Tuesday, December 10, 2013

That's Dich Trickel To You

My running feud with racing cards has been well-documented. Basically I assert that racing cards – stock-car-racing cards, as if there were any others – try to make way too much out of way too little[1]. Racing cards fire back with something snappy like, “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re old. And ugly, too.[2]” And then we push each other a little and NASCAR cards pretend to fall down and break their leg because they watch a lot of Premier League soccer, and we both wind up in the principal’s office on double-secret detention.

Honestly, though; do the math. There are roughly 40 NASCAR Winston Cup[3] drivers and subs. Each one has a car. There is no reason for a racing set to contain more than 80 cards, yet Traks and Finish Line and SkyBox and Upper Deck would roll up to the start line with 200-card sets so overstuffed with mechanic cards and transporter cards and impact-wrench cards that getting a Lake Speed in a pack was a real accomplishment. When you’d find him you’d do your little NASCAR-card happy dance and point in the air with your pointer fingers and titter, “I got Lake Speed! I got Lake Speed!” It was only a couple minutes later after the initial charge had worn off that you sat down and said very quietly to yourself, “Oh. I got Lake Speed.”

So given all that, I ought to like, or at least not hate, the Hi-Tech Brickyard 400 Race Preview set. Right at the top of the spec sheet it says, “75-80 card set.” Now, you might quibble that it’s missing a hyphen, or that if you’re making a spec sheet to sell your card set that you really ought to know how many cards are in your set, but no matter. It’s an appropriately sized set, and that’s what matters – right? Right?

Well, maybe not so much. Note that the card set is for one race and one race only – the Brickyard 400 – and the race hasn’t even been run yet.

To give you a parallel, that would be like making a football set for the Texans-Jaguars set before the game. Gotta build up that anticipation.

Okay, so maybe it’s a little more than making a football set for the Texans-Jaguars game. Maybe it’s like making a set for the entire league for a really important game. Like Donruss Opening Day.

Hmmm. Better scratch that analogy, too.

So there is no analogy that makes the Hi-Tech Brickyard 400 Race Preview set look like anything other than a bad idea. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea. Let’s look at the rest of the specs.

According to the sell sheet, the cards feature five-color printing (for those times when four-color simply isn’t enough), purple and gold foil, UV coating, and a limited edition of 2,500 sets. Especially on a day when I was reading about Collector’s Edge’s plan to strictly limit production to 100,000 of each card, 2,500 sounds all right.

In fact, things were going along swimmingly between me and the Hi-Tech Brickyard 400 Race Preview set until I read this: “On August 16, 17, 1993, thirty-two teams and thirty-four drivers participated in practice sessions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the inaugural Brickyard 400. Excitement and enthusiasm ran rampant among stock-car teams and dedicated race fans in anticipation of the August 6, 1994 event. This set, second in a three-part series of the Brickyard 400, details the action and events of the two-day test session leading up to this year’s run to the bricks on the Greatest Race Course in the World.”

Reading between the lines of slipshod writing (Run to the bricks? Greatest Race Course in the World? Greatest Semi-Round Strip of Asphalt Encircling Drunk Morons in Winnebagos, maybe), do you realize what this is? This is a race-car set of cars not racing but practicing to race a race that isn’t going to be raced for a year. Not only that, but this isn’t a 75-80-card set but one of three 75-80-card sets, pumping up to 225-240 the total number of cards dedicated to a practice run for a race that had never been raced before. That is one big ol’ heapin’ helpin’ of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Not only that, but – hold me back, now; hold me back – take a good, close look at the sample cards. Do you see what I see, high up on the page, shepherd boy? (Sorry.) It’s a star all right – Jeff Gordon, the biggest star in the sport at that time. Only look at the spelling of his name: Geoff Gordon.

No freaking fooling. Hi-Tech, in the course of promoting one of its three sets of cards showing cars practicing to run a race one year later, screwed the unscrewable pooch of stock-car racing, the one name that’s absolutely impossible to mess up, Jeff Gordon.[4]

What kind of wacky-ass cardmaker does that?

To give you some perspective, because of the small number of drivers in NASCAR each driver is worth about 25 baseball or football players. So in essence Hi-Tech just misspelled the names of the 25 biggest stars in the sport of your choice – as in Gerry Ryz, Emmitt Smyth, Steve Younge, Jo Montana, Barrie Sanders, et al.

Several months ago, in one of my periodic paroxysms against racing cards, I named off all the race-card manufacturers but omitted Hi-Tech. On one hand, how prescient of me. On the other hand, how could I? They’re perfect.

And ugly. And old.

Neener neener neener.

[1]  Except for Morgan Shepherd, Dick Trickle, Dave Marcis, and your choice of Sterling or Coo Coo Marlin. Never can get enough of them cats.
[2] Sorry; that’s what my kids say. Stock-car cards just say, “Well …,” and then breathe real heavy for a while before turning and clomping off.
[3] Still the best marketing concept used in service of Death on a Stick.
[4] Confused him with the nonexistent F1 racer Geoff Gordon, obviously.

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