Monday, September 10, 2018

Have I Got It Backwards?

I've been collecting since about 1978.  With the requisite pause after '84, and resuming in 2004, I've been at it for...hey, wow, twenty years all together.

I've been a sports fan pretty much all my life.  Probably a little more of football, but baseball has been significant too.  Didn't get into hockey heavily until the late 2000's because of the Great 8.  And never got into basketball at all.

All these are going to be internet images, not cards I have.
But the top two games have had my attention to some degree the whole time.  Now, I probably didn't pay as much attention during my college years, and a few other times.  Don't have much recollection for World Series during the 90's, for example, but the knee-jerk reaction to players of that era is to hear their names in the voice of Vin Scully.  Definitely been a Redskins fan since I can remember.  I still have a ticket stub from a game my family went to in 1974.

Can you believe this guy's on our team?!
I relate all this because "normally", one is a fan and collects to reflect that fandom.  People collect who they like - be it a team, or player, or era of players.  Whoever conjures good memories for you is who generally lines your binders and white boxes.  Some collectors are very narrow in their focus, and others are varied in their tastes.  Just depends on your resources and who you like.

But I realized recently, though I've had the idea a few times before, that maybe I'm more of a fan of cards and collecting than the actual sports they depict.  Or at least the current incarnations of those sports.

The relative mediocrity of my local franchises (except of course for hockey this past season), and my building cynicism for the egos and hype machine that is behind major (and college) sports these days has driven my enthusiasm for the actual games down, while my collecting has never been stronger overall in the last couple years.  Aside from the annual lull this time of year, my trading and purchasing have been heavy across all sports and years.

I was telling someone the other day that because the hockey playoffs held my interest for so long, and now that football has begun, I think I've watched a total of about three major league baseball games the entire season.  The O's and Nationals haven't been worth watching, but it's been a habit for me to come home and by the time I usually eat dinner, I can turn on the ball game.  Last time I had the game on this year was about a month and a half into the season.  And never once since.

Besides my home team fortunes, another thing that curbs my interest is that both the sports and the hobby are so rookie-centric.  I've never bought into players until they actually do something special.  I put rookies as the last cards in a team set.  Nowadays, with all the short print phenoms and high end sets stuffed with no-names, I look at each new guy that is slated to be the next Hank Aaron or Nolan Ryan as just another guy I'll never pull the hot cards of, so I don't get real excited.

Nice, but nah....
I am sitting here writing this while watching the first week of Monday Night Football.  My fantasy teams have already crashed and burned for the most part.  The Redskins actually had a decent showing on Sunday, but years of mediocrity and doubt about the motivations of their front office has jaded many fans.  Plus the fact that the major networks only push the same few teams - Patriots, Cowboys, Giants, Steelers, and Packers, etc.  A lot of the noise about the first few teams in that list is just catering to the biggest revenue markets.

The current state of football cards makes it a bit harder for me to say that the cards overshadow the actual game.  Exclusive contracts have dampened all the sports in general, but they've really been the source of upheaval in football.  I could make a case that I like Panini better than the last few years of Topps football, mostly because the designs have been unnecessarily complex and just not attractive.  Not to mention that it's hard as hell to read the microscopic fonts.  I like some of the Panini products like Donruss and Classics from certain years, but I've only built a few sets since 2012.

These stats are supposed to be visible to the naked eye?
Vintage sets are another matter, though.  I've bindered up my 80's sets, and made a lot of progress in several 70's sets.  My 70's sets are nowhere as complete as their baseball counterparts, so there's a lot of collecting to do.  And I probably remember actually watching many more of the players than in baseball during that time.

The vintage angle may be about to take over on the baseball side too.  Set bloat and indifference to the present game just might push me to pursue vintage cards almost exclusively.  And come on, everyone agrees that vintage rules, right?

No-brainer for me, Spahney wins hands down.
So am I weird for not really caring about the pennant races this year, or having no idea who Rafael Devers or Lucas Sims is even though I'm a heavy card collector?

Is it OK that I can't tell you who's in line for the Cy Young or the batting title, but I've bought so much cardboard last month that I'm still putting them away?

Does my Geek Meter register higher or lower because I can't tell you who set a record, or who won the World Series or All-Star MVP for any given year, but I can tell you the year and producing company of any card made since about 1950 at first sight?

Oh yeah, never mind, my Geek Meter is pretty much pinging the red either way....


  1. Normally, I'd be all over football right now. But with the A's in the playoff hunt, they currently have my attention.

    P.S. Vintage does indeed rule!

  2. Vintage rules, but it's intimidating and I'm a player collector at heart and focus on guys I've seen play, so it's an admiration from afar.

    I don't see any reason why your cardboard has to match your viewing or current interests 1:1. As long as the hobby and pursuit is still making you happy, that's what it's really all about.