VIDEO: Gifts of Christmas Pasts Inspires This Sports Fanatic Every Holiday Season
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Space Coast Daily Assistant Editor // December 24, 2018
ALAN Z REMEMBERS HIS FAVORITE SPORTS GIFTS
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – With Christmas morning almost here, I remember vividly what it was like to anticipate receiving the gifts I had asked for from Santa.
To know me is to know my love of sports. We here at Space Coast Daily work very hard at being the voice of Brevard County Sports with our coverage of local and national teams as well as our Space Coast Daily TV sports show.
I’m a sports fan, and as far back as I can remember, my Christmas and birthdays were always centered around one sport or another.
Living, breathing and being as passionate about sports as I am isn’t something one learns in life. It most assuredly is a gene one picks up from his Dad, and in my case, a loving and very-very tolerant and patient mother.
Once Big Al, as he was called (I was “Lil Al), gently guided me towards “my” favorite sports and teams, I was hooked on Baltimore and Maryland sports.
But Dad wasn’t the only reason I fell in love with sports.
Dad didn’t shop for anything, and only someone like my Mom, Patricia, would know where to find a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey in Baltimore in the late 1970s.
Without fail every year, Patricia and Big Al came through like champions. No gift was to tough to find, or too tough to assemble. Teamwork is how Mom and Dad accomplished this – it was sports personified.
Every Christmas was filled with love and joy because Patricia and Big Al simply made it happen.
The redhead and the meat cutter always made sure Christmas was exactly what it is intended for after honoring the birth of Christ, the children.
I’d like to thank Patricia and Big Al for teaching me what Christmas means.
Making sure your children grow up knowing that Christ is why we celebrate and without sounding cliche, as sports guys tend to do, giving is also a major reason for the season.
Now that both Mom and Dad are gone well before their time should have been on this planet, Christmas is simply not the same. It never will be.
In fact, nothing is the same.
But just because they are gone, it doesn’t mean I can’t honor them and show thanks for how happy they made me as a child, which I, in turn, pass along to my children.
I remember a few Christmases where my parents didn’t exchange presents because they gave it all to me and my siblings.
Patricia used to tell me that the saying happiness really is watching your children’s faces light up brighter than the tree on Christmas morning is true.
So to honor them, below are some of the greatest sports gifts that Mom and Dad went above and beyond to place under the Zlotorzynski tree each December 25.
Hopefully, this will be a welcome stroll down memory lane for you as well.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!
– Alan Zlotorzynski, Space Coast Daily Senior Editor
Rock’em Sock’em Robots Game
ABOVE VIDEO: The Rock-em-Sock-em-Robots original commercial.
I remember this didn’t last very long, this game took more abuse than any other toy I ever received. Rock-em-Sock-em-Robots is a popular two-player action toy and game, designed by Marvin Glass and Associates and was first manufactured by Marx toy company in 1964.
It features two dueling robot boxers Red Rocker and Blue Bomber mechanically manipulated by the players, and the game is won when one player knocks the head off of the opposed. The 2000s version of the game by Mattel features physically smaller robots.
The original Rock-em-sock-em-robots can still be purchased through most toy companies for about $20.
Evel Knievel Wind Up Fire Jump
ABOVE VIDEO: The original 1977 Evel Knievel Wind Up Fire Jump commercial.
This was a great toy to have. I can remember setting up ramps, winding up the motorcycle and letting it loose. My Evel Knievel jumped over everything in the house and I do mean everything.
The biggest problem I ever had with this toy was trying to get the dog to stay still so Evel could clear her.
Evel Knievel was the greatest daredevil of my generation. Every time ABC Wide World of Sports had a jump Knievel was attempting, the entire neighborhood stopped and would run in the house and watch. Whether it was jumping over the Snake River Canyon or 20 school buses, he was without a doubt a great entertainer.
The thing that amazed me the most about Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel wasn’t all of the jumps he made, it was the fact that he lived until he was 69 years old. Not bad for a guy that broke every bone in his body on more than one occasion.
ABC Talking Monday Night Football
ABOVE VIDEO: Howard Cosell appeared on the box of the ABC Talking Monday Night Football game.
If you never had the pleasure of playing this game as a kid then you missed out. This was a game my dad and I played a lot together.
Inside this game were a football field and 50 or so little records that you slid into a little red player and whatever came out of the little speaker is what you did on the board.
It was actually a great way for a kid to learn about the technical terms of football and how to learn strategies. This can be had on eBay in mint condition for $39.99
Table Top Hockey
ABOVE VIDEO: One of those toys that irritated Dad to assemble, tabletop hockey provided hours of fun and fast action.
A great classic game that I got as a present as early as 1976.
This game was also one of my dad’s favorites as he would also play this with me for hours. I even remember the teams that I received in my very first one, The Broad Street Bullies or, the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers.
I do remember that this game was a pain to put together. All of the players were on paper and had to be peeled and placed onto their plastic model shooters on the game board. If you made the mistake of putting a left-hander on a right-handed mold you were in trouble. The stickers did not peel back off very easily.
The game was saved from extinction when in the mid to late ’80s. A bubble version appeared in almost every arcade in North America. The USA v. The Russians. I would spend hours and many quarters playing anyone that would oblige.
The only issue I ever had with my Mr. Quarterback was the plastic footballs. The didn’t always fly so well in the cold mid-Atlantic winters I grew up in.
My Mr. Quarterback was named Unitas.
You simply put the ball in the chute, pull the red lever and run like former FSU All-America Fred Biletnikoff, a great receiver for the Oakland Raiders from 1965 to 1978, which was when I received one that looked just like the one pictured above.
Super Toe Super Jock
ABOVE VIDEO: Alex Karras, former Detroit Lions 4-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, and Webster’s dad on the popular sitcom “Webster,” endorses one the greatest sports toys ever, the Super Toe Jock Jam.
This was perhaps the toughest sports toy I ever owned. Hit this little guy on the head and watch the little toy plastic footballs fly.
The goalposts were wobbly but the little guy could kick that plastic football all the way across the living room or kitchen. Footballs weren’t the only thing I used to have him kick. Whatever would hold steady enough in front of his foot while I popped him on the head was launched across the room.
Great toy and like most of these toys, can be had on eBay. Super Jock had an entire series to include a basketball and baseball player.
ABOVE VIDEO: A 1978 TV commercial for the Schaper line of Super Jock Sports toys including Super Toe (Football), Super Slam (Baseball), and Super Touch (Basketball).
Mattel Electronic Sports Games
ABOVE VIDEO: Mattel can proudly stake their claim as one of the first companies to invent a handheld electronic device.
I was a very lucky kid. Not only did I have Mattel’s electronic Classic Football but I was fortunate to have received the classic baseball and basketball game as well.
Of course, I never figured out that it was all the same philosophy with different screens but I loved to play them. To say that hours were spent playing these games is a gross understatement.
I once played this game for 14 of the 22 hours it took to get to Miami from Baltimore as my dad took me to Super Bowl XIII between Dallas and Pittsburgh. I didn’t turn the volume off and I vaguely remember my dad asking me to turn it down because some of the passengers were not happy.
This was a game you could hide in your bed and play under the covers after mom thought you were asleep.
Mattel has returned these gems to retailers and you can actually get them at Wal-Mart for as low as $14.99.
Atari 2600 Sports Games
ABOVE VIDEO: One of the original commercials for the Atari 2600 gaming console. This commercial featured Pete Rose, world soccer star Pele and comedian Don Knotts.
The Atari 2600 was a home video game console released on September 11, 1977, by Atari, Inc.
It is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges containing game code, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F video game console in 1976. What that meant to me was a game changer.
While some of Atari’s sports games left much to be desired, many of the sports games you see today are derived those first concepts. My favorite Atari sports games were hockey and baseball.
ABOVE VIDEO: The top 20 Atari sports games and there is no need to adjust your sound or picture, the graphics and noise are how it was when we played the games in 1977.
Electric Vibrating Football
ABOVE VIDEO: Since 1947, electric vibrating football is still very popular today.
I actually discovered my first one in the back of the car before my Dad and I left the house on Christmas Eve in 1977 to attend the Baltimore Colts and Oakland Raiders divisional playoff game.
This game would turn out to be the famous Ghost to The Post playoff contest.
After discovering the game in the trunk, I asked my father if I could have the game as my Christmas Eve present since seeing it confirmed the whispers others had been trying to tell me about the man in the red suit.
What happened next bordered on child abuse, Dad proposed a deal. If the Colts won, I could have my game that night, if Oakland won, then I had to wait until the next morning. Can you imagine?
The Colts lost on the first play in double overtime when Kenny Stabler hit Dave Casper on a post pattern – get it, Ghost to the Post.
ABOVE VIDEO: Shattering preconceived notions, this short feature gives a unique insight into the people behind the resurgence of Electric Football.
To make matters worse back in those days the two teams that came with the game were usually the two teams that played in the Super Bowl the year before and that just happened to be those very same Raiders, who trounced the Vikings in the Super Bowl XI the prior January.
Electric football was a great and frustrating toy all at once as the players usually just migrated to the middle as the board annoyingly hummed and hummed. I also lost every little foam football that came with the game.
I still to this day probably couldn’t figure out how to get the little kicker to kick the ball. I did eventually figure it out and am glad I did. I spent hours on Sunday playing with it while the Colts played on the television.
The game is incredibly popular these days.
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