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Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Strange Gesture From An Unlikely Source

The person would be my wife.  This is the same woman that despises my collection, the idea of collecting, and the existence of sports players on cardboard.

Not too long ago, she began undertaking a project of rearranging the house and downsizing a bit.  We have had bookshelves and such that have been taking up space but their contents lacked one thing, books.  She obtained two larger wooden cabinets to store all the items that had overtaken the bookcases including her scrapbooking materials (don't get me started on how hypocritical this stuff is) and many of my card albums.  I now have a tall wooden cabinet for all my binders and have moved over many of my boxes of cards as well. 

That left an entire wall of space with nothing on it.  I really have stayed out of this whole thing because it isn't worth the conflict to speak up.  Frankly, I don't really care anyway.  I had to give up my small bar that was in the corner of the room (which was really a cheap Sauder china cabinet that I modified some years ago) but that was no big deal since the amount of drinking in the house has significantly decreased over the past 7 years (notice I said "in the house").  So when she asked me what I wanted to put along the wall, I really didn't have anything to say so I kept my mouth shut.

She came home from shopping with her mom with quite a few picture frames and some wall decals and other "home-y" type stuff.  There were also two larger framed items that I carried in from the car that were wrapped in a paper bag.  After bringing them in she told me to open them.  This is what was in side...

 Although mine isn't the same brand, you get the idea.  A 20 Card Display Frame - made of a composite wood on the framing with plastic and metal slots.  It comes pre-loaded with cards from the junk wax era in snaptight cases.  One of them had cards just like these.  The other one was filled with 1982 Fleer and Donruss.

In fact, there were two of them.  She was actually encouraging me to display some of my her house...where people can see it.  I didn't know what to say.  I was dumbfounded.  I still am.  In the back of my mind I think it might be a trap but either way, I now have two card frames that I need to fill.

So the question is, what do I put in here?  I have a few ideas but I wanted to poll the audience.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Accessibility of Sports and Geography: Changing Fans Loyalties?

I have been working on this post for a while and have been trying to collect my thoughts on the subject.  After I realized my brain was mush, I decided to let my thoughts flow, as this is my blog and I can do what I want.  Forgive me if I sound incoherent and irrational but I think many of you will understand my position.

So my youngest brother took a little spin up to Latrobe last Monday to see my favorite football team fully immersed in training mode.  It's about 45 miles from where he lives up 219 to US 30 West.  I too could take US 30 to get their but travelling east.  Oh, and it would also be about 488 miles.  But, I digress.

Am I jealous?  Yes.  Am I bitter?  No...maybe.  But it's all good.  I have made my peace with the fact that I no longer reside in western Pennsylvania any longer.  Seeing my Steelers, Penguins, or Pirates play isn't an option without travel and expenses.  However, my love for my them was not left behind.  In all the years of living back there, though, I never once had the opportunity/ability (call it what you will) to go up to St. Vincent's College and see Steeler Training Camp.  Most of my tenure in the Burgh or surrounding area was in my younger years leading up to my 16th birthday so the opportunities for me to freely make my way north were not readily available.  My family never made any trips in that direction either and it has since been one of the things on my sports related "Bucket List".  After looking through all the pictures he sent, it got me thinking about how it is that some transplanted people become fans of teams near where they live rather than staying true to their roots.

For me, not bleeding black and gold is not an option.  It runs through my veins and I can't ever see myself going in a different direction.  I imagine that is what happens to most die-hard, life-long fans.  Whatever the circumstance, something must click in their cerebral cortex that tells them "this is YOUR team". Whether it is a great play, a favorite player, a unique event or something else that draws you in, something wins over your loyalty.  I respect that.  I get that. 

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, it was a no brainer when it came to the three sports.  You had the Steelers who had just completed a dominance the NFL hadn't seen before in the 70s, bringing home four Lombardi trophies in six years.  The Pirates were all part of your "family" after winning a couple World Series' that decade too, ironically both against Baltimore (a far cry from the Bucs and O's of today).  Then you had the Penguins who by league standards were sub-par at best but were still popular with the fans and would begin to change their basement dweller image in the later 80s with the emergence of Super Mario and a front office committed to win.

The Steelers games were on TV every Sunday with no threat of a blackout, ever.  The Pirates were on TV, whether day game or night game.  The Penguins were also on TV for most of what I can remember as a kid, although I remember listening to many of those games on the radio early on.  I guess the point here is that accessibility because of location made it easy to watch, learn, and like the teams that were placed in front of my nose.  With family members all supporting these teams too, it helped to fuel that intensity.

Because I became so interested in the teams, I took time to learn about them.  When I began collecting cards, I would always read the stats on the backs and the little player bios.  I checked books out of the library that discussed topics related to Pittsburgh teams and my favorite players (yes, I know what books are).  I went to as many games as opportunity presented so I could experience being a fan, live and in person.  I made it a point to understand the background behind the teams, the origins, the history, the things that built them and made them what they were at that time.  It made me feel like I had some sense of ownership in my teams and I still have that today.  Those memories that I built will never leave me.

Recently I have had some discussions with people from the Chicagoland area that, like me, were originally from other parts of the country.  One gentleman moved to Gary from Pittsburgh back in the 70s after the mills started closing down and now claims to be a Bears, Cubs, and Blackhawks fan.  Another couple that moved to the Chicago suburbs back in the mid-80s says they used to be Pirates fans but are now diehard White Sox fans, having season tickets for three years prior to the World Series and again last year.  Just the other day, I was talking with a guy that used to live in St. Louis and is now apparently a big supporter of both the Bulls and the Hawks.  He doesn't watch much football so that isn't a fair comparison, but he claims he is a Cubs fan despite going to a half dozen or more Cardinals games a month back when he lived there.  So to me, these are all examples of people that are stuck in a marriage of convenience due to where they live.

I spent the better portion of 1993-1999, and then 2005-present day in northwest Indiana region, which is totally ignored by both the state of Indiana, because of it's close proximity to downtown Chicago (less than 30 miles) and also ignored by Chicago because we are across some imaginary border created for taxation purposes and revenue.  The local TV and radio stations are all out of Chicago (with a couple South Bend stations thrown in) and between the emergence of Comcast Sportsnet and WGN, Chicago games are always on.  My point, you ask?  I live here too and have for quite a while and YOU DON'T SEE ME ROOTING FOR THESE TEAMS!!!

This calls into question fan loyalty from the onset.  If all it took was for these people to move from one place to another to become a fan of a different team, were they really fans in the first place?  I am not the authority to question any ones likes or dislikes or how much more intense of a fan they are but I think it is a legitimate question. 

It boils down to pseudo nature vs. nurture question when it's all said and done.  Is geography a bigger factor in a fan becoming a fan or is it something else?  Does how many games you can readily see/hear when you turn on your TV/radio affect your loyalties?  Is it the merchandise that is being sold in every store all around you?  Is it your friends/relatives that unconsciously (or consciously) persuade you to like what they like? 

I'm beginning to see this take shape first hand with my 6 year old son.  For baseball, he knows I am a Pirates fan and have been my whole life but my wife and in-laws are Cubs fans.  He tries to tell me that he likes the Pirates too, but other than a few games here or there, he really hasn't seen them play (come to think of it, it has been 17 years since I have seen them play; nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  The Cubs games are always on WGN.  That is who he identifies with because they are in his living room.  The jerseys and t-shirts, posters and memorabilia are all around him when he goes to the store.  It is almost like that is his only option.  For basketball, the Bulls are king and probably always will be.  I lost interest in the NBA when my "heros" went out to pasture like Barkley, Jordan, Bird, Malone, and Ewing so that isn't as much a priority.

He has more opportunity with the hockey and football though thanks to the internet and other sports related packages on TV.  Penguin games can be found all over cyberspace during the season and since drafting Crosby, they have been an excited team to watch, therefore bumping them to a marketable TV ratings team.  As for the Steelers, two Super Bowl titles in his life time have certainly not hurt their cause of getting some TV time in our market, especially when the Bears play opposite.  So at least until the play of both those teams falls off, I think the Black & Gold Nation will still have a chance to make a lasting impression.

I'm sure I will expound more on this topic at a later time but that is all for now.  Talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm Doing It Again...2010-11 O-Pee-Chee Preview

In an effort to prevent myself from boiling over with excitement, I decided to do what I don't like doing and post another product preview.  This time, it's the December scheduled release of my yearly mountain to climb, O-Pee-Chee.

Very slick design with the black hockey blade shaped logo swoosh.  Perhaps a little too much border space rather than photo but it is a refreshing switch from the brownish/gold borders of past years or the very busy/colorful design of last year.

Upper Deck has released their preview of this years O-Pee-Chee flagship set and to me, it doesn't disappoint.  As with every year since it's return to the fold of viable card sets, the O-Pee-Chee "monster", as I call it, has been a mainstay in my collection and many set collector's in the collecting community. 

Keeping with the apparent theme of this years releases, "what's old is now new", the design for the Marquee Rookies is something straight out of the junk wax era.  You even get the impression (well I do at least) that they are borrowing from the 1976-77 set (see reference below).  I can only assume the Tangradi card is is a "test" shot because of it being slightly out of focus.  The Subban is more like what I am expecting for the finished product.

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee Mike Corrigan.  The design looks very similar.

There doesn't appear to be any change with the set collation again as 600 cards has become the calling card for this huge set.  It will also feature a decent crop of rookies in the Marquee Rookie subset, along with the Legends subset that many collector's have come to love.  Plus, with the cards coming out in December, you will be sure to see many of the rookies that lace up the skates in October.

Very slick looking autograph cards.  Design looks very similar to the Legends subset a couple years ago.  I can't really tell if it is a sticker or on-card auto but the space for the signature seems built into the design and doesn't interfere with the card. 

In addition to the 600 card base, there will be (tentatively) Retro Parallel cards, Rainbow Foil Retro Parallel cards both regular and the more rare Black Rainbow.  The In-Action insert cards are back as well but with an addition of a 1 per case SP version.  There will also be a signature set with cards falling about 3 per case and an O-Pee-Chee Souvenirs set that features the "floating head" design and 4 player jersey pieces, also falling about 3 per case.
The "floating head" card design with the jerseys...I don't remember a hockey release trying this design before but it was done in baseball numerous times like the 1979 team cards, Upper Deck Vintage from earlier last decade, or 2001 Fleer Tradition.  All I know is I have to have this card.

Pack out on this bad boy is going to be typical:  6 Cards/Pack, 36 Packs/Box, 12 Boxes/Case.  Estimated price on the packs with most definitely range from $1.99-$2.99 for retail and possibly $3-$4 for hobby although those are just a guess.  Regardless, I think this years set is going to be a big hit once again

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trade Post - - At least I think it is a trade post

 blogA package came sometime in the last 30 days from fellow blogger Dave over at 1st & Goal.  There was a note in there that said that he was sorry it took so long to send.  Frankly, I don't remember what this was even in reference to.  Did I win a contest?  Did I trade with him?  Honestly I don't even know.

At any rate, he sent me some stuff for my team collections.  I just wanted to post some stuff that was in there because it is all very cool.

2009 Allen & Ginter Nate McLouth Jersey Relic

A trio of 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Football, including...
Terry Bradshaw

Franco Harris

Jack Lambert
They don't make them like Lambert anymore.

He sent 4 of the Upper Deck 20th Anniversary cards and I think I need all of them.

And I can't forget this little gem.  So what if he has gone AWOL for yet another season.  This card is pretty freakin' sweet...I mean Sweed...I mean Sweet!

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Limas Sweed Captured On Canvas 2-color Patch #21/50

There was also a pack of 2008 SP Rookie Edition Football in there which I will post later.
Thanks for the cards, Dave.  I appreciate it greatly.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Random Steeler Monday

For this week's installment of RSM, I wanted to go backwards a bit to showcase a player of yesteryear. With this past weekend seeing the 2010 Hall Of Fame Class inducted, I guess I was feeling nostalgic. Plus, I started reading the book about the Steelers called From Black To Gold written by Tim Gleason, life-long fan and season ticket holder. When I finish it, I plan to put up a review, although I have never done a book review before. Book reports...yes, but not since college and that was many, many beers ago.

I decided this weeks focus was going to be on Ray Mansfield.

The old Ranger, as he was known because of his love for the outdoors, was drafted from Washington in the second round of the 1963 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. The following year, Buddy Parker, then Steelers coach, was able to purchase his contract for $100. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ray would spend the next 13 seasons with the Steelers, never once missing a game, and earning two Super Bowl rings in his final two seasons. Ray played in 182 consecutive games as a Steeler, which was a team record.  He achieved All-Pro status twice, once in 1972 and again in 1975. 

The Ranger was one of the last of the "Old Guard", along with Andy Russell, when it comes to Steelers history.  Some call the era prior to the Super Bowl teams the SOS era, or Same Old Steelers.  After forty years of living in futility, however, the Steelers finally tasted some post season success by winning a Central Division Championship in 1972.  Some people may remember the photo of Chuck Noll being hoisted up and carried out of the Murph on the shoulders of  Mansfield and Jim Clack. 

It is not too often that an offensive lineman gets to score in a game but Ray did just that.  In his last season as a Steeler, he kicked the extra point on the Steelers' only touchdown in the 1976 playoff game against Oakland.  The Steelers' kicker Roy Gerela had pulled a groin muscle and Mansfield was listed as the backup kicker.

In 1996, Ray, his son, and a friend were on a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. Ray had been having some ankle problems that were causing him to lag behind. After telling the others he would catch up with them at their basecamp later in the day, the others hiked off. He never returned to the camp.

The next morning, his body was found sitting against a boulder that would have been facing in the direction of the sunset the night before, water bottle in one hand, disposable camera in the other. Ray had passed due to congestive heart failure, no doubt enjoying the nature that he loved. He was 55.

Ray is not currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, nor is it likely he will be.  He really doesn't have the career stats that could put him in there with the likes of Clyde Turner, George Musso, Jim Otto, or Dwight Stephensen at his position.  But there is no denying that his solid play for the Steelers over his 13 years laid the groundwork for 44 years of solid play at center.  44 years with only 4 players at that position!!!  His successors..."Iron" Mike Webster (HOF, 1997) who was under Ray's wing for his first two years in Pittsburgh played from 1976-1988, Dermonti Dawson played from 1989-2000 and was on the HOF ballot for 2008, Jeff Hartings played from 2001-2006.  We won't discuss what happened after that.

Mansfield was inducted into the University of Washington Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 and posthumously enshrined in the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
As for cards of Ray, Beckett's checklist only lists 21 cards.  Upon further review, two of them were a different Mansfield and one was the main list.  So in all, he has 18 officially released cards.  Since most of them are oddball cards ranging from local radio/tv station sets to soda pop tops, you can imagine they are pretty scarce.  These are the only ones that I have found over the years at various dealers, shows, and through trades.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Box Break - - 2009-10 SP Authentic Hockey

I know I am late to the party on this one but there really hasn't been much to get me excited about.  I had about a hour and a half to kill the other day while waiting for a client to show up to a meeting so I decided to pay a visit to my LCS.  I hadn't been there in well over a month because, well, like I said, there hasn't been much that has caused me to want to bust a box.  So since everyone (well not everyone but many of you) are going to the National this weekend, this was my chance at something cool/fun/wallet draining.

The shelves were riddled with new product in Baseball, Basketball, and Football.  But that is never why I am there.  I went straight for the hockey wall.  Pickin's were slim to say the least.  From the looks of it, he had replenished the wall with some older wax product from Upper Deck, including some 94-95 stuff, 97-98, 99-00, and a box or two of 05-06 which was priced out of my wallet capacities.  As for newer stuff, there was still plenty of this years flagship UD as well as Champs, Ultra, and a few tins of 2008 Sweet Spot.

My eye caught the boxes of SPA.  I told myself after the last two years of getting screwed out of hits and poor pack collation that I wasn't buying anymore SP, SPA, or SPx.  But, for some reason, the urge to bust a box came over me.  Maybe it was Tavares on the box cover that enticed me since finding product over the last three years that didn't have Crosby, Malkin, or Ovechkin has been few and far between (although Ice had Yzerman and Champs had a Dinosaur).  I have also, yet to pull a Tavares out of any 2009-10 product.  After chatting for a bit about new products, the National, and business in general, I grabbed some supplies and picked a fresh box of SPA off the shelf.

So here we go.  I am just going to post what I would consider the hits.  I'm not posting any of the base but you can rest easy knowing that I pulled an entire 1-100 card base set with 9 doubles.  If anyone needs any of them, they are 8, 31, 34, 36, 59, 74, 75, 83, and 90.  The box claims to have an average of 3 autos with some boxes hitting 4.  If you would like to read the pack out specs you can go here...Or here, or here, or here, because I have no loyalty to one source of data.

First up are some of the SP Essentials cards.  Basically these are a parallel version of the base cards that are serial numbered /1999 and have little boxes floating in the background.  I pulled...

Ryan Getzlaf, Mikko Koivu, Rick Nash, Shane Doan

Next up are the return of the HoloFX cards.  These are the hologram laden cards that showcase the technology that Upper Deck became famous for.  I pulled...

There it is.  My first Tavares pulled from a pack.  It must have been fate.  Plus the Jeff Carter is kind of cool.

I only pulled one non-auto Future Watch card.  That was this one...Tom Pyatt 805/999

Finally, the autos.  Stated odds put the autos at approximately 3 per box.  Here is how I faired.
Oskars Bartulis 335/999. I could think of better cards but at least it is a player I have heard of.

Jay Rosehill 342/999.  Okay, now we are heading in the wrong direction.

Kim St. Pierre Champions Auto.  Are you freakin' kidding me?  Another box of Upper Deck product that uses the Champions auto as a hit?  I thought it was a fluke that there was one of these in one of my Champs boxes.  When a pulled a second one in my box of Ice I laughed because of the irony.  Now I get a third?  At least she is a hockey player and not a figure skater.  And a goalie.  And a 5-time IIHF Women's Championship Gold Medalist.  And a 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist.  Okay I guess it could have been worse.  Actually I secretly love this card.

Finally...and I do mean FINALLY!!  I hit something worthwhile in a box of SP product.  It may not be the best card in the print run but I was kind of excited because of the level of talent on the card. 

It is a SPA Prestigious Parings Jerome Iginla/Eric Staal Dual-Auto numbered 3/100.  This had to be one of the coolest cards I have ever pulled from SP, let alone from any pack.  I compare this to the Fedorov auto I pulled back in 98-99 Bowman's Best or the Eddie Johnston I pulled from ITG.  Best part...IT'S ON CARD!! 

Take a moment and bask in it's glory. 

Okay, take another moment.  What I want to know is does this count as 5 autos?  If not, I still ended up with 4 which was 1 more than the stated odds.  That makes up one on the missing hit from last years SP.  Now they just need to make good on the 2007 box that I was shorted and all will be right with the world again.