the Chicago Bears as my team, or giving it to bruising Nick Pietrosante of the Lions. Calling this infrequently, perhaps once or twice a game as it was typically utilized then in the pros, most often resulted in significant yardage. I would mentally pat myself on the back and spend hours giving thought to why, for example, Casares was able to break loose on a fifty-five yard touchdown run on my coaching decision.


Bears fullback Rick Casares has long been considered one of the State of Florida’s greatest high school and college athletes. Always a reliable runner for the Chicago Bears, his statistics and performance on the field were reflected well in APBA Football 

My younger brother and I, as well as some of the fellows in the neighborhood, enjoyed Electric Football but the early versions of the Tudor game were not nearly as sophisticated as later editions. I can recall carefully placing the plastic player pieces onto the metal surface of the lined playing field, cautiously turning on the power to a very low level, and then watching the pieces explosively scatter in all directions with many falling over. Over time the game became more technical and the physical control of the playing pieces very much enhanced. Although I could occasionally talk fanatic friends like Richard Landsman into joining me in a marathon session, I most often played by myself, tinkering with the pieces, angling them in multiple formations, and always trying to find better ways to make my favorite plays work.

Of course, I had to take it to the next level. I wanted to pit our Long Beach High School Marines against powerful Hempstead High School. I took hours meticulously painting each of the yellow pieces so that I had a Columbia blue set of “Long Beach players” and the other set in a darker royal blue to represent the Hempstead squad that was led by the great John Mackey. Of course, this played havoc with my intention to stage a following game between the Cleveland Browns and hometown New York Giants. Contemplating a solution, I accompanied my father to work in Manhattan on a school holiday. When he walked from the Long Island Railroad platform to the Seventh Avenue Subway line, I instead, even at the age of approximately ten or eleven, headed off for the subway to Brooklyn. I used public transportation to drop me a block or two away from the Tudor Games Company factory in what I recall was a rather dangerous part of Brooklyn. I also don’t believe they were in any way set up for retail sales but I walked up the stairs and immediately explained my dilemma to a sympathetic secretary. She in turn pulled someone out of an office who graciously took the time to speak with me. I was clear that the company should provide the option of specific, individual team packages. I know I mentioned the Giants and Browns since they were an immediate hurdle I needed to address, but I might have suggested Long Beach High School also. I lamented the fact that the quarterback figure, one that was metal at that time and needed to have its arm pulled back and set almost like a catapult, had minimal accuracy trying to pass the small white felt football. I noted that even trying to bend and twist the plastic brushes on the bottom of the thick plastic player bases in an attempt to guide the blocking scheme in a specific direction often resulted in an offensive lineman pushing his own running back through his own end zone.


Whomever was unfortunate enough to draw the short straw and perform duty as customer service liaison that morning got an earful, although in a very respectful manner. He also had many laughs, saying that it was unreasonable to provide painted figures for all of the professional or any collegiate teams. He explained that the metal quarterback and kicker the game provided was made to be sturdy and last for years, although the metal construction made for a rather obvious lack of accuracy. My excursion proved to be successful though as I had lodged my complaints and suggestions, and was able to purchase packages of the standard, yellow colored plastic players. As I recall, I was given a package or two at no cost to supplement those I bought and also to allow me to expand my roster of “homemade” painted players.

Of course, the simple vibrating metal board, painted green with lines and end zone areas, has through the years expanded to include stands, the availability of detailed painted figures for each NFL team, and many more features. That Electric Football and APBA Football games are still available and have tremendous fan followings gave me comfort that I was perhaps not such a “minority” among those who are so submerged in their love of football.