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Monday, August 30, 2010

Anger Management Isn't Part of Team Benefits Package

Too bad our big league counterparts can't get this kind of fire under their asses.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well It's Official, Farewell To Billy G.

(This came from somewhere on SBNation Pittsburgh and I can only assume from Pensburgh since they are the only ones cool enough to do something like this.)

No more "My Dad Rocks, #13" signs in Pittsburgh.  The Penguins announced or at least, were rumored to have announced or....Okay, it is being reported (how's that?)...Nope, it's official.  Bill Guerin's services for the upcoming 2010-11 season are no longer needed.  I knew this was probably going to be the result for one of my all around favorite players and I think I saw the writing on the wall when they signed Arron Asham a few days ago.  Granted, Asham is more of a brawler by nature, or at least gets flagged as a bit on the "goonish" side but he has the skills to fill in as a top line winger.

The biggest point in bringing Guerin back was the salary cap.  There is no questioning his leadership and playmaking abilities.  There was never a question of his skill level or his on ice presence.  The only issue was the almighty dollar and in the end, that is what wins out.  With just over $59M to work with, the Pens were out of cap space after signing "high profile" D-men Michalek and Martin to replace the loss of Gonchar.  With only about $1.7M left, there wasn't much room for Billy G and his $2M contract.  Guerin already took a pay cut in order to stay with the team for the 2009-10 season and despite being vocal on the issue of staying in Pittsburgh for one more year, was understandibly not willing to take another cut to stay again this year. 

So what do the Pens lose?  In his short, but meaningful time with the Penguins, Guerin brought the veteran leadership to the team that had been lacking up until the second half of the 2008-09 season.  The locker room was always a tense environment up until Terrible Therrien was fired and Guerin brought a little levity to the room which was just what the team needed. 

Guerin put up 5 goals in 17 games after the trade deadline but his real contribution was in the playoffs.  Playing on the top line with Crosby, he was able to help propel the team through the playoffs, scoring seven goals and 15 points in 24 games.  11 of his 39 playoff goals game during his stay with the Pens and he now has another Cup to show for his efforts.  Career-wise, he is a +400 goal scorer in in 1,263 regular-season games.

At 39 years old, I don't think he is finished in the NHL.  There are still plenty of teams that could use his services.  The most widely speculated place for him to land seems to be Boston, where he played once before.  Wherever he goes, though, I will always be a fan.  I will also continue my quest for collecting every Billy G. card in existence (well at least one of each).  It is a daunting task, to say the least.

Thanks for the memories, Billy G.  Your services, your leadership, and your attitude toward the game will greatly be missed.

Video of Bill Guerin celebrating the Cup victory with his children.

2010-11 NHL TV Schedule -or- Another Reason To Move To Canada

The NHL released its TV broadcast schedule for the upcoming 2010-11 season on Wednesday.  For those of us in the US waiting for the big return of the NHL to nightly TV viewing, we are still going to have to wait.  However, there is some good news.  We are getting closer.

VS. has picked up a total of 78 regular season games, which is a baker's dozen more than they had last season.  They have 53 exclusive broadcasts with an additional 25 games slotted as "bonus coverage".  I'm not sure if either of these are included in that total but VS. will broadcast the All Star Game as well as the Heritage Classic between the Canadiens and Flames.  They also have featured a game per night on the final week of the season leading up to the playoffs.  October 7th is the first broadcast with five games total on the schedule and three of them on in a row. 

In sports terms, this is the contract year for VS.  They have every opportunity to boost thier chances for a renewal for next year or go down in flames trying.  I think if the network has any chance to survive in the stable of Comcast networks, they have to come out of this season with a win.  No one is going to keep tuning in for Bull Riding, Indy Car Racing, and the occasional MMA fight alone.

As for everyone's favorite network, NBC, their season begins on January 1st with the Winter Classic.  This years WC game is being hosted at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and pits the Penguins against their conference rivals the Capitals.  Basically it is Gary Bettman's wet dream with Ovechkin vs. Crosby facing each other on the "most watched" hockey game of the year.  Break out the napkins. 

NBC will keep their coverage going throughout the rest of the season with the game of the week featured every Sunday until the playoffs, including the "Let's Copy Canada" day, otherwise known as Hockey Day In America on February 20th.  The controversy here is whether or not coverage will be regionalized.  Last year it wasn't and most of America was forced to watch either the force-fed network coverage or nothing at all.  In looking at the schedule, it appears like the same old teams we have grown accustomed to on NBC are back with little to no changes.  At this point, there are a dozen or so teams without a spot on the schedule and, as pointed out by some other media outlets, the flex scheduling options are so piss-poor that there are clearly going to be more than just the initial 12 without games. 

Of course for our Canadian brethern, they get the royal treatment.  TSN and TSN2 will air 124 games while CBC and Hockey Night In Canada have 87 games (is that a tribute to their gold medal hero?)  As usual, RDS will show all Canadiens games.

As for the flagship network station, the NHL Network has 75 games scheduled in the US and another 31 in Canada.  This is more than have ever have and now that they are available in HD for most carriers, I am excited.  Of the three networks in the US that broadcast games, their announcers and color grind my gears the least.  More details on the upcoming season of TV viewing can be obtained over at the official NHL site.

Again, the increased coverage can be nothing but good for the game of hockey.  More exposure means more advertising, meaning more revenue and the occasional conversion of a fan or two doesn't hurt either. 

42 Days and counting.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Guess Who Legally Became An Adult Over the Weekend???

The Pittsburgh Pirates streak of losing seasons!!!!! 

Hooray, Beer!!!

There was an interesting write up in the Post-Gazette by beat reporter Dejan Kovacevic that recapped the history making night against the Mets.  The best quote...

             "Three more years, and it could drink away some of the pain." 


As far as streaks go, it is now the longest in baseball history...wait, did I say baseball?  I meant to say in any of the top four sports in North America.  To compound matters, the Pirates are now the only team in baseball with four 10-game losing pitchers and another that was demoted at 9 loses (Charlie Morton).  All these events in the wake of the Pirates "releasing of the books" for the last year's finances saying they made a $5 million profit!!  Sadly, that is less than both 2008 and 2007.

I am not going to get into the ridiculousness of baseball finances but will simply point to the pillar of all things spending related and that is the NY Yankees organization. Bottom line??  If you want a winner, you have to pay a winner.  At this point, there is really no reason for the Pirates to increase their payroll.  They are so bad, the only thing they would do is become mediocre.  My solution is to sit on the money, wait till some of these young prospects develop, try to compete with the sub par teams, then spend the money so they can at least rise above .500. 

So now the streak is old enough to buy tobacco, adopt a child, get married/divorced without parents consent, start a 401K in their own name, and operate the compactor at their minimum wage job.  I can't wait to see who the streak votes for in November now that it can legally vote.  My vote goes for new ownership.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trade Post (sort of) - - Under the Bridge

If the first thing that came to mind was the Red Hot Chili Peppers song, they you are 100%, absolutely WRONG!!

This is a Troll post.  And not just any Troll post...a package from Troll post. 

Once upon a time in a far away land, there lived the Collective Troll.  At one point sometime ago, he called out for participation in a group break of epic proportions and all you needed to do to get a spot was...well, I don't remember exactly what we had to do.  It had something to do with buying our way in with cards or something of that nature.  At any rate, this all went down sometime last millennium and I think everyone had forgotten about it until a few weeks ago when we were all reminded that there were packages awaiting arrival at our doorsteps. 

I knew I had the Pirates in the break and after jogging my memory by reviewing many old posts on the Troll Blog, I got a pretty good idea of what I was going to expect to see.  What arrived was so much more, though.

There in my mailbox sat a 330 count box of wonder and amazement.  Not only were the cards that came from the break in there, but there were unopened packs, older Pirates cards, some roller derby stuff (which is always awesome!!), and even some Steelers items.  I was blown away by everything that was in there so I thought I would share some of it with the world. I'm not posting everything, nor am I posting much from the actual break.  I am going to post some of what I think are the highlights.

1994 Stadium Club Andy Van Slyke
I post this card, not for its value or scarcity.  No, this one sums up the Pirates existence from the date this card came off the production line until today.  This is exactly how Pirates fans feel.  Exhausted? Tired? Exasperated? Frustrated? Confused? Angry?  The answer to all of these questions is YES!!  This has to be my vote for the greatest modern era Pirates card of all time.

1985 O-Pee-Chee George Hendrick and Lee Mazzilli
These are the first two OPC Pirates cards I have in my collection from the 1980s.  Although, George is still a Cardinal but we will let that slide.  This was a shocking discovery since I have so much 1980s stuff.

2008 UD Baseball Heroes Roberto Clemente and 2008 Stadium Club Honus Wagner
Here are two modern cards with vintage players.  Not just any players but two of the greatest Pirates of all time.  The 1971 World Series MVP and the man with the most famous and recognizable baseball card of all time.  Reprints, tributes, and retro cards are the closest I will ever get to owning a real Honus Wagner.

1978 O-Pee-Chee Dave Parker/Rod Carew Batting Leaders
Another OPC only this time, an oldie.  When I started collecting, I really didn't even know that OPC was had a card set.  In fact, until I started collecting hockey cards back in the late 80s, I didn't know OPC existed at all.  What an awesome duo to have on a card, though.

1976 Topps Duffy Dyer
There really isn't anything all that special about this card.  Dyer didn't have what you would call a stellar career.  He was Manny Sanguillen's backup for most of his tenure with the Pirates until Manny was dealt to the A's for Chuck Tanner (yes, the manager).  He came back the following year but by that time, Dyer and Ed Ott were well entrenched as the 2 catchers.  What I thought was cool about this card is that Dyer is the name of the town directly west of where I currently reside.  I doubt Troll knew that, or maybe he did, but what a coincidence.  I wonder if Duffy's family tree goes back to mid-1800's Northwest Indiana?

1998 Topps Roberto Clemente Commemorative Set #300
This card comes from a 19 card commemorative set issued back in 1998 which was the 25th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's death.  I have seen this set going from anywhere between $50 to $100.  Now I have a card from it.  It looks like the original, it is glossy, and it is foil stamped. 

A variety of Topps Steelers cards from 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1985. 
These were very unexpected since this was a baseball break and these are clearly not baseball.  They are much cooler though.  4 Steeler greats of the past.  Lambert and Blount are both in the HOF.  Larry Brown played on all four Super Bowl teams in the 70s first as a tight end and then as a tackle.  Mike Merriweather played for the Steelers from 1982-1987 and made the Pro Bowl as a linebacker in 84, 85, and 86. 

2009 Allen & Ginter Ryan Doumit Relic
This is my third A&G relic of a Pirate.  It's Ryan Doumit.  While it's a cool card, I don't know how I feel about Doumit.  Is a catcher, first baseman, outfielder?  Who knows?  It could change on a whim.  He did hit a homer tonight in a losing effort to the Mets.

1987 Fleer Johnny Ray Autograph
I have no idea how he got this autograph, all I know is it is now in my collection.  Johnny Ray, one of the all time best Pirates 2nd baseman, was a personal favorite of mine (in the pre-Bonds era).  The other great thing about this card...look what he is swinging there.  Here's a hint...It's not a bat.

Thanks again Troll.  You are a gentleman and a scholar and a real class act in this hobby.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

After Careful Deliberation

I have decided that one of the card frames is now going to contain the Pittsburgh Penguins All Time Team.  Trib Total Media announced a week or so ago the All Time Team as voted by both fans and local media people and for the most part, with possibly one exception I think it is dead on. 

One of the criterion was that it contain players from all eras of the team's history with the exception that current roster players are not eligible.  That was one of the sticking points for me since a public opinion vote on all time players was bound to include players of today like Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Staal, etc.  Since these are the guys that won the latest championship, they are the ones that many younger fans and "bandwagoners" remember.  For me though, I was concerned with the guys that built the franchise and made it what it is today.  Granted, the bulk of the players involved are from the late 80s/early 90s back-to-back Stanley Cup teams but that was a pivotal time in franchise history.  However, they didn't forget many of the players of the past that kept this team viable for the pre-Mario years and struggled with the team along the way.

This awesome group will be honored in an interactive display at the Trib Total Media entrance of CONSOL Energy Center. The Trib Total Media Penguins All-Time Team Zone, as it will officially be known, (or "hey, you know that section with all the cool digital stuff about the players") will also include displays honoring other Penguin players, builders and fans.  So in honor of that, and since it will probably be a long time before I get to see the real thing in person, I am creating my own All Time Team display with one of the card frames.

The list is comprised of 15 players and 5 honorable mentions...perfect for a 20 card display, including:

Mario Lemieux
Ron Francis
Jaromir Jagr
Rick Kehoe
Kevin Stevens
Jean Pronovost
Paul Coffey
Larry Murphy
Ulf Samuelsson
Tom Barrasso
Syl Apps
Joe Mullen
Dave Burrows
Les Binkley
Pierre Larouche
Randy Carlyle
Rick Tocchet
Martin Straka
Ron Stackhouse
Lowell MacDonald

Not a bad lineup.  I'm not focusing on a certain card either.  I couldn't fill this thing with rookie cards even if I tried.  Instead, I am picking out a variety of cards that feature the players in their Pens uniforms that are eye catching and can tell a story.  Each card is going to be of a separate year and brand.  I am trying for no duplication of cards designs.  The last qualification is that it has to be a vertical picture.  Horizontal won't work since the display has to be mounted upright because of the case tracks.

So far it is looking pretty good.  Right now, I am two cards short as I can't seem to find any Randy Carlyle cards in my collection sporting a Penguins uniform (which is really strange).  I am also without a Les Binkley in a Pens uniform.  Les could be a harder pull since he played so long ago.  His 68-69 rookie card is a horizontal shot instead of vertical (although I do still want that for my team collection).  My only shots are his 69-70, 70-71 (probably my best option since it shows him in full gear minus a mask which he didn't wear), or 71-72 (which I am already using for Syl Apps spot).  If I can find the 04-05 ITG card, he is featured as a Penguin but most of the various reprint/retro sets have him as an Ottawa National. There are a few on the Bay so we will see what happens. 

I will try and post the final project when it is finished and in the meantime, figure out what I am using the other one for.  I'm guessing Steelers but I can't figure out which yet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Football Makes Me Happy, Plus...Random Steeler Monday

The first pre-season game was played on Saturday between the Pittsburgh Football Steelers and the Detroit Football Lions.  I got a chance to watch the game live "streamed" online.  Obviously, this was an un-televised game but was carried in replay through the weekend on the NFL Network because of their committment to show every pre-season game 17 times over.  In fact, this would most likely have been an un-televised game if it was a regular season matchup because, let's face it, it was a team that missed the playoffs last year playing a team that has missed the playoffs for 11 years.  Say what you want about them but the Lions are still well below the threshold of a contender.  They are, however, in a position to make some noise.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is now stuck in the middle of one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, with stacked Ravens and Bengals teams that have been designed to do one thing...beat the Steelers.  Even Cleveland could make a splash, especially with all their pent up agression over "the Decision" spilling over onto the football field.

Nonetheless, football is back!!  I can't wait for the season to start because the tiresome and mind-numbingly vapid baseball season has sucked the life out of my daily sports viewing.  When the hockey season ended, including the draft and free agency period, I thought baseball would satisfy my sports fix.  I'm sorry baseball.  I gave you an opportunity this year to Wow! me and bring me back into the fold.  I tried to get excited over spring training, the All Star game, the great pitching so far, the Stephen Stras"mania", etc.  I really tried.  I went crazy buying Upper Deck, Topps, and Bowman releases that looked great and got my attention for a short while.  I even went as far as stocking up on some of the last 5 years that I have missed.  But, I'm just not feeling it. 

With the exception of two, probably three plays a game or less, there just doesn't seem to be a very marketable product on the field.  Maybe I'm not watching the right games.  Maybe I have just abandoned my once favorite sport for so long that there is no turning back.  Come playoff time, I will tune back in and see if that level of excitement can help me find a pulse.  But until then baseball, you have been demoted back to the minors alongside Indy car racing, sport fishing, and Major League Soccer.

All anyone has talked about thus far in the preseason is how the Steelers are going to handle the quarterback "situation".  With Ben serving his minimum, four game suspension during the regular season, it is going to be one of two guys, either veteran Byron Leftwich or third year quarterback Dennis Dixon.  As much as I'd like to throw Charlie Batch into that mix, his role has become much more of the mentor/tutor/coach.  I'm not saying his days are numbered, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him take on a role as an advisor or coach.

Whichever way it turns out, I think the issue being overlooked is that there were bigger problems at running back.  Parker is gone to the Redskins (and has been relegated to 4th on their depth chart) while Mewelde Moore is great on special teams and the occasional situation but is far from a feature or anchor back.  Mendenhall is a more than capable workhorse but can't be expected to be an every down back for an entire season.  Frank Summers could be a number two back on at least 9 other teams in the league but has yet to break into a starting role and is still lower on the depth chart.  Jonathan Dwyer, the highly touted 2010 draft pick has had a horrible camp and has fallen victim to injuries already.  I was excited about him as a pick but if preseason is any indication of what's to come, he may be a bust.  Enter, the "Red Zone". 

Isaac Redman is my choice for filling in that position.  The second year back proved, once again, that he is a more than deserving of a shot after Saturday's performance.  If the Steeler's are ever going to get back to what the franchise was built on, I think the Mendenhall/Redman combination (with an occasional sprinkling of Summers or Moore mixed in for good measure) is what is going to get them there.  He has already shown he can be part of that tandem, leading the Steelers in preseason rushing last year and showing promise this year.  The faster paced game of today has caused the two back system to become an almost necessity in the NFL of today.  The workload has to be spread out to keep the backs from burning out. 

Isaac had a pretty decent game against mostly a second team defense of the Lions, gaining 60 yards on 15 carries and one TD.  He broke a 31 yard draw play, spinning like a whirling durbish, and running over another defender which set up a field goal.  He then scored after a 51 yard pass from Double D to Arnaz Battle set him up at the 1.  He did have a fumble that was overturned by a challenge but the conditions were less than desireable with a soaked field due to torential downpours all evening in Pittsburgh (I know, excuses, excuses).

As for cards featuring the stable of Steeler running backs, thus far Redman has no cards that I know of so there aren't any that I can post here.  I'm sure that will change this year with some football releases, hopefully in Topps.  In comparison, Frank "the Tank" Summers has 38 cards listed on Beckett's checklist.  Moore has well over 500 total cards but only about 10 that feature him as a Steeler and four of those are printing plates from 2009 Topps.  Dwyer already has 142 cards despite being drafted less than 6 months ago.  This is a prime example of the perception of scarcity the card companies manufacture.  I will expound on that more in another post.  Mendenhall?...he has over 1,500 cards, over 600 of them are memorabilia cards and almost another 600 are autographs. 

Regardless of what the end results are come Week 1, I think it's safe to say that Pittsburgh's running game will be back.

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.