Electric football returns to RVA this weekend bringing fans a convention, championship and education sessions

by | Jul 28, 2016 | COMMUNITY NEWS

There’s a football simulation game experiencing a renaissance. The player becomes the coach of a full 53-man team, devising game plans and strategies all the way down to blitzes and blocking schemes. It’s so visually detailed that you can make out the individual braids on Robert Griffin III’s head, and you can literally feel the action.

There’s a football simulation game experiencing a renaissance. The player becomes the coach of a full 53-man team, devising game plans and strategies all the way down to blitzes and blocking schemes. It’s so visually detailed that you can make out the individual braids on Robert Griffin III’s head, and you can literally feel the action.

Yes, that’s right, electric football is back, and some of the best players in the world will be in Richmond this weekend.

Tudor Games and the Miniature Football Coaches Association (that’s the league of highly competitive players, for the uninitiated) will be hosting the 2016 Electric Football World Championships and Convention at the Four Points by Sheraton this Friday to Sunday. Along with the standard convention fare of booths, swag and the latest innovations in the almost 70-year old game, there will be tournaments for youth, novices, pro-ams and the best of the best, the Tournament of Champions.

This year’s event will feature new education sessions where you can learn the finer points of how to play, paint, and enjoy the full Electric Football Experience.

Convention co-organizer Chris Bopst, longtime entertainer and local concert promoter, played the game as a kid but eventually lost interest. It wasn’t until around 2000, when he got a computer, that he realized there was a whole world of electric football players.

“Right before 2000 I got a computer and the first thing I looked up was electric football,” Bopst said. “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s see how far out the internet has gone, does it include electric football?’ And it did.”

A form of electric football was first sold in 1947 and the game really took off when Tudor Games bought the NFL licenses in 1967. Over the years, over 40 million sets were sold. But as other football simulations took off (namely those in the virtual realm), the game plummeted in popularity.

Recently, however, Doug Strohm, a Seattle-based businessman, has taken over Tudor and reinvigorated the brand, restoring the licensing rights, launching new product lines and improving the game play.

Eleven-man teams line up on a board with a motor underneath. When the motor is turned on, the figures move according to the base they stand on. While you can play the game decently out of the box, serious players send hours manipulating their players’ bases for speed, power, and motion. Some bases have dials that dictate direction.

And solely for aesthetic and bragging purposes, players spend even more time building and detailing their players to look just like current and former players.

“There was this whole rise of basement artists,” Bopst said. “Guys that love football and grew up with the game have created this whole underground network of figures and painting and decals and bases and board making. So it was like stumbling on to a whole underground art movement, which is like polar opposites, sports enthusiasts and artists.”

Thirty-seven states and three countries were represented at last year’s tournament, with about 150 players taking part.

The way Bopst describes it, the game is sort of a hobbyist’s hobby. Sure, you can have fun with little experience, but people spend hours and hours every day painting figures, working on plays and tweaking their bases.

“Just like football, they’ll have a 53-man team that they paint and decal that takes hundreds of hours,” Bopst said. “It’s a level of dedication that I don’t see in many things. … There’s a passion to it. You’re not gonna get pussy, nobody’s gonna think you’re cool, so it’s devoid of all those obvious types of enticements, which I love.”

For some it’s an offshoot of their love for football, for some it’s about the nostalgia of playing a game they played as kids, and for some it’s about the friendships they’ve made through the game.

Leagues of teams play around the country, often as weekend recreation for old and new friends.

“It’s a cross-section of the culture,” Bopst said. “Rich, poor. Black, white. Hispanic, Asian, Muslims, Trump supporters.”

The convention is open to all, even those who don’t play and are simply curious. Richmond was selected for the site because of it’s central location on the east coast and its cheap hotel prices.

For serious players, it’s one of the few opportunities they have to fully immerse themselves in the game.

“Guys don’t party, they don’t want to go out,” Bopst said. “They just want to stay in the hotel and play as much as possible.”

The 2016 Electric Football World Championships and Convention will take place this weekend, July 29-31 at th Four Points by Sheraton Richmond Airport.

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram was with RVA Mag in the Summer of 2015 and has continued writing for RVAMag.com and GayRVA.com ever since, mainly submitting festival coverage. She has recently relocated to Berlin, Germany where she works as a photo-journalist for a fashion photographer. She hopes that her B.S. in Economics from VCU and her international journalism experience will help her acquire a content manager position for VICE Video some day. Her interests include surf cinematography, gonzo journalism, and funky bass lines.

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