Thursday, July 29, 2010

Woo. Who?

Trading cards have always been a problem child in terms of what we expect from them. We want them to show baseball the way we remember baseball: Hall of Famers on top and then a human pyramid with Sammy Khalifa at the bottom. We want Nap Lajoie rookie cards and a Jack Quinn card for each year he played. After that, we want trading cards of the other sports in order of modern importance: football, basketball, and hockey, please, but only football, basketball, and hockey.

Trouble is, our memories are faulty and our expectations are whacked. Sport wasn’t always a Gang of Four, and trading cards, in the process of doing their job, which was selling stuff other than trading cards, were not about to wrap themselves around modern conceptions of a point-in-time process. Trading cards started out showing pictures of weeds and butterflies and billiard players, graduated to burning babies, went from there to space aliens, and then capped it all off with an orgy that took them from Playboy centerfolds to lady bowlers to Flavor Flav.  The 1990s were simply the blowout beer party at the end of a misbehaving adolescence. We should not be surprised, but invariably, we are.

So it is in that rather conciliatory light that we consider Woo Daves.

Woo Daves was a bass fisherman. He still is a bass fisherman, in the same way that The White Stripes are still a garage band. His empire ranges from lures to videos to the Woo Daves Fishing Shoe, which “come with an exclusive footbed made of a polyurethane ‘comfort core’ orthotic.”

After reading up on Woo, it appears he was to bass fishing what Larry the Cable Guy was to standup comedy. Woo snatched bass fishing from the intellectual eastern bourgeois elite and returned it to its rightful owners, the proletariat of the American heartland. And by “eastern” we mean eastern Missouri and parts of Tennessee.

Woo was also in part responsible for bass fishing landing its network-TV gig, which is a wonderful thing. Seeing a professional bass fisherman extracting a fish the size of a Smart Car from a live well is a thrill that blows away a pair of sevens on the PocketCam, though it lacks the made-for-TV zing of a sea cucumber playing Minute To Win It.

Plus, his name is Woo. This makes him a perfect candidate for the role of dorky boyfriend in the classic song “Da Doo Ron Ron.” (“Yeah, my hair turned blue/Yeah, his name was Woo/And when he walked me home/Da doo ron ron/Da doo ron ron” etc.)

Given that, and given history, it is entirely meet, right, and salutary that Woo Daves should be on a trading card. And it just as meet, right, and salutary that we, as responsible collectors, should ignore the heck out of it.

Nothing against Woo, or his card, or the set which contains his card. Au contraire, Eau Claire; we think the Big League Bass set is wonderful. In contrast to many so-called “mainstream” sports-card sets, Big League Bass cards fished the weed beds at the edge of the current. They knew their audience. They were all about the fish, the guy holding the fish, the hat, the lure, the rod, the reel, the boat, the fish locator, and the comfort-core orthotic, in that order. They were never wildly overgrown or microscopic, and they never deigned to pose a fisherman in a gray herringbone from Yards 4 Pards.

If the Big League Bass set had wanted to make itself more alluring it would have infused its cards with the smell of pork rind and added wiggle action.

However, there is a difference between knowing and servicing the audience and creating a collectible. What Big League Bass did was extremely straightforward: it made a product aimed at fishermen. The product was a set of trading cards. It didn’t have hooks or monofilament or a smell that made retrievers want to roll in it, but it was a fisherman’s product just the same. Asking collectors to buy and collect it would have been the same as asking them to collect angleworms.

But hey, it’s a big collecting world out there. Maybe someone does collect angleworms. I inadvertently collected field mice, and fed them on a diet of ’64 Topps football cards. (Sob!)

There is hope for Woo Daves and the Big League Bass set as a collectible. Still, it’d be more appropriate to attach a treble hook to its butt end, troll it through a weed patch and see what bites.

Call it turnabout is fair play.

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