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Friday, April 2, 2010

Had A Bad Day #1

With the Pirates season getting ready to kick off, the dismal season the Steelers had last year, and the Penguins season winding down (hopefully not with a thud), I am reminded of many disappointing periods over the last few decades.

Being a Pittsburgh sports fan has not always been the thing to swoon over the last 20 years, despite the 3 Stanley Cups and 2 Lombardi Trophies.  There have been many heartaches and heart breaks through the years and I think these posts will epitomize that fact.  Why focus on the negative?  It keeps me grounded for when my teams fail to accomplish a goal and it makes the victories that much sweeter. 

With that being said, I want to kick this off with what I think is probably my personal worst fan day.

1. Super Bowl XXX - Steelers lose to the Cowboys - When the best part of the game was Rod Woodson taunting Michael Irvin by pointing to his surgically reconstructed blown ACL, you know it's not going to be a very good day.  Woodson played well.  Not his best game of his career, but better than most of the guys on the rest of the team.  Irvin would have the last laugh in the end, though.

This was Neil O'Donnell's final game as a Steeler.  You have to understand how hard it is to even type his name without breaking the keyboard.  It wasn't until after the 2006 Super Bowl that I could actually say his name out loud without going into a fit of rage.  I spent the previous years cursing his name and denying the fact he was even a member of the team.  I even went as far as cutting all of his cards into four sections.  Not tearing, because that would be too quick and painless, but cutting.  The four sections were then destroyed in four different calculated destruction ceremonies.  One pile was burned.  One pile was thrown in the trash.  One pile was buried in the little strip of grass we had on the side of our dorm building.  The final pile was released out the window of a moving vehicle while traveling at a high speed down Interstate 74.  This assured that none of the pieces would somehow find their ways back to each other and reform into some kind of Franken-card and continue to taunt me with their wickedness. 

I still hold a grudge against is cheatin' ass. Yeah, that's right.  Cheater, cheater, punkin eater.  Sour grapes, jealousy, hatred, call it what you want.  I will go to my grave believing Jerry Jones somehow paid him off.  How do you think it looks when you take a team to the Super Bowl, blow the game with completely unforced throws to phantom receivers that are easily picked off, only to follow it up the next day by jumping to another team for the highest paid QB contract in the league?  He had to get out.  People would have found out the truth had he stayed. 


I'm not taking anything away from the play of Cowboys in this game.  They obviously wanted it more and played like they did.  It just hurts a little or a lot.  The two Lombardi's since then has somewhat eased the pain.

That was actually a little theraputic.  I can't wait to get day #2 off my chest.

My Official Cardboard Junkie Heritage Blaster Fantasy Team

Yeah, so I decided to get in on this little exercise over on Cardboard Junkie.  When dayf isn't spending the day losing his mind and traveling down the phalata...phylatal...stamp collector's highway, he sometimes has some great ideas.  This was one of them

All you had to do is buy a blaster, rip it, and make a team.  Hopefully, with my novice video making skills, my contribution to the video break world is good enough to get me into this league.  It is a long video.  Almost 10 minutes but I show every card I got.  I probably could have blew through it faster but what do you want from me?  I'm new.

So after uploading the video, I sorted the cards and chose my team.  Here is what I came up with

(2) Catchers - Yadier Molina, A.J. Pierzynski
(1) First Base - Albert Pujols
(1) Second Base - Brandon Phillips
(1) Shortstop - Cristian Guzman
(1) Third Base - Alex Rodriguez
(3) Outfield - Justin Upton, Grady Sizemore, Chris Coghlan
(1) Corner Infielder - Adam Dunn
(1) Middle Infielder - Alberto Callaspo
(1) Outfielder - Matt LaPorta
(1) Utility or DH - Jack Cust
(7) Pitchers - Cliff Lee, Mariano Rivera, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Jair Jurrjens, Ricky Romero, Francisco Liriano
(1) Team - Pittsburgh Pirates
(1) Manager - Ron Gardenhire

I don't know if this is going to take me to the end but it was a struggle for me just to come up with guys I have actually heard of.  I am so pathetic when it comes to baseball over the last 10 years.  I am slowly curing that.

Good luck to anyone else that enters.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The New Consol Energy Center

For any fan of a team in any sport, a new stadium spurns so many crazy ideas and thoughts about how it is going to reflect on the team itself.  Pittsburgh has seen its share of new digs over the last 10 years with both PNC Park and Heinz Field opening their doors in 2001.  The Civic Arena/Mellon Arena was the only facility in town hosting a major sports team that hadn't seen a make over or upgrade.  Going into this season, it was the smallest and lowest capacity facility being used to host an NHL team. 

Next season will be a different story.  After a storied history in the nations first retractable roof stadium, the Penguins will be moving across the street to the new Consol Energy Center. 

Seth Rorabaugh, journalist and blogger for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recently posted on his blog Empty Netters a tour of the new stadium in its current state.  Even if you are not a Pens fan, or a hockey fan, you should check this out just to see some of what goes into the planning and construction of an arena.  Here is the article.

A Brief Tour Of Consol Energy Center

I'm Not Angry...I'm Just Saying...

Okay first things first.  I need to get this off my chest.  It has been eating away at me and I have lost at least three nights sleep over it.  Well, maybe not three.  Well, maybe not any.  In fact...I DON'T CARE.  These so-called Upper Deck Awards are not awards at all.  They are a social experiment in futility that is causing the biggest uproar in the blogging community since...well, since the last asinine, moronic thing Upper Deck did. 

PEOPLE OF EARTH!!  HERE ME!!  These awards don't matter.  You know what does matter?  How about whether or not you enjoy what you are doing by blogging?  How about whether or not you actually enjoy your hobby?  How about whether or not you actually care that you might have people out there that actually pay attention to the diarrhea that spews forth from your brain, out of your finger tips, and onto the pages of your blogs (that's assuming you use your fingers to type)?  Those are the things that matter.

As many people have already said, there are so many deserving bloggers and trading communities that were left off the list for whatever reason or another.  You know what?  So what.  Despite the apparent format of a general popularity contest, that's not what this is.  This is a "who can mobilize the most people to vote" type of contest and the only winners here are the companies that make money off of internet traffic.  Don't think for one second that once this is over that those nominees are now going to have this huge readership and new found loyalty from collectors.

Nobody is going to win in this thing.  All it has done so far is pit people against each other, muster up a bunch of name calling and acusation hurling, cause otherwise normal, decent card collectors to become beggars and whores for votes, and polarize the blogging community, creating that proverbial line in the sand.  What do you think is going to happen when they announce a winner?  Chaos, I tell you.  CHAOS!!

Enough of that.  Onto what I was going to write about.

(Kris Letang just signed a 4 year contract extention worth something like $14 million.  I like Tanger.  Maybe not that much, though.)

The Pens lost again last night 2-0 over the Tampa Bay Lightning.  What's that you say?  You didn't know Tampa still had a team?  Yeah, well they mustered up enough gas to take it to the apparently tired and worn down Stanley Cup Champs.  It doesn't help matters that your best defensemen and spiritual leader, Sergei Gonchar is still not healthy.  Or the fact that 70 points of Evgeni Malkin wasn't in the lineup either.  Oh, and did I mention the fact that Matt Lashoff boarded Ruslan Fedotenko not long after the game started?  I didn't?  Well there.  I said it.  Feds had to be carted back to the locker room and never came back.  Actually that was a little too dramatic.  He did come back and seems fine, but you get my point.

So Tampa Bay gets a shutout over the Pens.  I don't care.  Remind me about it when we meet again in the playoffs.  Oh, you aren't (man, was that harsh or what).  I'm really not a Lightning hater.  They deserved to win that game.  They looked awesome and I am sort of upset that they haven't had the numbers to push into the last spot.  I am just upset that the Pens have been playing some uninspired hockey as of late while teams like Montreal, New Jersey, and Detroit are making huge pushes and taking all the momentum with them.  We can't afford to be losing games like this.  Especially when we barely hang onto a 1 point lead in the Atlantic and New Jersey has a game up on us.  Not only that, now Buffalo thinks they are the team to beat and have taken over 2nd in the East.

I still think Fleury played well, despite giving up two goals.  He made an unbelievable save in the third period that should make most highlight reels for the week.  He just needs some support in front.  These guys have to step up their game.  Tanger played some inspired hockey as well, blocking shots and giving up the body to get pucks (perhaps the new contract gave some motivation).  The only problem was that he unloaded on the goal too many times and none of his shots were accurate.  The problem here is consistency.  Right now, we have none.  FIX IT!!!

Superfluous Stat Of The Night:  The Lightning have shutout the Penguins five times in the last six years.  Really?  That's crazy.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockey

I would hardly consider myself a Howe collector by any means.  In fact, pulling Gordie cards out of product over the last few years has been rather amusing considering Upper Deck has forgotten his name completely and has gone with Mr. Hockey.  So on this day, I thought I would take this opportunity to show off my meek Gordo collection.

On this day in 1928, Gordon "Gordie" Howe was born in a farmhouse in Floral, Saskatchewan.  Anyone that doesn't know of Gordie's achievements on the ice has either lived under a rock their entire lives or never once watched a hockey game (or even heard of hockey for that matter).  Howe is a pioneer in the sport and has been compared to the likes of Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth in their achievements in baseball (although that might be insulting to Howe).

Mr. Hockey, as he became known later in life, is the only player in NHL history to have a playing career that has touched on five decades.  FIVE!!  He was 52 when he retired from the game he loved.  Gordie helped the Detroit Red Wings win four Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955.  He won both the Hart and Art Ross trophies 6 times each and played in 23 All-Star games.  You can wiki/google/whatever you want to know about him so I won't bore you with statistics.

Here are some of the most notable things that I remember and that you may or may not know about Mr. Howe...:

---He has the honor of having his name attached to a rare feat, especially in today's game.  A Gordie Howe Hat Trick is when you score a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same game.  Awesome!

 (I wish there was a better way to scan "shiny")

---I am not sure as to the validity of this but I was always told that he chose to wear #9 because that meant he got a better choice in the sleeping car on the train ride to away games.  I guess lower numbers chose first.  He started his career wearing #17.

---Most people know this but Howe was the anchor on the "Production Line" named for their scoring capabilities and as homage to the car industry in Detroit.  Along with Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, the "Line" finished first, second, and third in scoring in the 49-50 season.

---With all the talk and controversy about head shots, I say suck it up!!  Gordie fractured his skull during the playoffs in 1950 after smashing into Ted Kennedy of the Leafs.  He had to have emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain so that he didn't die or end up in a comma.  He returned the next season and won the scoring title with 86 points, 20 more than anyone else.

---His scoring ability was deadly.  Howe was ambidextrous and shot the puck both right handed and left handed.  Keep in mind this was back before the sticks were curved.  So really, he had no backhand.

---In the 1979-80 season, Gordie played alongside his sons Marty and Mark for the Hartford Whalers.  This was the first and only time that has ever happened in the NHL.  He also played with a very young Wayne Gretzky on the WHA All Star team against Moscow's Dynamo team.

    ---Speaking of the "Great One", I heard also that Wayne chose to wear #99 because he had always idolized Gordie Howe growing up and could not bring himself to take #9 in his honor.  Maybe he thought he was twice as good?...

    Happy Birthday to one of the architects of this great game that I love and one of the greatest to ever lace up the skates!!

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Box Break - - 2009-10 Champs (cont.)

    Ok so I figured the scanner stupidity out and was able to get some better shots of some of the cards.  Since I already went over the break down in the previous post, I am going to show some of what came out of the box.

    First up are the base.  All of the base cards have a blue border.  As I already stated, they have the retro feel, kind of contrived, but still cool. 

    (Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Evgeni Malkin)

    There are also a few different colored parallels, including Turquoise, Red, and Yellow.

    (Scotty Bowman-Turquoise, Drew Doughty-Red, Ryan Getzlaf-Yellow)

    Each pack contained 2 mini cards.  There are also color back variations of these.  Some that were in my box included:

    (Marc-Andre Fleury, Bobby Hull, Brian Gionta - Blue Back Parallel)

    Some of the "chase cards" that were included were:

    (William McKinley - Historical Figures; Natural History Cards - Daspletosaurus, Aublysodon, Common Raven; Wonders Of the World - Palau, Paricutin Volcano)

    Here are my 4 "HITS" that I received.  Unlike some of the other breaks I have seen, I actually got three GU and one auto instead of two and two. Unfortunately, they are not the best, although the Robinson is kind of cool.

    Overall, my break came out close to what the sell sheet suggested.  I would have preferred 2 autos instead of the extra GU but that is ok.  The chase cards came out as expected with 3 HF cards, 2 WotW cards, and 5 NH cards.  Again, the mini's came 2 per pack and I did get the 1 parallel color back.  The other base color variants came out with 1 yellow, 3 reds, and 4 turquoise. Oh, and I also got this,

    along with 5 other mini rookies (1 more than expected).  It is my first Hedman from any product this year.  I like it.  Still not sure if I am going to put this together.  It would be fun but I have a feeling it will be expensive.

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    My NCAA Bracket - - Gateway to a box break..?

    This is my only basketball post I think.  It will probably be the last, too.  It is just a segue to something bigger so I forgive myself. 

    So in the spirit of not talking about things depressing I thought I would share my NCAA Men's Basketball bracket with everyone.  This was a $5 pool at the office that had you pick all the winners of each round and then a tie breaker score for the National Championship game.  Pretty simple, right?

    Well as everyone knows, this year has seen more than it's fair share of upsets.  From underdogs performing the games of thier lives at the best moments to #1 seeds being dropped in the second round, this tournament has had everything.  Most people I have talked to have seen thier brackets busted in the first few rounds.  I have yet to meet anyone that had all final four teams picked exactly right, although I am sure there is someone out there.

    Getting to the point of why this is relevant...first or second place will yield me enough to pick up a hobby box of something.  If I was to count up the number of loses I picked, including the subsequent losses due to a picked team not moving forward to the next round, I come up with a 37-25 record.  Not too good in the grand scheme of things.  But, behold, the one and only glimmer of hope.  I picked the entire Eastern bracket exactly right.  Don't know how this happened but it did.  And for my efforts, I actually am leading the office pool.  If WVU wins, the title is mine.  If Duke wins, I will still come in second.  If the Western or Midwestern Conferences win, I think everyone might be screwed. 

    I was always a Penn State fan growing up but for the sake of my cardboard addiction...Go Mountaineers!!

    PS...Is anyone else experiencing image problems with Blogger?  I can't seem to get half of everyone's pictures to work either through my own page or theirs (if they are on Blogger).

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Box Break - - 2009-10 Champs Hockey

    Puck Junk beat me to it but I am going to post my Champs box that I got from the Sun-Times show a few weekends ago anyway.

    I didn't buy any Champs last year because I thought it was a little too gimmicky for my taste.  I did pick up a few Pens I mean, who wants cards with dinosaurs on them?  Well apparently a lot of people.  For those non-hockey collector's out there, I can only compare champs to the likes of A&G in baseball.  It has the old-time feel of the early 20th century cards and features a slew of mini tobacco-esque style cards.  The draw to these has been the variants on parallels such as different color combination's and back printing, as well as the chase sets including the prehistoric creatures.  I just always thought the chance at pulling a real live fossil out of a pack was a little over the top (I really meant fossil, not another Gordie Howe tribute card)

    Well this year was different.  Something about the previews Upper Deck released over a month ago caught my eye and I still haven't figured out what it was.  I decided that if I couldn't find the 1 box I have been looking for (ITG: 1972 The Year In Hockey) that this was going to be the one.  For $65 from the guys at Dave & Adam's Cardworld, I was on board. 

    20 packs/box
    5 cards/ pack
    2 Mini Cards/pack

    4 Autos or GU cards:
    • 1-2 Mini Signatures/box
    • 2 Mini Threads/box
    5 Mini Rookies (1:4)
    10 Mini "Chase" cards (Wonders of the World, Natural History, or Historical Figures)
    1 "Color Variation Back" Mini parallel
    8 "Color Variation" Regular parallel

    You can also pull case hits here that include 1 "Museum Piece" card that features those fossils and bones I already discussed, 2 Hall of Legends GU cards, 1-2 Mini Rookie Parallels, 4 Regular size Animal Icons, and 7 "Color Variant" Mini parallels.  Like I said, lots of stuff to chase.

    I tried to scan this stuff but there is something screwy with the scanner.  So here is a quick pic.  You can see the design of the base cards is blue with the washed vintage feel to it.  The players photo is bordered by the wicked step-mother "mirror-mirror" and there is a crossed-stick masthead, only at the bottom of the card.  I will say, I am not impressed however I do kind of like these.  They are probably my favorite vintage/throwback/retro set since Topps Heritage earlier in the decade.  Bobby Clarke in the first pack.  I guess this is another set with a bunch of retired superstars and HOFers.

    The mini's look very similar to last years and there are a bunch of different variations.  Here are the two that came from the first pack.  The nice mountainous landscape and terrain behind Brassard really does remind me of...Columbus, Ohio.

    I will post more of this one later.