I was 17 and I was pretty sure my parents bought me the 1976 football season. I had requested it, promoting the game during the fall and talking about it all during the 1977 NFL season. It cost $18.75, a steep price for a kid in the days before video games, but I constantly told them I would get my money’s worth.
Two years earlier, they bought me a Sherco II dice replay baseball game that replaced the raucous electric baseball game I had. The APBA football game, I reasoned, would replace the equally loud electric football game I played with each fall and winter.
So, I expected the game that Christmas, but, as was the case with my folks, they always saved the best present, the headliner, for last and I had to go through the myriad of other gifts first. Clothing, a box of Lifesavers, pens and notebooks for school, a book or two — all appreciated, but, alas, set aside in anticipation of the big gift.
When my parents finally slid the large box out from under the tree, I was sure it was the APBA football game. But I had to see it to believe it.
I opened it, and there it was. In my hands were the game cards for the players I watched on television each week. Each card was packed in the player’s team envelopes. I looked at the stars of the day — Roger Staubach for the Cowboys, Bert Jones with the Colts, Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh — and I knew this was something special.
It was a complex game to learn, and I remember spending that Christmas day and night reading the instructions and playing a practice game. School was on Christmas break so I stayed up into the wee hours that night learning the game.
The seed was planted.
Two years later, my parents bought me the NBA version of the game. Most longtime APBA players never liked the game, criticizing it for its extremely slow pace of play. But I loved it and for the next 14 years it was the main game I played.
Now, 35 years later I still stay up late playing the game. This time it’s baseball. I was a late bloomer by getting into APBA baseball in 1998, 21 years after I was first introduced to the company. Most people begin with baseball. I had to do it backwards.
I am widowed now and have no children. My parents are long gone and I never had any siblings. The magic of Christmas is no longer a possibility for me. In fact, this year I’m working on Christmas Day at my newspaper. My assignments are to cover the possibility of ice and snow the following day and to write about others who are working that day.
But the magic of the game lives on as I continue to roll. I hope somewhere out there a wrapped present under a Christmas tree contains an APBA game for some youngster. And, after he sifts through the shirts and other presents, he opens the APBA box and begins a lifelong journey of his own magic.