Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Derek Jeter And The Perversey Jersey

Ah, the remembrance of things past that I can’t show you, not that I would want to.
For instance, one semi-prospective client wanted us to promote their book, Arnold Palmer and the Golfin’ Dolphin. It was a legitimate book in that it had covers and pages and an assortment of nice words and illustrations after a fashion, and it ostensibly had Arnold Palmer’s permission, because him suing them was not the reason they went out of business. No, the reason they went out of business was that as a work of existentialist children’s fiction involving the world’s most highly evolved mammal and a golf legend, it stunk. It was the Watch The Throne of dolphin-golfer children’s-fiction mashups, and still it blew huge literature chunks.
As a sometime children’s author and songwriter, I understand the seductiveness of the golfin’/dolphin rhyme. It took the influence of an Indian holy man to keep Lennon and McCartney from going completely golfin’/dolphin crazy. One can only imagine the different path “Let It Be” would have trod had the two lads not restrained themselves. (Fortunately, I have no such restraint issues: “When I find myself in trouble golfin’/Arnold Palmer comes to me/He says, ‘Ignore the dolphin/It’s a par-three.’”)
I can’t show you the book, because my partner Dean and I found it in the course of cleaning out our offices, dropped it on the doorstep of the nearest elementary school, rang the doorbell, and ran. So I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the greater New London school system, where it’s probably celebrated as art.
Let us move from Arnold Palmer and the Golfin’ Dolphin to the leather mini-replica-jersey equivalent of Arnold Palmer and the Golfin’ Dolphin. I thought I knew everything that went down during the Handful O’Landfill era, card-wise; I even knew of the Classic Winnebagos set, though I pretended not to, and in fact went into the kitchen for a drink every time they entered the room. I especially thought I knew everything that a major manufacturer had ever thought of, including NBA Hoops folders and Donruss Red Zone football, the John Carter[1] of football CCGs. But I had never, ever heard of Topps Jersey Topps until I saw the press release.
You know you’re in for a spin in the dunk tank when you see the name: Topps Jersey Topps. It’s a palindrome. No, no, not a palindrome. It’s that thing where it sounds the same backwards and forwards. A pun – that’s it! A pun. No, it’s not a pun.
See what Topps Jersey Topps did? It made me screw up the Dead Parrot Sketch.
No other manufacturer felt compelled to work its name into a product this way. There was no SkyBox Basketball SkyBox set, no Pro Set Football Pro Set, no Fleer Baseball Fleer, though Fleer Flair came a little too close for comfort. Only Topps felt the second Topps was necessary, though pretty much by definition a jersey is, you know, a top.
As alluded to earlier, Topps Jersey Topps (I can’t get used to the name; it reminds me too much of Canadian postage stamps) is a set of miniature leather replica jerseys.
That word combination seems random, so let’s break it down.
The jerseys are miniature because you can’t J-hook a Mark McGwire uni in the notions aisle of a Kum ‘n’ Go.
They’re replicas (I’m saving the leather for later) because the MSRP on even a Sammy Sosa game-worn is liable to be out of the financial reach of the Kum ‘n’ Go night manager who is the demographic target of this particular set.
They’re jerseys because stirrup socks aren’t sexy enough, at least not on Cal Ripken Jr.
And they’re leather because … because. Because cloth is too downscale. Because Topps confused a set of baseball cards with a Bentley Flying Spur.
Well, let’s go to the press release. Maybe it has some guidance.
Here we are: “Each Jersey is designed to simulate the feel of cloth and crafted from genuine flexible leather, rather than a hard, molded plastic.”
That’s it. Make the jerseys out of leather to simulate cloth because it’s easier to make leather feel like cloth as opposed to plastic.
While this happens to be true, it’s also meaningless. Of course leather is a more cloth-like material than plastic. It’s also a more cloth-like material than lead or molybdenum. And let’s deal with the elephant in the room right now: the most cloth-like material of all is cloth.
Later in the press release we find, “Each one is also painted to scaled specifications of the original, authentic jersey and includes all team logos and player names.”
Again we say: that’s it. Paint the leather jersey instead of screen-printing a cloth one – or better yet, making it out of wool and shrinking it like a Tom and Jerry zoot suit.
As for the raison d’etre of this particular product, Topps must have suspected there would be questions, because it came prepared with an answer: “Fans and collectors now have the perfect item to attain autographs.”
Not even dealing with the fact that it’s way easier to obtain an autograph than attain one, if I were an official league baseball or an 8x10 glossy, I would be royally pissed right now. In fact, I’d be hiring a game-used home plate to ram Topps Jersey Topps’ teeth down its palindromic throat.
The best thing about Topps Jersey Topps is not the price, though we all can agree that $9.99 is a small price to pay for painted leather meant to feel like cloth, the perfect item to attain autographs. Nope, the best thing about Topps Jersey Topps is there are only six of them in the set (I can’t believe you want to know this, but anyway: McGwire, Sosa, Ripken, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., and Derek Jeter).
While I’m sure there are other HOL-era collectibles from the major manufacturers that I’ve missed, I don’t know whether anything else will offer the combination of ham-handed concept and bone-headed execution to match Topps Jersey Topps.
Though I’m guessing the golfin’ dolphin folks would be up to the challenge.

[1] Or Ishtar or The Postman or Waterworld or Heaven’s Gate or the last decade-and-a-half of Adam Sandler movies.

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