Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Pack of Baseball Cards

You are 10 years old. It's the summer of 1992, the week in which the latest set of Upper Deck baseball cards arrives at your local baseball card retailer. Upper Deck is by far the most revered and respected baseball card brand of any 10 year old kid, especially your 10 year old friends.

They are the best looking cards, crisp and colorful. They just... look cool, like cards are supposed to look. Not too boring like Topps, not too wacky like Donruss, not downright ugly like Fleer. They are the most valuable (so sayeth Beckett), the most tradeable, the most desired. They made the holy grail of our generation, the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. #1. The first card of the first set they ever produced is of the best young player in the game. And it's worth about $70.

Shinders sells Upper Deck cards. You would spend every single day of the summer there if you could. You're tempted to ride your bike the dozen or so miles yourself, lest you face the wrath of your parents if they did not know where you were for 15 minutes. Instead, you resort to the usual tactic of begging your dad for a trip there this weekend, and as usual, you succeed.

You walk into the store way ahead of your dad, straight to the table with the newer packs. And there they are: Upper Deck 1992 Baseball Edition.

"Exciting New Card Design for 1992!
15 Baseball Cards Per Pack
Look for Collector Holograms
Random-Sequencing Tamper-Resistant Pack
Counterfeit Deterrent

My dad knows the drill. He gets one pack for $2.75. Upper Deck commands a higher price because of their demand. I don't care - I'm out the door and in the car opening it as my dad is still paying for it.

The pack itself just looks so pristine. I almost don't want to open it. But I'm not dumb. Card number one is...

Darrin Fletcher, a backup catcher for the Phillies. He's tracking a pop-up in his picture which probably means he sucks at the plate. He played in 46 games last year and hit .228. Totally unimpressed, I skip to the next card.

Kirk McCaskill, a starting pitcher for the Angels. Heard of him, but he looks kinda old. He lost 19 games last year. NEXT!

A team checklist card for the Mariners featuring... Edgar Martinez? How could you possibly have a Mariners team card that doesn't have Griffey? Nobody cares about Edgar Martinez. I want Griffey! It even says on the back underneath his name "Team Leader: AVG" and "Team Leader: RBI". But you throw Edger Martinez on the front? Team leader in NOTHING? Where's Griffey? I WANT GRIFFEY.

I'm getting a little impatient. I quickly flip through the next three cards.

Three middle relievers in a row. I just jinxed myself by doing that, I know it. Horrible mistake. You're supposed to savor every moment with a new card with a pack like this, but Edgar Martinez rattled me. Take your time. I just made these cards worthless. Nobody likes middle relievers. I feel the stack of cards in my left hand is still slightly thicker than the stack in my right hand. I'm still hopeful.

A nobody middle infielder hitting .249. Plus he looks really old. And he's fielding.

A nobody middle infielder hitting .247. Plus he plays for Oakland. I hate Oakland. And he's fielding too.

A nobody middle infielder hitting .243. Plus he plays for the National League. I hate the National League. And HE'S fielding.

Time to regroup. This is my first Upper Deck pack of the year and I just had three middle relievers followed by three middle infielders. My right hand outweighs my left hand. I'm starting to feel a bit panicked.

Kelly Gruber. I have a million Kelly Gruber cards. I get him in practically every pack. Every freaking pack. Still, he had one good year, he hits home runs, he was good once. He plays for a good team. This is a good omen.

A rookie!! Roger Salkeld. Never heard of him. He'll be in the price guide though, for sure. Almost everyone's rookie is. I flip to the back, how good is he? He's a pitcher who went 2-1 with a 5.12 ERA with "Jacksonville" whoever that is. He started 4 games. I don't get it. He's in a warm-up jacket, and he looks like kind of a jerk. Why does this guy even have a card? I feel nervous again.

Al Newman, ANOTHER middle infielder. A backup middle infielder. He's hitting in his picture, but he hit .191 last year. His home run total since 1987 reads like this:


I'm starting to feel kinda sick. I don't want my first Upper Deck pack this year to be this bad. I only have three cards left.

Mark Grace! I've heard of him! He had a Topps Golden Cup card once! That was years ago though. He doesn't hit home runs but still, he's kinda good. He might be in the price guide. I doubt it though. Still, good omen.

A Top Prospect!! Some guy named Tom Nevers. Um, he played for a team called the Tourists. What kind of a team name is that? He hit .252 for the Tourists. I don't know, if this guy were any kind of prospect, I would have heard of him, like Phil Plantier or Eric Karros. Those guys are prospects.

My sour feeling increases as I realize I only have one card remaining in my left hand. I'm almost afraid to look. It could still be good, there's still a chance, no pack is ever this bad, I gotta have a good card, it's gotta be Griffey or Thomas or Bagwell or even Kirby or Ripken... it's...


Monday, November 2, 2009

Brett Favre is Brett Favre Being Brett Favre Doing Brett Favre Things



Anyway, here's some random points about the Vikings/Packers game yesterday.

1. Favre really has no idea the effect he has on the media and on football fans. I think. Maybe. Going back to the summer of 2008 when asked about playing in Lambeau with another team ("I don't think it'll be that bad.") to being dumbfounded by the huge media frenzy he created as he signed with the Vikings this summer, he's demonstrated an "aw shucks" persona at each opportunity. Is it calculated? Is he that smart? Or is he that stupid? I don't know, but he's consistent.

The biggest rap on pro athletes in general is their oblivious disconnect with normal every day life. On the surface, it doesn't appear that way with Favre - "I don't think it'll be that bad"?? Either he's a complete moron (not exactly impossible) or maybe that pro athlete disconnect just isn't as deep as fans are used to seeing it. I would not be surprised by either.

2. I hate to sound like Dan Dierdorf, but Favre is professional athlete. (No, really!) Signing with the Vikings was about more than just sticking it to Ted Thompson. Going back to Lambeau as a Viking was a huge, HUGE challenge, an emotional challenge, unlike anyone has ever taken on in recent memory, maybe ever. A challenge unique to this modern era, unique to this media culture - starting a bazillion straight games for an unheard of 16 straight seasons for the Green Bay Packers, not just any team considering their history and their fans that care a bit too much. He leaves all that behind to play for their biggest rival. The pressure was enormous and the emotional strain must have been even greater. And he pulled it off. An enormous achievement.

He said his performance was "pretty high up on the list" as far as his career accomplishments go. This was a once in a lifetime challenge. That's what really drives professional athletes, right?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that after following Favre week to week like a fan, I understand the non-stop hype the guy creates - he's a fascinating person. I hate when that happens, but it's true.

3. Nice to see Peter King has gone directly back to "slobber over Brett Favre" mode - did not pass Go, did not collect $200. Two passages from today's Monday Morning Quarterback:

"And now, I wondered, how was the groin four hours and a lot of lost adrenalin later?

“It’s throbbing right now,” he said."


"b. Are you kidding, FOX? The moment the game of the year ends and Brett Favre is hugging his way across the field, we hear Thom Brennaman say: “We send you to bonus coverage.”

You do what? You send us to Carolina 34, Arizona 21? For God’s sake — FOR WHAT?!!!!!! What you should be sending us to is Pam Oliver for a live interview with Favre instead of making people wait."

Six exclamation points!!!!!! Brett had him at hello. Nice to have you back, Peter.

4. The Vikings schedule after next week's bye: 5 home games, 3 road games. Only bad weather game appears to be at Chicago on December 28 (where the Vikings never win anyway). That's as favorable of a schedule as you could expect for a 40 year old QB. Looking even further ahead, the only NFC team with a better record, New Orleans, plays in a dome. Those are some major lucky breaks.

5. Last thing about Percy Harvin - I thought he was a horrible draft pick. Terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrible as Bill Walton would say. I can't say enough how much I hated it. He was described as Reggie Bush type (that's not an endorsement) from Florida, home of NFL wideout success stories like Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, Taylor Jacobs, Travis Taylor, Jacquez Green, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson and Reche Caldwell. "Oh, just run some bubble screens for him!" people said, to which I replied, "You expect Brad Childress to come up with creative plays, let alone a play that's not telegraphed enough to shout 'HERE COMES A BUBBLE SCREEN'?" And what's the success rate of WRs picked in the first round, let alone from Florida? 1 in every 25?

Well, I guess he's the one then. He has proven me wrong, bigtime. He is 10 times the athlete of all the previous guys I listed combined. He's the best kick returner we've had since David Palmer. He puts the fear of God in other teams. You have to gameplan around him. What more could you ask for from a rookie?