THE BEST FOOTBALL PRESENTS I RECEIVED FOR CHRISTMAS
With Christmas morning rapidly approaching, I remember what it was like to bounce off the walls in anticipation, wondering if I was going to get the things I had asked for from Jolly Ol St. Nick. Being a sports fanatic, football specifically, didn’t just happen. Like most dads, my father had much to do with the sports that I fell in love with and teams that influenced my rooting interest to start life. As a result, my Christmas mornings were always filled with super hero action figures and gifts that revolved around the NFL, specifically, the “Baltimore Colts”.
In fact, the best Christmas Eve I ever spent in my life was spent at Memorial Stadium on a warm afternoon watching the famous 1977 Baltimore Colts-Oakland Raiders playoff game. The game later became known, as the “Ghost to the Post”. Raiders’ tight end Dave Casper hauled in a touchdown pass from Kenny “The Snake Stabler” .43 seconds into the second overtime, as Oakland went onto to defeat my heroes that day. Moving on to play the Denver Broncos was the big bad silver & black, as my heroes, Bert Jones, Roger Carr, Lydell Mitchell and the rest of the Colts fell for the third straight year in the first round of the playoffs. The Raiders head coach that day, who would later go onto the Hall of Fame but be known more his announcing and video game, John Madden, said if it were a Super Bowl, it would have been the greatest game ever played. The name of the game is easy to figure as Dave “Casper’s” nickname was obviously the ghost and the route he ran to beat the Colts that day—– you guessed it, a post pattern.
Christmas is always a time to reflect and without fail every year mom (God rest her soul) and Dad came through like champions. It was the same thing every year, Dad worked countless hours, at a Ham company while mom did the shopping the good old-fashioned way. There was no internet in those days. Any catalogue ordering she did was done over the telephone (the ones with a real cord), as she dealt with angry sales associates and endless lines along with store hours that were not extended until midnight opening up on Thanksgiving for extra savings.
I asked for everything and anything and I was not the only child in the house. Every Christmas morning was filled with joy because without fail, everything I wanted was there, wrapped neatly and proudly. As a close family, we are going on our 10th Christmas without our matriarch but she always made it perfect. Dad was always there ready to play with all the new stuff with me despite having gotten only about 18 hours’ worth of sleep—-for the entire month of December. You have no idea how much it all meant and still means to me. And the best way for me to honor both is to first carry on for my children what they did for me and second—tell you about the best “football” gifts I ever received.
I am sure many of your parents did the same for you and you received these presents as well growing up. In a season filled with hope, I’m hopeful this article conjures up memories of your youth and what made Christmas morning special for you. As a 43-year-old man, it also helps me remember when the game was still just nothing more than game with favorite teams and heroes instead of hits to the head of a defenseless receiver, 100 million dollar contracts and the .10-cent personalities and brains to match those deals. That cannot be said for every player but you have to admit, one bad apple does spoil the bunch in this day and age.
Do not get me wrong I love today’s NFL, as well as the college game. I just do not love the players that play them anymore. I appreciate their God given athletic ability and am happy when they give back to their communities but for the most part, it is the love of the game as whole that keeps me coming back each Saturday & Sunday, as well as the memories from contests like the “Ghost to the Post”. Well that and my Ravens are an elite franchise in the NFL. So sit back & enjoy my list and leave some comments about football gifts and even sports toys that made your Christmas’s special. This list is in no particular order.
1. ABC TALKING MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
If you never had the pleasure of playing this game as a kid then you missed out. My dad and I played this game a lot together. Inside this game was a football field and 50 or so little records that you slid into a little red player and whatever came out of the little speaker is what you did on the board. It was actually a great way as a kid to learn about the technical terms of football
2. MR. QUARTERBACK:
This little mechanical thing of beauty was amazing technology for a kid in 1976. The only issue I ever had with my Mr. Quarterback was the plastic footballs. They would float on windy cold Baltimore Christmas morning. My Mr. Quarterback was named “Roger the Dodger” (more on that in a minute) and my uncles called it Johnny U.
3. SUPER TOE SUPER JOCK
This was perhaps the toughest sports toy I ever owned. Hit this little guy on the head and watch the little toy plastic footballs fly. The goalposts were wobbly but the little guy could kick that plastic football all the way across the living room or kitchen. He wasn’t as accurate as Justin Tucker was but he made his fair share from the dining room to the living room. Footballs were not the only thing I used to have him kick. Whatever would hold steady enough in front of his foot while I popped him on the head was launched across the room. Great toy and would not mind having one now.
4. MATTTELL ELECTRONIC FOOTBALL:
I was a very lucky kid. Not only did I have Mattel’s electronic Classic Football but I was fortunate to have received the classic baseball and basketball game as well. Of course, I never figured out that it was all the same philosophy with different screens but I loved to play them. To say that hours were spent playing these games is a gross understatement. My father once scored a pair of tickets to Super Bowl XIII but by the time he got them, all of the flights were booked to Miami so we had to take a Greyhound bus from Baltimore. No worries, at least for me, I played this game for a 14 of the 22 hour it took to get to the Orange Bowl. I was as happy and content as could be but later learned that my father spent most of the trip preventing some from wanting to injure an 8-year old child.
5. VIBRATING FOOTBALL:
Remember that 1977 Colts-Raiders game I referenced to start the piece—-I actually discovered this beauty in the back of the car before my dad and I left the house for that game on Christmas Eve 1977.
After discovering it in the trunk, I asked my father if I could have the game to play when we got home that night. He proposed a deal, if the Colts won I could have it that night, if not then I had to wait——A WHOLE 14 HOURS until the next morning. Can you imagine?
Once Stabler hit Casper, it did not dawn on me that the Colts were eliminated from the playoffs, it never crossed my mind that the season was over just like that—nope; all I could think about was having to wait that extra 14 hours to line up a bunch of plastic men that vibrated to one corner of the board. To make matters worse, back in those days, the two teams that came with the game were usually the two teams that played in the Super Bowl the year before and you guessed it, in 1977, the Raiders were one of those teams, as they beat the Vikings in the Super Bowl the prior January. Therefore, my father had to be reminded all day Christmas what happened the day before, as I barked out signals using names like Stabler & Casper playing the game—Poor guy.
It was a great toy and one I treasured for a very long time, even if I lost every little foam football that I ever got for the game. I would pluck a piece of my mother’s living room sofa pillows foam to replace them. I still to this day probably could not figure out how to get the little kicker to kick the ball.
6. NERF FOOTBALL:
The first Nerf Football I am told appeared somewhere around 1972, I had one as soon as I could throw in 1975. The thing I loved about Nerf Football is everyone could be and throw like an NFL Quarterback. An original in good condition can fetch almost 300.00 these days but I’d love to just go out back & have a catch with it.
Every kid remembers his or her first jersey. As a kid growing up in the Charmed City, I loved the Baltimore Colts but they were just the team that happened to play in the city I lived. My dad loved them, so that meant I did. However, I was, like many football fans back in those days, I was enamored with Americas Team. I loved Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys. I wanted to play QB for the Cowboys and my sister wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. We had it all figured out and that was that. I will never forget opening the Staubach jersey. I remember how beautiful it was. The smell of, how white it was and the fact that it said No.12 Staubach on it was a remarkable sight—I was in awe. I also received a Bert Jones Jersey. Just so you know, I wore the Jones jersey to play neighborhood football and the Staubach jersey on Sundays to watch the game…..Cut me some slack fellow Baltimoreans, the Staubach jersey was white. The Staubach jersey eventually died a slow death. Three years later and many sizes too small, came out of the wash pink— mom had a red sock in the with whites and that was it for Roger. Besides, it was time for a Danny White jersey by then.
8. Atari 2600 Football:
I remember, as if it were yesterday, when my father walked in the house on Christmas Eve with one of the first Atari gaming systems. His boss bought them as a gift for some of the employees and my father, who worked his ass off, was a deserving recipient. The image that appears with this paragraph is not exactly Madden 25 but it is all we had and we loved every minute of it. Obviously, the games graphics progressed but three on three was how it was until the pixels, mega this– or giga that could be increased. I love playing the Madden on PS3 but I will never forget where it all started.
Here is hoping that you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks again Mom & Dad for all that you did in those days to ensure that I could write a piece like this with such great memory and love.