Friday, April 19, 2019

Stranger Things

Sports are unpredictable*. That's why we love them.

*except the NFL

Three weeks ago we saw highly-favored Duke lose in the NCAA Tournament. Not the championship, or even the Final Four, but the Elite Eight--and they barely made it that far.

The NHL's top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning were swept in the first round, as were the always-dangerous Pittsburgh Penguins. Two of the top three seeds out West, Calgary and San Jose, are one loss away from first-round elimination.

Even the NBA playoffs have seen some surprises so far; the Golden State Warriors actually lost a game to the L.A. Clippers - the biggest playoff underdog ever while the second-seeded Denver Nuggets are down 2-1 in their series. Oh, and Tiger Woods won a golf tournament. woo.

All of this is strange, but it still has an "any given Sunday" feel to it. The greatest teams in sports can have one bad game or one bad week. It happens. One bad month, for a defending World Series champion returning a near-identical roster, is truly bizarre.

I keep waiting for the Boston Red Sox to snap out of this slumber and start winning... but it hasn't happened yet. Roughly 20 games into the 2019 the Red Sox are the second-worst team in baseball, behind only the Marlins. Kansas City has a better record, so does Baltimore. Tampa Bay has the league's best record, and they're running away with the AL East.

Yes, my Sox are suck right now. But I still love collecting Boston-based baseball cards - and Kerry included a bunch of them in his Guilt Free Basketball Card mailer:

Classic Clark, Pink(?) Porcello, and some early Pacific issues. The 2004 Red Sox were certainly an Elite team...

..the 2019 version? Not so much. These were my first 2019 baseball cards; I bought two packs of Opening Day shortly after opening Kerry's mailer.

 Heritage and Ginter, including a David Price relic. Thanks again, Kerry!

Many of these have been added to my box of Sox hits, which is now overflowing! It's also the last box of baseball cards I've yet to catalog on TCDB. I'm going to try and finish all of my non-hockey this weekend.. which includes a smattering of non-sports cards.

My wife and I have been watching Stranger Things recently, and as of tonight we'll be all caught up on the first two seasons. I've seen blaster boxes of Stranger Things cards in Target (and a Jim Hopper relic on COMC) but I haven't been tempted to buy any yet. I like that Topps uses the old-school card stock - which makes sense since the show takes place in 1984 - and it shouldn't cost too much to put together a complete set.

That said, I'm weird about buying non-sports cards. As much as I loved The Hunger Games quad-rilogy, I only bought the cards because they were heavily discounted - and they were still a big disappointment.

Also I don't feel the need to have any specific Stranger Things scenes or characters represented in my collection. The only character that stands out to me is Eleven, and I'm not about to chase a piece of clothing worn by a pre-teen actor. (Wouldn't mind a Winona Ryder relic though.)

Have you watched Stranger Things? What strange sports story interests you the most?

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend, and a Happy Easter! 


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pucks n' Bucks

Thank you to everyone who entered my Stanley Cup Contest. More than half the slots were filled, which I'd consider a success. I'm a bit surprised that no one claimed the Bruins - but not nearly as surprised as I am that the Columbus Blue Jackets are dominating the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's still early (just ask last year's Capitals) but if the Jackets could win their first-ever postseason series and eliminate Tampa, that would blow the field wide open.

Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is a free agent after this year, and I've heard rumblings that both Bob and star winger Artemi Panarin want out of Columbus (something related to John Tortorella I bet) While I'd love to see the Devils sign either one, I'm becoming a Bobrovsky fan and I'll be adding him to my expanded list of PC players this summer - unless he signs with a team I can't stand (*cough* Canes)

Jersey was once again far out of the playoffs, and they were slotted to select third in a draft that has two premium prospects - American center Jack Hughes and Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko. As luck would have it, the Devils won the NHL Draft lottery and will select first overall for the second time in three years. The Devils have actually won the lottery three times; in 2011 they selected Adam Larsson fourth overall - which was the highest they could move up under the old rules.

I'm really excited for the Devils rebuild to bear fruit, assuming they draft Hughes to pair with Nico Hischier up the middle. Mackenzie Blackwood has enough potential in net that the Devils probably won't even pursue Bobrovsky, last year's first rounder Ty Smith is ready to make the team and GM Ray Shero has four picks in the first two rounds to play with. 

As for the playoffs, I'm not pulling for one team in particular just yet. I'd be happy if the Capitals could repeat, and I'd be just as happy if the Predators won. But Joe Thornton and the Sharks have to win eventually...right?

I'm trying to watch more of the NBA playoffs this year, and I'll probably watch a game or two today. It's odd and a little refreshing to have a postseason without LeBron James; almost like the MLB playoffs without the Yankees. 

I don't know enough about the Western teams to have a favorite (anyone but Golden State would be fine) but I'm pulling for the Milwaukee Bucks to come out of the East.

Kerry sent me some guilt-free basketball cards, which arrived Friday. Someone else claimed Ray Allen specifically, but I got plenty of current Bucks including the Greek Freak..

..Bledsoe, Brogdon, and my birthday bud Khris Middleton. Jack Sikma was finally elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame last week, along with former Buck Sidney Moncrief and Vlade Divac, among others. Guess it was a good year to clear out some backlogged players - but I'm surprised that Chris Webber and (to a lesser extent) Tim Hardaway still have to wait.


Speaking of the Hall, Kerry included a sweet Oscar Robertson Hall of Gold insert from Panini Gold Standard. The Jabari Parker holo parallel is my third from '15-16 Donruss.

A handful of '90s Bucks, featuring "Big Dog" Glenn Robinson.

Kerry also sent a couple Hakeem Olajuwon cards and a big Stack of Red Sox cards, which I'll show off in my next post. Thanks again for all the great cards!

I'm hoping to finish cataloging my baseball cards today, but my daughter has a soccer game this afternoon. The weather is just too perfect to stay inside anyhow.

Hope you're all enjoying your Sunday!


Monday, April 8, 2019

Stanley Cup Contest 2019

The Stanley Cup Playoffs start this week, and I've got way too many hockey cards. So I thought I'd give some away in a Stanley Cup Contest!

The Contest:
Choose one of the sixteen playoff teams in the comments below. It can be a team you're cheering for, or a team you think will have a good chance of winning the Stanley Cup. (Your choice of team will not determine which cards you receive.)

For every playoff game your team wins, your name will be added to the randomizer one time. That way your odds increase with your claimed team's success - but you can still win the big prize even if your team doesn't.

If your team is swept in the first round, no worries. There will be a second prize drawing where I will randomize the names of everyone who didn't win the first prize.

Both drawings will be held a day or two after the Stanley Cup is awarded.

The prizes:
First prize is a bubble mailer full of hockey cards (from all teams) including inserts, parallels and a relic or auto. I might even include a sealed pack or two, depending on the selection at Target.

Second prize is a PWE full of hockey cards from the same surplus pile as the first prize.

The fine print:
The Stanley Cup Contest is open only to regular readers, and anyone who commented on my previous post. [Last time I did a giveaway, more than one participant claimed a prize and never commented again.] Contest is open until Friday, April 12 or until all teams are claimed. 

The teams:
Tampa Bay Lightning - Gregory (Nine Pockets)
Columbus Blue Jackets -

Boston Bruins -
Toronto Maple Leafs - Commishbob (The Five Tool Collector)

New York Islanders - Corky (Pack War)
Pittsburgh Penguins - Brian (Collecting Cutch)

Washington Capitals - Greg (The Collective Mind)
Carolina Hurricanes -

Calgary Flames - Gavin (Baseball Card Breakdown)
Colorado Avalanche -

Winnipeg Jets -
St. Louis Blues -

Nashville Predators - Jon (A Penny Sleeve For Your Thoughts) playing for Billy
Dallas Stars -

San Jose Sharks - Fuji (The Chronicles of Fuji)
Vegas Golden Knights - Billy (Cardboard History)

I realize that there aren't a lot of hockey card collectors on here but hopefully this will generate some interest. Enjoy the playoffs, and good luck to all the participants!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Celebrity Crush Championship Belt

I was a big fan of Bill Simmons back when he wrote great articles for ESPN (Grantland was fantastic..I've lost interest in The Ringer.) One of the topics I particularly enjoyed was the Championship Belt series. If you're not familiar with it, you can see examples here and here. Basically, the premise is: you're the champ until someone beats you. 

I thought it would be a fun exercise to try this using my favorite female celebrities over the years. Who was my favorite and when, and what led to them losing their title? Let's start with the first year I had any interest in the opposite sex... 

Champion: Jennie Garth
Reign: 1991-1992

Beverly Hills 90210 was a few years above my age group, but that didn't stop the girls in my fifth-grade class from obsessing over Jason Priestly or Luke Perry may he rest in peace. My sister-in-law is related to one of the supporting actors on 90210 (Joe E. Tata), and between her family ties, the "water-cooler" talk at school, and Jennie Garth being all blonde and gorgeous, I was enjoying the teen soap opera as much any female fan.

I can't recall anything specific about Jennie's character but I do remember buying a couple packs of 90210 cards and searching stores for a Jennie Garth poster (don't think I found any..they only had Priestly, Perry, and Shannen Doherty) I even wrote a TTM letter to Jennie and got back some fan club gibberish on reddish pink paper..but no autographed photo.

Thanks to the Summer Olympics and Sports Illustrated For Kids I spent the next year obsessed over world champion gymnast Kim Zmeskal. (For purposes of this post I'll call her a "sports crush" and skip over her.) It was around this time that I was also sneaking around my mom to watch Married...With Children. Soon I had turned my attention to another blonde Kelly..

Champion: Christina Applegate
Reign: 1992-1994

Once my mom finally allowed me to watch sister bought me a VHS copy of the Christmas special as a gift, and at one point I taped notebook paper over all of the cast(and Buck) except for Christina so that I'd only see her. I also stopped saving my allowance money for a Joe Montana rookie card when I saw an autographed Applegate 8 x 10 hanging up in a comic book store.

Even though I was still a hardcore fan of the Bundys in 1994 (and beyond) Christina lost her Crush crown to an unlikely contender..

 Champion: Winona Ryder
Reign: 1994

Nothing made sense in 1994. The Rangers were Stanley Cup champions. The World Series wasn't happening, and I was crushing on an ingenue actress with a pixie 'do. Winona Ryder was indie-cool, but she was also critically acclaimed for her on-screen performances. I binge-watched the entire Winona Ryder filmography in the summer of '94, after a video store clerk chose her as "Star of the Week." 

It had been years since I'd seen her in anything anywhere, until my wife and I started watching Stranger Things. Winona forever!

Well, maybe not forever.. Ryder's short reign at the top of my crush chart ended when Pulp Fiction was released and my best friend John and I both drooled over..

Champion: Uma Thurman
Reign: 1994-1995

Uma was destructively gorgeous, she was almost too hot to handle when she wasn't wearing that Mia Wallace wig. My best friend and I collected cutout pictures of her like baseball cards (he even stole a copy of Details from his school library.) I watched some of Uma's early work like Jennifer 8 with John, and Dangerous Liasons with my real-life crush Jessica, who was obsessed with Keanu Reeves at the time.

In my freshman year of high school I started crushing on a six-foot tall senior girl named Liz because she resembled Uma Thurman. I also started drifting towards another blonde celeb..

Champion: Jewel
Reign: 1995-1997

It sounds strange to me now, but I was a huge fan of a frickin' folk singer. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) Jewel had a unique and captivating voice - and her videos were sexy as hell. I did have a poster of her on my wall and I did drool over her obvious physical gifts but! I also played my Pieces of You CD regularly and I saw her perform at the Oakdale Theater in Connecticut with my girl friend Gretchen (who at least one guy assumed was my girlfriend.) 

In the late 1990s there were a few contenders like Mira Sorvino, Renee Zellweger, and Jenna Elfman that I really liked, but none that rose to the level of a top-tier celebrity crush. Until the teen soap opera wave returned with Dawson's Creek..

 Champion: Michelle Williams
Reign: 1998-1999, 2002

Where have you gone, Jen Lindley? I was all about blondes back in the day, and Michelle Williams was exactly my type. Her bad-girl Dawson's Creek character was not a fan favorite, and it's a sharp contrast to the characters she plays today. I'm pleasantly surprised that Michelle emerged out of the collective of WB-era hotties and became an Academy-award-winning actress...but I do miss her Maxim days.

I think I still have a copy of this mag in my closet

Champion: Katie Holmes
Reign: 1999-2001, 2003

I'm not going to get too specific here. Throughout the Dawson's Creek years I alternated between the sexy siren and the girl next door. Katie Holmes didn't strike my fancy at first; she sort of grew on me over the years. Speaking of the Girl Next Door...

Champion: Elisha Cuthbert
Reign: 2004

Yeah, so...funny story. I was in Chicago with the aforementioned bestie and his brother (also a lifelong friend of mine) when I saw a stand-up promo for this film - and Elisha - for the first time. You know that old cliche about a gorgeous woman having the ability to stop traffic? Well, when I saw this/her I literally tripped and dropped my wallet. It was kind of embarrassing, but it physically forced me to see the film in question (which was pretty good) along with other things Elisha was in, such as 24. Sssh! Don't tell anyone I started watching that because of Kim Bauer.

My Cuthbert "crush" wasn't like most of the others on this list. There was very little substance behind the surface-level hotness (and she dated Sean Avery ffs.) I wouldn't say she was champion by default, but it wasn't All That difficult for a teenager to take her title...

Champion: Amanda Bynes
Reign: 2004-2007

Ooomph. This one hurts. Like, it physically hurts to be reminded of just how funny and talented and girl next-door gorgeous Amanda Bynes was. It hurts to remember the days when her contemporaries were getting wasted and Amanda insisted that she'd never end up as tabloid fodder like them. It hurts to remember how much I enjoyed her movies and TV shows, especially What I Like About You..which also starred my first celebrity crush, Jennie Garth.

It hurts to know that she just turned 33 (still younger than the Current Crush Champion) and that she's spent the past decade as a cautionary tale. Damn. Let's move on.

 Champion: Kristen Bell
Reign: 2007-2009, 2018

Who doesn't love Kristen Bell, am I right? Looking back, it's fascinating to me that she became such a big star and that I became such a fan. The first time I saw her, Veronica Mars had just started on the WB or CW or whatever and she was on Conan talking about hockey. That's about all the incentive I needed to check out her show. 

Of course I became a fan of it, and her. But unlike the other blonde puck bunny on this list Kristen stuck around because she's good in everything, she's always an entertaining interview guest, and as the kids say, her and Dax Shepard are #relationshipgoals. The Good Place was a big reason why Kristen reclaimed her spot as my favorite actress after losing her crown nearly a decade earlier.
I honestly can't remember if I had any celebrity crushes in 2010 and 2011. I liked Olivia Wilde, Zooey Deschanel, and a couple others but not enough to award anyone the Championship Belt. So until something jogs my memory let's say that it was vacated for a while.

Champion: Jennifer Lawrence
Reign: 2012-2017

What can I say about Jennifer Lawrence that I haven't already said on this blog? Well for starters, I probably wouldn't have seen her in X-Men:First Class if it wasn't for the sub-plot about the Cuban Missile Crisis. She looked so different in that it's as if it was filmed five years before The Hunger Games. It's kind of strange to think she was "cute" once. 

The other thing I can say is that I didn't get tired of her "act" as some people have. I don't agree with everything she says or does, but it bothered me how quickly the wave of public opinion turned from "She's unrefined and relatable. I love her!" to "She's immature and overrated. I hate her!" It's true what they say, they build you up just to tear you down.

J-Law has taken some blows (some self-inflicted) but she's got more staying power than anyone on this list - with the possible exception of Kristen Bell. I'm amazed that she's only in her twenties; there's still so much ahead for her.

That said, she did lose a bit of zip off her fastball by 2017, just enough for the Crush crown to be claimed by..

Champion: Taryn Southern
Reign: 2017

I'll admit, I was about eight years late to the party with Taryn. I spent all of '17 catching up, only to find out she's not fun anymore. It's probably for the best. She's too damn stunning to be that funny and chill. 

Before I get to the current champion here's a Southern song that sort of fits the occasion:

I say "sort of" because I'm not the stalker type. Also, the irony of this track is delicious.

Anyway...this post has been long enough, yes? Let's get to current events here. In 2018 I wasn't as focused on any one in particular as I was in '17. Kristen Bell held off Katherine McNamara and Melissa Benoist mostly on reputation and personality -- which went a long way toward awarding the Championship belt to..

Champion: Anna Kendrick
Reign: 2019-

I've mentioned this before, but I like Anna for a lot of the same reasons I like Kristen. There have been times when the belt was awarded to a smoldering, statuesque blonde but overall it often stays with a woman who has talent, personality, and an approachable attractiveness. Could Kendrick hold on to the belt into 2020 and beyond? Sure. Then again, maybe Kristen or Jen will reclaim the crown. Maybe Brie Larson wrestles it away from AK. Maybe I will outgrow this whole charade altogether. Lol..not likely :)

If any of you read this incredibly long post, I hope you enjoyed it. My next post won't be for a few days but it will be a contest! Anyone who comments on this one will automatically be entered, as a reward for reading all the way to the end. So share your thoughts and stories about your favorite celebrities for a chance to win some free cards!

Hope you're all having a great weekend!


Thursday, April 4, 2019

How blogging has influenced my collection

As I continue with the never-ending quest to catalog my entire card collection, I notice that my collecting habits have significantly changed since I began blogging about the hobby nearly three years ago. The following is a partial list of habits I've picked up, along with the blogger(s) who influenced these new interests:

I have a new appreciation for low-end treasures found in dime boxes, thanks to Nick.

I'm more aware of players who share my birthday, thanks to Doug

Gavin's collecting interests have rubbed off on me in a couple of ways. I'm more focused on player collections and plan to post a list of 8-10 player PCs on this blog once I'm ready to trade again. I'm not going to steal his 100-card club "limit" but it will be a goal of mine. (perhaps I'll create a bronze/silver/gold/platinum tier of PCs depending on how many cards I have.)

I've also purchased more cards of attractive women, something that was always in the back of my mind but was never seriously considered. Part of that is because the selection of celebrity singles relative to team sports issues is pathetic. (But Gavin and his customs solve that problem!)

Before I started blogging, I'd never heard of a "Franken-set" I've completed one!

Billy has inspired me to utilize TCDB, catalog my cards, and scan every new addition to my collection. (I'm about 3/4s finished but I feel bad that it's taken me away from blogs) He's also helped boost my basketball card collection, along with Doug and others. 

But the biggest reason for my renewed interest in NBA cards is Jon, who is the single biggest contributor to my growing basketball card collection. I'm now working on five sets, and he's helped me with at least three of them, including 1989-90 Hoops..

..and 2014-15 Panini Prizm. I'm now just 32 cards short of completing this 300-card set. This Larry Bird was one of about two hundred cards he sent me - or about 190 more than I sent him!

Jon also contributed to my brand-new Bucks collection (which I officially started thanks to Kerry.)

These were somewhat random wants; as I was cataloging my basketball card collection I compiled a wantlist of cards that looked interesting from all of the years and sets I'd missed. I had all but forgotten which cards I added until a dozen from 1999-00 Topps Gallery were included in the box Jon sent me.

If I did that for baseball and hockey I'd never finish my TCDB lists. 

Jon also contributed to collections that pre-date my blogging life. I'm nearly finished cataloging my Red Sox cards, and this Nomar will be added to the over 2,600 I've accounted for to date.

Which is just slightly more than the 2,540 Packers cards I've cataloged - including the latest eight from Jon.

I'm expecting my Devils card collection to top both of those. It will take quite a while for me to catalog all of my hockey cards, and since I've been lousy at leaving comments lately I might just hold a contest/giveaway once all the teams are set for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Until then I've got to get back to TCDB and COMC, but I will be making the rounds this weekend. Jon, thanks again for all the great cards..and thanks to all of you for sharing your card collecting interests and preferences. I've learned so much from everyone here and I'm happy to incorporate some of your ideas into my own collection.