Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Back to Being a Card Dork

My Column from Beckett Monthly:

I have decided to return to my roots as a sports fan.

You see, I grew up in a different era from the kids these days. When I grew up, they were just launching something known as ESPN. They were also just launching something called Atari 2600. My home did not have cable television, let alone a satellite dish. Even if I did, it was a time when the local baseball and basketball teams did not show even half of their games on television.

So how did I follow sports? The same way all of my buddies did. We collected cards. You would read the back of the card and learn all sorts of information. That picture on the front of Robin Yount’s card was perhaps your only contact with your hero all summer except for the birthday present, a trip to a Brewers game.

I had thousands of them. Actually, I still do. They remain in my parents’ house, as we have not figured out a way to safely and efficiently ship them from Wisconsin to Texas. Every time I fly up there for a vacation, my parents attempt to persuade me to get my card collection out of their house. Someday, I will.

Anyway, one of my colleagues, Richard Hunter was on the air sometime back talking about his efforts to put together the 1955 Bowman baseball card set. It seemed to be a rather ambitious endeavor to try to find all of those rare and expensive cards. I would love to see his contract.

But the process intrigued me.

Like most kids, I screwed up the whole hobby when I was a teenager because I saw dollar signs. I was going to be the guy who made sports cards my career. I would collect autographs and cards and memorabilia and ultimately build a fortune from them all. Of course, I quickly realized how goofy an idea that was, and moved on to something more realistic like trying to make the NBA and getting a girlfriend. And that was the end of my card-collecting career.

But, I might owe it all to Richard to get me back into it after all of these years. His inspiration has caused me to retrace my steps, and re-live my childhood. Of course, I have no plans on making a living off of it, or filling my house with it, but I do plan on slowly but surely building some sets of old football cards.

Football is my love, especially old football. I can watch NFL Films every day. From 1960-1980, which I consider the finest period of time in the NFL, I cannot get enough. Old books, magazines, films, games and now, football cards. My wife is really excited…Not.

So, I selected my favorite sport (football) and my birth year (1972) and there I have my objective: The 1972 Topps Football set.

If you don’t mind a quick side road in this column, allow me to explain something about how my economic view has changed since I last collected cards in about 1989.

Back then, I made no money, and I saw football cards as a means to an end. The end, of course, was being to make enough money to take my girlfriend out for a pizza.

Now, I married that same girl, and I see football cards as a way to insure that not all of our money is spent to upgrade our living room furniture and to purchase more plants and flowers for our yard. Like many other grown men, we work all day, and our wife spends it on “things we need”. Yuck. I work pretty hard (sort of), and if that means that once or twice a month I can add a John Unitas or O.J. Simpson card to my collection, then it only seems deserving, right?

I love to look at the haircuts, the facial hair and the uniforms from the good old days. It was back when the game was not quite as commercialized as it is now. It was back when players needed an off-season job to supplement their income.

It was also a time when the card companies did not have the license to use the team logos from the NFL, so they would air-brush the star right off the Dallas Cowboys helmet on the Roger Staubach card. Very unstable.

As fate would have it, I randomly selected the 1972 Topps Set, which I later found out is the most valuable set from that era. As was occasionally the case back then, they would release late-season “high numbers” which were very, very scarce and equally valuable. This along with the rookie card of Roger Staubach drove the value of this set over $2000.

But, I am not doing this quickly. With the help of my friends from Beckett, the company that is known for producing price guides and magazines and locally based, I am slowly adding a card here and a card there. I look through the cards now, and don’t see dollar signs, but rather football history.

I am quite sure that this will not make me more attractive to the local ladies, which my wife won’t mind. Card collecting is somewhere close to being a Star Wars fan (I am) on the ladder to dorkdom. But since when have I cared about that? All I care about is finding the Archie Manning I need. Also, that high-number Steve Spurrier has really been difficult to locate.

My boss, Jeff Catlin, was listening to me explain my new found hobby. He then asked me the same thing my Dad did the first time I was collecting cards 20 years ago: “So, what do you do with them?”

I was stumped then to answer, and I am stumped now. They really don’t do anything. They just kind of sit there. But I can’t help myself. I am back on the ladder to dorkdom. After all, a new couch in the living room is not that great.


Another week and another very concerning home performance from the Fighting Dallas Mavericks. Trouble is, they had almost no fight in them last night. The Timberwolves had many players back from injury, but to come out and play as flat as the Mavericks did last night makes you continue to scratch your head about their play at the AAC.

Perhaps the night could be summarized in one play. Early in the 2nd quarter, Keith Van Horn grabbed a defensive rebound. He turned and instantly started pushing the ball ahead on the break. His man Kevin Garnett was turned around, and when KG would turn left, KVH would dart right, and then KG would turn right, and KVH would spin him back left. Classic ball handling now had Garnett right in the palm of Van Horn’s hand. Van Horn ended up spinning Garnett off balance the entire way down the court, and planned on finishing the play with a nice easy finger roll, figuring there was no way Garnett could be that off balance and still defend him.


As Van Horn released his 2-foot shot, anyone watching knew what was about to happen. And it did. Garnett rejected that weak shot about 20 feet, all the time thinking that Van Horn must not be aware of who KG is. And so the night would go…

Speaking of KG, for the second night in a row, he bumps Dirk intentionally after the play to try to intimidate the big German. Dirk is not giving in or backing down. Trouble is, he also isn’t making his shots right now, and until he does, the Mavericks will continue to struggle at home, given all of these injuries.

Stackhouse out until the playoffs

Minneapolis report on the T-Wolves game

Getting three injured players back on the same night, emotionally, might have carried the Wolves through a quarter or a half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. But the Wolves needed, and got, significant contributions from all three -- Sam Cassell, Michael Olowokandi and Eddie Griffin -- and rode off with a 100-91 victory.

Lebreton on Ric-Rod

Catching up with the ’96 Mississippi State team , which, of course, included Erick Dampier, but also dude in prison…

Nascar trying to fight the cheaters

Don Banks Mock Draft

Is this the greatest Website ever? Click Here to find out how any baseball player played on any day since 1972. What a wonderful time waster…

Reviewing Doug Melvin’s performance in Milwaukee

Blue Ice????…wow, this would be radical.

Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez linked to Real Madrid …By the way, Liverpool versus Blackburn, today 2:00 on Fox Sports World (or Fox Soccer Channel), in a must-win game in a must-win week if the Reds are going to reel in Everton for that final berth in next-season’s Champions League…

1 comment:

J and J Burns said...

Stumbled across this article, where do you stand on your 1972 Topps collection?