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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #84: The VCR Quarterback Game

Kids, there used to be something called a VCR. That stands for Video Cassette Recorder. It was what we watched movies on before CDs (compact discs). What's a compact disc? Good lord, I don't have time to explain the entire history of video technology to you. Suffice it to say that in the 1980s, the VCR was the pinnacle of human digital achievement. Before the VCR, we would watch whatever was shown on TV, when it was shown. If you missed your favorite program, well, you'd better hope there would be a rerun. What's a rerun? Sigh.


With the VCR, you could record something off a TV broadcast and watch it later. Or do you like movies? Back in the day, you went to the theater to see them. With the VCR, you could rent a movie from a video store, like Blockbuster. What's a Blockbuster? Look, we're never going to get through this if you keep asking questions.


Anyway, we had this game creatively titled The VCR Quarterback Game. You would roll dice and draw cards for running or passing plays, with printed results like "Gain four yards" or "Sacked, lose ten yards". The real excitement came in when the card instructed you to press play on the VCR, into which you had loaded the tape provided by the game, loaded with footage from real NFL games. You and your opponent would watch as the quarterback dropped back on the TV screen, waiting to see if he would throw a touchdown, fumble, or some other unforeseen outcome. This was cutting edge stuff in 1986, mind you.


The only real problem came from playing too much. Eventually, you would recognize a play and know right away that your team was screwed. But there were enough variables that such instances were rare. Our favorite play was a vintage Barry Sanders run, the Lion back scampering around, breaking tackles, extending the play, until he was finally tackled for a loss. The breathless announcer on the tape resignedly declares, "after all that, he loses two." The phrase, with its defeated delivery, became a favorite callback for me and my brother whenever a running back puts forth great effort but gets nailed for a loss anyway. "After all that, he loses two." Yeah. That's kind of what it feels like trying to explain VCRs to you spoiled schoolchildren.

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