• U.S.

Modern Living: Talking Football

2 minute read

The millions of football widows around the U.S. have long been resigned to hearing the voices of sportscasters booming from television sets and radios on autumn Saturdays, Sundays and Monday evenings. Over the balance of the week, however, a subtle peace usually reigns, broken only occasionally when a dedicated fan tunes in to basketball and hockey games. Now even that peace is threatened: Mattel Inc. of Los Angeles has introduced a Talking Football game that makes it possible for the football widow to hear the maddening tones of the football announcer at any hour on any day of the week.

The heart of the game is a little red record player that resembles a transistor radio. It is slotted to accommodate one of 13 cookie-size plastic records, each bearing on one side a recording of a play (long pass or off-tackle run, for example) and on the other a choice of six possible defenses. To call a play, one participant chooses the appropriate record and inserts it halfway into the so-called Sportscaster Box. His opponent, who can see only the defense possibilities on his side of the record, chooses a likely one by rotating the record until the segment labeled “blitz,” for example, is at the top. Then he pushes the record all the way down.

Great Play! That starts the record player and produces a sportscaster’s voice (it belongs to Dick Enberg, radio announcer for the Los Angeles Rams) excitedly describing the play: “The blitz is on. . .a pass to the fullback, screen over the middle. . .twenty-five yards,” or perhaps “screen left. . .cornerback. . .great play! . . .makes the tackle. No gain!” Crowd cheers provide an appropriate background. The players move a yard-marker on a miniature gridiron according to the announced result, and another play is chosen. There are special records for punts, fumbles, interceptions and the like, a small scoreboard and even miniature goal posts.

Chance and skill play about equal roles in the outcome of the game, say the Mattel people. It is perfectly possible, for example, to outguess the defense and complete a long pass, but then suffer a fumble. Talking Football is the firm’s major entry in the game business this year. Though sales figures are secret, Mattel declares: “Early movement is very encouraging.” Not for football widows.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com