Norman Sas, Inventor of Electric Football, Stops Vibrating

Norman Sas, one of the giants of football home games died late last month at age 87. No he did not invent EA Sports’ Madden NFL or even Tecmo Bowl, instead he was the man behind Electric Football. Unfamiliar with Electric Football? You are showing your age, or lack thereof. Prior to the modern video games there was Electric Football.

The game was around for a few decades before it gained a tie-in with the NFL, which allowed it to use team colors and logos in 1967 and then sales soared for more than a decade, until the advent of electronic versions slowed sales a great deal.

A quick recap of how the game is played. It had a marked football field and two teams of players. When lined up the game was turned on and the board vibrated, sending payers to and fro across the board, sometimes as you wanted them to go and often, at least when I played, into a jumbled mass in the center of the field. There is a quarterback that can actually throw the ball, another skill I never mastered.

However there are obviously some people much better at the game than I as there appear to be several leagues past and present that have competed for bragging rights. Of course the game is still available, and according to this article, it has sold 40 million copies since its invention in 1948. Now available from Miggle Toys the game can be had on Amazon for around $60.

CBSSports.Com Rolls Outs Fantasy Football Developer Challenge

CBSSports.Com has tossed the gauntlet to app developers focused on fantasy football as well as just app developers in general in an effort to create a contest aimed at delivering top apps for the fantasy football space with the introduction of its Fantasy Football Developers Challenge.

The winners of the effort will not just get a laurel and hearty handshake but will receive cash prizes as well as access to CBSSports’ large fantasy football customer base. This effort builds on the network’s push last year to open its platform to third-party developers and was announced at the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) this week.

The Fantasy Football Developers Challenge starts today and will run until the opening of the official NFL season in the first week of September. The contest will feature these categories: Draft, Roster Management, Results (live scoring, schedule, standings), Content, Administration, and Communications/Social.

There is a team of judges that will include Paul Charchian who is the founder of Fanball, LeagueSafe and current President of the FSTA, Geoff Reiss who is the CEO of the Professional Bowlers Association and former ESPN executive who managed the launch of and the fantasy sports products on and Rick Wolf, the founder & CEO, Full Moon Sports Solutions. Also included are two CBSSports officials, Dave Richard a Senior Fantasy Football Writer for CBSSports and Tony Fernandez, Vice President of Technology for

All apps will be judged by this team on a set of five criteria, each with an equal weight towards the total. The five: Originality of concept, design and visual appeal, utility, fantasy value, and market potential. The prizes are:

1st place: $60,000
2nd place: $10,000
3rd place: $5,000

If you are curious about how large a market the fantasy space has grown to be here are the numbers provided by the FSTA: There are currently 32.8 million fantasy sports players in the United States and of that figure, 24.3 million (74%) play fantasy football. For the full rules head over here

Has the United States Football League Returned?

Since I saw the original story on April 1, I was, an am, skeptical that it is the real deal, yet several news sources have reported that the league that played its last game in 1987 is back and this time it is taking a different approach.

The rights to the league have apparently been purchased by Jamie Cuadra, a San Diego businessman, according to a piece in the U-T San Diego, and according to the article he plans on having an eight team league that will play 14 games and then playoffs.

The goal is to place teams in towns like Akron, San Jose, Portland, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Austin, Memphis, Raleigh-Durham, Birmingham, Omaha, Neb., and Baton Rouge. He envisions it as sort of a minor league for the NFL, so that there will be no direct competition.

Caudra said that the issue with the USFL and the XFL was that they were not fiscally responsible and the current league will set caps on player pay. This is very similar to how the MLS currently operates. According to ProFootballTalk players will receive $3,000 to $3,500 per game. The season is tentatively slated to start in Spring 2013.

For those old enough to remember the league had a brief five year history where it positioned itself as a Spring alternative to the National Football League and was eventually driven out of business by its better accepted rival. It sued for anti-monopoly violations and won, exactly one dollar, although that might have then been tripled to three. The XFL’s short career started and ended in 2001.

As of the writing of this article a number of football sites have not yet mentioned this event. ESPN, with its huge NFL coverage machine came up a blank on its search engine as well. However there does appear to be a shiny new web site for the USFL. So is it real or is it fake? After all of the other interesting things I saw on the web yesterday I am voting fake for the time being.

The Big Ten Network expands to Mobile Devices with BTN2Go

Fans of Big Ten sports who are on the road can now take a piece of the conference with them, a sporting piece as the conference has expanded its Big Ten Network (BTN) presence to cover both mobile users as well as expanding its footprint on the Internet.

The BTN2Go features the live sports feed of the programming that fills BTN, it is simply made available to users of smartphones, tablets or access the site via the Internet. The BTN has done a staged rollout of the program, it debuted with the start of the football season last year as an Internet-only feature and then expanded to the iPad and iPhone quickly afterwards. A version for Android-based phones is expected within the next month or so.

The goal of the effort to provide fans of Big Ten sports access to games anywhere, at any time on any device, said Michael Calderon, BTN’s vice president of digital and interactive media. The network is currently looking at other platforms such as Windows Phone and connected devices including game consoles and expects to launch a new platform with the start of next year’s football season, Calderon said.

Users have to be subscribers of the participating cable or broadband providers, a list that includes Bright House Networks, Charter, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.

If you fall into that category then BTN2Go is free with no addition subscription needed and this gives you access to a huge amount of both current and past programming. First and foremost for many fans is the ability to watch live games. However games that are broadcast by BTN’s partners such as ABC and ESPN will be available the following day on-demand.

Calderon noted that a real benefit the program brings is for fans that do not live in the Big Ten area, where a game that are interested might not be broadcast, it will still be available on BTN2Go. Also when an event runs long, say the first of a basketball doubleheader, a user can still go to BTN2Go to watch the opening of the second game if that is the one they are interested in viewing.

The BTN has benefited from its founders foresight. When it was founded five years ago in ensured that it had control of all its digital rights so that the licensing issues that have the potential to stymie a program such as this do not exist.

Then there is also access to archival footage from earlier this season broadcast by both BTN and its partners. Of course there is highlight reels and coaches shows on a regular basis. The BTN also creates home grown series such as Original series such as The Journey, Big Ten Icons, Big Ten’s Best and The Big Ten’s Greatest Games that are also available for viewing.

Going forward the network is looking to add additional features to BNT2Go including possibly a social media module for Facebook and Twitter users, but for the first generation of the platform it focused on delivering a top video experience, Caldera said.