Friday, October 20, 2017

A Sportlots Order to Ease the Pain

It has been a rough October for me, sports-wise at least.  There are three sports entities that I vehemently cheer for: the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Cubs, and the BYU Cougar football team.  After last night's NLCS clincher, I can safely say that there has been a net loss for my teams this month.  While it was nice to have the Cubs playing in October, there was never really sense that they would get too far this year.  Kershaw made sure of that.  The Packers may have a winning record for the month so far, but there is one loss that will be difficult to overcome: the loss of Aaron Rodgers to injury.  And BYU football this has been nothing short of abject failure.  Last year, they managed a record of 9-4 with the four losses coming against good teams (Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, and Boise State) by a grand total of 7 points.  This year the record stands at 1-6, with the only victory coming against FCS Portland State.  This is worst start to a season since before LaVell Edwards became coach in 1972.  Wilson has them at #120 in his Power Rankings, and to those of us who have watched them play, that feels too high. 

As a consolation, I'll just have to turn to some new BYU acquisitions from Sportlots to remember better days past.  In January, I stated that my 2017 collecting goal was to work on my BYU collection.  I had never considered focusing on collecting BYU players, even as much I love the team, but now I realize that recalling old players and great players from the past has been a good bonding mechanism between me and older family members, and I now want it to be the same with my sons.  I like to pull out the cards when I'm talking sports to my kids, so I decided to ramp up my BYU collection this year.  I started 2017 with a mere 105 cards of former Cougars, but I've been able to more than double that number so far this year.  Remembering that this program has actually won more games than all but 5 other programs since the Edwards era began makes this season a little bit easier to take.

One of the first great QBs to play in Provo was Gifford Nielsen.  He was the first in a string of over a decade's worth of future NFL quarterbacks that gave the school the nickname QB U.  Yes, I know other school's have the same nickname, but with 4 Davey O'Brien winners in 12 years, it certainly fit BYU in the 1980s.

Jim McMahon was the first of those Davey O'Brien winners.  He went on to a long NFL career with five NFL teams. 

I didn't pick up any Steve Young in this order, so we have to skip to the next Davey O'Brien winner, Ty Detmer.  Of course, it's really fun to look back on Ty's playing days.  But his association with this current squad is tough to take.  He is the offensive coordinator of a truly anemic offense that has produced an average of 11 points per game.  Contrast that with Detmer's own Heisman winning season, when the team put up over 40 points per game, and I'm ready to look at some more cards.

John Walsh succeeded Ty Detmer at BYU and probably would be better remembered had he followed someone different.  He played well enough as a sophomore and junior to leave school early and enter the 1995 draft, where he was drafted by the Bengals.  This is one of few autographs I picked up on Sportlots for cheap.

Steve Sarkisian followed Walsh and was actually much better than Walsh, but I have never seen a card of him.  The team ran through a couple of forgettable quarterbacks after that before Brandon Doman took the reins as the first quarterback in the post-LaVell Edwards era.  His 2001 season was outstanding as the team rode him and Doak Walker Award winner Luke Staley to a 12-0 start before falling inexplicably to Hawaii, a loss that killed BCS hopes and sent the Cougars to a disappointing Liberty Bowl, where they lost in uninspiring fashion to Louisville.  Doman, for his part, went on to an NFL career with the 49ers and eventually went into coaching.

Since Sarkisian in 1996, John Beck has been my favorite Cougar quarterback.   He won over BYU fans with some unforgettable wins against arch-rival Utah.  There has only been one since he graduated.  He went on to become a 2nd round draft pick of the Dolphins, where he never fit in with new head honcho Bill Parcells.  He was eventually sent to the Redskins, who gave him several chances to start, but he never could hold on to the job.

Of course, not every BYU great has been a QB.  Jamal Willis was the school's career leading rusher when he graduated.  Austin Collie was on his way to a solid NFL career when a series of scary concussions cut it short.  Reno Mahe had few years as the Eagles' return specialist.  He is now BYU's running backs coach.  He lives in my city and ran for city council last year.  (No, I didn't vote for him, but I've been less than satisfied with the current city council, including those I helped elect.  I have no one to blame but myself.)

Here we have a couple of great BYU tight ends.  I find it interesting that Itula Mili is wearing three different numbers in three different cards here.  These are my first cards of both of these players, as they both played during the period I wasn't collecting.

Here we have a whole bunch of cards of unsung heroes, the players who make their living under the radar.  Some of these guys, like Bart Oates, John Tait, Ryan Denney, and Kurt Gouveia had very long NFL careers.  Ziggy Ansah is almost a household name for his sackmaster abilities, and Brett Keisel became well-known for his beard.  Of these players, Shawn Knight, John Tait, Rob Morris, and Ansah were all NFL 1st Rounders.  These are my first cards of Evan Pilgrim and Ryan Denney.

I also used this Sportlots order to fill in my Brad Sorensen collection.  Sorensen is also a former Cougar, technically, but he transferred to SUU because he was buried at fourth on the depth chart.  He is now Exhibit A in the criticism of ex-BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's inability to handle quarterback talent.  In the two years Sorensen spent at SUU, he flourished into a Walter Payton award finalist and became the school's first ever draft pick.  BYU's quarterback situation was an utter disaster as fans watched the #1 QB recruit in the country be benched in favor of a guy who was prone to throw the ball in the dirt and every quarterback on the roster struggled until Taysom Hill came in and grabbed the starting position.

As a finale of my Sportlots order, I was able to step closer to completing a couple sets, and I finished 1995 Collector's Choice (after only 22 years of working on it!), 2013 Panini Prizm, and 2014 Contenders.

Good luck to everybody's teams this weekend.  I'll be choking down 1-6 BYU taking on 1-6 East Carolina.  At least they might win this one.  But, then again, they might not. . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Football in Its Glory Days (A TCDB Trade Story)

I've been thinking a lot about the social impact of football recently.  I won't wax political on this blog, however.   It may be an outlet for me to write, but it was always intended to be about something that is stress-free and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  I will simply say that whether I agree with the players' protests or not, I respect their First Amendment rights to express their opinions.  At the same time, I would support any owner who who prohibited the action, as the employer has the right decide if political actions in public view are acceptable when the employee is on the clock.  The other issue clouding my favorite sport is, of course, head injuries and player safety.  As my wife and I have discussed football in our house, it has made me a bit nostalgic for the "good old days" of the game.  I'm actually not against measures taken to protect players and their post-NFL futures, but it seems so much simpler to think of the sport as a tough man's game, and a form of entertainment without the political platform.  As the old saying goes, "Ignorance is bliss," and there was a time when we were truly blissful when it came to long-term health consequences of the game. 

The unabashed gladiatorialism of  the game combined with the rise of the passing game made the 1980s a period of unprecedented growth in popularity.  I don't have any numbers to back me up here, but I would say that the 1980s is the decade when football first started to catch baseball as the nation's most popular sport.  The post-merger, Super Bowl-era 1970s really got the the oval ball rolling, but in the 80s, Air Coryell and the West Coast Offense got it flying.

I recently completed a trade with Trading Card Database user 860502 and I got a fix of the 1980s as part of the deal.

All of these cards came from 1983 except for the surprisingly shiny Nolan Cromwell sticker, which is a 1982.  I was surprised to see the sheen on a sticker this old.  A trio of Packers and a couple of all-decade defenders are showcased here.  Dan Hampton went on to dominate the decade, but he looks quite young on the card.

Players like these all-time greats are in large part responsible for some of the aerial attacks that helped make the modern game what it is today. Both Largent and Monk retired as the NFL's all-time leading receiver--Largent after the 1989 season and Monk after 1994.

Offense may have been on the rise in the 80s, but great defenses still existed in the decade.  No player was more feared than the original LT, who was an utter monster with his combination of size and speed.  Ronnie Lott is a prime example of the toughness bordering on insanity that characterized the game.  In 1986, Lott had his pinkie amputated just above the first knuckle in order to avoid the longer recovery time of the broken bone healing.

One of the other great things of the NFL in the 80s was the proliferation of nicknames.  Great defenses include the Dolphins' Killer Bs, the Jets' New York Sack Exchange, the Bears' Monsters of the Midway, and the Giants' Big Blue Wrecking Crew.  But perhaps the most famous nickname is one that has evolved to include anybody who plays in a position group--the Redskins' revered "Hogs" offensive line.  Joe Jacoby was one of the original Hogs, but Webster, Hannah, and Munoz would have arguably been better than any individual in that group.

As the 80s drew to a close, the 90s started a transition from great defense and innovative offense to a flashy game of finesse.  Deion and Rod Woodson may have been defenders, but they brought the flash and speed that characterizes the 90s to me.  All of these cards are rookie cards, by the way.

As the game moved from toughness to finesse, we saw flashier cards come into play as well.  Gloss and gold foil was the name of the game in the 90s.

I may be breaking with my theme here, but these 1991 Pro Set Platinum cards came to me in the trade.  I think they're beautiful cards.  The full-bleed photo on the front is exquisite on almost every card I've seen from this set.  I have to show the backs here too, though, because this is the rare set in which the back photography is as good as the front.  The biggest downsides to the set, however, are the lack of a player name on the front (another reason to show the back) and the omission of player stats.  I've probably said this before, but the more I see these cards, the more I think I'm going for the set.  I didn't appreciate or even like these cards when I was a kid, but I think they are something special now.

The final cards coming from 860502 fit along with the 90s.  As much as I appreciate the splendid balance of ground and pound, increasing aerial attacks, and stout defenses of the 80s, I didn't really begin to understand the game until the 90s, and it was then that I became a Packers fan.  Knowing myself, I probably would have opted for more prolific running game to be featured by my team of choice had I been born a few years earlier.  I don't think I've ever explained on this blog how I became a Packers fan, but that is a story for another day.  Truth be told, if I had been about 5 years older, I think I would have been a Bears fan.  I mean Walter Payton, the Monsters of the Midway, and Jim McMahon would probably have appealed to, and might have actually paralleled the way I started rooting for Green Bay.  Yes, I'll have to make a mental note to write a post about the inception of my fandom as a kid.

There were some great throwback cards in this trade.  It was a nice venture into the simpler days of the NFL, before we had to worry about so many inherent dangers of the game, when the NFL was gaining popularity, and not just sitting on top of the hill.  Very possibly the NFL's glory days.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

2017 Prestige Football, Pt. 2

Let's continue looking at the only football set I'm looking to complete this year: Panini Prestige.  We're two years into the Panini Dynasty in football, and I still look longingly at my Topps sets from years past.  I really don't care too much for many of Panini's products, and they just seem more expensive than Topps's former offerings.  Prestige has has kind of become Panini's "flagship" product to me, though I'm sure other people would disagree.  I have four more fat packs to show, and I'll stick to the most interesting of the pulls--the four best vets, the rookies, the parallels, and the inserts.

Pack 5

    I have to say, this is one great pack for me.  The best vets are a trio of talented wideouts.  The rookies, though.  Two Packers, one of them being my man Jamaal Williams (J-Swag Daddy, to us BYU fans), the other being first rounder Kevin King.  So far, Jamaal hasn't had too many snaps, and got hurt soon after getting a chance to step in for an injured Ty Montgomery.  King has looked talented but raw, in my opinion, but I think the Packers have a good corner in the making.

Then we move to the inserts.  Another Packer (score!), another Phenomenal Athlete for the insert set I'm chasing.  I'm glad to see Todd Gurley returning to form, and I'm actually looking forward to seeing Trubisky, as soon as I stop giggling about the Bears' Mike Glennon venture.

Pack 6

This pack contained some really solid vets, but not guys who are at the top of many collectors' lists.  Maybe I'm morbid, but the real interest for me was trying to see if JPP's missing finger was apparent.  I believe that it is.  The rookies include a couple of first rounders that I don't know too much about.  The inserts are a mixed bag.  Another DeShaun Watson insert, which is good, and another Phenomenal Athlete to get one closer to the set are the highlights.  Devontae Booker in all his Ute gear will need to find a new home ASAP; maybe I'll find a Ute fan at the next card show who will take it off my hands in a trade.

Pack 7

No veterans to show here, as every base card was a dupe.  Only three inserts are shown, also because of dupes.  The intimidating LT makes up for the extra Torry Holt Banner Season, though.  I complained about the Hardwear checklist before, when Jeremy Langford represented the Bears, and now I have the same gripe with Tevin Coleman of the Falcons.  Don't get me wrong; the guy is talented, but he isn't even part of a committee in Atlanta.  He's firmly behind Devonta Freeman there.  The rookies are solid, though.  Christian McCaffrey is surpassing my expectations as a rookie Carolina, and all I hear from fantasy football prognosticators is that D'Onta Foreman will soon be the man in Houston's backfield. 

Pack 8

The last pack I picked up with my Target gift cards included some ho-hum rookies and vets.  I am happy about pulling the Ty, though.  The AFC South faces off in the Xtra Points parallels, with the Mariota going into my Heisman binder.  The inserts are great, as I pulled the third and final Packer in the Banner Season checklist.  That's some good luck: 40 cards in the set, six cards pulled, and three of them Packers.  Eric Berry will go toward the set build, though he also is becoming a favorite player for me.  After I complained that Jordan Howard should have represented the Bears on the Hardwear checklist, I pull it out of the final pack.  Redemption!  But wait, it's still the Bears, so nevermind.  The Brad Kaaya has already been sent away in a TCDB trade, but I'm just getting around to posting the picture.

 So this is where I stand with my 2017 Prestige set build.  At time of writing, I have 137 of the 200 base vets and 36 of the 100 rookies for 57.7% of the base set.  The final 10 rookies are short prints, and one of those is Kareem Hunt, so they may be harder to track down.  I'm chasing one insert set--Phenomenal Athletes--and I have 10 of the 42 in that set, or 23.8%.  Needless to say, I have a bit of work to do.  Fortunately, I'm not collecting any other 2017 set, so I can focus a little on this set.

Most of the inserts and parallels are available for trade, if anybody saw anything they liked.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Be Prepared (to Miss the Card Show)

The semi-annual card show in my valley will be held this weekend, but I won't be attending.  As a Boy Scout leader in our community, I'll be taking the boys on an overnight merit badge encampment on Friday night.  I should be there all day on Saturday, wiping out any chance I may have to attend the card show.  Luckily I've had this campout marked on my calendar for a few months and I knew this was going to happen.  The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared" and I'll be the leader and example setter here.  Knowing that I would miss the card show, I sought out another opportunity to pick up a stack of cards on the cheap.

Labor Day in my wife's hometown means Onion Days, the the annual town celebration.  I suppose Onion Days is my hometown celebration, too, since my family has attended the festivities every year since I was born.  My true hometown is too small to have much by way of annual celebration.  Years of attending the parade, carnival, and vendor booths at Onion Days has taught me that I can rely on one particular vendor being at the park: Tom, a older gentleman who used to own a card shop.  Tom is a regular vendor at the card show, too, so I'm familiar with his wares.  When Labor Day rolled around, I came prepared to pick up some new cardboard goodies from the park because I knew I would miss the upcoming show.  Tom's booth usually features complete sets from the 90s, usually priced to sell.  I had my sites set on a set or two.  Even though they were marked "Buy One, Get One Free," I had to pass.  The sets that I had enough cash for didn't interest me all that much, and the sets I did want, I couldn't buy at the time. 

So I dug through his dime box instead.  I don't know if I got there late or what, but the pickings seemed a little sparse.  He had everything divided by sport, put in penny sleeves, and tossed into big boxes about 8 inches deep.  There couldn't have been more than 150 cards in each box, though, despite the size.  It was pretty easy to root through everything he had for 10 cents.  Ultimately, I chose 50, and that will have to suffice as my card show haul.

Throughout this post, I've been taking you through a selection of these cards chronologically, starting with that 1977 Minnie.  Oh yeah, and it's OPC.  Will I take that for a dime?  Yes, I will.  We followed that up with some early 80s NFL stars.  For a Hall of Fame lineman who played in my lifetime, Dierdorf is wholly underrepresented in my collection.  I'll try to remedy that.  We'll skip ahead to the early 90s, represented here by players whose heydays never really overlapped.  Dickerson was a star of the 80s, Sharpe was an early 90s rising star who fell victim to injury, and Bagwell picked up about the time Sharpe left off.  The mid-90s are represented by bright color and gold foil, not to mention three Hall of Fame players.

Shiny is the name of the game at the the end of the 90s.  It spills over a little into the 2000s, but I don't know how to generalize those years.  I suppose part of it is because I don't have as much familiarity with those years.

What's this?  Are we going backwards in time now?  No, it's just the beginning of retro-looking cards that happened in the mid-2000s.  The trend continues today, with A&G and Panini Classics. 

Finally, we have 3 fully modern card designs from the past couple of years.

I may be missing the card show this weekend, but my Boy Scout training taught me to plan ahead, so I was still able to hit up one of the vendors who will most likely be there on Saturday.  Stay tuned next dime as I count down my Top 10 dime box pickups from Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My First Football Set of 2017

I haven't been too active collecting football this year, mostly because of tight financial circumstances and partly because I've not had too many current sets calling out to me.  I have decided to put together the Prestige set again this year, so almost everything I have from 2017 is Prestige.  I used some Target gift cards to pick up 8 fat packs for a total out-of-pocket cost of $15.  No, I haven't completed the set yet--I'm still about 50% complete--but here are a few of the highlights of my pulls so far.  The configuration for each pack is 30 cards, with 4 inserts, 4 rookies, 2 Xtra Points parallels, and 22 veteran base cards.  I'll the 4 best veterans and the rookies and inserts from each pack.

Pack 1

The base design is simple and clean.  I like the borderless photo and the unobtrusive banner on the bottom.  I don't love the color scheme of the team color and white for each card; I'd like to see primary and secondary team colors on the banner.  For the rookies, I think Panini played to its biggest strength, ie. licenses for both NFL and NCAA.  I like the full college picture with the drafting team's logo.  The Xtra Points parallels are xtra shiny, and mine are red because they are Target exclusive.  WalMart has its own blue parallels.

I like the look of the Alma Maters insert, but the checklist wasn't too enticing for me.  Good players, to be sure, but overall I didn't care to collect the set.  I also like Banner Season insert, but I ultimately chose to chase the Phenomenal Athletes set.  It was an economical decision, really, as I ended up with one in every pack and therefore am closer to finishing it than the Banner Season.

Pack 2

I only intended to show 4 base cards per pack, but this was quite the pack for veteran base stars.  For me, personally, this was a great pack in general.  Two Packer base cards, new addition Martellus Bennett as a parallel, and an insert of Green Bay draft pick Malachi Dupre (since cut).  Throw in three of the hottest rookie cards available in Fournette, Cook, and Kizer, a Phenomenal Athlete to go to my set build, and a Banner Season of Kellen Winslow that will go in my All 1980s collection, and I love this pack. 

Pack 3

My best base cards in this pack were some good pass catchers, although three of them are often injured.  Tyreek Hill is one of the most exciting players in the game, and this is my first card of him since the sets I collected last year didn't include his rookie.  I can see Hill and Peppers being solid players.  The highlight in this pack is two Heisman winners for my parallels, both from Auburn.  What are the odds?  Both of these cards fit nicely with my Heisman collection.  From the inserts, I pulled another Phenomenal Athletes card.  The NFL Passport inserts make their yearly appearance, and DeShaun Watson is about the best player I could hope to pull.  However, the design doesn't do much for me.  The font is way too small and there is too much dead space.  I'm not a fan.  I'm also not a fan of the Hardwear set.  It's in Prestige every year as well, and I don't understand it.  The checklist is never great (seriously, why is Jeremy Langford representing the Bears after losing his job to Jordan Howard last year), it's always horizontal, and why produce a card called Hardwear without any memorabilia?  I know there is a helmet relic version of this set, but without the helmet, it doesn't make sense.

Pack 4

Interesting veteran base cards here.  The counterparts of the infamous Manning-Rivers 2004 draft trade appear side-by-side.  Now that their careers are starting to wind down, it's hard to say there was a definite winner.  Both quarterbacks have been solid in their careers.  Both have been turnover machines at times.  I think that Rivers is the better of the two, but Eli has two Super Bowl Rings.  Could the Giants have won those two Super Bowls with Rivers?  I don't know, but I'm sure they don't regret making the trade.  I kind of doubt that the Chargers regret it, either.  Then we have the Packers' two new tight ends in Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.  It's interesting to me that Panini chose to Photoshop the Bennett card, but the not the Kendricks.  The rookies and Xtra Points are ho-hum, but I like the inserts.  Another Banner Season card that fits into a mini-collection, a Fournette insert that I will hang onto, a Connections insert featuring a Heisman player for my collection, and one card closer to completing the Phenomenal Athletes set.

I'll wrap up this post for now.  You'll get to see the rest of my Target Gift Card Prestige Haul later.  Thanks for reading!