Thursday, February 14, 2013

Welcome to the late 1980s-early 1990s

There really isn't an offseason for the NFL anymore - at least for the league and the players.  They have certainly tried; the NFL promotes the Draft, the Combine, the free agency period, OTAs, and minicamps as if they were as important as the games themselves.  It's just not the same, however, and the Monday after the Super Bowl we all stare into the six-month gulf between the hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy and the Hall of Fame game.  Some of us have other sporting interests that occupy our time.  I myself have college basketball, Formula 1, and college summer baseball (Go Tobs!).  As fun as these sports are, nothing quite compares to the NFL.  In the interests of your sanity, I have created this blog to share the fruits of my years of collecting.

Once or twice a week, I'll scan a bunch of my old sports cards and post them, along with some stories about collecting, being a sports fan, the history that goes with the cards, and my opinions about the hobby as a buyer and a seller.

1980 Topps Nolan Ryan
I did not grow up in a sports-oriented household.  Despite being in the heart of Tobacco Road neither parent was a big sports fan.  My father graduated from NC State in the early 60s, but didn't pay much attention.  My mother was born and raised in Michigan, moved to Texas with her sister, and eventually went to graduate school at TCU.  So I had a small knowledge of NC State and the Dallas Cowboys, but all that changed in elementary school, when a teacher (who happened to be the wife of the local high school football coach) conducted an annual writing exercise.  She put the names of NFL teams in a hat, and let each student draw a name out of the hat.  I pulled out "Denver Broncos".  We wrote the team a standardized letter, and in return most of us got back a package that included things such as a media guide, a small poster, and in some cases football cards.

My crown jewel - John Elway's rookie card
I had no idea about the franchise's history at that point; I just started watching every game they played, and followed along in the media guide they sent me.  I also recorded statistics for each player I recognized from my football cards.  It was easy to track John Elway, Sammy Winder, and Steve Watson; Karl Mecklenburg, Rulon Jones, and Mike Harden naturally proved more difficult.  I was excited to see the Broncos win games, and even play in the Super Bowl…even if that Super Bowl was a loss.  And there were a lot of losses.  It frustrated me, as a lone Broncos fan in eastern North Carolina, that I was constantly seeing my team finish second what seemed like year after year.

Nevertheless, I remained faithful, and my card collecting expanded.  I started pouring more of my lawn-mowing money into cards.  By 1989, the sports card industry boom made its way to football from baseball, and instead of just the Topps cards, now I had multiple sets to collect.  The most impressive company to me was Pro Set, who produced cards in full glossy color, complete with photos and full stats on the back.  I grew with the hobby, and by 1991 I was collecting almost a dozen different sets.

Izel was the only player from Fike High School to play in the pros.  He eventually came back and was the DB coach for a couple of years while I was the team cameraman.  I initially got these autographed in 1991 at his appearance at a Tons-of-Toys.

The industry began to take its toll on collectors, however.  I couldn't justify spending $20-$25 on a box of cards for six different sets, only to find that a box couldn't complete my set.  And the chase inserts were driving up the cost as well.  When I started collecting seriously in 1989, the retail price of a pack was $.50 for 15 cards.  By the mid-90s most packs were approaching $2.  The last regular pack of cards I bought in 2001 were $2 each for something like 8 cards.  As I grew older and more things vied for my money (in particular, collectible card games like Magic, Star Wars, and Legend of the Five Rings), I back off of a hobby that was pricing out the kid in favor of the serious collector.  The cards gradually were relegated to the attic. 

Last year, my parents asked me if I could clean out some of my old boxes out of the attic.  Instead of simply throwing away the cards, as so many parents did for decades, I took my cards home and shoved them in my closet.  Recently, I decided to pull them out and finally organize them.  I've been meaning to scan a bunch of them and share them with my online football communities, and the off-season felt like the perfect time to do this.  So, in the coming weeks, I'll put together a bunch of card scans and share them with you.  Some of these "articles" will have a theme.  

Some will just be attempts to troll specific fantasies.  For example...

Hey Packers Fans!  Remember when you drafted this guy?

Instead of any of these guys?

And it wasn't just football cards;  I've got some baseball cards worth showing (for r/baseball and r/mlb).

And of course some basketball for r/nba and r/collegebasketball

And not all of it is Rony Seikaly fanart masquerading as Upper Deck product, I promise.But they're all designed to do two things; allow me to wax nostalgic, and maintain some original and interesting offseason content
on r/nfl (and a little for some of the other subreddits)

- UNC_Samurai