Talking Football and Stratego


Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist


Assuming you have had your fill of coronavirus reading, I thought it might be time to delve into a lighter topic. So, board games, or games similar to board games, is the topic.

I can’t take credit for coming up with the idea. It first came to mind while I was driving home last Friday listening to WLW. With the lack of sporting events due to the coronavirus, the host was asking callers about their favorite board game. Then a couple evenings later we were sitting at home with some of the kids when my wife came walking down the stairs carrying a stack of board games.

I groaned (under my breath, of course).

I‘m not much of a board game enthusiast these days, although my wife seems to really enjoy some of the newfangled ones. Maybe I’m just a boring Scrooge, content with TV, conversation, or reading online if I have nothing else to do. But there was a time when I really liked board games — probably because I did not grow up with cell phones, video games and social media — and because my parents got tired of hearing a ball bounce around as evenings wound down.

I cannot name the first board game I ever played. I suppose it could have been Candyland, checkers or something like that. But I seemed more drawn to card games like war, speed and rummy, which as I aged progressed to Uno, Rook, euchre, spades, hearts and poker. I’m not sure they count as board games, but to me, anything that does not involve a ball is close enough.

One of the first board games I was exposed to was Password. When I was a youngster, my parents played it with their friends a good bit and early on I was just a spectator. But as time rolled along, they played with us a lot, too.

There were other games like Trouble and Chinese Checkers, then as I grew Monopoly and Life. Everyone liked Monopoly, but it took way too long to play correctly, so we often turned to Life. But none of those were what I’d call a favorite.

In my early adult years a couple of my favorites were Trivial Pursuit and backgammon.

But most of my favorites involved sports. Electric Football always seemed really fun, and most everyone I knew had a set when we were kids. But it was annoyingly loud, I’m sot sure we ever knew exactly what we were doing, and although we often started playing, the games never seemed to last long.

Then came Talking Football, probably my all-time favorite. It had a playing field where the results of each play were tracked. But its main component was a set of what were actually miniature vinyl records. The offensive player controlled the set of records, each one marked with a different type of offensive play. The offensive player would select his play, stick the record in what was actually a mini record player, and then would pass the record player to the defensive player. On the back of each record were like eight defensive selections. The defensive player would spin the record around (looking only at his side of the record) until he found the play he wanted, and then would push the record down and listen to find out what transpired.

When the record was played, a voice that sounded like a real football announcer would tell exactly how many yards had been gained or loss on the play, how it happened, with fan noise, etc. added. If the defensive player selected a defense similar to what the offensive player selected, things did not go so well for the offense, and vice versa.

I wore out like three sets of that game, and my parents still had the last one until they moved about 10 years ago.

How about the basketball game where a ping pong ball rolled around on a hole-filled court until it fell it into one of the holes? Then little levers on each side of court were used to launch the ball toward a hoop. We wore out lots of those, too.

How about the hockey game where you controlled several players with long levers that slid back and forth?

If you don’t consider those board games, how about Battleship, or a favorite in my early teen years — Stratego. I rarely lost at either, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Most of the favorite board games of my youth are long gone, replaced by newfangled ones I really don’t care to learn. But man, if my wife carried a big, long Talking Football box down the stairs some evening, I’d play for hours.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at jgilliland@timesgazette.com or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2020/03/web1_Gilliland-jeff-2018-3.jpgmug-3.jpgJeff Gilliland Staff columnist