Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Some Fall Housekeeping

I love this time of year.  The weather is beautiful--cool, but still not chilly.  The leaves are turning.  School is starting, which is one of the best parts of the year for a teacher.  Fall is football, crisp days at the stadium.  And it is postseason baseball.  I suppose you could add in the beginning of basketball season, which is only important to me because my boys are into it.  But right now I'm enjoying mid-season form in football and the excitement of the World Series.  In honor of this smorgasbord of sportitude, I have some cards to show off from both football and baseball.

I honestly have no idea where these cards came from.  I've had them in my Google Photos album for months.  I imagine that they came from some Trading Card Database trade, but I can't find any of my past trades that include these cards.  They are a mystery to me.  So if you sent me these cards and are now reading these, step up and take credit so I can give you a proper thank you!

Just for the heck of it, let's switch between the sports here.  I'll start with an addition of Cubbies.  I love the eX insert of Gracie at the top.  It's a beautiful card.  I also love the Pacific legends set and I would love to complete the set, but I know I will probably never chase it.

Two of my favorite brands in the mid-90s were Pinnacle and Collector's Choice.  As a kid, I could always afford Collector's Choice.  I could rarely buy Pinnacle. Here I add some legends from that decade in those two products.

Or how about some double whammies?  These players are both Cubs and ROYs.  Where do they go in my collection?  Well, since my ROY pages of Nomah and Walton are full already, they will find a home in my Cubs binders.

The Cubs have been represented, so now the Packers want in. And what a Reggie White promo card wants, a Reggie White promo card gets.  This is one of my new favorite Reggies.  I never had a clue it existed until I obtained it.  A Lambeau Leap is also always welcome.

Baseball comes back with some additions to my All-Star MVP collection.  I like to collect these players in the uniforms for the teams the played for at the time of their MVP award.  For Crawford and Soriano, this is a more difficult task for me because the decade of 2000-2010 I collected absolutely nothing.

These are my first cards of McAda and Mealey, neither of whom stuck around too long.  In fact, I now own 1/3 of all Ronnie McAda cards ever produced.  But my favorite here is the Bubba Franks rookie.  Here's why:

Bubba Franks just became a guy for me to target on cardboard because he himself "has an extensive baseball card collection."  I love hearing about players who collect.  I wonder if Franks still collects or just has a collection leftover from childhood?  Either way, it was important enough to be included in the back of his rookie card and I appreciate it.

On that note, I'll send you off with some baseball cards that, who knows?, Bubba Franks might just have in his extensive baseball card collection.

Yes, it's a good season to be a sports fan.  I hope you all enjoy Halloween, the rest of fall, and Game 6 tonight!

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.