Full Circle – 1968 AFL/NFL Replay

It seems like yesterday that I was searching EBAY for some APBA Football cards only to come across a listing for a 1968 AFL/NFL APBA card set compatible with the modern football game created by some gentleman named Mark Zarb. Of course, being a life-long New York Jets fan, I couldn’t believe my luck. Upon receiving the card set, I noticed Mark Zarb’s contact information at the bottom of the introduction letter and reached out to him. How would I know that I just found my brother from another mother? We both are life-long, die-hard, suffering New York Jet fans with a passion for the realism of APBA Football.


While Mark was still selling cards, I purchased and eventually replayed the 1967, 1974, and 1981 seasons. When he got out of the business, he took a hiatus from the hobby for a couple of years but not from our friendship. We routinely communicated and eventually I convinced him to come visit me down in Huntsville, Alabama in March, 2014.


That visit was pivotal because it brought him back into the fold as a card maker and a replayer. Since then, he has carded and replayed the following seasons: 1972, 1981 (revised from original) and 1978. In addition, he carded and is currently working on replaying the 2010 campaign. In between numerous Thanksgivings and Iron Bowls, Jet games, innovation discussions, fine-dining, and countless Crown Royal and Tanqueray’s together, he found the time to card me 1985, 1969 and 1998 seasons for my replaying pleasure.

I find it only fitting, that my tenth full-season replay will be the 1968 AFL/NFL season. Just for clarification purposes, this will not be conducted with the original set that I purchased all those years ago. This is a brand new set based off of “lessons learned” from the eleven football seasons that Mark has carded and well over a 1,000 play-tested games which have validated the innovations and methodology that we employ.

“Hidden Gems” in a Replay

As I toil away on my ninth full-season APBA Football replay, I’ve come to a conclusion with regard to how I perceive the upcoming weekly schedule. Completing a football replay is a series of short-term goals such as completing all the scheduled games for each applicable week. My last action item to achieving that goal is to type out the games for the upcoming week in accordance with Pro-Football.com. Of course, I do a mental preview of the schedule to determine the following: Who does my Jets play and where? Key divisional matchups, games with playoff implications and of course, the DUDs. I always thought of these DUD games (between to subpar teams) to be the “dog days of a replay” and would literally dread playing them. But truth be told, I couldn’t have been more wrong. For example, a couple weeks ago I played a game between two “one-win” teams (Lions and Cardinals) and the game came down to the final play and had me on the end of my chair rolling it. After that game, I went down memory lane and it occurred to me that the majority of the time, these are the games that most entertaining.

If you are conducting a replay, no longer view these upcoming matchups as a necessary evil but enjoy how competitive these games usually are. If you are not conducting a replay, grab a couple of “losing teams” from a set and roll a game, I promise that you will really enjoy it.

“Trial Balloon”

I’m contemplating replaying the 1993 season after my next project (1968 AFL/NFL) is completed. I’ve had this set for several years now and wanted to break it out for a test run. So I created locators for each team, determined “Yards per Catch” and “Fumble Frequency Number ratings” for each team. The cards played as well as I remember them but there are a few factors that cause me hesitation. I miss having access to all the players’ cards who “touched the ball”, the kicker’s cards don’t have the additional dice rolls (37 thru 42) and the “P” column for kickoffs wasn’t invented yet, and players weren’t coded for fumble recoveries yet. Of course, I could use Howard’s Ahlskog chart for on-side kicks to mitigate that deficiency and implement other workarounds. The preparation phase of a replay is so tedious and time-consuming that I must be 100 percent certain prior to embarking on this project. So I will be welcoming feedback on this matter.

With that said, let me take you back to East Rutherford, New Jersey for opening day of the 1993 campaign. The Denver Broncos came to town to take on the retooled New York Jets. This was the first season of free agency, although the Jets struck out on Reggie White, they did land Boomer Esiason, Ronnie Lott and Leonard Marshall. I remember wiping a tear from my eye watching Dennis Byrd walk out on the field during the pre-game ceremony.

Broncos at Jets (1993)Broncos at Jets (Trial)

November Football

November Football is when the season really starts to take shape. As a fan, I’ve always used the old golf adage, “You can’t win the tournament on Thursday but you sure can lose it” to sum up September and October professional football games. I compare the games played in the month of November to the front nine holes of a major golf tournament on Sunday and December’s games are the back nine. As a replayer, reaching November is always a major milestone for me. You are either at the mid-season point or quickly approaching it and can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Also by this time in a replay, the overall statistics have usually normalized and you get a good sense of the quality of the set you are using. I always do a thorough review of team and individuals statistics once I hit November to identify any anomalies and implement corrective actions if required.

Thank you to those of you who have followed along with my 2002 NFL replay and I hope you remain on-board for the second half of the season.

So you want to conduct an APBA Football replay?

A few years back I wrote an article on the “5 Keys to Starting and Finishing a Replay.” In this article, I discussed having the experience to conduct a full season replay, tips for selecting the right season to replay, task breakdown hints, discussed variety options, and the importance of backing up your project. These are all important points, however, having completed several full-season projects since this article, I realized I missed the two most important keys which are “passion for the game” and “frequency of play.”

The real secret to starting and finishing a replay is quite simple, you have to “love playing the game”. Your passion for the hobby is what allows you to conduct a replay and deal with life’s responsibilities. Is it difficult juggling a 40 to 60-hour work week, family responsibilities, etc? You bet it is but not impossible if you “love playing the game”. I’m living proof, I worked those 60-hour workweeks and dealt with life-threatening health issues but still banged out games at a blistering pace. I lived on 4 to 5 hours sleep, was up at 5 a.m. each morning during the work week to roll a half, never watched TV unless it was a football game, and finished rolling/reporting the game later that evening. Why did I repeat this “24-hour cycle” for well over the last decade? It’s quite simple, I not only love the mechanics of playing the game, but thoroughly enjoy all aspects of preparing for and conducting a replay.

So many times, I see were a well-intentioned replay was started only to peter out after a few months or slow down to only a game or two per week. The fact of the matter is, the longer a project takes the odds of reaching completion diminish tremendously. Conducting a modern-day replay consists of 256 regular season games and eleven post-season games. Trust me, this is a grind but doable if you play a minimum of five games per week. If the replayer averages 5-games per week the regular season will be completed in 51.2 weeks or 12.8 or 13 months. Not to sound like “Debbie-downer” but don’t forget to factor in the “prep” work, which generally takes me anywhere between three to five months.

So if you are thinking about undertaking a replay, please, honestly answer the following question: “Do I love playing APBA Football enough to dedicate the time required?” If the answer is “I don’t know or not really”, don’t waste your time even considering a replay. There are so many other ways to enjoy this game while playing solitaire. Play a replay of your favorite team or player, conduct a mini-tournament, or just grab two teams and hit the gridiron tabletop. The beauty is you can make it as simple or complicated as you want to. You don’t even have to record player statistics just play to see who wins the game. For the “Mark Zarbs” of the world, who answered “YES”, your focus needs to be on frequency of play. A dollar to a donut, if someone asked my APBA Football brother and best friend, Mark Zarb, what impact have I had on his game? I bet his answer would be he plays games at a more accelerated pace compared to his earlier full-season replays.

APBA Football & the Next Chapter of My Life – Retirement

APBA Football has played a significant role in my life. During the good times, it has allowed me to meet so many worthwhile people either virtually or in-person who I consider to be friends. If it wasn’t for this hobby, I would have never had the opportunity to meet Mark Zarb who has become “family”. During the bad times, it has helped me cope with the death of loved ones, provided the mental escape from working 60-hour work weeks due to man-power cuts, and comfort my wife during the dark days shortly after being diagnosed with stage four cancer because she always found solace in the sound of the dice.

For the last four months, I’ve been living in an empty home. My wife, my dog and the rest of the critters moved into our new home that we had built in Sequim, Washington. No furniture, no television, no radio, no problem. I had a bed, card table and a chair. It’s all I needed to roll a few APBA Football games. At least now, I’m residing in a hotel since the sale of my home last week.

After thirty-five years in the defense industry, I’m thrilled to announce my last duty-day is this Friday, April 27th. I will board a flight Saturday morning with a “one-way” ticket and join my family and retire.

None of us has a crystal ball to tell the future, so I rely on “trend analysis” to make educated guesses in my life. When I review my family history, the facts tell me that my father died at 59 from heart disease and my mother at 73 from a rare cancer. I turned 55 in December and already have had multiple cardiac catheterizations and open heart surgery. The one certainty we have in this life is you “can’t beat your genes.” This played a major factor into my decision to end my professional career.

While sitting at the bar of my favorite steakhouse last Friday evening, I struck up a conversation with a fellow patron and the discussion turned to retirement. He looked at me and said “Young fellow, the most important part about being retired, is that you need to find a hobby to occupy some of your time”. I looked him square in the eye and said “Sir, I got that one covered”.