We men, it seems, outgrow clothes, crushes, and candy, but rarely our toys.

Recently, a 56-year-old in-law built a new home. Its most striking feature is the climate-controlled trophy room he added to showcase his Matchbox cars.

Decades ago, a sports editor here, an otherwise sensible middle-aged man, used to gather weekly in the newsroom with like-minded journalists for spirited Strat-O-Matic battles. And I have Medicare-eligible friends who cherish and collect pinball machines, board games, baseball gloves.

Whatever the psychological cords that link adults to games of their childhoods, they are deep and powerful. In this week of Super Bowl hype, for example, as I sat on the floor playing with my grandchildren, I was suddenly overcome by a hankering for a favorite childhood toy, electric football.

The spur was a set of Hexbugs the grandchildren got for Christmas. Watching those tiny vibrating creatures careen haphazardly across the floor - in this case, the Hexbugs and not the grandchildren - was reminiscent of witnessing an electric football play unfold.

Developed after World War II by a Brooklyn manufacturer looking to diversify his sagging metal business, the game, in which plastic gridders are propelled on a metal field by the vibrations of a noisy motor, became a baby boom sensation.

Exactly why has never been readily apparent.

Electric football was noisy, cumbersome, frustrating, and maddeningly inefficient. The players rarely moved as intended. The tape-like tabs on their bases snapped constantly. The miniature felt footballs were easily lost, the metal boards routinely dented.

"It was," said author Bill Bryson in his memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, "the worst toy of the decade [the 1950s], possibly the worst of all time."

The ads made it look so compelling. Smiling kids were shown aligning their teams - "3-Dimensional Sculpt-Action Players" - in exotic formations. The quarterback and kicker were equipped with devices that allowed them to throw or kick accurately. The field looked real, and in some expensive versions you could flank it with a cardboard replica of Yankee Stadium.

And then you plugged it in. What followed was noisy chaos, an irritatingly buzzing pandemonium that looked not at all like football but rather as if a jarful of crickets had been released onto a hot skillet.

And yet, because this pointless scampering was as close as technology could get us to simulated football, we loved it - and continue to love it.

An electric football newsletter has 20,000 subscribers. In 2013, a 652-page history, The Unforgettable Buzz, was published. Even now, in 2015, decades after it was made obsolete by slick video games, there are leagues all across America.

Perhaps its enduring appeal is merely a by-product of nostalgia. Maybe we love the game because it now seems so ridiculously campy; or because of those one or two plays a session that come off as intended; or because, like us, it's so obviously imperfect.

Created in 1947, just as postwar incomes and families were expanding, electric football sold like crazy, 40 million sets in all. The game was so distinctive that many of its baby boom devotees haven't been able to put it aside.

At a 1999 electric football competition in Philadelphia, which attracted 1,500 players, Michael Landsman tried to explain its lasting attraction.

"My friends and I still played the sets we had as kids," he said. "But we had no idea how many other people did. When we started this event we didn't know what to expect. So many people showed up. They'd look around and say, 'You play too?' They couldn't believe it. And they've just kept coming."

Popular throughout the 1950s, its sales grew exponentially after 1967, when it became a licensed NFL product.

Licensed merchandising took off in the 1950s, thanks in large part to the popularity of anything associated with popular TV characters like Roy Rogers and Davy Crockett.

At NFL headquarters, then located in Bala Cynwyd, a bright young public-relations man named Pete Rozelle noticed the connection between TV time and sales. So in April 1959, he arranged a meeting here among himself, influential owners Carroll Rosenbloom and George Halas, and the company responsible for licensing Roy Rogers products.

That year all but four teams lost money, and owners were looking for new revenue opportunities. The Philadelphia meeting's result was the first batch of officially sanctioned NFL products. It was a pretty fair idea. In 2013, NFL merchandise accounted for $3 billion in revenue.

Tudor, electric football's originator, signed a licensing deal with the league in 1967 that allowed it, among other things, to paint authentic NFL uniforms on its players. Not coincidentally, 1967 was also the year of Super Bowl I, when 50 million viewers saw Green Bay thrash upstart Kansas City.

Sadly, though I was 17 and an avid sports fan, I was not one of the 50 million. That day - Jan. 15, 1967 - I was involved in an electric football match.

Fortunately, the details have faded, and I've suppressed the reasons I chose virtual football over the historic meeting of NFL and AFL champs. In retrospect, I can't imagine having done so. But such was the pull of electric football.

After 68 years, the game continues to be sold, though not to the extent that its producer can afford paying $4 million-plus for an ad during Super Bowl XLIX.

But sometime during the game, maybe a few older viewers will think of electric football anyway, when a pass or punt goes badly awry, or when a player rushing downfield suddenly veers toward the out-of-bounds stripe.

After all, those were just routine plays in the crazy electric game that, all these years later, we still can't forget.