Monday, December 15, 2014

Football '14 Week 15: Tradition.

       Every family has their own quirky holiday traditions about hiding and finding things.  For some, it is the Elf on the Shelf, for others, it is the Mensch on the Bench, however, we have a different spin on this idea around here...
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Here, we do Brees in the Booze.  I find this a much more appropriate alternative.  You find him in the liquor cabinet, do a shot, and then hang him on the tree.  Who Dat!

***

It is very simple for the Saints tonight: win.  If they win out, they take the division and host a playoff game.  The Bears have been mailing it in for weeks, and yet I fear this game will be a non-stop heart attack derpfest and by midnight this evening, it is very likely I will have emptied that bottle of rum. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What The Devil?

       I don't write nearly enough about hockey on this blog.  I also think I write that opener every time I do get around to writing about hockey.  After getting off to a nifty 3-0-0 start, the Devils are stuck in a rut at 9-11-4 at the quarter post of the season.  But hey, we actually won a shootout after losing frickin' 18 in a row.  But the 500 lb. elephant in the room is that for the first time (literally) in my adult life Martin Brodeur is not the starting goalie.  What's worse is that today it was announced that Brodeur is going to sign with the St. Louis Blues.

Brodeur would have been the first hall of fame player I got to watch for their whole career, beginning to end, on one of my favorite teams.  Now he joins Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Patrick Ewing, Drew Brees, Scott Stevens et al., though I am holding out hope for David Wright.  The closest thing I can think of is either Lawrence Taylor or Ken Daneyko.  The problem with LT is I am not sure how attentive a fan can you be as a first grader (not to mention his post-playing career peccadillos make rooting for him difficult) and while Ken Daneyko was a great tough defensive player, I wouldn't go looking for his plaque in Toronto any time soon. 

I think this is as good a time as any to display my Brodeur collection.
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These are some recent base cards.  I haven't been buying new baseball very much in the last five years, so you can only imagine how much that my poor mistress hockey has been neglected.
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One subset I did pick up is this Hockey Heroes page; this one has been featured here before.
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I am a sucker for those Beehive sets, probably because of their elegant simplicity.  On the opposite end of that spectrum is that 2001 Atomic set, which is thick plastic die cut garish wonderfulness.  You'll see more of that card soon.
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As you can see, I bought a lot more hockey product in the late 90's. 
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Those rookie cards are just glorious not just because they are rookies but because they are the only ones I have of Martin in the old red and green Devils unis.  I hold those ugly things very close to my heart.

I find hockey inserts wonderful, probably because they always involve a ton of silver foil and shininess.
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There is a jersey card and some refractors in this scan but also an autograph and friend of mine was kind enough to pick up for me back in 1995.  That card also has red and green goodness, that card is basically Christmas.

See what I mean about silver and shine?
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The scan doesn't do some of these justice, they are blindingly bright.

Remember what I said about that 2001 Atomic card?
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Well, I have two variations of it, one if them is the numbered parallel (on the right) and the other is the promo card (left) which has slightly different cropping and extra die cutting. 

While I am not a huge fan of horizontal cards, they work well for hockey goalies. 
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That top right card is a motion insert when Topps and Upper Deck were going through some kind of Sportsflix phase in the late 90's.  Upper Deck should have stuck with die cuts and holograms, so gorgeously illustrated by that 1996 SPx card on the bottom left.  They really got those right the first time.

All of these cards have a shiny element in them that the scans do not show well.  That Stanley Cup card especially loses something. 
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Brodeur brought the Devils three cups in his day in 5 finals appearances.  The poor Blues haven't ever won one and haven't even been to the finals since the late 60's/1970, back when all the expansion teams were in one division and someone had to make the finals.  I will be silently rooting for a little late career miracle for them.

Speaking of a lack of shiny, you can't even see the refraction on that Finest card.  Pity.
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Brodeur is now 42, look how young he looks on that 1990 Score rookie card.  He's got his "I shave once a week whether I need to or not" mustache working there.  I truly hope this works out in a Oscar Robinson-on-the-Bucks or Ray Bourque-on-the-Avs sort of way and not in a Joe Montana-on-the-Chiefs or Willie Mays-on-the-Mets sort of way. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After.

       I hope you and yours had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving.  I trust you counted your blessings and gorged yourself to the point of explosion.  While obviously I enjoy the holiday's cavalcade of food and family, I find the day after Thanksgiving to be the better day (and it is certainly not because of any sort of sales or the like, I would rather jab rusty forks into both eyes before going to the mall today).  I love this particular Friday because it is one of the very few weekdays during the year it is acceptable and practically expected that you sit around in your pajamas, watch bad TV, and eat leftovers

All this brings us to the matter at hand, it was 30 years ago today (kinda) that Doug Flutie went from quirky curiosity to bonafide miracle worker.  Over the years, Flutie fashioned enough miracles to be named pope 100 times over, but you never forget the first.  I will always remember that game as long as I live; my brother and I sat and watched it on the day after Thanksgiving 1984 and became instant Doug Flutie converts.  The man could do no wrong and for 20+ years, he kept proving himself over and over and over when everyone doubted and counted him out. 

Over the years I have built up quite a collection of Flutie cards and I am going to take a moment between my pie for breakfast and my big honkin' sandwich for lunch to share them with you:
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Those top two cards perfectly celebrate the Hail Flutie, one the classic shot of him with his fist in the air, the other being embraced by his brother. 

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Flutie's first year in San Diego was the only time he was offered the chance to start all 16 games in a season in the NFL.  While not statistically his best season, I find this little tidbit hard to comprehend, given all his success otherwise.  It also didn't help that those Chargers were kinda short on receivers (no pun intended).

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Only in retrospect have I grown to appreciate Doug's time in San Diego for what it turned out to be: he mentored Drew Brees in the ways of both quarterbacking and overcoming the NFL's bias against shorter players at the position.  I doubt Drew Brees is nearly the player he is today without being a teammate of Doug Flutie for four years.

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The early aughts were quite the dichotomy of vintage and ultra-modern designs.  If something didn't look like it was made in the 1950's, it was covered in shiny baubles and chrome. 
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Did I mention that all of Flutie's second career in the NFL took place between the ages of 36 and 42?  During the time I have been trying to figure out how not to get winded walking up the stairs and/or dealing with my arthritic knee, Doug was reinventing himself as the scrappiest scrapper that ever scrapped.
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Of all Doug's regular issue cards, that 1999 Ultra card of him running in the snow is probably my favorite.  Then again, my love of snow cards is very well documented.
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While Pacific never made the best cards around, I do miss them just for all the quirks of their base set die cuts and garish over-the-top backgrounds.
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I never have decided upon a set way to order the base and chrome cards of a chronological player page. I am never ever consistent even within the same player.
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Then again, it was probably Upper Deck's sameness that was one of the contributing factors to them falling out of fashion with collectors.  Somewhere in between Pacific and Upper Deck, the truth lies.
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I think most of us have forgotten how big a deal it was when Flutie came back from Canada and played so well for Buffalo.  He was a goddamned cultural phenomenon for a little while.
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I think it also bears repeating that Buffalo has suffered a great curse because of the foolishness of Wade Phillips and the team higher ups.  For 2 years, Flutie led Buffalo to miracle win after miracle win, then they switched horses mid-stream and started the immortal Rob Johnson in their 1999 playoff game...
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...for whatever reason, be it money or stature, Johnson started that playoff game and the Bills got out-miracled and the Bills haven't played a playoff game since going on 15 seasons and counting. No one will ever be able to explain why Flutie didn't start that game but everyone in hindsight, even the coach himself, thinks it was a dumb move.  Yup.
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Not one but two cards on this page are see-thru acrylic.  The late 90's were such an interesting time for cards.
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Hmmmmmm, a few inserts seem to have leaked onto my player pages here, which are usually reserved for base cards and parallels.
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It is hard to tell with the reflection from the page, but that vertical Flair card is slightly miscut, with some white showing on the bottom. 
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and I am still trying to figure out what that little "2000" logo is on that Skybox Metal parallel is.  I take it back, the late 90's were frustrating as hell for cards.

I was really confused about that card with Doug in a red Bills jersey because I don't ever recall the Bills wearing red jerseys ever (I'm right) but then it dawned on me that that is a Pro Bowl uniform. 
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And look at that Pacific Invincible card in the middle, the scan does no justice to just how brash and bright and gloriously ugly that card is. 

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Nothing more exciting to depict on a football card than a press conference.

Sadly, I do not have many of Doug's cards from his days in Canada.  This seems outrageous since in the eight years he played there, he fashioned not only a hall of fame resume but he was named the greatest player in CFL history.  If any of my readers north of the border want to help remedy that, please email me.  Thanks.
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Those last five cards are from Doug's first go around in the NFL.  Turns out, winning did not trump Mike Ditka or Raymond Berry's notion that a quarterback should be 6'4".  Both of their coaching resume's (minus a fluky 1985) seem to bear out what that prejudice adds up to.

No player collection would be complete without a look at all the swatchy shiny goodness of the inserts.
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Here you see the only game used football card I have in my entire collection plus two more cards that show Doug's days in Boston College including the exact date of the Hail Flutie. 

Playoff liked the idea of Alma Mater Materials so much, they used the subset in two different years and seemed to capture Flutie in practically the same pose for both.
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These show some golden numbered parallels and a couple of vertical inserts.
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Honestly, I am not sure if Flutie or Kerry Collins ever lead the league in anything, but okay sure.

I am sure they must have made more cards of Doug's second go around in New England but that 'Revolution' parallel is the only thing I have that comes close.
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Plus, we all remember the last thing Doug did on a football field, right?

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There is an odd sameness about all that shiny and texture and lightning bolts.  Maybe it's because they all have Doug in the home blues?

Here we go, now we are getting a little kooky with die cuts, die cuts everywhere.
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I just noticed I scanned that Hard Hats insert upside down.  Who's in charge of the quality control on this blog?!?!

All of these cards are really shiny and none of them really scanned that way.  Pity.
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Here you see a pretty odd texture card called Net-Fusions, where the background is a piece of netting.  This effect kind of worked for hockey (and obviously was best used for basketball) and they sort of shoe-horned it into baseball as part of the foul pole but I am at a loss as to how it applies to football, unless they want to include the net that catches the football after kicks.  Maybe there is a good reason Pacific is long gone. 
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The last three cards here are his USFL rookie card and a couple more Canadian cards, though I just realized the blue one is a double. 

I am gonna end with a direct window to the Hail Mary play in case you don't click through my links. Even 30 years later, I am not tired of watching it.  I doubt I ever will be.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Generations.

       Forty-five years ago today, Ken Griffey, Jr. was born in Donora PA. 
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As most folks my age are wont to do, I got suckered in to loving Junior early and that adoration never really went away.  All through the early and mid 90's, my Mets really sucked and didn't have many players worth rooting for, so Griffey was an out-of-town escape from my hometown doldrums.

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I always liked the way Griffey looked in a Reds uniform; oh how I wish things worked out better for him there.

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Griffey has some of the most iconic cards of all-time but one that slips through the cracks is that bubble gum 1995 Pinnacle shot.  Maybe because it isn't the best bubble card of all time?  I think it deserves more love, the look on his face is priceless.

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I have a bunch of Griffey inserts as well, but you will just have to be satisfied with the six(!) pages I have of him.  This was whittled down from many more years ago when I decided to not collect every single player I liked in mass quantities.  Of all the player collections I pared down, Junior's was probably the hardest one to do.  Six pages is the most I have of any player in either the retired or hall of fame binders. 

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And of course, here is the obligatory page with his dad, Ken Griffey, Sr.  Did you know at one point Ken Griffey, Jr. Lee May, Jr. and Pete Rose, Jr. (and Eduardo Perez, who is a combo-breaker) all played on the same traveling team?  That seems, um, unfair.

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       Ninety-four years ago today, Stan Musial was born in Donora PA. 
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Opinions obviously vary wildly about who the most basebally baseball player who ever baseballed is, but gun to my head, I'd have to go with Stan.  He looked the part, he acted the part, and he was, well, The Man.

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With apologies to Tom McCraw, Freddie Lindstrom, Dick Schofield, Bill Almon, Hank Blalock, Mark Eichhorn, and Tripp Cromer (amongst others) who never ever get mentioned as having a birthday today because they had the karmic misfortune to be born on the same day as two of the greatest baseball players of all time. 

Sixty-six years ago today, my mother was born in beautiful downtown Jersey City.  As far as I know, she has never been to Donora PA. 
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My mom has spent the last month or so in New Orleans, going to games and following the players around.  She is sort of a stalker who doesn't "stalk" or perhaps a groupie who doesn't actually sleep with the players - she is old enough to be the grandmother of some of them, after all.   But in between drinking and eating, she loves to go see the players in public (see above) and she does make the rounds, believe me.
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Since I can't be there to do it in person, here is Akiem Hicks to give you a great big hug.  Happy Birthday Mom!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Football '14 Week 11: Do or Die (Cut).

       The game in the NFL is one of inches.  This cliche has been ridden into the ground so far it has come out the other side of the earth.  But cliches are cliches for only one reason: they are true.  The Saints face this brutal fact right now: they have to start winning close games and must make the important plays.  Want to know the difference between being a 4-5 disappointment (and yet somehow in first place in a truly crappy division) and being an 8-1 juggernaut?  Four plays. 
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On opening night, the Saints led in the last minute of the game and let the Falcons convert a third down they should have stopped; they then lost in overtime.

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In week 2 it was literally deja vu: they led the Browns in the last minute and gave up a late third down conversion they should have stopped and lost in regulation on a last second field goal.

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Week 7 against the Lions, they led by 13 points with 4 minutes to go and somehow coughed up the lead, including an impossibly stupid cross-up on a third down that led to a 75-yard touchdown play.  I consider this play the most unforgivable of all.  When you have a lead late, you are playing the clock as much as the other team, let them have all the 6 yard pass plays down the middle they want, you cannot CANNOT go for the ball and let a man score.  Rob Ryan should have been fired after this game.

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And finally, last week.  Leading by a field goal in the last minute, the secondary somehow loses track of the best receiver on the 49ers on fourth down and allow a 50 yard completion that gets the Niners into field goal range.  The Saints lose in overtime.  I am not even going to bring up the ridiculous call of offensive pass interference on a completed hail mary at the end of regulation that would/should have won the game.  This and the Lions play still make me so mad I now have to get up and pace.

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Okay, I'm back.  So there it is, four plays.  The Saints are four plays from being 8-1 and are instead 4-5.  Sure, you can point to dumb turnovers and lost opportunities during the game but greatness can be measured best when the game is on the line.  Are the Saints an 8-1 team?  Obviously not.  Are they a 4-5 team?  Well, you are what your record says you are.

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I have a big batch of pulled pork and a sixer of Yuengling and I am ready to watch the Saints (hopefully) beat up on the Bengals - another team full of disappointment.  As you may have noticed from these posts, watching and enjoying football for me has not been easy this year.  If the Saints lose this one, you can look forward to a lot of hockey posts and longing for pitchers and catchers.  But I have faith that if this game comes down to one play, the Saints have learned their lessons and will make it.