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.