It was 20 years ago today that the first national Electric Football convention took place in Chicago. The event was hosted by Miggle Toys, who had bought the Tudor Games Electric Football line in a bankruptcy sale in late 1991. (See the “Beyond Brooklyn” chapter in our book The Unforgettable Buzz.) It had taken Miggle a number of years to get Electric Football up and running, and to re-secure the NFL license. After holding a four person Super Bowl tournament in Michael Jordan’s restaurant in 1995, Miggle decided to have a full-blown convention in 1996.
The 1996 event took place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago, truly a grand venue for Electric Football’s “rebirth.” For those of us lucky enough to have journeyed to this first meeting of the Electric Football nation, it’s something we will never forget. Our perspective from behind our table of vintage games — which we ended up auctioning off late in the afternoon — was a blur of conversations about games and teams, and yes, even that book we were going to write.
It was all so new, from the stories we heard about reposing players with a hot butter knife, to being shown some of the “secrets” of the game with regards to passing and player positioning. There were so many layers, so many details, so many stories to share — you have to remember that 20 years ago the internet was in its infancy. This was a time of dial-up modems and five-hour a month online access plans. So the “sharing” of the game, at least beyond the exchange of letters and phone calls was just beginning. Miggle’s “Plugged In” newsletter WAS the voice of the hobby.
In looking back, it’s clear now that the Chicago Hyatt Ballroom on January 20, 1996, was the “ground zero” of modern Electric Football The big scattered mysterious world of Electric Football gathered on that day (and the following day!) and got to know itself a whole lot better.
We forged friendships in Chicago that still remain special to us in 2016. That so many of us would still be at this Electric Football “thing” 20 years later…nobody was thinking that far ahead. We were all in the moment enjoying all the moments that unfolded during those two days. A common feeling among attendees was that this might be the ONLY Electric Football convention ever held. It was a certainly a motivation that drove many of us to Chicago on a below-zero weekend.
The Chicago Sun-Times and The Chicago Tribune both covered the event, as did Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and even The Baltimore Sun gave it a mention. We were quoted by all of these publications — identified as writing a book on Electric Football history. We’re glad that, 20 years on, we were actually able to fulfill that ambition. (Twice!)
Here’s to all of the friends we made in Chicago and on this two decade Electric Football odyssey!
Earl & Roddy