Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Best Card I Got at the Card Show

Twice a year, the Donald E Stephens Convention Center in lovely Rosemont plays host to the Gathering of the Cardboard Mafia, i.e. The Mounted Memories/Sun Times Memorabilia Show.  I usually hem and haw about going and then end up hopping on a bus to the Blue Line so that I can fork over my money to sift through dime boxes and "$15 for 5 cards" jersey/auto boxes for hours on end.

It's also a chance to catch up with some fellow bloggers (Sal, Tim and Nick B) and hand off the cards I've saved for them.  Usually they've managed to out do themselves in what they've given back to me, one of the joys of being the only Lightning collector in the blogging world (at least it seems that way).

We usually bust some wax as well, because what fun is getting together without the ripping of packs?  This year we all went in on some Upper Deck Series one - affordable even for a hospitality worked like myself.

I am not planning on completing the set so at some point almost all of my base will be available via Zistle. I actually did alright on the box pulling 4 UD Canvas cards, a UD Exclusive card, all of the Lightning cards and a patch card numbered out of 15 of Sam Gagner.

Notice I'm not posting a picture of that card.  Instead I'll post the best card of the bunch.....

Yup. A nice orange swatch of a uniform worn by emerging young talent Taylor Hall.

Which was cool for about three seconds.  I'm not sure if it was bring your dog to work day at the Upper Deck factory, but to say this card was mangled would be a tad bit of an understatement.  The first ding I noticed was the one right below the jersey.  It took a minute or two before I saw the top corner.

I'm not sure where in the process this card was vilely attacked, but none of the other cards in the pack were damaged in the least.  So that probably eliminates the packout process.

Getting a card like this kind of diminishes the joy of a new box, but it would have been worse if that had truly been the best card in the box.   I've started the process of getting the card replaced by emailing all the information I could to Upper Deck's quality assurance department.  We'll see how long this process takes and what kind of card I get as a replacement.

Full review of the box coming later this week.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dear God! That's The Hopeful Chase's Music!!!!

I still can't say that I'm out of my writing doldrums, but I'm going to give it a shot and firing this site back up.  Let's start off easy with a little street art:

It's street art and not vandalism as long as I call it that, right?

The lockout continues to drone on and now we're looking at the next round of cancellations probably happening some time next week and killing games in December.  If there is no agreement in the next two weeks there is a good chance that the season will be axed.  Sad news for NHL fans.  Although, who knows, maybe I'll finally get around to learning a second language.  Since the lockout has started in September I've managed to:

- write one column
- get promoted at work
- get married (probably should have listed this one first)
- book a trip to kayak with Orcas
- plan a golf outing to Myrtle Beach
- destroy my sleeping habits by working overnights three times a week
- start and finish a Charles Dickens book.

So I can't say it's all been bad (especially the whole marriage thing). Now, imagine if I invested the two hours a night/three times a week into something like learning French.  I'd learn it in no time, right?  Instead I dedicate that time to watching more Netflix (but hey I was able to watch the entire run of "Undeclared" in a week!)

Sadly I'm starting to run out of series to watch so I think it is time to be productive with all of this free time.  Plus, it's starting to get cold up here in Chicago.

Well, stick around.  Hopefully there will be more content coming soon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Golf? Photos? Gotta Write Something With Hockey Locked Out

Timely reporting?  Not on this sight, buddy! A real blogger would have had this up a week ago and wouldn't be dragging up horrible memories of an epic collapse by the Americans on Sunday.  Well epic collapse and the Europeans draining everything within 15 feet of the cup.

Thanks to the fact that I live reasonably close to Medinah (40 minutes by Metra!) and my parents are unbelievably cool and have tons of friends with connections I was able to attend the Wednesday practice round of the Ryder Cup.   

So here is a quick photo tour of my day on the course.

The grandstands were packed all over the course all day long.  Even though the players were skipping around the course, the spectators were camped up at almost every hole. The worst spot was by the shared tee for 15 and 12 where it would have been easier to part Lake Kadijah then walk against the flow of the crowd at that spot.

Rumors were that tickets for the practice rounds were in the hundreds of dollars.  I'm kind of surprised that my parents didn't sell me out.  The flags were handed out upon entry. I assume someone was handing out European flags but damn if I could find one.

Welp. There's one.  I'm not going to lie, the European fans did way better than the Americans at dressing up.

See exhibit 2:

These guys were so happy to see Ian Poulter walk by.  The brushy-haired Englishman stopped to pose with these delightfully clad gentlemen who I later spotted at the on-site pub, naturally.

This is what happens when you give Rickey Fowler an endorsement deal.  At least he finally won a tournament this year. Odds these kids have iPhone 5's - 3:2.

I'm Martin Kaymer.  You don't know me yet.  You will.  I will break your dreams.

Phil was in Sunday form.  I swear he lipped out 3 puts in a row on this hole (number 7).  He also put one into the spectators on 14. That being said it was fun seeing Lefty play during the actual tournament. He was one of the few players that seemed to actually be enjoying himself on the course.

Let's first drive would be in the water.  Second would be in the water and then I would give up and drop on the other side.

Masters winner Bubba Watson practicing a shot he really wouldn't need.  A pitch shot on the drivable 15th. It's a shame Bubba got plastered on Sunday.

The closest I was to Tiger all day.  He's the one in the red pants and white/blue windbreaker.  If the US had worn the red pants on Sunday they would have won.  That's all I have to say about that.

The beer selection.  Since I was coming off an overnight I did not partake. Day Drinking after being awake for 24 hours would probably have had me napping under a tree.  That and I had no cash on me.

There ya go.  I spared you the mob scene that was the gift shop.  It was like Black Friday and a pre-hurricane grocery store crowd had 10 million babies and infused them with the insatiable need to buy overpriced polo shirts.

If I have the chance to attend another Ryder Cup I think I would avoid the Wednesday practice round.  Since they had the opening ceremonies later in the day most of the players only played about 12 or 13 holes. Even on the holes they did play they weren't taking it all that seriously. Lot of drops and second or third shots.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Greatest" Hockey Box Break of My Year?

Thanks to a steady paycheck, a large base set to collect and some eBay sales I decided to go in on a second  box of O-Pee-Chee hockey this week.  That's right, I got myself a birthday present! Yea, me.

Quick reader question....... Did I get a Vincent Lecavalier card?

Wait for it....

I know you're wondering.....

Did I break my box curse......


No Vinny base cards, no Vinny retro parallel, no Vinny sticker (is there even a Vinny sticker?) and no Vinny Rainbow parallel.  I broke down last week and bought a Vinny Rainbow Black parallel on eBay last week because I knew there was no way in hell I was ever going to pull that.

In fact it was a pretty how-hum break.  Lots of base that I believe I need (I'm sure it will end up as a bunch of dupes instead) and some basic inserts, including a Corey Crawford sticker that is totally getting stuck somewhere in the Chicago downtown area.

With about six packs left I started to think that I wasn't going to get anything special, and I was ok with that. One doesn't break O-Pee-Chee for excitement.  Then, in an unassuming regular sized pack out popped this gem:

2010 World Juniors goal scorer Matt Donovan

That's right - a MATT DONOVAN rookie card!  Perhaps the greatest hockey player from Edmond, Oklahoma EVER.  Maybe the only NHL'er ever from Edmond?  I don't know, that would require research and I don't do research here.  Flipping over the card to see where he was from was exhausting.

After unearthing that gem (and quickly ensconcing it in a plastic hard case) I reluctantly went back to see what else was in the pack (as if it mattered). There wasn't anything else of note....just some card that someone scribbled on.  I mean c'mon don't you know what writing on a card does to it value?  Look at this!

No hits in O-Pee-Chee? I beg to differ!

Felicitations, indeed my bilingual trading card company!

I beat the odds (stated at 1:6,212) and finally added a signature of the greatest hockey player of all time.  It's a sticker, but done in a way that you can barely tell looking at it. A young Gretzky looks like he's building up a head of steam on his way to scoring his 34th goal of some random season.

Will I keep it? Will I sell it? will I trade it?  I'm not sure, gonna enjoy it for awhile and see what comes along.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Oh Precious Cardboard! A Review of 2012-13 O-Pee-Chee

It’s getting close to that time of year.  Everyone has a favorite month of the year (yes EVERYONE). Mine is right around the corner.  The month when the leaves change and the nights start to cool off.  Weekends are consumed with football and a little thing called hockey training camp fires up. It’s almost September - a.k.a. my birthday month. And if all goes well, there will be an added surprise to this month as well.  More on that in future posts (I swear there will be future posts!)

For now, however, we’re still in the dog days of summer. After a brief dalliance with cooler weather, Mother Nature has revealed her ornery side once again and slammed Chicago with three straight +90 degree days.  If I had wanted this kind of weather I would have stayed in the TBA (plus I could have bitched about the problems caused by the RNC even if I didn’t set foot in Tampa all week).

So what’s the best way to overcome the lingering heat wave that has the windows closed and the poor, beleaguered AC unit running 24/7 (actually more like 4/7 – electricity ain’t cheap folks!)?  How about a review of this year’s Hopeful Chase Hopeless Set Completion Chase of The Year (Hockey Edition)?  This year’s set is the 2012-13 O-Pee-Chee flagship product. It consists of 600 cards, bunch of short prints, no big hits, random “who the hell is this guy” rookie cards and some shiny, chrome-y, parallels.

Thanks to a $5.00 coupon I saw on the back of a Beckett magazine I placed my order with Dave and Adam’s and received a decent deal on a hobby box ($53.95 after the coupon).  Even with the $9.00 in shipping it was cheaper than the local card shop so I added a few small things to the order and then sat around waiting for UPS to deliver.  Is there anything worse than expecting a package one day and missing the delivery so you have to wait a whole extra day?  Probably things like war, mass mall shootings, unemployment, stepping in a puddle and getting your socks wet, but in the context of the card world, not much.

So after a day’s delay I received the delivery and went to busting some wax.  Here are the results:

Base cards

Sigh. Another box and another whiff on Lecavalier cards. 

The reason I went with O-Pee-Chee instead of Score this year is because of the base design.  The cards are clean with a retro feel to them and Upper Deck finally stopped making the O-Pee-Chee logo so damn big. 
The cards are boarded with a yellowish, cream border AND a thin, white border at the very edge.  It’s not super noticeable upon first glance, but I think they would have been better off removing the white border all together.

There is a nice big photo of the player, the names are easy to read and I’m always a fan of generic silhouettes by the positions. There are no super exciting action shots or unique angles, but that’s not what this set is all about.  It’s mostly about representing a solid portion of each team and driving collectors nuts trying to complete the short print side of the set.

The backs are ho-hum.  Dark grey cardboard and complete career stats.

Short Prints

I forgot to scan them and am too lazy to go back and do it. So you get JesusCat in a box.

 As usual for this set, the last 100 cards are made up of rookies and “Marquee” retired players.  The Marquee legends cards feature the usual crop of stars from the past, along with their career stats on the back.  Always a good way to get younger players in touch with the past.

Having to fill up 50 slots for rookies can lead to the inclusion of a lot of players. This year O-Pee-Chee filled some slots by posting “rookie” cards of some of the players mentioned in the Marquee Legends section.  Therefore you get to see cards showing a young Mario Lemiux or Patrick Roy (quick sidenote – the Duchess opened one pack with a mocking, “if you were on a podcast you’d do this” voice and managed to handle all the other names correctly, but she did refer to St. Patrick as a “good American boy named Patrick ROY” instead of the “WaH” pronunciation.  When I huffily corrected her pronunciation she called me a dork and launched into a fit of giggles that left her crying.  After 8 years I think she finally snapped and temporarily lost her mind).


Can you please get out of Mr. Halak's way? He has a game to  play!

As much as I hate minis (and I DO hate me some minis) I love me some stickers.  Following on the retro theme, this year’s crop of stickers really stand out from the muted base set with the vibrant color scheme.  My only regret, not getting any Blackhawk stickers to stick on newspaper machines downtown.  Odds 1:3 packs. Number of stickers received: 11


Mario in the six seconds he wasn't scoring a point during his younger days.

A parallel set (because, I’m not really sure why they have to do one, but they do) that’s a one per pack insert.  If I did any research at all I would tell you what set these cards are based on.  We don’t do research here at the Hopeful Chase studios.  If you want actual, real hockey card knowledge go to Sal’s place on the web.

What I can say is that I really like these cards for the purpose of Through The Mail or in-person autographs.  The cardboard stock with a clean, white background should let the Sharpie show up nicely on the card.  Since the players are going to be locked out maybe they’ll have more time to sign things. To The Post Office! Odds 1:1 pack. Number received 32.


What is Carey Price thinking about? I bet it's pancakes. Pancakes. Bathgate is thinking about nailing your mom.
Officially I believe these are called “Rainbow Parallel” cards.  To me they’re chrome.  Not much to say about them as they’re just shiner versions of the base cards. I’m sure someone collects them, but not me. Odds 1:4 packs Number Received 8

Different Shiny

I don't even have anything to say about these cards. Yea, serial numbered?

Because collectors like shiny cards that are serial numbered there is also the “Black Border Rainbow Parallel” cards.  Great, another ploy to get me to go on eBay to track down and overpay for Vinny Lecavalier cards.  They are numbered out of 100 with the numbers printed on the back instead of stamped.  No odds on this one, but I did get two in this box.

Pop Ups

OMG PK still doesn't have a contract!!!!

I think these are supposed to resemble the pop up portion of the box that you see in hobby shops selling packs of cards.  They are die-cut inserts with just the name of the player on the back.  No extra information there folks! Odds 1:16 packs.  Number received: 2

Super Extra Case Hit!

Getting a case hit is always exciting.  You feel like you beat the odds and have a card that is really worth something. That worth can be monetary (eBay) or sentimental (something rare of a team or player you collect) or tradable (more better stuff for something you don’t really want).

Getting a case hit in the first pack you open, kind of anti-climatic.  Here it is…..

It doesn't come in a tamper-proof holder. It's just the only one  I had.

Manufactured patch of the Eastern Conference logo.  Umm.  Yea? It’s cool to get a path (even if it’s manufactured specifically for the card), but of a conference logo?  Yeah, that’s not exactly in my wheelhouse. I’ll probably put it up on eBay and see what it fetches just because I don’t think they’ll be a lot of folks clamoring on my door to trade for it.

Wrap up

O-Pee-Chee meets expectations (oooh does that remind you of a work evaluation?) It’s a set designed for set builders and team collectors.  Lots of cards, no big chase cards to drive up the price or endless parallels to drive you insane.

It’s always nice to see a set that includes some extra defensemen or third line centers (Dominic Moore, FTW!) and this product delivers that. The stickers are fun inserts that provides some color in a set that is quite monochromatic.

All in all a solid product at a good price point.

Once I pick up a few more packs (or another box) I’ll post my want list.  The trade bait list will go up shortly (FYI the pop ups are already spoken for).  

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm BACK....Alas Hockey is Not

After months of contentious negotiation I am pleased to announce a new CBA has been reached with the owners of this blog (J-God’s Happyland Travel Company and Bakery Inc.) and production of poorly edited blogposts will resume. While I’m not allowed to announce the financial terms of the deal Darren Rovell reports that there will be a 53/47 split of all blogging-related revenue (estimated to be $0.00) generated by this site and a cap of no more than 4 postings a week with a posting floor of one per week. 

I apologize to the fans of this blog (hi mom!) and promise to do all that is necessary to win back your affection because you are truly the BEST BLOG FANS IN THE WORLD!

Speaking of collective bargaining agreements, it’s looking more like I’ll be having to find a way to spend my nights this fall without the National Hockey League. With less than 3 weeks before the current agreement is set to expire, the owners and the players are at the “cut off meetings early” portion of negotiation.  Soon we’ll see the “take time to explore our options” part, then the “alternative solutions presented” meeting, which leads to the “rumors of a threatened lawsuit by one of the parties”. That should lead to a lot of angry columns and rants on the internet.

Nobody needs to see Vinny in an Ak Bars jersey ever again.
It’ll also set the stage for the “meeting late in the night to resolve the dispute before the self-imposed September 15th deadline” that brings a little hope only to be dashed by the “reports that an agreement couldn't be reached” news.  A couple months of “taking our pucks and going to play in Scandinavia” leads to “talks quietly resume” which finally brings us to “an agreement in place that closely resembles the old deal has been reached in time for the NHL to kick off the season with the Winter Classic (Live on NBC and presented by Bud Light!)”.

So at least there is a process.

I should probably be a little more bent out of shape about the whole thing after all, according to the columnists and shrieking heads on TV, I’m the one who is going to get screwed.  The players will still get paid and the owners will still be part of the 1%.  Yet, you know something, I’ll be ok.  Yeah it sucks that I won’t be able to watch the Lightning play for a few months, but in the grand scheme of things that ain’t too bad.  At least I’m not on the hook for season ticket payments for a season that is going to be shortened (sorry ‘bout that, Link).

Pretty sure second row seats 9 and 10 are Link's.

The last time the players and owners couldn’t play in the same sandbox I held my own personal strike. I forwent hockey for an entire season post-lockout.  No watching, no going to games, no buying of cards. Cut them out of my life.  Guess what, it didn’t change anything.  The only thing that happened is that I lost two seasons of enjoying hockey instead of one.  So this time I’ll wait for them to come to an agreement and then I’ll go back to watching the best game in the world.  Does that make me a mindless sheep? I guess so.  I can live with that. Also, is there a singular from of “sheep”? It just sounds weird.

For the record I’m not on either team’s side.  The owner’s offer was insane, not only are they proposing that the players take a smaller slice of pie (46% compared to the current 57% of revenues) they also want the pie to be smaller by redefining hockey-related revenue. They also want to get rid of those annoying “lifetime” contracts that they’re always so happy to announce when they sign a player to them.  Let’s not even talk about the 10 years of player control before they can enter unrestricted free agency. I’m pretty sure they got together (in a room with wood paneling and many leather bound books) and said, “Let’s throw out so many bad ideas at once that hopefully the players will let a few slip by,”  then went back to drinking brandy and watching polo or whatever rich, white guys do.

By those demands, the player’s counter-offer seems almost reasonable (according to the media), but it’s not. Reducing their share of revenues for three years only to go back to the current split in year four doesn’t solve the problem. It only delays the problem for three years. If the owners don’t like the revenue split now, they’re not going to like it in 2015. 

Increased revenue sharing is a good idea (and may be REALLY interesting in a few years if the US dollar rises in value) but allowing the trading of cap space is a horrendous idea that will further the split of the have’s and the have not’s in the league.  Teams that don’t spend to the cap as it is will use it as a way to keep their payroll down while teams who’ve already spent to the cap will be free to take on more bad contracts that will have them crying poor the following season.

The owner’s plan has a “save us from ourselves” feel to it while the players offer gives off a Pollyannaish “if we give you $500 million in revenue now you’ll agree to doing things the old way, right” naiveté to it. I will give Bettman credit, though. He managed to put an offer out there so incredulous that the players assume the salary cap is a given and aren’t even arguing it.

If we give you $500 million now, you'll give us more money later, right Uncle Gary?

Economics are like kryptonite for me (see my bank account for proof) so I can’t even come up with a plan that makes sense and offer a reasoned argument for it. However, having been through the wringer a few times as a sports fan I can predict that eventually they will come to an understanding that doesn’t drastically change the landscape of the sport.

Gazing into my cracked crystal ball (damn cats) I’m thinking the agreement will look something along the lines of a 52/48 split in revenues in favor of the owners.  There will be an expanded revenue sharing system among the clubs while contracts will be capped at 7 years with the amount of the contract spread evenly over the length of the deal. Unrestricted free agency will start after six years.  

At some point (probably in 2013) the NHL will return.  As a cheap sum’a bitch I hope they try and entice the fans back with a reduced price on NHL Center Ice so I can watch the Lightning games on a decent stream, after all it’s all about me, baby! The players and the owners will pat themselves on the back for coming to an agreement and talk about working hard to show the fans how sorry they were, but it needed to be done “For The Good of the Game”.

I’m sure the league will issue a statement about the fans being THE BEST SPORTS FANS IN THE WORLD and try to sweep all the acrimony under the rug by going out on an all-out media blitz on how exciting the young players in the game are and giving away some cheap plastic trinkets on Fan Appreciation Nights.

I’ll be sure to tune in (no trinkets needed!), because it beats watching basketball and if I’m too lazy to use the time productively (learn a new language? Yeah right). Will others?  Probably. For all of our bluster and feigned outrage the bottom line is that the NHL is the best version of hockey there is and that’s what we want to watch. The league knows it, the players know it.  If they really thought the future of the sport was in jeopardy they would ironed a deal out weeks ago.  In the meantime, hey at least you have this blog to read!

Please sign a deal soon. You do not want this man on the streets with free time. #downieforever

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Break From The Norm - Thanks Sis.

I told myself I would come home and write up a boxing story. After all, it is a good four days after the fights and if I keep putting it off I’ll probably start losing press passes and I love me some press passes. Unfortunately,  I made the mistake of checking Facebook.  If I can offer any little bit of advice to anyone trying to write – don’t check Facebook before you start writing.  It’ll distract the hell out of you.

Case in point, my sister and her friend start posting pictures of Bieber and Pete Wentz like they’re 14-year-old fan girls (note - they are not 14). For some reason that leads me to looking up music they were actually listening to when they were teenagers. That led me to the Concrete Blonde song “Joey”.  For some reason I remember my sister having a cassingle of that song.

*History lesson for those under 25 reading this.  Cassingles were the next step from the 45 vinyl records our parents listened to Elvis on and the precursor to the iTunes download you kids have for your LMAFO and Gotye songs.

It was a cassette tape that had a song on one side, usually a top-40 hit, and a B-side song on the other that the cool kids said that they bought it for. They were usually 3 or 4 bucks in the store and kept you from having to invest in the whole album because, back then, there wasn’t a Spotify or Youtube where you could check out an entire record before buying it. You either took the plunge and hope enough songs were good to justify the purchase (for me it was three songs) or hoped one of your friends bought it and let you make a copy of it.  Two-tape cassette decks FOR LIFE, BITCHES! Here endeth the lesson.*

Anyway, I posted “Joey” to Facebook and then allowed myself to get sucked into the time-waste that is Youtube.  Y’all know what I’m talking about. You start watching one video, then another, and another.  Then you remember that one other song and you look it up and start another stream.  Before you know it an hour has gone by and you’re watching Kenny Rogers sing “The Gambler” on TheMuppets – puppets drinking and smoking….good luck getting that on a kid’s show these days.

One thing I noticed while I was tumbling down the video rabbit hole is that music video’s kicked ass back in the mid-1990’s.  I’m not here to debate if music is better today or not, that argument has been going on since Beethoven banged out notes on his toy piano and it isn’t ever going to be solved. 

However, I have no doubt in my mind that the music video heyday ran from about 1990 to 1997 and produced some of the most iconic short films ever.  I know it’s a flawed rating system, but look at the MTV Video Music Award list and how it’s devolved over the last 20 years.  Van Halen’s “Right Now” took the prize in 1992 over some strong competition (look “Under the Bridge” is a stupid song, but don’t tell me you don’t picture Anthony Kiedis running in slow motion every time you hear the song).
You're welcome for that.

Let’s run down some of the highlights (I’m lazy and mostly took the MTV video of the year, sue me it’s late):

1990 – “Nothing Compares 2 U” – set the bench mark for close up shot of the artist singing the song. Simple, yet effective.

1991- “Wicked Games” – Black & White. Supermodel rolling around on the beach. Why did it take someone 10 years to come up with that one?

1992 – An awesome year with “Right Now,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Into the Great Wide Open,” “Tennesee,” “Good Vibrations,” “Black and White,” “November Rain”

1993 – “Jeremy” – remember the uproar over a video that insinuated a kid shooting his classmates? Would this even be a blip on the radar today?

1994 – “Cryin” – Steven Tyler’s epic run of whoring out Alicia Silverstone and his own daughter

1995- “Buddy Holly” – Weezer brings back the Fonz and the rest of the gang.

1996 – “Tonight, Tonight” – The Pumpkins bring artistic angst to the forefront

1997 – “Virtual Insanity” – yeah Jamiroquai doesn’t exactly stand the test of time, but the video was fantastic.

I’m supposed to believe that “Firework” is on the same level? Not to sound like “The Miz,” but really? REALLY?  Katie Perry shooting fireworks out of her tits is as good as the apathetic high-schoolers in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? No thank you.  I’ll take Jeremy gunning down his classmates over some kid overwhelming muggers with magic tricks any day of the week.  And “Bittersweet Symphony” is the Bret Hart all of walking-down-the-street-singing videos. The best there is, the best was and the best there ever will be.

“November Rain” came out in 1992 and didn’t even make the final four for MTV, and that was the great “Hold crap did you see that video” of my childhood.  We spent hours…ok lots of minutes…dissecting that song.  Who was Axl’s new wife looking at when she got in the car? Was it Axl or his wife walking to the gun shop? Why did that guy dive into the wedding cake like he was getting gunned down by the mob? It’s only rain chief! Why was there a mirror in the casket? Was there a mirror in the casket? And of course the big reveal – So that’s what Slash looks like!

The video, like the song, was overly grand and melodramatic and full of images that now are funny to watch – Slash walking down the aisle of a downtown church and ending up outside of a church in the middle of the desert, the kid dressed like Oliver Twist at the reception, Axl wearing a bow tie at the funeral, etc. But it was still awesome. While it took itself too serious, it made the song better.

You had so many bands making iconic videos (including the masters Tom Petty and Michael Jackson) that even after two decades you remember what they look like even if, like me, you didn’t have cable when they were released.

I’m sure the death of MTV, and to a lesser extent VH1, as anactual music playing channel is the leading cause of the degradation of noteworthy music videos, but there has to be more to it.  Did the genre outgrow itself? Were there so many good videos being put out that they became counterproductive? 

Most likely they just became too damn expensive. The ends didn’t justify the means. After all, they were initially just another way to promote the song and the band in the pre-internet- everyone- is- connected age. Record companies could afford to make a few videos because it was a good way to reach their target audience that was planted in front of the TV for 4-5 hours a day. 

Now it’s cheaper to just throw a song up on the internet and hope it goes viral. Does anyone know what the “official video” of Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” looks like? Is there even one or are there just 400 different versions of sports teams lip-syncing it?  If a song goes viral, why waste time putting a lot of effort into making a solid video – just get it on iTunes as fast as possible and watch the folks plunk down their money a $1.29 at a time.

Or, maybe my perception isn’t reality, maybe I’m just not as aware of music as I used to be. The video-sharing sites that abound on the internet should be an awesome platform for the re-birth of the music video genre. People have access to it in greater numbers than anything MTV could have hoped for in their prime.  Sure, figuring out how to translate 1,000,000 YouTube views into actual money isn’t easy, but isn’t that why these music execs went to college?

Let’s not forget about the artistic talent that cut their teeth by first making music videos. Metacritic has a list of 22 directors whogot started directing videos.  There are some decent names on there like David Fincher and Spike Jonez.  Sure Michael Bay is on the list, but where would the summer blockbuster be without his explosions? He had to learn that somewhere (and that someplace was apparently Meatloaf video’s). Maybe it’s not worth it for the next generation of Hollywood directors to spend weeks working with temperamental music folk for a four-minute video that will only exist on the internet.

Heck maybe those temperamental musicians aren’t willing to risk putting out a really creative video. It might hurt their image if the public doesn’t like what they put out.  Lady Gaga made her name taking calculated risks so it’s probably no surprise that she’s had some of the more memorable videos over the last few years.  Of course, she’s had Madonna’s career to use as a template, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a risk.

I’m not even sure why I’ve devoted this much time to the topic.  After all, it’s not like I don’t have the ability to watch the awesome video’s of my youth whenever I want (as long as I have an internet connection). Maybe it’s because it seems like another creative outlet that seems to be slipping into mediocrity. Movies are nothing but remakes or sequels. Music isn’t released unless it’s been auto-tuned and overproduced to the point everything sounds like it’s comingfrom Twiki. Writing is devolving into poop jokes and acronyms. LOL YOLO!

Or maybe it’s because the music video was the one thing in music that was created and prospered during my youth (well that and rap music).  My parents’ generation had had rock music and music superstars (and drugs, lots and lots of drugs) so while we might argue over whose music was better there was at least a relatable point of reference. They couldn’t do that with true music videos. They had promotional videos but it was mostly recorded live performances.

We had the birth of the music video (The Buggles for lack of a better starting point) and watched it grow into a surly teenager (the aforementioned “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and now 30 years later it seems to be settling into an undistinguished middle age.

Jesus, this turned into an old-man rant.  I feel kind of bad about that.  Heck, I haven’t even started drinking yet. It’s starting to feel like the first step on the journey that leads to me sitting on a front stoop somewhere yelling at kids to be quiet and asking The Duchess what time Matlock comes on.  Because I tend to be a hopeful person I think that there will be a resurgence in the art form, hopefully it won’t be too far away.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Another New Card and Some Thoughts on The Orioles

Look at this.  Two posts in two days.  It's almost like I'm unemployed again! (Don't worry, Mom, I'm still gainfully employed. I just had a day off and managed to wake up before noon).

As you can see by the image above I stepped outside of my 2012 collecting goals once again and picked up a card that was neither a part of a set I'm building or a part of a personal collection.  At least it's a card from one of the teams I support (and it had free shipping!)

I guess for some collectors this is one of those cards that drive them nuts when the break high-end product like Bowman Sterling.  A plain white and gray piece of jersey from a team that has a valued history but isn't exactly a "hot" collector's item. Which is awesome for an O's fan like myself.

Adam Jones is having himself a fine year and will most likely lock up his second consecutive "Most Valuable Oriole" award by the the time the season is through. He's cooled off a bit recently, but is still likely to post career highs in home runs, on-base,slugging and steals.  The promise he showed as a young prospect is starting to blossom, and while the debate rages on if he's actually a defensive liability or asset he's showing that the money the O's invested in him might just be worth it.

Mr. Britton on the other hand has not had a great 2012 so far.  An injury in Spring Training to his throwing shoulder lingered on slightly longer than the team anticipated despite some radical new therapy from noted surgeon to the stars Dr. James Andrews. What was once thought to be a six-week rehab process has now moved into month four, but the good news is that he's pitching again (with mixed results) and might be in line to make his first start for the O's next week.

That can't come soon enough for Baltimore fans.  To be honest, the season didn't start with high hopes, but a strong April and May had the Birds in contention for the first half of the season.  Dismal play by the Red Sox and a hellacious run of injuries for the Rays and the Blue Jays have allowed the O's to stay in the playoff hunt despite having a fundamentally flawed team.

I want them to succeed, I really do, but by the same token I have to be realistic.  This team is not built to win in the playoffs.  They make too many errors (75 in 85 games), their hitting is streaky at best and their starting pitching is a mess (Hamel and Chen Then Give Up Ten should be their motto). Injuries have played a minor role as well as Britton, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts have all missed significant time.

Yet despite all that, if the season ended today they would be battling for the playoffs as part of the extended Wild Card scheme.  How is that possible?  Well they might not have pitching and defense, but they do have the three-run homerun.  That and a decent bullpen. They have been getting a phenomenal performance from their relievers, especially when games are close and in the late innings. Heck MLB has them as the best team in that situation. So they got that going for them.

So with the success so far it makes sense that they go all in and make a big trade before the deadline because who knows when this will happen again, right?

The Orioles don't have the type of farm system where they can risk trading a few prospects for Zach Greinke or whatever other pitcher is out there on the market.  That's what they did in the past and it killed them as an organization.  Dan Duquette is better off letting this season play out and letting the kids develop so that the team is good for the future as well as the present.

Diamond Dan has already come out on record saying he won't trade Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado for a rental player like Greinke.  He did stop short of saying that Bundy and Machado are untouchable, but one would have to imagine that it would take a Godfather deal to move either one of those kids.

However, lower-tier prospects like Jonathan Schoop and Parker Bridwell should be valued by the organization just as much.  Schoop especially since it looks like Brian Roberts can't put on a shirt without straining something these days. (For the record I love Roberts as a player and think he's a future O's hall-of-famer, but as I e-mailed Strums earlier this week - if he was a race horse they would have shot him by now).

Unless the Duquette finds a way to improve the defense, finds two starting pitchers who can go six innings without giving up seven runs and finds a leadoff hitter who can take a walk it's not worth blowing up the farm system.

Sometimes being competitive is good enough.  That's the stage the O's are in right now.  Get to the end of the season with a .500 record, play some meaningful games in August and then spend the next off-season building a team that can truly compete in the AL East.

If they make a decent run this year then maybe some of Peter Angelos' money will start to become attractive to free agents.  That way the O's can keep their prospects and sign a real-life starting pitcher.  The best of both worlds!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ESPN Breezes Into Chicago For Some Boxing

Andrzej Fonfara has a chance to elevate his career this Friday (photo by ME!)

Boxers don’t start their careers in glory. Most debut at a small, hometown arena and spend the next few years fighting a collection of stiffs as they learn and improve. Even Floyd Mayweather’s first fight was at the nondescript Texas Station Casino in Nevada against someone named Roberto Apodaca whose career lasted all of four fights. It would be two years before “Money” fought for a title and he had an advantage coming from a prominent boxing family.

At some point in every talented boxer’s career there is chance for them to make the jump from back-bar hero to nationally recognized fighter. Local favorite Andrzej Fonfara has a chance to make that leap. This Friday, at the UIC Pavilion, he will take on former IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Glen Johnson in the headline match for ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. A night of fighting that 8 Count Productions is rightfully calling “Crossroads”.

Fonfara has built a loyal following in Chicago over his six-year career. The 24-year-old Warsaw native has lived and fought in the Windy City since he was 18 and has racked up a 21-2 record during that time.  His last nine fights have all ended with him battering his opponents into submission which explains the boisterous following he has in this city.

However, this isn’t the lanky fighter’s first brush with national exposure. After winning 10 of his first 11 professional fights he appeared on Friday Night Fights in 2008 and suffered a brutal second round TKO at the hands of Derrick Findley.  Despite the knockout it appeared his career was backon track as he won his next two fights to set up a match against Skyler Thompson for the vacant WBF United States super middle weight title.  Fonfara won the fight, but had the title stripped when he tested positive for a banned substance.

Since then, “The Polish Prince” has moved up in weight (from 160 to about 175) and steadily put his career back together with a string of dominant victories over increasingly better opponents. His opponent on Friday, Glen Johnson, presents a significant step up in competition. Johnson has fought everyone and everywhere truly earning his “Road Warrior” nickname. At 43 he might not be the same fighter who beat Roy Jones, Jr. (back in 2004 when beating Jones actually meant something) Johnson is still in a better class than anyone Fonfara has fought since Findley.

The Jamaican native proved that last June when he took one of the best super middleweights in the business, Carl Froch, the distance. An old boxing adage is that “styles make fights” and Johnson’s style is to be aggressive and try to outwork his opponents. Fonfara would be smart to move around the ring and work the body of his much older foe, but that’s not what he does. Like Johnson, he prefers to attack and trade shots in the middle of the ring.  While it might not be the smartest plan of attack it will at least make for an entertaining fight.

Fonfara at 6’2” is a tall fighter with long arms and a long midsection. He’ll present an inviting target for Johnson who is at his best when he is able to land his jab to the chest and follow it up with a powerful overhand right.  It was a combination that he was able to employ with success against Froch, who like Fonfara, likes to keep his hands low.

It will be in Fonfara’s best interest to keep Johnson at a distance by using his jab and trying to extend the bout as long as possible and hope that the older fighter tires in the late round. The “Polish Prince” does have deceptive power for a boxer as lean as he is and that could play a factor in the fight as well. If he lands some big shots early, it might dissuade Johnson from pressing forward.  If the fight is fought at a distance, Fonfara should have the advantage.

Should the local boy do well and beat his older opponent it could be a springboard for launching into the national scene at the light heavyweight/super middleweight level. Boxers who are successful on Friday Night Fights tend to find themselves on undercards for cable network fights which could then lead to undercards on Pay-Per-View fights and then onto true notoriety and title fights.  It has been a long time since a Chicago-based fighter has achieved national prominence in the boxing world. With a victory on Friday, Andrzej Fonfara could begin a journey to end that drought.

Also appearing on the card will be Jose Luis Castillo who will be taking on Ivan Popoca. Other matches will feature Elijah McCall (son of former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall), local favorite Jamie Herrera, as well as up-and-coming prospect Paul Littleton. Tickets are available at the UIC Pavalion box office as well as through TicketMaster. The night of boxing is brought on by 8 Count Productions, Warriors Boxing, Round 3 and Blue Wave Boxing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Some Lower Tier People (Well Me) are Still Chasing Heritage

As I mentioned in my last post (has it been a week already?) I went on a bit of a card buying binge. I also managed to pull off two trades during that time. The first one happened just after I finished my order on CheckOutMyCards….you know that 20 second period of guilt you feel after you hit the “Submit Order” button?

It seems Marcus over at all the way to the backstop... had some spare Heritage cards on hand that he needed to get rid of.  Luckily for me, about 47 of them I needed.  Based on the ratio of doubles to cards I need I’ve been experiencing lately through retail buying, Marcus saved me from buying about 136 packs.

In exchange I sent him some extra Padres cards that I had lying about and a couple of cards he needed off of his want list.

A quick sample of some of the cards in the package.

Not a clue who Blake Beavan is.  There was a time when I knew every player that appeared in a set.  Now, not so much.

Not sure why I selected the Santana card.  Oh well, here it is.

Had to have at least one card rockin' the Orange and Black!  Vlad is currently surfing the free agent waters after getting released from the Toronto organization.  Perhaps it's time the best bad ball hitter of the last generation retired.  Borderline Hall of Famer? Definite member of the Hall of Guys You Didn't Want To Face When the Other Team Needed A Hit.

"Carl, imagine if you had signed with the Angels instead of the Red Sox"  Look, I was a CC collector back when he was with the Rays, I think he can still turn it around in Boston if his wrist heals correctly, but man was that the wrong place for him to sign.

Thanks, Marcus.  I'll be keeping an eye out for Padres cards at the Rosemont card show next week!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A New Card Leads to an Orioles History Lesson

Now that my work schedule seems to be stabilizing (yea working mid-shifts!) it’s time to get back to posting regularly both here and at my other piece of internet real estate. I plan on easing back in with some card-related posts, especially since I went a on a little online card buying binge earlier this week. Before I get to that, however, it’s time to review a trade I made a couple of months ago.

One of the great things about being active in the online card community is meeting new people and working out trades with different people. Sometimes though, it’s nice to be able to put together a trade with a wily ol’ veteran of the blog-o-sphere.

Back in April Marck from Troll Might Rule aka The Collective Troll dropped me a note that he needed some of the extra Heritage cards I had posted.  I was glad to send him some and he mentioned that he had some cards on my want list as well as some “Orioles styff”.  I wasn’t sure if it was a mistype or an Olde English description of some Glenn Davis cards (cause that man was a stiff in an Orioles uniform).

Back when I was writing my first attempt at a blog (RIP Wasteland!) there weren’t many folks talking about the Rays on a regular basis.  There was myself, Dave from Fielder’s Choice and then the prolific Collective Troll. At one point I’m pretty sure Marck had six different blogs going about different things.  We worked out a few deals here and there before I moved up to Chicago and left the Rays part of my collection behind.

So it was nice to see an envelope in the mail with “The Collective Troll” on the return label (the Duchess saw the envelope and was astonished I was getting mail addressed from someone named The Collective Troll – I think astonished is the word I’m looking for). Anyone who has traded with the web’s foremost Rays fan/roller derby enthusiast knows he delivers above and beyond expectations.  Along with the aforementioned want list cards there was plenty of Markaki (including some customs) and some Ginter action.  I’ll spare you the scans of all the cards (ed. Note – someone is feeling lazy) and leave you with just one – my favorite card of the package.

Second least favorite Orioles hat design

Does anyone know who drew the cartoons on the back of Topps cards?

That’s no 2012 Heritage, my friends. That’s an honest-to-god 1963 Topps card of former Oriole/White Sox/Red Sox/Royal /Hankyu Brave Jerry Adair. To be honest, when I first saw the card I was surprised that the Orioles current pitching coach also played for the team. Then I looked closer and realized that Jerry Adair isn’t:

1.       A pitcher

2.       Alive

3.       Named Rick Adair

What can I say, I’m getting old, names tend to run together from time-to-time.

Adair (Jerry that is) was a solid Oriole from the late-50s to mid-60s. The O’s signed him out of Oklahoma State University in 1958 and threw him straight into the big leagues.  He would play in the majors sparingly over the next three seasons spending most of 1959 in Amarillo and 1960 in Miami. By 1961 he had earned a spot on the big league roster and for the next five seasons he would be a defensive stalwart in the middle of the O’s infield.

Nicknamed “Casper the Friendly Ghost” Adair was a smooth-fielding second baseman who could handle himself at the plate (he averaged .258 in his nine seasons with the O’s). Considered one of the best defensive second basemen of his era, the Oklahoma native teamed with shortstop Luis Aparicio to provide one of the best infield duo’s in Baltimore history (oh, and there was a guy named Brooks Robinson at third).

Unfortunately he wouldn’t be around to enjoy the O’s first World Series victory in 1966. After manager Hank Bauer announced in spring training that rookie Davey Johnson would be starting in place of Adair, the veteran publicly announced that he was bitter about the move and demanded a trade. Baltimore obliged and in June of that year traded Adair to the White Sox along with John Riddle for Eddie Fisher. Fisher (the ballplayer not the singer) would be a key part of the bullpen going 5-3 with 13 saves in 71.2 innings.

Adair’s glove would keep him in the league for another 4 years and when he left the league in 1970 he did it with a .985 career fielding percentage having made only 58 errors in 3926 chances (I’m pretty sure Mark Reynolds has 58 errors this week).

Jerry Adair would find some work as a coach before passing away from liver cancer in 1987 at the age of 50. Cancer hovered like a dark cloud in Adair’s life. Towards the end of his career, when he was with the Royals organization, his daughter was struggling with a form of terminal cancer. Adair had understandably struggled that season and the team cut him in May. His daughter would die a few weeks later. In 1981 he would also see his wife pass away from cancer. has a fascinating bio of Adair on their site, providing some information of a player that many fans (like myself) might not be that familiar with.

Many thanks to the Troll.  I’m already putting aside some more Rays cards for you.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mike Lee - Pitchman or Puncher?

Mike Lee is arguably Chicago’s most recognized boxer.  Not so much for his work in the ring, but for his appearance in a nationally televised commercial.  He’s the guy in the Ryan Howard/Justin Strahan Subway commercial that has people saying, “Who the hell is Mike Lee and why is he in this commercial?”

The answer is that Mike Lee is an up-and-coming light-heavyweight that has nine professional matches under his belt (all of them wins) and a taste for turkey subs from the ubiquitous sandwich chain. His role as a spokesman for Subway probably has more to do with his Notre Dame connections more than his proficiency of pugilistic acumen. Lee, who had 16 amateur bouts before turning pro, graduated from Notre Dame as did Subway’s Chief Marketing Office, Tony Pace.

While Lee has some notoriety due to the commercials he still needs to prove himself in the ring.  Being in the Top Rank stable can help him build on that popularity since it would be easy for them to put him on some of the pay-per-view fights that the promotion company puts together.  Most popular boxers rose to fame on those types of undercards.

Before that happens, Lee has to start facing some more competent fighters in the ring. Scrolling through his fight history doesn’t exactly elicit a “who’s who” of light-heavyweight contenders. Seven of the nine fighters he’s faced have losing records including three guys who hadn’t won a fight when they faced him. I understand bringing a fighter along slowly, especially one who doesn’t have an extensive amateur career, but due to his popularity (especially in Chicago) one has to wonder if Top Rank will rush the 24-year-old along.

I didn’t want to paint him with the “all flash, no substance” brush before actually seeing him fight, so I tuned in to ESPN3 Friday Night to watch him take on Eliseo Durazo in a six-round contest (there was some discrepancy on how long the fight was supposed to be. Top Rank had promoted it as a four-rounder, but the Las Vegas commission had sanctioned it for six. This led to the amusing situation of Durazo heading to his corner after the fourth round thinking the fight was over).

Lee put in a winning performance as he took five of the six rounds on all three judges’ scorecards (as well as mine), but he didn’t score the highlight reel knockout.  To my eye it looked almost as if he was in a training session. It was as if trainer Ronnie Shields told his fighter to go out and work on his jab, which was crisp, and his defense, which was a bit spotty.

Durazo was a willing, if slightly fleshy, competitor who had taken the fight on only five days notice after Lee’s scheduled opponent, Isiah Barela, withdrew due to an injury.  El Negro’s game plan seemed to center around walking forward and hitting Lee’s body as much as possible with little concern for using his jab.  Lee did a good job of deflecting most of the punches with his elbows, but enough got through that I wondered how he would have fared against a fighter with a little more power.

While Lee was clearly the boxer with better stamina and mobility in the ring, he was willing to stand still and take punches from slower-footed opponent. As he matures that’s a trait he hopefully gets away from.  After all, it’s always better to slip a punch then take it or block it. With a little better footwork he can also get himself into positions to throw more effective punches.

In close Lee had a tendency to lean over and keep his chin exposed, a chin that Durazo tagged with an upper cut on at least two occasions. Luckily for the Subway aficionado there wasn’t much power behind the punches.

On offense Lee did a good job snapping off his jab and working a hook off of it. It was kind of surprising that Lee didn’t work the body more, especially with how soft Durazo looked in the ring. Lee did land several decent punches through the match and looked to have Durazo hurt in the second when the Mexican fighter backpedaled rapidly after absorbing a few punches from the Wheaton native. However, Lee was content to let him back up and didn’t keep the pressure on his rotund opponent.

He didn’t show game-changing power that elite boxers usually possess. Again, it’s possible that he wasn’t interested in raining down power shots on Durazo, choosing instead to get some live ring work in. When Lee did throw punches he was on balance and able to string some combinations together including some three and four punch combos.

At this point in his career Mike Lee is still a bit of a raw product in the ring. It will be interesting to see how Top Rank brings the24-year-old along. His ability should keep him away from the top-tier boxers for the next few fights, but his name recognition might provoke them to reach above his current skill set for a bigger payday.

If they asked me (and they won’t) I would point out that he hasn’t fought in Chicago since his pro debut at the UIC Pavilion. Perhaps the future could include a Friday Night Fights in the Windy City against some of the local talent that is on the way up. Maybe the powers that be could arrange a Mike Lee vs. Andrzej Fonfara match-up for sometime in the fall? They shouldn’t have any trouble at all selling that one out. Fonfara’s willful aggression would be a good test for Lee’s defense and chin.

After watching one boxing match I’m not ready to crown him as Chicago’s best boxer yet, but at the same time I’m not going to write him off as nothing but hype. With the win I’m sure he’s also kept his name and face in Subway commercials a little bit longer.