Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Have a Snot Sip, Rex Menu, Or Stoney's End

It was either write about these cards I found inside my desk or place my head on the aforementioned desk and nap.[1] You decide which was a better use of my time.

The technology is staggering (by 1990s trading-card standards) behind this SkyBox eX card, the more highly evolved version of the E-Motion card we pilloried months ago. The front is a mirror image of the back, yet nothing is reversed. Grant Hill’s jersey reads “PISTONS”  front and back, not “PISTONS” and “SNOTSIP.”[2] Even the writing on the basketball reads appropriately front and back. Near as I can figure, a graphic artist worked hours on each card un-backwardsing everything that went backwards when the image was flipped. It’s like building the Great Pyramid of Cheops with Macs.

It’s a gobsmacking little trick, but so what? Trading cards were the collectible equivalent of the Princess phone when this card came out, and this particular card wasn’t going to halt the slide to the abyss.

In that respect it’s a lot like a car ad. There’s a class of car ads that consists of footage of vehicles navigating ever more absurd settings – up the sides of walls, careening through pinball machines, whipping down the intestinal tract, dodging chunks of City Hall in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, plowing merrily through in the bowels of hell, outacting Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible movies, crossing the Atlantic, appearing suddenly in the middle of the battle of Yorktown – but in the end it’s just a car driving. You could have saved yourself $5 million, given the nice CGI man a day off, filmed a Chevy Malibu cruising down Grand Avenue, and sold just as many cars. Same here. You could have just put a nice Grant Hill picture on a nice piece of cardboard and sold as many Grant Hill cards as this double-positive piece of legerdemain.[3]

Note that I chose not to remove the protective film. That’s because I know what’s underneath.

One of my sons’ elementary-school classmates was named Jamyz, which always struck me as a particularly cruel hip-hop joke. For the record, I feel the same way about Mozaics.

The best way to describe Stoney Case is that he’s Tim Tebow without the athleticism, which begs the question: What was Signature Rookies trying to accomplish by making a trading card of him, paying money to have him sign it, and then attempting to market it as a collectible? There was no market for autographed Stoney Case cards, no pent-up demand for Stoney Case cards that built all through college and was only waiting for his matriculation(ish) from New Mexico to burst to the surface, and furthermore there was no path in professional ball that could have elevated him from emergency-starter status or make him anything other than the kind of quarterback that you tell, “Just hand off the damn ball."[4] The CFL didn’t want him, for Pete’s sake, and in the absence of the Lingerie Football League the only way things could play out was for Case to hold clipboards for four years, get thrown into the breach and found wanting (four TDs and 15 interceptions in 20 games, six starts), take a tour of several training camps and tryouts, and then pick up his career as a high-school football coach or insurance agent. He came and went, and like a Looney Tunes witch leaving bobby pins in her wake, he left behind this autographed card for us to remember him by.
I think I’m going to throw it away now.

Long before Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming there was the Upper Deck Chinese Basketball Alliance set. Call it prescience; I call it throwing crap on the wall to see what sticks.[5]

Unlike previous attempts to foist an outmoded technology on the lucrative Asian sports-collectibles market, the Upper Deck CBA set made no nods or winks to western markets. Well, other than the usual Upper Deck stuff, of course. In Taiwan, your chances of buying this set were slightly less than getting a good plate of pompano en papillote, while your chances of finding these cards at any church-basement show from Perth Amboy to Petaluma were greater than the odds of finding at least one attendee who thought “Old Spice” referred to nutmeg.

Given that, this set’s raison d’ĂȘtre grows fainter with each passing day. Because there is not a shred of English on these cards and no one in my pod reads Mandarin, I have no idea who these players are and what their relative goodness level is, other than to assume if the best you can do as a professional athlete is land on a team with the first name of “Luckipar,” you are probably not a professional athlete that needs to be immortalized on hundreds of thousands of cardboard rectangles. A simple line in a program will suffice, thank you.

That begs another question: Why is this person smiling? He is living in a foreign culture, eating dogs and eyeballs (and sometimes even dog’s eyeballs), he doesn’t understand the language – he can’t even tell you what it says on his shirt, for crying out loud – the beer tastes like soybeans, and he’s about 5,000 miles away from even the absolute worst franchise in the NBA, playing for a team so bad that not even Dexter Cambridge wants to play for them. I’ve got an idea: maybe it’s rictus. 

What’s better than a picture of a smiling basketball player in a jersey he can’t even read? A team-logo card of a team no one’s heard of, written in a language no one can speak, describing the glorious history of a franchise that can’t be very glorious, seeing as it only was in existence from 1993 to 2000, max.[6]
Turns out the team name was wrong on both counts. It wasn’t that lucky and it was way below par.

[1] An activity that requires a mouthguard, apparently. For those of you who don’t know, I work at a dental-insurance company, and because of my position I receive oral-health tips periodically. Today’s tip included a list of sports for which a mouthguard is suggested. The actual list included discus-throwing and skiing; the list we came up with added bocce, synchronized swimming, and falling asleep at your desk. So I should be wearing a mouthguard while typing this, just to be on the safe side.
[2] There’s a thought, huh, McLauchlin and Seals?
[3] Though speaking of post-apocalyptic stuff, isn’t it amazing that Grant Hill is still at it, creating separation from defenders and burying the fallaway 15-footer? He’s hit the same shot on Steph Curry and his dad. I swear, he’s the NBA’s very own post-atomic cockroach.
[4] So naturally he started games for Detroit and Arizona.
[5] Or, alternately, I call it someone at Upper Deck saying, “we should do a CBA set,” and forgetting that there was a Continental Basketball Association already alive and well (or at least, as alive and well as anything with Isaiah Thomas running it can be) in the United States.
[6] The league history (at is semi-fascinating, though. The first player to score a point in CBA history was named “Rex Menu,” which leads one to believe that Marvin Barnes chose his new alias at Denny’s.

No comments:

Post a Comment