Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Questions with Vikings Territory

Adam Warwas over at VikingsTerritory reached out to us to answer a few questions (in bold) and I gladly answered. While we've had some fun trash-talking with these guys in the past, I was *a little* more straightforward this time. Please let us know what you think in the comments.

1. The obvious elephant in the room is that the Packers are on a three game slide and playing some pretty ugly, relatively speaking, football. Can you talk a little bit about what factors have been involved with these three losses and what solutions the team might try to employ in Minnesota?

It’s as though they went on a two-week bender and were still hungover last week. A good night’s sleep and a strong cup of coffee should sufficiently wake them up. Rodgers has always been a master of improvisation and there’s a chance he’s been boxed in by some vanilla play calling. Giving him more freelance ability with the secondary playmakers will keep defenses guessing and frustrated before #12 drops the hammer.

2. Prior to the season, I'm on record saying that Eddie Lacy being on that Packers roster is just plain unfair. As it turns out, Lacy's year is going pretty poorly and Green Bay is looking fairly one-dimensional on offense these days. Is that a fair assessment and how is that impacting Aaron Rodgers?

While it’s not ideal, Lacy’s short history has indicated he may be a slow starter. Couple that with an injury and the numbers speak for themselves. Starks is a very capable backup but brings a different set of skills to the scheme, probably resulting in more week-to-week adjustments on offense than preferred. That being said, I don’t know it impacts Rodgers that much. I mean, he won the MVP in 2011 when the team was 28th in rushing. He hasn’t played his greatest, but his receivers outside of Cobb and James Jones are relatively young and inexperienced as well. Some struggles are to be expected. As they mature and gain Rodgers’ trust, the offense will get exponentially better sooner than later.

3. Can you tell Vikings fans a bit about Green Bay's 2015 rookie class? I'd like to get your perspective on which rookies are contributing to the success of the team and which have been underwhelming.

In typical draft-and-develop fashion, we picked up some supporting cast members in Rounds 1-3 and depth the rest of the way. You’ll want to pay attention to our first pick especially, Damarious Randall, who has already save our behinds more than once in the secondary. Ty Montgomery, our return guy and WR, appears to be healthy enough to contribute in a variety of ways. Quinten Rollins is real intriguing ball hawk with upside in the secondary. He’s actually a former college basketball player who was his conference’s defensive player of the year his senior year – the only year he played college football. There’s a chance you might see John Kuhn’s potential successor and fellow redhead, Aaron Ripowski, aka “The Ripper.” Jack Ryan of “Sixteen Candles” fame is also an intriguing middle linebacker to watch – if not this season, then the next.

4. The Vikings have really had a hard time getting Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater both into rhythm at the same time. By that, I mean that the offense has yet to fire on all cylinders in 2015. This Dom Capers defense has had ups and downs this season, and I'm wondering if you think the Vikings are most likely to find success through the air or on the ground?

Ha! I mean, what do you think? Despite his decent weapons, if Teddy has above-average success through the air it would probably be a surprise to everyone. #5 is still growing but you have to wonder if there’s much ceiling left to reach? Of course it’s the ground game that’s the concern. Even though we’ve won the majority of the matchups, Peterson has almost single-handedly kept you in the game. If he’s semi-contained, I don’t see you winning through the air.

5. Look, I understand that divisional games are always hard-fought, and they can be as unpredictable as they are difficult to win. Still, the Green Bay fans seem to be taking last week's loss to the Lions particularly hard. To those fans that seem to think the sky is falling in Wisconsin, what message would you like to relay?

At 6-3, many other teams would gladly trade to be in our shoes. That said, we’ve set the bar high and expect more. Fans should know the upside of this team by now and that if we get into the playoffs, there’s a helluva a good chance we can make this season special. Go troll your boat somewhere else.

BONUS: Have a prediction for the outcome of Sunday's game?
Hard-fought 27-20 Packers victory.

Our question for Vikings Territory: If the Vikings were sitting at .500 or below at this point, what would be the initial offer to Ragnar to come back and save the Vikings’ season?

Vikings Territory: Unlike the Packers, the Vikings are not that dependent on any individual, nor do we live in “What If” Land and dwell on the past. The fact is that we currently sit atop the NFC North and the Minnesota Vikings, not the Green Bay Packers, are the present and motivated to place Green Bay firmly in the past.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Packers' Defensive Mystery Has Been Solved

At some point, someone decided that a team's defense should be judged on yards given up. That's cool. I mean, offenses get bonus points for yardage milestones during NFL games, so if you don't give up yards you limit these opponents' bonus points. What? That's just fantasy football? Oh. So total defense is just yards? Huh. Seems like scoring usually determines the victor of any given football contest. Am I right on that? I am? Okay, good.

Hello, what have we here? The Packers have the best scoring defense in the NFL? Interesting. Sometimes it's hard to hear over the "Fire Capers" chants, so I'll repeat, the Packers have the number one scoring defense in the NFL. This got me wondering, "How is the defense this good?" Being the inquisitive type, I started asking around hoping to find some clues as to the defense's emergence. I got nothing but dead ends. No one was talking. 

Finally, I followed up on one last lead. It was a long shot. I contacted a security guard at the Hutson Center whom I had helped recover a Travis Jervey autographed cheesehead for a few years ago. We'll call him "Tommy". Unfortunately for Tommy, his dog had eaten it, so the recovery operation was suboptimal. Anyway, Tommy owed me a favor. I texted him over the bye week to see if he had noticed anything different during his time around the practice facilities. His reply was brief. All his text said was, "Follow the Clay."

Following the Packers' best defensive player seemed like a good, and fairly obvious, place to start to get to the bottom of this excellent defensive start for the team. So during the bye week, I tailed Clay Matthews to see if I could find his secret. While he did his best to conceal his activities, he was no match for my superior sleuthing skills. What I found was shocking. 

Clay Matthews was training actual bronco. Amazing. His ability to physically outmatch and mentally destroy his enemies was the product of training against his LITERAL opponents. This explained so much. It was all becoming apparent. The mystery of Packers stingy defense has been solved.

As you can see from the photo above, Matthews seems more than ready to take on the Broncos tonight. It's going to be a bloodbath. Packers 34, Broncos -15.

***Disclaimer: Neither The Packer Ranter nor Clay Matthews will accept liability for your health or safety if you decide to take on a similar training regimen. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween. Packers. Internets. Enjoy.








Friday, October 23, 2015

Catching Up on Some Correspondence

Usually during the bye week, I divide my time equally between replenishing my cheese stores, taking bratwurst inventory and telling Robert that I would finally sit down and write a Rant. Well, the bye week is almost gone. I have a house that smells like Gruyere, Gorgonzola and goat cheese, a solid handle on my remaining bratwurst supplies and zero inspiration to weave a cogent, yet brilliant, analysis of the Green Bay Packers. I told Robert this. His reply: "Do it, or you're fired."

He's right. Time to get motivated. I sat down with a brick of Havarti, hit "play" on my Tracy White training montage video and waited for the creative juices to start flowing. Three hours later, I awoke from my cheese coma. The answer had come to me in a dairy-induced dream: "What's the easiest way to find something to write about? Make someone else think of it." I'll sort through some emails and share my responses. I believe it's called a "Mailbag".

Right on. Here we go.

DraftKings, DraftKings, FanDuel, LinkedIn, DraftKings, ESPN Fantasy, LinkedIn, FanDuel, Cheese of the Month Club, FanDuel, Twitter "Follow: @Vikings, @DarrenRovell and @notTedThompson" ...sigh...well, maybe this isn't going to go exactly as...wait a minute, what's this?

SUBJECT: morons 
Dear Kool Aid Drinkers, 

 You're guys are like all the rest of the "media". People bring up actual points about why our team is not as good as people say, and you think you know better than real fans because you have a blog. Wake up it's 2015, and your the only 2 guys too still blog. You just say, there 6-0 in response to everything. 6-0? Means nothing…NOTHING. How many times have we steamrolled in the regular season now to be caught with our pants down in the playoffs? It’s such a waste of talent. Before you know it, Rodgers will be gone with ONE SB and maybe another regualr season MVP. My question…for what?  And the so called other “playmakers”? Lacy—ha! Everyone puts him in commercials after last year and now look at him!... Hurt? MOre like an overweight, plodding has-been after only two years! GIVE STARKS THE DANG BALL! Play that harris guy too. He had a good run this year. We’ve got ONE guy on defense capable of making a play but guess what? He can’t stay healthy! If you get half a season from Clay consider yourself lucky.  And Cobb? Jordy? Those guys are hurt to, look at all that money you wasted that could’ve gone to getting some real playmakers on defense. SIgn a free agent one time. In case you forgot – DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. And we’ve been bottom of the barrel for YEARS in that category. So bad in fact an average QB like Patrick Rivers comes in with no run and throws 500 FREAKING YARDS, a week after a ROOKIE running back goes for 150+!!! Meanwhile just wait until the playoffs when we lose at home. Probnably to the Giants again. ELI MANNING will get at LEAST one more because at the Giants know how to build a winner by drafting that Beckman receiver. Ted "trust Me" Thompson needs to take some lessons from a winner. I’ll take a couple crappy seasons in between if that’s what it takes. Wake me up when its over.Then you'll see us real fans were right. 
Fed up with mediocraty, 

 I didn't know how to respond. First of all, I'm not used to getting fan mail. Secondly, I know another guy with a blog, so it's not really cool to say we're the only two. Sure, podcasts are sweet because you can listen to them when you're at the gym wailing on your pecs but to write on the internet will never not be cool. Also, I haven't actually written anything here since June (it's pretty accurate though), and the last thing Robert did was give some helpful tips about tailgating, so I'm not quite sure where this is coming from. He must have seen, and obviously been frustrated by, our unwavering positivity on Twitter.
I jotted down some initial notes for a response. Labeling anyone who doesn't agree with you as "media" is always a pretty weak start to any argument but comparing them to us is an insult. To them. I mean, they have jobs and are professional, and a lot of times, they are right about things. We usually shoot for a nice 70%, good ol' C average. 6-0? I personally think making it six games into the season is a pretty good barometer of where a team stands, even though things will undoubtedly shift as the year progresses, but to each their own. I'm not sure I know how to respond to the portion on Aaron Rodgers' legacy. I'm not Biff Tannen, I can't consult Gray's Sports Almanac to see what will happen. Falling back to the "Lacy looks big argument"? Well, it could maaaaybe, possibly, slightly be the ankle injury, but I'm no doctor. Defensive playmakers, I'm pretty sure the defense won the Packers a couple games this year, oh well, recency effect of Patrick Rivers, I guess. On Eli Manning...

Ah, forget it, I just take a stab at writing a response.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write to us and share your thoughts on the Green Bay Packers, [REDACTED]. I can tell you are incredibly passionate about the team and care about their long term success. Go, Pack. Go! Am I right? Who is your favorite player on the Packers? I really like Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Do you have any fun gameday rituals? I wear the same socks every game. Hahaha. What is your favorite tailgate food? If you're from Wisconsin, it must be bratwurst, right? I sometimes make chili though too. Do you like sauerkraut? I love it. You know a lot about football, you must have played. High school? I played tight end and punter. Did you know Tim Masthay's nickname is "Ginger Wolverine"? Pretty awesome, right? Wolverine is my favorite X-Man. Haha. Who is yours? Do you like going to Packers' games? Lambeau Field is so cool, right? It's great when everyone yells, "Go, Pack, Go!" and does the wave. I'll bet you have some good ideas about plays the Packers should run. You should send them to the coaches. Hahaha. Bye weeks are so boring, aren't they? Anyway, it was great to hear from you. Keep up the great work as a Packers fan and Get Loud Lambeau, right? Ha! Did you get one of those shirts? You should they are cool. Go, Pack!
Frank Hillside

I really think I matched the sophistication of the initial email. I hope [REDACTED] writes back. Pen pals are fun. Feel free to use this email as a template when responding to other "passionate" fans.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 People You Don't Bring to a Tailgate

1. The Sloppy
A little splash here, a broken bottle there – it’s all good for the Sloppy. After all, it’s a party and that’s why they invented napkins and washing machines. It’ll only get worse as the day goes on as you watch the Sloppy’s drink hand flail around in new and unexpected ways with every first down. Anyone sitting within a five-foot radius of this person during the game is going to get wet. I suggest donning your custom Gortex jumpsuit before you head in. If you can’t spot the Sloppy within the first half hour, you are the Sloppy.

2. Cell Phone Guy
You tailgate for the comradery. To catch up. To BS. To enjoy each other’s company while sharing the common interest in that of the team. But Cell Phone Guy has never grasped that concept because his head is either buried in his phone or he’s talking to someone (probably quite loudly). If it buzzes, tones or rings, he must give it full and immediate attention.

3. Sir Betsalot
I have no problem throwing a little cash into a friendly wager or fantasy football. But when Sir Betsalot comes along, he’ll want to not only gamble on every game that day, but also every possible spread or statistic he can think of, or that you want to volunteer. There might even be kickers, bonuses or parlay opportunities. Your fellow tailgaters will hear a lot of “You want in?” that day. The odds are usually in his favor if for no other reason than he has the most experience and you just bet to get him to shut up. Just so no one forgets, this walking casino will take copious notes on every bet and remind the group who took what throughout the day.

4. In Ted We Trust Guy
This one is unique to the Packer fan kingdom. At the end of the day, you have no clue what a Packers draft pick will turn into. So amid mock drafts and mass speculation diarrhea, I love the phrase “In Ted We Trust” – you need to just have faith that Ted and the organization know what they’re doing. However, I’ve seen people so pro TT that in their eyes, Ted Thompson is impervious and undeserving of any criticism and only worthy of never-ending praise. Infallible. First round a bust? Not his fault. Just lost in the playoffs? Just part of his plan. Don’t bother to question whether the Packers will win that day because you know the answer you’ll get.

5. The Scab
This person shows up with nothing but a healthy appetite. Maybe they’ll use the excuse “I didn’t know we were supposed to bring anything.” Five minutes later they’ll be sitting in your chair, drinking your beer, and asking what’s on the menu. If you ask for money, he’ll insist he’ll “get you next time.” The ongoing reckless indulgence and subsequent excuses are simply part of this seasoned moocher’s resumé. Do not hesitate to publicly shame the Scab – it is our only hope.

6. Dale Kazwicki
Just trust me on this one, OK?

7. Man of a Thousand Requests (MoTR)
A close relative of the Scab, the MoTR wants you to make him a drink – whatever that yummy-looking thing you made for yourself that probably costs $15 inside. Same goes for your food. He has no boundaries. In fact, he might even ask to go inside your car to pee in a bottle instead of waiting in line at the official bathrooms. He wants to trade places with you at the game. Any time someone leaves a seat at the game, MoTR asks them to pick up another drink, and perhaps some nachos. And at the end of the night, he’ll want a ride home because he got too wasted. But first he wants you to swing through Taco Bell. Oh, and can he borrow five bucks?

8. Agenda Guy
This guy begins to deflate your tailgate before it even begins. Expect numerous emails with itemized lists of responsibilities and well as a tentative schedule disguised as “options.” His OCD carries over in ways you never imagined, and while you appreciate the fact he is prepared for every possible scenario, adhering to his strict timelines and strategic rendezvous points will make your party suffer.

9. Uncle Rico
“Yes, I believe you could throw the ball over that row of cars and hit me in the numbers on the run. You don’t have to prove anything.” For the Uncle Ricos of the world, the football is the first thing in the car and the first thing to come out when you get there. At minimum, there will be lengthy, competitive game of catch. More than likely, there will be play calling and you will run the play as designed and clearly called out by your group’s Uncle Rico. The other tailgaters in the lot will just have to grow eyes in the back of their heads. By the end of the day, you will have apologized to no less than five groups for Uncle Rico smashing their bottles or knocking over their grills. It’s all for the tailgate glory.

10. The Loud Mouth             
Urban Dictionary actually summarizes a Loud Mouth pretty well.

Moreover, while in a group of his so-called peers, he’ll feel that much more empowered to speak his mind and trash talk the out-of-town family with little kids wearing the opponent’s jersey. You’re lucky if he gets away with just offending someone. If you think he’s an embarrassment to be associated with at your tailgate, wait until you get into the game. Note: the Loud Mouth is an equal gender offender.

Did I get them all? Do you think this article could appear on Buzzfeed? Be honest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Favre-orite Moments: Fan Submissions

In honor of Favre week, I polled my Packer friends for their Favreorite Favre memory. I was not disappointed. Thanks to everyone who responded. Enjoy…

"Who can forget Favre’s touchdown pass to Andre Rison in Super Bowl XXXI when he immediately took off his helmet and sprinted toward the sideline? Pure elation. Although I was only four years old at the time and don’t remember it happening specifically, that’s still one of my favorite Favre highlights."

"Has to be the Monday Night Football game against the Raiders the day after Irv died. 311 passing yards and 4 TDs – all in the first half. The receivers and tight ends catching everything he threw up. One of those games where you remember exactly where you were and who you were with, and you just had that feeling that something special was happening."

"I still remember the snapshot of him running in the TD and BARELY placing it on the corner of the end zone in the Superbowl 31. What a play!"

"End of the season 2003-2004. Felt like we were the team of destiny. We had the Monday night smashing of the Raiders where Favre set records after his father died. We snuck into the Wild Card game when the Vikes lost on a last-second touchdown by the terrible AZ Cardinals. Al Harris makes Matt Hasselbeck's OT dream of, 'we want the ball and we're gonna score!' come true. 52-yard pick six. And finally the heartbreaking, fist mashing, 4th and 26 against Donovan McNabb and Freddie Mitchell (an otherwise utterly forgettable receiver). Though not strictly a Favre moment, the highs and lows of that season make it my favorite time to be a Packer fan." 

"Sure there are a lot of them to choose from, but I still go back to 1994 and the last game at County Stadium. Funny how memory works, up until about a year ago, I had convinced myself this game was against the Bears instead of the Falcons. Well, I was politely, but sternly, corrected by a nice old lady. In sum, Packers are down by three with 21 seconds left, ball is on the nine yard line. Plenty of time to throw to the endzone and score. Plenty of time for an incomplete pass stopping the clock for a field goal. Brett Favre, 'Nah, I’m just going to end this right here.' I’m not sure who jimmylegs06 is, but I like his style." 

"The Raiders game the day after his father died. The initial shock. The speculation whether he’d even play. The nationwide support when he ran onto the field. The explosion of passing offense. The team stepping up like I’ve never seen. The heartwarming walk off the field with Deanna. Sports aside, I’ve never been so glued to the TV."

"I was at Lambeau stadium the day he replaced Don Majikowski (injury), the collective group of 65,000 strong were muttering under their breath...will this guy be any good? I think we know how that turned out..." 

"I had the privilege of sitting next to Brett Favre's father, during a preseason scrimmage one year at Lambeau. Wow what a treat, a true football family from Kiln, MS.  His father was a coaching legend and Brett took his teachings to heart."  

"Favre against the Raiders on Monday Night Football after his dad died is one of the greatest individual performances of all time, considering the circumstances."

"Every time he ran to the end zone after a TD pass and threw DD or another receiver over his shoulder in celebration brought a smile to my face. It was refreshing to see greatness and fun go hand in hand, and made me feel like he could be at the local school with me and my buddies in one of our pickup games."

"Watching the Raiders game with my own Dad after Favre lost his father. Magical performance. I was home from college and the timing of that moment could not have been better for my Dad and me to watch it together."  

"Kind of random but it was a MNF game versus the Jaguars I watched in a bar in Minneapolis amongst Vikings fans. I was proudly decked out in green and gold so the patrons enjoyed giving me crap the entire game. For most of the night, they were reveling in the Packers losing, but Favre slowly chipped away and capped the comeback with a six-yard run with about a minute left. The Vikings fans were stunned and man, did I let them have it."

"I was attending game with my best friend from high school—it was Nov. 12, 1995. The previous week Favre and the Packers lost at dome in Minnesota and Favre severely sprained his ankle and was knocked out of the game. This was the famous TJ Rubley game. No one knew if Favre was going to start the next game. We got to game and sat in our seats….Bears games are always fun and they were getting ready to announce the starting lineups—this week was the Offense’s turn to be introduced. (Coach Holmgren always switched every other home game introducing D and O starters). Well, Holmgren kept all 3 QBs (less Rubley who was cut that week) in tunnel and when they got to the final announcement (QB usually) the announcer said “and starting at quarterback from Southern Miss…..” after that you could not hear a thing….the roar of the crowd at that moment was so deafening. It was awesome and definitely gave me chills. Favre proceeds to beat the Bears that game (even as a light snow came down) and ending up throwing for over 300 yards and 5 TD passes basically all on one leg. One of my favorites that I was fortunate enough to witness first hand. One of the best NFL games I have even been to because of the buzz and energy in the stadium after the starting lineup were announced and to beat the rival Bears was just an overall great game. Packers 35—Bears 28."

"Not an individual memory, but more like a collective appreciation of his time in GB. Was fortunate that Favre took over essentially as my youth began, and got absolute enjoyment just from seeing him have fun out there. Can still remember playing catch after games and mimicking the announcer as we played, saying, 'Favre to Sharpe!'"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

He's a Big Fella

After all these years of watching Packers' games in various cities across the county and around the world, I should no longer be surprised when I encounter a group of Packers' fans. Anywhere. Yet sometimes, I still am. This was the case a few weeks ago when I sitting in a hotel bar in some backwater airport. I overheard a conversation between some sales guys who were heading back home to Wisconsin. Maybe it wasn't so much that I had come across fellow Packers fans that surprised me in this instance, but rather, it was their conversation. I tried to recall as much of it as possible, so I could share it with you. Enjoy.

"Me? I'm from Neenah."

"Where the hell is Neenah?"

"Well, it's..."

"Say, do you guys know Jeff Janis?"

"You betcha, I know Jeff Janis. He's a big guy. Goes about 6'3" 220. Loves his hunting."

"Jeff Janis is helluva football player."


(Managed to snap a pic of the salesmen.)
"Did you know I saw Jeff Janis play football in high school?"

"Jeff Janis? He's a big fella, isn't he?"

"Oh, yeah. Goes about 6'5" 245. Runs a 4.1 forty."

"Anyway, in high school, he once looked at the cheerleading squad during a timeout. Rare moment of distraction for Janis. well, the next week, every cheerleader had to go 'visit their grandparents' for the next nine months. Hell, even the two guys had to go."

"Best looking set of babies this side of Lake Michigan."


" did I ever tell you about the time Jeff Janis was about to play both ways and special teams against the Alabama Crimson Tide? So, Saginaw Valley University was scheduled to play Alabama in a non-conference game. Both teams were warming up on the field, and Nick Saban looks over and sees Jeff Janis stretching. Next thing you know, Saban orders every Alabama player back on the bus and told the driver to take them straight to the airport. He didn't even let his players take off their pads."

"Well, if you're talking about Jeff Janis, I believe it."


At this point, these sales guys are on their fifth flight delay and deep into their twelfth pitcher of beer, and the conversation starts getting interesting.

"Say, did I ever tell you about the time Jeff Janis took me bow-hunting? You know, Jeff Janis. He's a big guy."

"Goes about 6'8" 265, runs a six second 100 meter dash, benches 385."

"Right. So, Jeff Janis takes me bow-hunting, and we come across a herd of rhinoceros."

"Wait, wait, wait....a herd of rhinoceros? In Wisconsin?"

"I know, I was as surprised as you, but, you know, it's Jeff Janis...."


"So one of these rhinoceros...rhinoceri? of these big fellas was limping pretty bad, so I thought it might be best to put it out of it's misery. You know what Jeff Janis did? He walked right up to that rhinoceros, looked it in the eye, and then proceeded to clean and bandage the rhino's wound. That rhino still talks about Jeff Janis to this day."


I sat at the bar listening to these guys, knowing full well how the legend of Jeff Janis has grown in some circles of Packers' fandom over the past year. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, I jumped in, "Are you talking about Jeff Janis? I KNOW Jeff Janis."



The tales of Jeff Janis' accomplishments, talent, virility, and size (He's a big fella. Last I heard, he went 7'4" 324 and there wasn't a radar gun that could accurately measure his speed) continued for two more flight delays and several more pitchers of beer. Finally, my flight number was called, and I stumbled out of the bar. By this time, I was convinced that Jeff Janis, by himself, was going undefeated next year. "TO JEFF JANIS!"

Once the shine of flat, airport beer wore off, however; it dawned on me that Jeff Janis has an almost impossible task of living up to his own legend, regardless of what that healthy rhinoceros or

...these guys say.

Huh....well, if Quickie is on board, I guess that's good enough for me.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Zen and the Art of Card Collecting

A few years ago, my mom delivered a few boxes of my childhood things. There were a few items worth holding onto, but most of it was going to end up at a donation center or the trash. The highlight of those boxes was my card collection.

This was no ordinary collection. By 6th grade, I had arguably assembled the best card collection of any kid I met growing up. Years of buying and trading had left me with two massive binders (a major and minor league one, if you will), a couple sets, dozens of individually slabbed rookie cards and other miscellaneous gems.

Barry Sanders, Cal Ripken, Bo Jackson, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan were all very well represented. I literally spent hours going through every single card that day, appreciating the history of each one as well as the lot as a whole and feeling as though I was on the winning side of sports betting. Even from an adult’s perspective, I had to admit that this was one hell of a collection – regardless of who put it together.

My main binder was sorted by player, and each individual page was perfectly balanced by a combination of book value, sentimental appeal, and perceived coolness of the card. It contained only the elite versions of the player’s card from each card manufacturer. These were cards of players I kept and admired for their longevity and consistency, which was clearly evident by their accumulated statistics on the back of the card. Think Nolan Ryan, Dan Marino, George Brett, Wade Boggs/Tony Gwynn (essentially interchangeable but slight edge to Gwynn). Even my box of “commons” could contend with other kid’s collections. It was full of All Stars, Pro Bowlers and future HOFers but players I couldn’t get too excited about: Roger Clemens, Emmitt Smith, Karl Malone and Thurman Thomas, for example. 

The truly amazing cards – 1950s Mantles, Mays or Clementes, the Lew Alcindor Topps rookie, a Babe Ruth Goudey – you never saw those outside of card shop or show. Only once did I come across a kid whose dad miraculously kept some of his cards from his own childhood, and we only saw those beauties once or twice in secret while his dad was out of town. If some kid actually owned one of these historic cards, their credibility was instantly lost because you knew Mommy or Daddy bought it for them, and now they were just being spoiled braggarts.

No kid owned this card.
An honest collection was acquired through mowing lawns, allowance, birthdays, chores, trades and dedication. That’s what made the impact of the binder, especially, all the more significant when comparing. It was really a representation of the passion for your collection. It didn’t necessarily need to be huge and expansive (quantity does not equal quality), but it needed to be appreciated. Were the cards centered in their sleeves? Did he handle the pages with care? Could he insert a card into a case without damaging the edges? These were legitimate concerns, especially if you were to engage in the art of trading where you were going to trust him to potentially handle your cards and ask him to put that trust back into you.

And you could also see what the guy’s interests were. What era, what sport and what player card you were into said a lot about you. If the heart of your collection was full of Score Tim Raines and Jim Kelly, I’d probably just keep that to yourself. If you somehow compiled a page full of 1986 NBA Fleer rookies, you definitely had my attention but then we would have to chat why those cards weren’t in individual cases.

A good friend, John, was obsessed with his precious 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly. To be sure, it was a kind of a classic looking card and Mattingly was a solid player, but the card didn’t exactly blow my hair back. But the fact it was always off limits interested me. Any discussion of moving it – no matter how ridiculously advantageous the offer for John was – sent him into a heated defensive retreat. No trades. No way. End of conversation with immediate change of subject! And therefore, I had to have that card. Can’t say I ever pried it away from John, but months later acquired it elsewhere for a Tony Gwynn Fleer rookie. I realize now I didn’t want the card as much as I wanted the memory and story behind the card.

For fun, I decided to research some of their current day prices online. It would be an understatement to say this process left a bad taste in my mouth. Time after time after time cards that were bought and sold at market prices while I was growing up were selling for a fraction of what they cost today. A Walter Payton rookie for $40? A Yount rookie for $10? You have GOT to be kidding me.

This is a joke, right?
I learned that the card manufacturers mass produced these things like crazy. They got away with it because nobody outside the industry really knew. Cards you were led to believe were scarce and valuable were printed by the boatload, and things really got inflated in the late 80s and early 90s. That time period was both the height of the card collecting craze and the time period I grew up collecting. It was nothing more than a money-making scene that millions of kids bought into. Hundreds of dollars. Cards. Binders. Sleeves. Cases. Price guides. Certificates. A joke. The Internet literally made people aware of the surplus, slapping our faces, essentially saying “Oh, you thought your card was special? That’s cute…”

I often still get asked to evaluate someone’s childhood collection for its monetary worth and it kind of breaks my heart to tell them. I see ads all the time for collections. They cite the names and the years and I know immediately: junk. The only cards that still fetch high premiums today are the ultra-rare old, often graded ones. It really is unfair.

In 2011, I sold my collection for $100 to some guy on Craigslist. The ad said “someone is going to have a great time going through all of this.” This random guy, with zero connection to the cards, was thrilled to “take them off my hands.” It was painfully obvious that he was only thinking he struck gold with some sucker’s cards who knew nothing about their true value.

He was right.

Regardless of its monetary worth, a card’s overwhelming inherent value is the history to the owner. It’s the reason I took such pride in that collection and also the reason I regret selling it. Each and every card was purposefully kept and organized because of my unique personal connection to it. Like that Mattingly. Or like the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card my dad and I bought at the card shop on my 10th birthday that I never once took out of the plastic holder.
My favorite card of all time.
I could re-purchase some of my favorites, I suppose, at a fairly low cost. But they’d be someone else’s story. And buying them now would cheapen the legitimacy of the effort it took to acquire them back in the day. It wouldn’t be the same – not even close. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Send a Raven...a Hand May Have Been Named

A lot has been made about the whisper coming out of Green Bay yesterday that Mike McCarthy could be relinquishing his play-calling duties for the upcoming Packers' season. This has, undoubtedly, made some folks very happy. The problem is, too much is being made of the word, relinquish. "You think a crown gives you power?"

I think the proper term to describe this potential shift in authority is, bestow. The fact of the matter: Coach McCarthy will not be laying down his sword; rather, he is entrusting his power to the hands of another. The men his successor will be commanding will be the same. The tactics this man will be using to command them will be the same. And in the end, they all swear fealty to McCarthy. "I think armies give you power".

I neither agree, nor disagree, with this prospective change. However, I think it shows prudence on behalf of McCarthy. He is able to look at his performance in battle and reflect on it, critique it, learn from it. Coach McCarthy is able to celebrate and recognize where he has prevailed, and yet, he can also acknowledge where he may have had shortcomings. "Once you've accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you."

I liken this move to naming a Hand of the King. The Hand of the King is the most powerful position on a team's offense. He claims the full trust and authority of the King. His station allows the King to address matters elsewhere, as he sees fit. The Hand also makes decisions on the King's behalf at the Small Council, and yet, he is always and forever beholden to the King. Instead of being an independent voice and an instrument of free will, he is a proxy...albeit one of great power. Any act that is not like-minded and meeting the King's approval, will be amended swiftly and, presumably, with great vengeance.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether you celebrated in Flea Bottom or scoffed from the Red Keep at this potential change, when you play the game of thrones, you win, or you lose. There is no middle ground.

The King is still the one in power, and he is still the one playing the game.

...also, "It's not easy being drunk all the time. If it were easy, everyone would do it."
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