Edson: Madden ’18 Vs. Strat-O-Matic Games

Nothing tells a tale of two generations more than what sports games you grew up playing as a kid.

My son, who’s 33 now, started playing the Madden NFL video games when he was a teenager. He still plays them once in a while.

I’m 30 years older than my son (you do the math) and I still occasionally pull out my Strat-O-Matic baseball or football games.

What’s the difference? Basically night and day.

It’s basically the difference between Kershaw vs. Koufax or Unitas vs. Brady.

Speaking of Tom Brady, he will be the cover boy of Madden ’18 when it is released on Aug. 25. The Super Bowl winning quarterback deserves it. He is the face of the NFL as much as anyone.

Madden ’18, for those of you not familiar with the video game, is a realistic looking video game in which NFL stars “come alive” on your screen as they perform much as they did in real life.

There is no imagination needed. The eye-popping visuals have it all for you. I have to admit, it’s an

Many people my age who had sports games as kids has to settle for board games. There were several to choose from: Strat-O-Matic, APBA and Cataco to name a few.

My favorite was Strat-O-Matic. I started at age 9 in 1962 when I bought the first version of the Strat-O-Matic baseball game. It was produced by an Ivy League math whiz named Hal Richman.

He came up with a formula using three dice and individual player cards that produced statistics that were right on the money at the end of the year for each player.

Every year I would order a new Strat-O-Matic set and each spring when they arrived at our house I would rip the package open and start playing the new season.

The game became so popular that it was played everywhere. Spike Lee said he grew up playing it in the ghetto. Bob Costas played it in his suburban neighborhood.

As the years went on, kids who had played the game as youngsters became Major League ballplayers. They couldn’t wait for the new cards to arrive every year.

Doug Glanville, who played outfield for the Philadelphia Phillies and is now a baseball analyst, said he was nervous one year about the new defensive rankings when he played for the Phillies.

If you are great defensively, your fielding rating is “1.” Above average is “2”, average is “3” and below average is “4.”

So before one early-season game a critical Phillies fan leaned over the centerfield railing and yelled at Glanville: “You’re a “2” in Strato this year Glanville, you stink!”

Glanville said that up to that point in his life, that was his biggest disappointment.

But over the years I can’t tell you how many games of Strat-O-Matic baseball I’ve played. When I wasn’t outside playing sports growing up, I was inside playing Strat-O-Matic baseball or football or APBA basketball or golf.

I’m pretty sure that the old board games helped my math and spelling. After all, how many 9-year-olds can spell Carl Yastrzemski’s name correctly?

The difference between old time board games and the Madden games is simple: You had to use your imagination. It was like the difference today in watching games on TV or – like we used to doback in the 1960s – listening to most of them on radio.

Both have their advantages. But the common thread is that my generation and my son’s generation played these games because they were extensions of the games we loved.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to doing my replay of the 1961 Strat-O-Matic baseball season.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.