Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy HOLidays, Part 1

I have things backward in this entry, so forgive me.

My New Year’s resolution for “Handful O’Landfill” is that I will edit and compile these entries into a book-length something when I hit 50 entries – an event I would very much like to happen early in 2012. So the more posts, the better is my philosophy. But no sacrificing quality. No siree. You can’t do away with something that isn’t there to start with.

With New Year’s disposed of, on to Christmas.

My Christmas gift for you isn’t as tuneful as Phil Spector’s, but it also doesn’t involve wolverine-fur hairpieces or dumpsters full of cocaine. It’s also regifting, in a sense. I’m giving these to you, though I still have them physically. Because they are, like, valuable collectibles.

Nothing says Christmas like a holiday-themed Flik It Kick It Football, right? The fine folks at FIKI sent me this sometime in the early ‘90s and it wound up at work, of all places. I mean, who dreams of playing fingertip tabletop football at work? FIKIs were licensed for many college and pro sports teams, but they couldn’t escape the fact that as a functional item a well-folded-and-taped piece of filler paper worked better, and as collectibles, King-B Jerky Stuff discs beat them eight ways to Sunday. Mele kalikimaka anyway, boyos.

Moving on to the Christmas cards, I miss Inkworks. Not for its formulaic-in-a-pretty-good-way cards but for its Christmas cards, and especially for the folks behind Inkworks. Head Inkworker Allan Caplan defines “impish,” with a voice straight outta Brooklyn. I can still do a great, “Hi, Kiiiiiiiiit. This is Aaaaaaaaaaalan Caaaaaaplaaan.” Martha Modlin is an out-and-out sweetheart. And they both had the wacky idea that trading cards should be fun.

Every year Inkworks would send its A list a special card that promoted the season and its latest product in a fair-ish 25-75 split. Sometimes the product was good – Kung Fu Panda. Sometimes it was not so good – Angel. Sometimes it was just Inkworks being Inkworks. But they were always welcome, and I’m proud to say I never sold one when they were valuable, because now they’re worthless.

Quiz time! Fifty bonus points and my last unopened box of Pacific Flash Cards if you can tell me what the Bible verse is inside this card. That's right – "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven." I always associate Pete Seeger, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds with Joe DiMaggio, and I know you do, too. This effort is from Major League Marketing, renowned shouters-into-phones and distributors of Score and Pinnacle, and its subliminal purpose under Heaven was to promote Score Masters, one of the first attempts to fuse art and baseball cards, though not the ugliest.

The only thing missing from this card? The reindeer with the computer Photoshopping Eric Lindros' head on Santa's body.

And look! Here's Eric Lindros' head, attached awkwardly to the body of some minor-league hockey player.  "Peace on Earth" is written inside this Major League Marketing card, because minor-league hockey is synonymous with peace on earth. And chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

People paid big money for Pro Set's Santa Claus cards for reasons both clear and obscure. The clear reason was that people thought the trading card was rare, though "rare" in a Pro Set context meant "less than 2.7 million." Otherwise, the delightful Rick Brown art gives you plenty to ponder – cards of what appear to be a Giant and a Viking and a Bear in addition to the Man in Red himself, a Pro Set binder (full of Chris Berman cards, no doubt), and the Great Ones book, an NFL Properties production that like all NFL Properties productions marginalized the league's dynamic past in favor of a much-better-paying present. The faux elves peering through the window are Pro Set demagogue Lud Denny on top and (I believe)  NFL Properties chief John Bello below. Denny is plotting how to get the Big Guy to ditch the toymaking operation in favor of printing presses cranking out more of that great Pro Set Series II. Not sure what Bello is doing there. 

Brown returned in 1990 and ditched Denny and trading cards (except for some Pro Set packs, a Christian Okoye card and a possible Baltimore Ravens sighting, six years before they actually began play) in favor of NFL Properties' Super Bowl book project – another NFL-sanctioned attempt to mess with football's time-space continuum and split league history into B.C. (Before Commercialism) and A.D. (Anno Dominance). Carb-lovers should note the peanut M&Ms in the candy dish and a half-eaten Super Bar, the abortive Official Confection Treat of the NFL, at Santa's right hand. The December Employee of the Month is less of a scary clown than Lud Denny, unless it’s Denny in mufti, in which case it's totally scary-clown.

The next year, a recently-divorced-from-the-NFL Pro Set returned with another take on the Santa-Claus-as-card-collector theme. Note the NHL hat and the skates and stick hanging in the background, but no helmet. Hey, Santa: You really think that mane’s gonna protect you from an Al MacNeil slap shot? All right, man; it’s your Christmas.

Also notice the absence of any Puck/Rondelle bars. Based on last year’s greeting, I know why. They’re sleeping with the Super Bars.

A hockey card appears to be falling into the bag, along with a Yo! MTV Raps Boyz II Men card, a Payne Stewart PGA card, and a card of an unidentified Colt. Lud Denny makes another appearance as a poster elf. If the poster could talk it'd be telling Santa to set a few thousand cases aside for some special distributors who have been real nice.

This is the best Christmas card of all, and it’s from and for no one in particular. The credit line on the back reads “Mudville Baseball Art, Box 334, McIntosh, MN,” and even though you know the rest I’m going to say it anyway. There was no joy in Mudville when the makers of these cards figured out this Babe was not their salvation. But I still love it.

Finally, there was a time when the otherworldly illustrations of Mark Martin were a big part of my professional life. So while this isn’t a valuable sports collectible per se, I reproduce his holiday greeting in all its whacked-out glory, in fervent hopes that you go back and check out his 20 Nude Dancers 20 collections.

Merry Christmas to all. And watch out for the Martians.

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