Not So Classic Anymore

The year was 1991 and I had in my head that I could play any sport out there. I wasn’t elite at anything but I was competent at all of it. I could throw, hit, shoot, dribble, tackle….you name it. Again, not unstoppable by any means but I was never nervous about stepping on to a field with strangers because I knew I could compete. We even had a volleyball league at our rec department when I was a little older and I enjoyed that. Full disclosure; one thing I have never been able to do is run fast, which is contradictory for the poster athlete of this set. And before your mind goes there, I haven’t always been fat so that’s not the primary reason I’m slow! At 14, I hadn’t quite figured out which sport I was going to try as my main sport. While I knew it wasn’t Track & Field, I was playing little league baseball, youth football and church league basketball at that time with varying degrees of success.You see, while I was able to play all of these sports, I had some deficiency in each of them as well (besides being slow). In baseball, I was very good with the glove and was an accurate, but not overpowering hurler. I could also make contact with the best of them. What I couldn’t do was hit for power or throw 70 mph. In football, I could be elusive for a slow guy; I could catch a football and could even read blocks at that level. However, I couldn’t overcome my lack of size and was flattened on occasion. I was always one of the smaller kids among my peers. In basketball, I have always been a good ball handler, accurate shooter and deceptive passer. But the one thing I couldn’t do, now or then, was jump very high. That takes me out of the basketball equation altogether. I was barely touching the rim in high school and was in the best shape of my life! Again, size may have played in to that. You may be muttering in your head something about hockey. Well, South Georgia is not known for ice staying frozen for more than about 5 minutes, so there’s that.I watched all of these sports on TV and would emulate my favorite athletes to the best of my ability. In 1991, it was a lot easier to take in sporting events because they were on less often. That sound’s like an antithetical statement but its true. It doesn’t mean I was watching MORE sports, it just means I was watching games closer. I had 2 teams that I could watch play baseball regularly and that was the Cubs and Braves. As a youngster, I gravitated toward Shawon Dunston because he was smooth. Basketball was on TV even less often but did hit NBC on Sundays. I loved Bird and Magic and would try to shoot and pass like them. Football was one game on Sunday afternoon (Falcons) and Monday Night Football. Scott Case was my guy with the Falcons. I remember recording some games and watching them make plays over and over. If there is one thing that size couldn’t stop me from doing, it was me trying to be the smartest player on the field.The point of all of this is that I was a multi sport guy at heart. I’m just not a multi sport guy from a physiological standpoint. So as a card collector who got his full time start in 1989, imagine my initial reaction to the release of 1991 Classic Draft Picks. For me, it was my first experience with multi sport. It may be the first set of its kind but I don’t know that for sure. I know it was the first classic multi sport set, although they continued through the better part of the 90’s. When this set released, I had to get my hands on these cards. I wanted all of these different athletes available in one single pack. But not only was it multi sport, it also featured many athletes that weren’t showing up in regular sets yet. It was really a cool concept and was pulled off well in ’91. Unfortunately, 26 years later, the cards didn’t age well.The set was 230 cards and featured draft picks from each of the four major sports that year. However, there was one glaring omission from the hockey portion of the set which I’ll cover shortly. The box came with 36 packs and 12 cards per, giving you the perfect opportunity to build the base set with one box, which I did with this one. The card design was pretty basic with a gray marble border and centered, but often poorly lit, photos. The backs of the cards were very plain with a lot of blank space. And then there was the UV coating. Why did card companies do this?? You will not pull any 9’s or 10’s out of this box but even if you did, I don’t think you’d have a card worthy of the fireproof.There were also a small amount of inserts featuring some of the top prospects in each sport. The set also featured unique Raghib “Rocket” Ismail cards due to his popularity. He was actually drafted #100 overall in the NFL but don’t let that fool you. There is a reason this set focused on him to a large degree. A box also gave collectors a shot at 1 of 50,000 autographed cards. That may seem like a lot of autographs to be floating around but remember production in the early 90’s is projected at a bazillion. I would guess that it’s the equivalent of pulling an auto numbered to 99 today but maybe I’m off. Did that stop me from crossing my fingers? You better believe it didn’t!I latched on to this set for one major player, Larry Johnson. Unless you were around in the early 90’s, you may not realize just how big Larry Johnson was in the sport of basketball. He was definitely talented on the court but he also made waves in commercials and cartoons. Surely you remember “Grand ma-ma”! The Running Rebels of UNLV were well represented in this set with Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony and George Ackles also present. The Rebels were amazing to watch! Johnson had a series within the base numbered cards that detailed a one on one matchup that he had with Billy Owens, the other big NBA prospect in the set. Owens was drafted 3rd overall and had a fairly productive career averaging double figures in scoring his first 9 seasons and for his overall career. He didn’t match the superstar status of LJ though.A few other names from basketball that were featured were Dikembe Mutombo, Rick Fox, Dale Davis and Stanley Roberts. Roberts was a 7’0, 285 lb. center at LSU that was actually the starter when Shaq was a freshman. There is a report that Stanley took Shaq to school while he was there too. They would later team up at Orlando with Shaq being the big guy on campus this time around. I always liked Stanley Roberts so I had to include him in this photo.In football, the set had a heavy Rocket Ismail feel, as mentioned above. The Rocket was a wide receiver and return man at Notre Dame. He was a highlight waiting to happen in college and almost won the 1991 National Championship with a 91 yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back for clipping. They lost 10-9 to Colorado. He finished 2nd in the Heisman voting and was widely considered the automatic #1 draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the ’91 Draft. Instead of heading to the NFL, he chose to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He was still drafted by the LA Raiders at pick 100 but did not play for them until 1993. He signed a record $18.2 million for four years to play in the CFL. That’s 1991 money folks! Doug Flutie was considered a marquee player and made $1 million per season. In his rookie season, the Argonauts won the Grey Cup and he was named MVP of the game, returning a kickoff 87 yards for a TD. The next year, the Argonauts struggled; Rocket became disenfranchised and signed with the Raiders. It took him six seasons before he had a 1,000 yard receiving season and he only had two in total. He was an electrifying player but took an odd career track which likely hurt his legacy as a football player. Imagine if Rocket in his prime joined up with Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin!Instead, the Cowboys chose Russell Maryland from Miami as the #1 pick. He is listed here with other standouts from the football portion of the set. One of the underrated draft picks found here is none other than Brett Favre. Ricky Watters, Ed McCaffrey and Ricky Ervins had solid NFL careers but McGwire, Marinovich and Ismail received more publicity. For those of you who were not born yet or were living under a rock, Dan McGwire was the football playing brother of Mark. Ervins had a very decent but short 5 year career in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with Washington his rookie season.Baseball was loaded with players who went on to have good careers but one name was above all else that year. That name was Brien Taylor. Scott Boras said in 2006, “Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher I’ve seen in my life. In high school, he amassed a 29-6 record with a 1.25 ERA and 213 K’s in 88 IP. He was throwing 99 mph in high school! Unfortunately for Yankee fans, and collectors worldwide, it didn’t translate to the majors. After a few years of struggling with mechanics, Taylor declined an invite to an instructional league and went home during the offseason. While home, he got in a fight and injured his throwing shoulder. He would then have surgery, miss a full season and come back the following year throwing almost 10 mph slower. He never appeared in a major league game. A few players who did appear in games and played pretty well are also pictured. Cliff Floyd spent some time here in Albany playing for our local minor league squad, The Albany Polecats.Finally, we have the hockey highlights. As you can see from Card #1 in the set, Eric Lindros is pictured. But strangely, he is not in the base set. He was in the Hockey Classics base set that year but was left out here for some reason. I thought initially it may have been some sort of contract issue but he was card #1 in the all hockey set. I openly admit that I am not a hockey guy. But I do know the names pictured. Peter Forsberg was a bonafide star and was elected into the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame. And who could forget Ziggy Palffy? There were other names that were vaguely familiar but I just don’t know enough about the sport to talk about it. I will try to get better gang.

The set as a whole had a ton of names that were familiar and many of the players were highly touted and never made it. Harvey Williams, and RB from LSU and Scott Stahoviak come to mind. There is a ton of nostalgia to sift through if you collected these cards at one time. The price point is nostalgia friendly too as I had this box purchased and shipped for $9. There are some issues though. This was printed as a “premium” set and used a similar UV coating to Topps Stadium Club and the cards were all stuck together. They did not come apart as easily as TSC either so a stack of the cards were damaged. Also, they have that bad aroma that comes with UV coating that has been hermetically sealed for a quarter century. The cards don’t carry much value but it was fun to remember the players and the design from that set. I had a lot of these cards floating around my collection back then but don’t ever remember having a Favre.

If you are a young collector that likes hits, this is probably not a set I would recommend you try. There are just too many issues with the cards and return on investment is non-existent. But if you are a 40 year old dweeb like me that likes to harken back to the days of his youth, I wouldn’t stop you from springing the $9 to take the ride. But be warned; it did get old at about pack 24.  The set gets an unfortunate score on the Dub-O-Meter of 2.  I almost gave it a 3 just for nostalgia reasons but I couldn’t justify it.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

The Bucket List

One of my favorite people to chat with about the hobby is Ryan (@basecardhero).  We have DM chat sessions sometimes that are probably like a couple of teen girls on the telephone reading Tiger Beat circa 1992.  That’s probably extreme but yeah, we have some entertaining banter.  We talk about hobby happenings, things we like and don’t like and what we are currently working on as it relates to sets or players.  I enjoy those conversations because we are a lot alike from a collecting standpoint.  Trust me, there is a lot to talk about when we chat.  The pic below is one he sent me of the cards he is sorting now.  My little collector brain almost exploded.  Our last conversation sparked an idea for this blog post. We were talking about the pains of hearing about “Zeke and Dak” and how the hype has made them less collectible in our eyes.  The conversation turned to hot prospects and Rookies of our youth and how we would’ve never tired of hearing about Ken Griffey Jr.  That led us to his 1989 Upper Deck Rookie Card.  More about that in a minute.I’ve been collecting a long time.  I started at around 11 and with a few hiccups along the way for growing up and experiencing new things; I am going on 30 years of lusting after cardboard.  I’ve picked up a lot of pieces along the way that have made me proud of my collection and I’ve talked about those in pretty good detail over the last couple of weeks in my “What’s In The Fireproof” series.  I also touched a little on things that are missing from my collection that I hope to add.  Robert Ballis (@RBallis) made a tremendously kind donation to that list with the addition of the Frank Thomas Autographed White Sox jersey a couple of weeks ago.  I am still searching for a way to somewhat even the score with Mr. Ballis.But the items I listed that I want for my collection are “wants” and are a matter of making purchases or trades.  Sometimes those items can be added with unmatched kindness like that shown by Robert.   There are other things that I list on my “Collecting Bucket List” that aren’t just pieces that are added.  The bucket list is filled with items that I am going to have to work for as a collector to add.  They are items that aren’t going to pop up on eBay and I click “buy”.  You can actually do that for almost anything but I’m working on a budget here.  I use a bucket list to outline “accomplishments” and not necessarily treasure items that are in my collection.  Although when the accomplishments are completed, they no doubt yield treasures.  Does that make any sense?Bottom line is I have a “wants” list and a “bucket list” and the bucket list is what I want to talk about today.  I WANT a UGA bloodline bulldog for the family and one day, maybe I’ll own one.  And that will be a glorious day much like the day I received the Thomas Jersey.  But on my BUCKET LIST, is traveling to Santa Monica and singing along to Everclear on the pier as the sun goes down.  When that gets accomplished, I know I can look back on my life and know that I met some goals.  Do you see the difference?  They are both great, but both very different.  So, enough half-ass explaining what I am trying to say and on to the actual bucket list.

  • I want to pull a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. from an actual unopened pack.  I know what you’re thinking; that’s not that big of a deal.  Let me tell you where I am coming from on this.  I have bought pack lots and boxes off of eBay for as long as eBay’s been around and it’s never happened.  The thing about ’89 Upper Deck is that even though they advertised “tamper proof” packs and more “advanced collating”, there a still a boatload of collectors that can tell you right where the Jr. is in most boxes.  And many more can open a couple of packs and figure it out.  I am not one of those people but I’m sure the boxes I have bought before have been picked over to a large extent and the Jr. has been removed.  It’s also an extremely large set, even by 80’s standards, with a checklist of 800 cards.  I didn’t get to buy many packs in ’89 because they were “so expensive” and they really weren’t available at my Wal-Mart.  I have 2 Jr’s in my collection but those were both obtained through buying the sets at reasonable prices.  I want that thrill of pulling one in a pack and it continues to elude me.
  • Let me increase the intensity just a hair with this one.  I want to own the complete 1984 USFL Topps Premier Edition.  Of course, these are available on eBay but again, the budget issue.  I can’t spend that kind of money on a box of sports cards as long as I have kids in the house.  I don’t know if I could sleep at night.  That doesn’t mean I don’t look at it quite often on the various auction sites where it’s found.  I keep thinking that one day I’ll stumble on to one at one of the many vintage or antique shops I visit in my travels.  In the meantime, I pick up singles when I can find them.  If not put together over time, then one day I’ll have enough disposable income to spend on the set.  When I get to that point, I will be satisfied with my economic standing in life.  Again, that’s an accomplishment.  The ’84 USFL Set provides the first football cards for a plethora of NFL legends.  Among them are Reggie White, Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker.  There are also very serviceable NFL’ers like JoJo Townsell, Ricky Sanders, Anthony Carter, Doug Williams and Mike Rozier.  The list is much more extensive but I have to move on.
  • While we are on 1984, we might as well discuss the NFL version of ’84 Topps.  This is a set I want to put together through singles and packs when I can find them.  This set is even more prestigious than the USFL version and remains one of the most sought after football sets since 1981.  This set includes the rookies of John Elway, Dan Marino, Howie Long and Eric Dickerson.  Along with those star rookies, the “veterans” in the set include Walter Payton, Franco Harris, Ozzie Newsome, Jack Lambert and Joe Montana.  The set is loaded and the price for a box reflects it.  The packs will run you $40 and the dad gum empty box costs almost $100!  This one is going to take some time one card at a time but anything is possible.
  • Continuing the theme with sets I want to build, I want to put together a pre-1980 set of any sport.  I have looked at a few that I like but I’ve just never started the process.  I know that it’s going to take some time and I usually occupy myself with 80’s sets but I want to tackle this one eventually.  I like the 1975 baseball set and (@waxtopia) just brought that one back to the forefront for me.  But otherwise, I also like ’73 and ’79 baseball.  I would love to put together the 1972-73 Basketball set but that is a long shot.  As for football, 1973 is probably my favorite design but if I’m going to do it, I might as well try for ’76 when Sweetness was a rookie.  This one is a solid goal for me but I don’t know when I’ll get around to starting it.
  • Finally, the king of all bucket list items; 1986 Fleer Basketball.  Most collectors know that basketball left the card market after the ’81-’82 Topps set and would make a triumphant return in 1986 with Fleer.  If only I had known in 1986 just how important this set would be.  It was essentially a majority rookie set because it was the first basketball card for half the league.  Everyone knows about Michael Jordan’s rookie card in the set and I have that on my wants list.  But also included in the “RC” category are James Worthy, Chris Mullin, Isaiah Thomas, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley.  Let that sink in for a minute.  A large portion of the leagues very best players throughout the 80’s and 90’s have rookie cards in the 1986 Fleer set.  Singles are tough to get and are expensive, even for semi-stars.  The other issue with Fleer is counterfeits.  There are tons of Jordan’s but there are others that can trip you up on your way to a complete set when buy one or two at a time.  I will admit that this probably has a slim chance of success but it’s on the bucket list for a reason.  It is the ultimate goal for me as a card collector.

Another “item” I want to add that is a cross-over to my bucket list is a Jackie Robinson baseball card.  I don’t really care what condition or what year but I will add an authentic, non-reprint Jackie one day.  You know exactly where it’s going to go when I get it too!  What are some of your goals as a collector?  What are some of the sets or pack pulls that have eluded you over time?  Technology and access to cards has made the bucket list much smaller than it used to be but there are still lofty goals that each of us have circled that we want to meet.  For me, the ultimate culmination of this crazy life would be me sitting at the end of the Santa Monica pier with Mrs. Dub, singing “We could live beside the ocean” all while thumbing through my set of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards.  If things go the way I have them planned in my mind, that dream will one day become reality.

J-Dub

1981 Donruss – Why Gum, Why??

I’m turning the clock way back on this retro review.  I’m going all the way back to when I was 4 years old and the year the first DeLorean rolled off the production line.   Yes, we are taking a trip back to 1981 and we are going to look at a box of Donruss Baseball.  While 1981 was not all good with Bob Marley passing away and the first recognized cases of AIDS were diagnosed, there were much happier events going on as well.  Donkey Kong was released and was a smash hit!  I remember having chicken pox on Christmas Day when I was a kid but I had a handheld Donkey Kong game that helped keep my spirits up!  MTV also aired its first music video as the station was launched.  Videos on MTV are now ancient as it has become a lewd reality channel but believe me young kids, it used to play music videos 24 hours a day!Major League Baseball also went on strike in 1981 from June 12th to August 9th.  The All-Star game was actually played on the 9th and the regular season resumed on the 10th.  The strike of ’81 was caused by issues involving free agency and the owner’s expectation of compensation for losing a player.  The players called the strike but were provoked by the owners from all accounts I find.  An interesting tidbit from the strike was that reporters simulated the delayed All-Star game with a Strat-O-Matic and ran the scoreboard inside the stadium to mark the games progress.   The Strat-O-Matic used is now a fixture in the Hall of Fame.   The strike ended with the creation of a form of “Restricted Free Agency” and compensation to the owners that included picks from a pool of unprotected players from other teams when they lost a star to free agency.While I was only 4 at the time, I do like to share a personal story from the timeframe I’m covering in the review.  For that, I am going to go to an event in the general area, actually from 1980.  It was a fairly traumatic event for me and my parents and part of the reason they waited 6 years before having another kid.  I was 3 at the time and playing around an old race car that my dad and granddaddy had, called The Silver Bullet.  It was indeed a silver bullet as it was in a cylindrical shape and you sat in the “bullet” to drive it.  It was quite an odd site but I remember it to this day.   I couldn’t even find a photo to show except for the above and it only resembles it.   It’s not exact but it will give you an idea.   The car was not pulled on a trailer to the track but had a trailer tow bar assembly that hooked to the front two wheels and then connected to the truck.  When not in use, the tow bar laid back over the hood of the car.  It was pretty much like the image below but a little bigger.Being the adventurous toddler I was, I attempted to scale that tow bar as it was standing up in the air.   It did not end well. The tow bar toppled over and I fell to the ground.  The back of my head hit the ground and the tow bar landed on the top of my head.  It essentially smashed my skull and busted my head open.  I remember bits and pieces of the incident.  I remember my granddaddy or dad yelling, “Get the truck!”   I remember parts of the ride to the hospital and getting a shot after regaining consciousness post surgery.   It was truly a “near fatal” accident as the hitch hit my head only a couple of inches above my eye sockets, which would’ve been crushed.  I had tons of stitches, nightmares for a couple of years and bad headaches throughout my youth because of it.   I also wasn’t able to really play football because of headaches when I took a big hit.  But I didn’t learn my lesson because I busted the stitches right back open while leaving the hospital.  My grandmother asked me what happened and I said, “I hit my head like this” while actually banging my head again.   I have never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box!On to 1981 Donruss and more happy times.   I had not begun collecting at this point but I make it a habit to go back and buy cards from my childhood because the cards themselves take me back to those days and I find myself being a kid again.  I would not have thought about the head incident if I hadn’t been thinking about 1981 but all of the memories aren’t bad ones like that.   That one is more of a badge of honor these days because everybody has a good “the day I almost died” story.   Well, 1981 was the year Donruss was born.  It would later die a little, as did most collectors inside, in 1990 but that is a story for another day.  In 1981, Donruss was a raw newcomer to the hobby.   Fleer won a major court victory over Topps in 1980, which resulted in Topps losing its exclusivity in the sport.  Thanks to that huge win, Fleer and Donruss joined the party the following year.In ’81, Donruss included a slab of gum in packs just like Topps.  Let me tell you – the gum was relentless on the cards.  I trashed every gum faced card in the box because the gum had become one with the card.  Thank God that only lasted one year as Donruss switched over to puzzle pieces in ’82 that formed a large version of a Diamond King card.  Diamond King was introduced in 1982 as well.  The ’81 set was put together very quickly because of the short time between the court case and the beginning of the baseball season so they didn’t get to iron out any kinks until 1982.  When looking at the cards, it is no doubt a first year product.   Leaf, Upper Deck and Stadium Club did so much better when they came on the scene but they had more time to plan and photography was so much better by then.  The set is loaded with errors after a quick check on the Trading Card Database.  I don’t know if I’m ready to tackle a set yet while I’m still working through ’91 Topps.As for the design, the card was pretty standard with a white outer border, a large color border and then an interior thin black border.  The color border was either a color from the uniform or an alternate color for the team.  The Donruss Logo and ’81 was in the top left corner of the card while the team name was in the bottom right in block banner type letters.  The players name and position was bottom center with the players name being bold.  The names were below the color border.   The backs of the cards were quite busy.  Printed at the top of the card was “FIRST EDITION COLLECTOR SERIES” with the Donruss logo and a pair of crossed bats and balls underneath.  A wavy banner flowed out of the crossed bats.   Below that was the player’s vital statistics.   Then, the majority of the back of the card was made up of Career Highlights, in text, identified by year.  Finally, the player stats (1980 and Lifetime) was all the way at the bottom of the card.  The back was white with the banner being a pinkish color and the card stock was very thin.

Most of the photos used in the set were posed or staged photos.  There are a few action shots but even those appear to be from a practice or lightly attended spring training game.  There are some neat shots but the posed photos scream early 80’s!   Although the rookie class in ’81 Donruss was slim, the full checklist was strong.   The set included Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose and many other stars.  The slim rookie class only included Tim Raines, Mookie Wilson and Danny Ainge (Yes, that Danny Ainge) as chase cards.  Raines was recently inducted to the Hall of Fame so I was definitely looking to add a couple of his cards in this rip.

With our description in the books, let’s take a look at the hits from the box.  The set is devoid of any inserts other than a card with Rod Carew and George Brett called “Best Hitters”, George Brett and Mike Schmidt MVP’s and Steve Stone and Steve Carlton Cy Young’s.  Let’s see the magic!

The Rookies – I actually pulled all 3 rookies to have in this set but I saved the Raines for last in this post.  You’re going to love it!

The “Inserts” – I pulled 3 of the 5 award winner cards and I pulled dupes of them.

The Catchers – This group is headlined by Johnny Bench and Gary Carter but I couldn’t leave my man Bruce Benedict out.  I still have an old photo of a tiny Dub at Fulton County Stadium with Bruuuuuce in the background.
The Infielders – This is a LEGIT group of infielders, except maybe Horner, who I had to include just like Benedict.  Just take a moment and look at these stud names!
The Outfielders – Again, a solid group led by Rickey and The Hawk.  I always liked Dave Parker too and he looks scary on this card.  Of course, Lonnie Smith makes an appearance.
The Pitchers – Take your time and look at these names.  These are some solid pitchers.  Koosman was on the Nolan Ryan rookie card.  Rollie is rocking the sweet stache.  And The Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky looks like a raving madman!

My Best Pulls – I told you the gum was relentless….just look at this.  I almost shed a tear.  Nolan Ryan, The Raines rookie and a Johnny Bench – Destroyed!!  I managed to pull a second Bench but these were the ONLY Ryan and Raines cards I pulled.  I would have LOVED to have had these in decent condition.  This almost ruined the entire box break for me.  I’m not joking….
It’s really hard for me to be fair with this score after seeing the Ryan and Raines cards in shambles.  Granted, the other pulls were very cool and 1981 was 36 years ago!  I have never opened a box this old and I pulled some great players on some of their earlier cards.  The condition of the cards overall was pretty rough.  The stock is very thin and tough to keep in good condition over this length of time.  The corners were dinged throughout the box.  But still, this is a vintage box of cards with some quality stars.  If the Raines and Ryan had been ok, I would’ve given this a better score but the risk of that happening when you buy a box makes it worthy of a ding in the point total. I have to go with a 3 on the Dub-O-Meter.  The price of the box is reasonable for such an old set but ’81 Donruss was truly a test run for the company.  You can find them around $50 and if you can avoid the gum issues, it’s well worth the rip.  It’s just risky. And because of that, I won’t stop you from checking it out but I’m not telling you to go buy it now either.  

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

1985 Donruss – Better Than New Coke!

The year 1985 was a pretty solid year.  My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Parker, might disagree but it was a ton of fun and there were some pretty historical events shaping the landscape at that time.  Here’s a small sample of the action from that year:

• Nintendo released the NES in October of that year and the video gaming industry would never be the same.

• Michael Jordan was named the NBA’s rookie of the year.

• Windows 1.0 was released, changing the way we would use computers for decades to come.

• Tech wizards created these shiny objects called “compact discs”.

• The song, “We Are the World” was recorded.  Who doesn’t remember that classic?

• Sly Stallone was a busy actor making Rocky IV and Rambo II.

• Coca-Cola introduced New Coke – ok, that’s not necessarily an endorsement of 1985.

• Back to The Future was released in theaters.I enjoy going back to the past as opposed to back to the future but that was a classic movie that is still a must watch when it’s on the tube.  Parts 1 and 2 were great films but the rest kind of lost me.  In fact, I like to think that the Sports Almanac in Part 2 had a section about cards in it that had a list of the hottest cards from the past.  I’m sure 1989 Upper Deck and 1990 Leaf were on the buy list while 1990 Donruss and 1991 Fleer were on the avoid list, but I digress.   In this post, we are going to go back to that great year and take a look at a baseball product that is very good in my opinion but is underrated because of the existence of 1985 Topps and the presence therein of the Mark McGwire rookie card.  Donruss also hit a home run in 1986 with Fred McGriff and Jose Canseco getting Rated Rookie status.   Because of these circumstances, 1985 Donruss is sometimes overlooked.I am here to try and set the record straight and bring back some good memories of this set.  When you take a closer peek at the set, some good things stand out to you.  First, the rookie class is very solid with the inclusion of Eric Davis, Shawon Dunston, Sid Bream (Braves Fans), Terry Pendleton, Dan Gladden, Orel Hershiser, Kirby Puckett and Roger Clemens.  Granted, some of these weren’t true rookies but they were 1st issue Donruss cards and remain in the top 5 most sought after (base set) cards of these players.  Diamond Kings continued to be a hot card subset in ’85 with great artistry from Dick Perez.   The design itself was pretty good with a nice black border and great subject coverage.It’s not all roses and candy for the set though.  The Rated Rookie class was slim with only Dunston and Danny Tartabull having solid careers.  The aforementioned nice looking black border is not so nice 32 years later.  There isn’t an issue with cards sticking together and there are no gum stains but there are typical nicks on an old card with such a bold border.  Even with these specific issues, 1985 as a whole included a great list of superstars like Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Dale Murphy, Nolan Ryan, Ryne Sandberg and many, many more.The complete set was 653 player cards and 7 checklist cards.  The first 26 cards in the set were Diamond Kings and they included names like Ryno, Mattingly, Ripken Jr and Gwynn.  Cards 27-45 were the Rated Rookies for the year.  Then the base set ran from 46-653.  The seven checklists included one for Diamond Kings and then 6 for the base set.  The puzzle subject chosen for 1985 was Lou Gehrig.  I’m enjoying putting these puzzles together more than I thought as I am rummaging through these old boxes.  Finally, the box itself comes with 36 packs with 15 cards each, plus one puzzle piece.  There is a box bottom as well but it is one static bottom and did not come in any other variations.  The bottom has Dwight Gooden, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Kittle and the Gehrig puzzle.   I wonder what contest Kittle won to earn box bottom status with Gooden and Sandberg?

So, did I pull any of those great rookies?   Let’s take a look!

Diamond KingsThese were the two best Diamond Kings I pulled from the set.  I also pulled Frank Viola, Tony Pena and Dan Q but these two were the standouts.  I actually pulled 3 of the Ripkens.

The RookiesSolid box with Gooden, Davis and Hershiser but I missed out on Clemens and Puckett.  I really wanted the Puckett so I could send it to one of my Twins pals but no such luck.  Sid Bream is an Atlanta Braves legend and I pulled 2 of his RC’s so pleased with that.  I really like the Tartabull in the old M’s jersey.  And I only included Bielecki to show off that Bucs jersey!

The StarsLook at these stars!  The only one I really whiffed on that I wanted was Murph.  I was hoping for a nice Powder Blue Superstar.  But Straw, Rip, Gwynn, Donnie Baseball and The Hawk?  That’s a loaded group.  Anytime you can get your hands on younger cards of these guys, it makes ripping fun!

The LegendsThese guys were on the back end of their careers for the most part but had stellar careers!  A set that includes the superstars from earlier plus Reggie, Carew, Schmidt and Charlie Hustle?  I’ll take that all day.  And I was really surprised by the Oakland Joe Morgan.  Didn’t expect to see that one!

The InsertThis was the oddball card in the set.  “Two For The Title” with Winfield and Mattingly.  I’m not sure why there weren’t more of these included but this was a cool change up in the set.

The All Name TeamIf the Superstars and Legends didn’t sell you, take a look at these studs!  Rusty Kuntz, Razor Shines, John Wockenfuss and Kurt Bevacqua!  These are pure golden cardboard!  I’m a huge King of The Hill fan and I love the episode where Bevacqua plays for Thatherton’s softball team.  Peggy Hill vs Kurt Bevacqua was legendary!

Greatest PhotoThere we’re actually several contenders for this honor but nothing can beat Rollie and the Stache.  Not even Kent Tekulve in the Pirates Pill Box hat!This was a very fun box to rip for me.  I remember all of these players whether in their prime, just getting started or on their way out.  These are big names in the history of baseball and to have a chance to pull originals of these guys is very exciting.  The box itself is much cheaper than the Topps version and is a great second option for the collector on a budget.  The checklist is strong, the design is good and the set is not too difficult to build.  Another box should finish out what I’ve started with a couple of singles to boot.  I’ll give 85 Donruss a 4 on the Dub-O-Meter based on the fun it holds within it’s wax packs.  Speaking of, I was careful enough with the ripping to salvage over half the packs for my buddy @oriolesrise!  If you have the time and the money, give 85 Donruss a shot!

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Remembering Card Backs

As a card collector in 2017, I must admit that I don’t look at the back of the cards very often. The only thing I find interesting on a card back these days is a serial number. Some card companies have gone completely away from stats on the back of the card and give you just one line of a career and then some dialogue about the player. Today, the front of the card is where all of the action is. I’m not saying that it is a huge change from the past because the front has always been the focus. That’s where you find autographs, patches, rainbow variations, etc. Many times, the back of an autographed card will only be the authenticity statement regarding the autograph. But if you’ve been in the game at least as long as I have, you know that hasn’t always been the case. The backs of cards used to provide tons of useful information about the player and his abilities. Some cards gave stats alone while others gave a breakdown of those stats and other interesting tidbits. Unless the player’s career was extensive (like this ’88 Topps Dale Murphy), you would usually get a nice tidbit from the back that would give you a glance into their personal lives. These tidbits could be interesting knowledge to gain or they could be some of the most inane comments ever. That is something I miss. Let me set the record straight and say upfront that I am not an expert on card backs. If you are looking for that, check out Baseball Card Backs (@sportcardbacks) on Twitter. They provided me with some of these examples as I was working through this piece and for that I am grateful. Their twitter feed is a really fun follow and will provide much more than the personal favorites that I am going to highlight below. Give them a look and I promise you won’t be disappointed! And send them pics of your favorite card backs and they’ll likely share them with their followers.

 To begin our look at some examples of interesting card backs, we’ll start with some that actually had to do with the game itself. You had many cards that talked about game winning moments or record breaking achievements. But you also had some that gave you a look at some things you might not know by simply looking at a baseball almanac.  For instance, this 1987 Topps Dion James provided a footnote from an early season game at Shea Stadium. I’m guessing the bird was not a big fan but he did get a mention on a baseball card which is something I’ve never gotten. 1987 Topps has a plethora of awesome card backs. The wood grain front has always been iconic in baseball card sets but the card back notations have gone much too far under the radar. I’ll try to fix that with this post.In 1985, we learned from Topps that the first time his father got to see him pitch was in the 1981 AL Playoffs. Because this is just one sentence, I don’t really know how much to read into this. Was Dave’s father not interested until he made the playoffs? Was he unable to attend because of health reasons or travel restrictions? Did Dave not let his dad know he had made it to the big leagues? That’s just not the kind of information you give without a back story.Back to 1987, Topps let us know that Von Hayes played little league ball as a youngster. There are a few things that can be gleaned from this. First, they gave him card number 666. Secondly, Von didn’t hone his skills at the major league level. He actually got his start at baseball at an early age. I know it may be earth shattering, but I’m guessing a vast majority of major leaguers played little league ball. Finally, how boring was Von’s career that this was his baseball card “tidbit”. Did he not have a big hit in May that could be discussed? He did tie for the league lead in runs scored in ’86 after all. I guess this is the best they could do for ole Von Hayes. Fortunately, for us collectors, he would not be alone.Take Jim Gott in 1985. Topps listed his hobbies as including Hapikido Karate. First, I think it’s actually spelled Hapkido, but I digress. He also enjoyed the ballet and opera. The man was quite refined. His wife’s name was Clenice as well but I don’t really know what that had to do with the other information. The info on the back gave me the vision in my head that Ernie Whitt might come up to Jim Gott in the clubhouse one day and rag him about going to the opera. Then Gott would respond with his Hapikido Roundhouse, knocking Whitt into Rance Mulliniks locker. I’ve always had a vivid imagination.Not to be outdone by Mr. Gott, Moose Haas’ card in 1987 indicated that he was a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. They would have been a solid match for each other except for the fact that Gott was 30 lbs heavier than Haas, despite the nickname Moose. But while Gott was going to the opera and ballet, Moose was refining his skills as a magician and a certified locksmith. It’s no wonder that Moose had a career sub 4 ERA. A pitcher with slight of hand skills is a plus.Tim Wallach was a fairly normal dude it seems. In 1986, he hit .233, belted 18 bombs and had 71 RBI for the Expos. But in his off time, he enjoyed racquetball and golf. That could explain the .233 average though. My high school coach always steered us away from golf when we were trying to be baseball players. The swings don’t really go well together. I can only imagine that a racquetball swing doesn’t correlate either.Meanwhile, in 1985, Rickey Henderson had hobbies of swimming and fishing. See, he had a .293 average and swiped 100+ bases on the regular. I can see how these hobbies would not interfere too much with his profession.Also in 1985, Len Barker was married to Bonnie Lynn Elwell and had two children. They sat around eating wild game. Thanks for the info.And in 1991, Ken Howell and his wife were building a home in Michigan. I guess that’s the pertinent information available for a pitcher who has a career 38-48 record.  Maybe Tim Burke could come over to Len’s house and have some wild game or go visit Ken and the Mrs. at their new house when he’s not going nuts with the enjoyment he gets from reading.Whatever Burke decides to do, he needs to stay away from Jeff Innis and his tin foil hat. His quote on the back of his ’94 Topps should make batters think twice about stepping in to face him.  

 Another thing card backs provided was an insight to secondary jobs some of the players had. The youngsters in collecting today may not know that baseball didn’t pay a .250 hitting utility infielder a couple million to play back in the 80’s and before. But thankfully, we can look no further than some vintage card backs to remember the good ole days.Way back in 1970, John Edward Briggs was a .250 hitter for the Phillies. None of his stats really jump off the card at you but it does indicate that he was an average ball player. To supplement that income, it appears that “Johnny” was also an automobile salesman in the off-season. Curveballs during the summer and Family Trucksters during the winter.In 1987, I learned how to pronounce Jaime thanks to Topps. It’s “HI-me”, which was Spanish for Jim. I always thought it was Spanish for James and Jim was short for James. Regardless, Jaime also worked as an accountant in the offseason. Again, the 16-25 record probably didn’t pay all that much back then. He did make enough money to enjoy some deep sea fishing though.Bob Kearney was a substitute teacher in 1985. I even looked up the front of a card of Mr. Kearney and, yep, that’s a substitute teacher from 1985 if I’ve ever seen one!

 Maybe the best side gig, thanks again to @sportcardbacks, was that of Lance Parrish. Now Parrish was a solid ball player in his day. He clubbed 324 home runs and 1,070 RBI over his career. And according to Topps in 1981, he hit 2 dingers in one game in July, 1979. But the best part of the card back was the mention that he once served as a body guard for Tina Turner. He must not have been a big fan of Ike. So not only did Lance get to spend 19 years in the big leagues and make 8 trips to the all-star game. He was Tina Turner’s “Kevin Costner” for a time.One card back style I can only imagine has caused heartburn for current collectors were those from the late 50’s like this 1958 Jim “Jimmy” Brown rookie card. I know this is football but I found some baseball cards with the same style. The Jim Brown just drives my point home. These cards had a trivia question on the back and you then would take a coin to rub a blank space for the answer. How many mint versions do you think exist of these at this point? Unfortunately, I don’t have any version but I can imagine being a little disappointed if I had run across the version that had been beaten up by a nickel. Happy, but still a little disappointed.Finally, sometimes the card backs just baffle you. The 1993 Score Select Matt Stairs is an example. First, I was never a fan of Score Select. I didn’t like the design and they didn’t give me any hope when looking them up in the Beckett Monthly. But the back of Stairs card had a comment from his minor league manager stating that Matt was “a great natural hitter, a God-given talent.” Now, that’s a bold statement. It’s especially bold when you look a couple inches below that to find that he hit a paltry .187 in his first 30 at bats. Now, Stairs would go on to have a very productive career as a hitter with a .262 average and 265 home runs. But in 1993, I was scratching my head at this one.

So while card companies have innovated and changed with the times to stay relevant and hot, I believe they have gotten away from some of the fun the back of the cards have to offer. Now it’s all about stats, WAR, OPS, etc. I need more than that. I need to know who got their start at Waffle House. I need to know who is building a home in Montana. For goodness sake, there has to be a player in the majors now that is a magician and locksmith. Times have changed, I know. But I long for the good ole days! Again, thanks to Baseball Card Backs (@sportcardbacks) on Twitter for the assist on this one. This is what collecting cards is to me. Sharing information, enjoying the high points of common cards and remembering what our youth was like. Thanks for keeping the hobby alive and remembering it for what it is!

J-Dub

When Subsets Were Cool!

There are many differences between collecting baseball cards today and collecting before the mid 1990’s.  For one, as a kid, it was more about the thrill of getting a picture of your favorite player on a piece of cardboard.  Now, it’s easy to get lost in all of the subsets, inserts, numbered variations, autographs, relics, patches and rainbow variations.  The list is much longer than that but we don’t have the time or space to list them all.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun and your chances of pulling something valuable is much greater.  Of course, you are going to spend more money too in search of that value.  The chase for those inserted gems has taken away from the base cards and basic subsets that are still a big part of the baseball card set.

In my opinion, to get to the essence of collecting, you have to go back to when times were simpler.  While you had virtually zero odds of pulling an autographed card, except in some select sets (still astronomically low numbers) and there was no such thing as a relic or patch card, there were some really cool subset cards that could excite you as a collector.  In 1991, Donruss changed the game with the non-autographed insert card that was sequentially numbered with the Elite Series.  I saw one pulled when I was a kid and I nabbed one as an adult.  But before all of that, there was the basic subset that was different from the base card and it consisted of the best players in the game.  So let’s take a trip back to a time before numbered cards and autographs and take a look at some of the coolest subset cards that made opening those older packs fun.1989 Donruss MVP – I’ve said this before but it bears repeating.  1989 Donruss is my favorite set of all time.  The timing of my entry into the hobby, combined with the colorful set and its availability locally made it my go to for years.  I still will pick up a box when I see it in a shop just to see if I can add another Griffey or Sheffield rookie to my collection.  Another thing that Donruss did well was the MVP subset in 1989.  It continued with the colorful theme of the set and provided a close up shot of the best player from all 26 teams in Major League Baseball.  That’s right young bucks; there were only 26 teams in the majors in 1989.  The subset featured such legends as Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.  The design was a very nice deviation from the 1988 MVP inserts.  Truly a classic subset for a classic card set!Donruss Diamond Kings/Gallery of Stars – These cards sort of bleed together as they are very similar.  Donruss produced the Diamond Kings for the base Donruss set and the Gallery of Stars for the Triple Play edition.  I never really liked Triple Play but I did enjoy the Gallery of Stars inserts.  These two subsets were colorful artist’s renditions of popular players of the era.  Some of my favorites were Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, David Justice, Bo Jackson and Fred McGriff.  Let’s be honest, I liked most of them except for the occasional Willie Randolph or Ed Whitson.  When I am done with my massive 1991 Topps quest, I think I might try to put the entire Diamond King set together.  When I say put it together, I mean through boxes and packs.  Buying the set as a whole is for people who take shortcuts.1989 Topps All Stars – There wasn’t much that got me excited for Topps in the late 80’s.  As I have shared before, Topps has just never really done it for me outside of 1990.  But one thing I did like about Topps in both ’88 and ’89 was the All Star subsets.  Again, I was a sucker for colorful and these cards were just that.  They had a solid color background and the classic Topps ’88 and ’89 script that said All Star at the top.  It should go without saying but this subset included the previous year’s all-star selections.  Colorful cards depicting All-Star players are always winners in my book.Topps Future Stars – While Topps began using the Future Star subset in 1980, the design used in 1987 and 1988 are iconic.  Bo Jackson helped that become a sought after insert in ’87.  Recent Topps products have brought back the swooshing rainbow star logo and it has been a welcome return.  Topps altered it over the years and even moved away from it during a period of time but this particular logo is the one that I was crazy for.  Never mind that Topps swung and missed on their “Future Stars” more than Rob Deer did curveballs.  Card companies have never been excellent prognosticators.  Just ask the Donruss Rated Rookie department.  The design is what I liked and they hit it out of the park with Jackson.  That remains one of my favorite cards to this day.  The interesting tidbit about the card featured here is that it’s not really Al Leiter.  This was the error version that showed someone who looked eerily similar to Leiter.  It was actually a minor league pitcher named Steve George.1991 Score All-Star – I am about to go on a streak with 1991 Score.  The fact is that they had several sweet subsets in 1991.  Some of them were repeated from ’90 and some were replicated in the years to follow but ’91 is where it’s at for me.  We’ll start with the All-Star subset.  These were cartoon looking drawings with big heads but were very well done and showed the subject player in some action shot that either showed their defensive prowess or power.  There isn’t much to add verbally to this subset as I’ve exhausted the definition of an all-star subset so I’ll let the photo of Barry Larkin do the rest of the explaining for this one.1991 Score Dream Team – This is probably my favorite subset of all time.  This was a very clean and classy photo and design of black and white photos with only “Dream Team” and the players name in color.  While this was my favorite subset, I must admit that the particular cards of Kirby Puckett and Jose Canseco shirtless made me uncomfortable to say the least.  And I won’t even discuss the Rickey Henderson in only sliding shorts card.  Frank Viola went safe with the turtleneck and Will Clark even wore a suit.  Football did a Dream Team subset as well but it didn’t have that same classy feel to me and I collected football as much as baseball.  Though not a big name, the Doug Jones card was really cool with him holding a baseball that was aflame.  This was a great subset!1991 Score “The Franchise” – Another classy looking subset in ’91 Score.  This utilized a black and white picture as well but provided a color background that made the card design pop.  The subset featured 20 franchise players so you were all but guaranteed to pull a star in this subset, with the exception of Todd Zeile.  Nothing against Zeile but he didn’t really belong in a subset with Cal, Clemens, Brett, Yount, Henderson and Sandberg.  Score may have pumped out 893 cards that year but this 20 card subset was a gem.1991 Score K-Man/Rifleman/Master Blasters – This 30 card subset featured three types of specialists.  The K-Man was for the strikeout masters like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Doc Gooden.  The Rifleman included the guys with big arms like Sandy Alomar Jr., Bo Jackson and Eric Davis.  The Master Blasters was reserved for the big bats like Jose Canseco, Darryl Strawberry and Cecil Fielder.  Bo Jackson was the only player to get recognized as both a Rifleman and Master Blaster.  The K-Man featured blue laser beams while the Rifleman was green and Master Blaster was red.  They had a real 1991 feel and were always a welcome sight when I was ripping through a pack.  With an 893 card set, there were a lot of Scott Sanderson’s, Kevin Tapani’s and Shawn Boskie’s to be had.  Give me one of the subsets any day.1991 and ‘92 Fleer Pro Vision – In 1991, Fleer introduced the Pro-Vision set, a collection of artist renderings that included 9 players.  The players were all superstars and included Jose Canseco with lighting coming out of his bat, Will Clark shattering a bat, Kirby Puckett just smiling, Doc Gooden throwing a fireball, Bo Jackson with a terminator like arm, Roger Clemens holding a comet, Don Mattingly standing in front of a pin striped background, Mark McGwire posing in front of the American Flag and Eric Davis in space.  The 1992 edition was a smaller subset that featured only 6 players.  The checklist included Robin Yount, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas and David Justice in similar designs as ‘91.  While these were artist renderings, unlike the All-Star subset, they weren’t very cartoony and disproportionately sized players.  These were cool drawings that showed the players as superhuman athletes.  They continue the Pro-Vision subset for a few years but really went off the rails by 1994.  The basketball and football had similar subsets that were just as good.1992 Fleer Ultra All-Stars – This subset of All-Star players was a very good looking set.  Fleer Ultra brought a new level of baseball card in 1992, much like Upper Deck in ’89 and Stadium Club in ’91.  The All-Star cards had a black marble look with a clean action photo of the subject player.  While Ultra had gone away from card borders, the All-Star subset provided something unique with the marble border.  These were the first cards that I held in my hand and thought, “I’d better take care of this because this is a NICE card.”  They had a high society feel to them that still hold up today.  Fleer Ultra was a very good set in the early days and the All-Star subset was icing on the cake.

The next time you are opening a pack of 2016 baseball cards and you have to start searching the card for some unique marking or discoloration that makes it unique or rare, think about when subsets were clear and distinct deviations from the base set.  These subsets are not as valuable as the 1 of 1 you might pull now but they should hold some relative value to you depending on when you started collecting and the players you sought out.  I enjoyed each of these subsets and they are part of what made collecting a lifelong hobby for me.  No matter how advanced we get with technology and innovations in the card industry, we have to remember and revisit what brought us to the hobby to begin with.  What subsets have you really enjoyed over the years?  I’m sure I’ve missed some really good ones but these are some that I still hold in my “old” boxes.

J-Dub

Rise Up You Dirty Birds!!

I am a Georgia boy, born and bred.  My heart will always bleed for my state.  To begin with, I’m a Georgia Bulldog.  I know that there are many fans of different teams out there but I just don’t get how you can’t love your home team.  People are pretty passionate about their college football though and it sometimes has more to do with what you have access to.  Where I grew up, you had just as much chance of being an Auburn Tiger or a Florida State Criminole.  We were about an hour from each one and Athens is a solid 3 ½.  But Herschel helped my generation and then once I saw the beautiful classic city, there was no turning back.  But that’s a topic for another day.  I’m all Hawks in the NBA.  Life as a Hawks fan has been a difficult one.  We have had greats like Dominique and Spud.  And we have had stars like Millsap and Howard.  We’ve also had duds like Koncak and Rasmussen.  But what we don’t have is a modern day NBA championship.  We had one back in 1958 but my memory doesn’t go back that far.  In my lifetime, we have had the fortune of being in the same division as Jordan, Bird, Isaiah, Reggie, Ewing, LeBron and Wade.  But I have been there through it all.  We’ve been close but we’ve always fallen short.  When I play 2K, I’m the Hawks.  When I play NBA Jam, I’m the Hawks.  It’s the only championship I have seen with them in my 39 years.Then, we have the Atlanta Braves.  Life started tough as a Braves fan then it got really great but has returned to tough again.  When I was young, the Braves were “America’s Team” thanks in part to TBS being a national television station and televising every Braves game.  Pete, Ernie and Skip were my first commentator heroes.  I got a lot of Cubs action too thanks to Harry Carey and the North Siders being on WGN daily, another national television station.  But they were just filler when the Braves weren’t on.  I remember an old photo of me as a wee lad standing in front of the on deck circle with Bruce Benedict preparing for upcoming at bat.  I think they finished 66-96 that year.  The 90’s brought lots of excitement, as was covered in my blog about the now infamous Lonnie Smith.  But we got our championship in 1995 and won an astounding 14 division titles in a row.  That’s only 6 more than the 2nd most ever by the NY Yankees.  The disappointment was that we only managed 1 championship during that run.  But we did get that one.  The Braves also provided one of the greatest moments of my life, the Dewey Shiver mowing the grass in a dress bet.That brings us to football.  The NFL has always been a sport for me where I could choose one of the teams playing each other in a matchup and find a reason to root for them.  I’ve always followed players in the NFL thanks to UGA, Super Tecmo Bowl and fantasy football.  I pull for Georgia Bulldogs unless they land in New Orleans, Tampa Bay or Carolina.  But even though I hate Carolina, I love Thomas Davis.  I’m a big Andrew Luck fan so I find myself pulling for the Colts.  I’ve been a Bengals fan most of my life too thanks to some family roots and Icky Woods.  It also helps that the current roster is loaded with Georgia Bulldogs.  It’s like they have a pipeline to Athens.  There are also players that I dislike in the NFL that makes me not like their teams.  Aaron Rodgers comes to mind.  Cam Newton is another.  Never been a big Cowboys fan.  And I loathe everything about the New Orleans Saints, even though Drew Brees seems like a good guy by all accounts.  But that hatred stems from the team that is at the center of my heart ~ The Atlanta Falcons.The Falcons have quite possibly provided the most misery for a Georgia sports fan.  They have been to a few NFC championships and even made the Super Bowl once, which we’ll touch on later.  But they have the worst winning percentage of any Georgia sports team.  The Hawks are a mediocre 2 games below .500 all time.  Their lack of reaching the big game may lend one to think they have been the worst team.  But the Falcons have a dismal .438 all time winning percentage and are 341-437-6 from 1966-2016.  This season’s record helps but they still aren’t close to .500.  So, to say it’s been tough growing up a Falcons fan is an understatement.  We’ve had our share of superstars.  Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, Jessie Tuggle, Warrick Dunn and now Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones.  But we have only come close once to putting that magical season together.  One game on February 5, 2017 could change all of that for the fans.But first, let’s go back to that one season we came close.  It was almost 20 years ago in 1998 and the Falcons, who affectionately became known as “The Dirty Birds”, finished the regular season at 14-2.  The only losses that season came to the San Francisco 49ers, which had Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Garrison Hearst, and the New York Jets, who rolled out the ageless Vinny Testaverde, Curtis Martin and Keyshawn Johnson.  These rosters, on paper at the time, were loaded compared to the Falcons.   Jamal Anderson and Terance Mathis were stars but Chris Chandler, Tim Dwight, O.J. Santiago and Todd Kinchen weren’t really in that same category.  But they managed to put it together in 1998 and finished the season 4th in the league in points scored and 4th in the league in points allowed.  The defense was led by Jessie Tuggle, Chuck Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Ray Buchanan and a rookie from the Technical College, Keith Brooking. In all honesty, the Falcons had some luck on their side in the playoffs that season.  They met up with the 49ers again in the playoffs, this time pulling it out 20-18.  On the first play of the game, Garrison Hearst suffered a broken ankle.  He accounted for 1,570 rushing yards on the season.  The Falcons went on to hold the 49ers to 47 yards on the day.  The play that Hearst got hurt on was a 7 yard rush and was the longest of the day.  Super Tecmo Bowl legend William White sealed the game with an interception as the 49ers were attempting to drive 96 yards with less than a minute left.  This win gave the Falcons an opportunity to play in the NFC Championship for the first time in franchise history.  The NFC Championship game brought a daunting task.  The 15-1 Minnesota Vikings by 3 points in the regular season and blew out most other times they faced.  They scored a record, at the time, 556 points and at least 24 in every game.  They were led by Randall Cunningham, another Super Tecmo Bowl legend, at QB, Robert Smith at RB and Cris Carter and Randy Moss at WR.  They were no slouches on defense either with sack master John Randle at DE.  They also had the best kicker in the league, Gary Anderson, who was 35 for 35 on the season.  After battling neck and neck all game, the Vikings had a chance to put their foot on the throat of the Falcons, up 27-20.  Gary Anderson lined up for a 38 yard field goal, which John Madden remarked was essentially automatic.  He missed it.  Somehow, he missed it.  Still down 7, with less than 2:00 to go, the Falcons responded with a touchdown and sent the game to overtime.  In overtime, another Anderson, this time Morten for the Falcons, would hit a field goal to cap one of the most improbable Super Bowl runs ever. The excitement was almost unbearable but was immediately tempered by the thought of having to continue this amazing run against John Elway and Terrell Davis.  They were the defending champions and were heavily favored.  The Falcons had a little too much fun before the game too, culminating in an embarrassing arrest for our best DB, Ray Buchanan.  The game itself was never really close with the Broncos leading 17-6 at the half.  They would go on to win 34-19 dashing the hopes of all Atlanta fans of the elusive Super Bowl Championship that we are still looking for.  It was a fun run and I remember the excitement of that NFC Championship like it was yesterday.  We were over at Jim and Rusty’s Lake House and I was sitting on the same couch where I watched Mike Tyson bite Evander Holyfield’s ear off just a year before.  Another sports memory made with Morten Anderson nailing that OT field goal.We’ve had other opportunities since, losing conference championships in 2005 to the Eagles and 2012 to the 49ers.  One of our better teams got knocked out by Green Bay in the divisional in January 2011 by a whopping 48-21.  We followed that up then next year with another dud against Eli and the Giants, losing 24-2.  So even with the Falcons playing at a very high level in 2016, there was an understandable amount of skepticism in small parts of the souls of Falcons fans heading into the playoffs.  We did, after all, see the 14 season consecutive streak in baseball only end with 1 championship.  You could say that some of us are of the mindset that we won’t get too excited until it happens.  Well, the excitement in Atlanta is now at a fever pitch.This year, the Falcons seem to have just gotten better each week on both sides of the ball.  The offense led the league in total yardage by a 30 yard margin and were tops in passing and 5th in rushing.  The high octane offense is led by Matt Ryan, who should win MVP this season, if the writers have any stones whatsoever.  Of course, so many of them are in Brady and Rodgers back pocket, you never know how it will turn out.  Supporting Ryan has been a stellar offensive line led by Alex Mack, a running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman and the wide receivers led by Julio Jones.  Julio is an absolute beast and has opened up the offense for Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.  We also have the makings of a very solid tight end for the future in Austin Hooper.  The defense, while not as prolific as the offense, has come of age this season and gives Falcons fans everywhere hope for now and future years to come.  Dwight Freeney is a cagey veteran but the team is very young with studs like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Desmond Trufant and Vic Beasley.  And veteran Matt Bryant gives Falcons fan the sense of comfort that Morten Anderson provided in the 90’s.  Arthur Blank and Dan Quinn have built a super bowl contender and we are all happy for that.Once again, it hasn’t been easy getting here.  We had to beat the Seattle Seahawks, recent perennial Super Bowl contenders, in the divisional round.  And we did so in rather convincing fashion, moving the ball at will and unleashing Julio Jones on the formidable Richard Sherman, leaving Sherman shaking his head in disbelief.  Then, in the NFC Championship, the Falcons had to face their playoff nemesis Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.  The Packers came in with a ton of confidence riding an 8 game win streak and has just gone to Dallas to know off the “unbeatable” Cowboys.  The world rejoiced on that one.  Rodgers came in on a hot streak and left with an Eli Manning face.  The defense swarmed him all day and their shaky secondary was no match for Ryan and company.  It would be one of the most satisfying wins in Falcons history.The Super Bowl is going to be another tough one as well.  Much like our trip in 1998 against Elway, we are facing probably the best QB of my generation in Tom Brady.  Bill Belichick, Brady and the Patriots are no strangers to the big game.  They are favored and as usual, the Falcons are flying under the radar on the national coverage.  But that’s how I like to be honest.  I believe in the old saying uttered by great philosopher Ric Flair, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.”  And that is what we are going to have to do.  Not many have beaten Tom Brady in the biggest game of the season but the 2016-17 Falcons have a legitimate shot.  And that gives me an excitement like I have never had before going into a Super Bowl.It also gives me a tremendous sense of pride and happiness.  I am proud of the home town team.  I am happy for the city of Atlanta and the fans.  I am happy for my fellow Falconites.  I am happy for my cousin Michael, who may be the biggest Falcon fan I know.  We don’t always see eye to eye on our football viewing, with him being a Nole, but this is one area we can agree on.  He’s the one I text when I am fed up with drafting the likes of Peria Jerry.  He texts me his agonizing over a dropped pass in a crucial moment.  We laugh together over the shenanigans of Miko Grimes.  We discuss superstitions when it comes to clothing and what’s best for the team.  There are a lot of guys like that who I am happy for this year but Mike is the one I talk to most about it.  It feels like 1991 all over again and the home team is finally making noise.  It’s been a long time coming and Falcon fans are begging to be unleashed!We’re one week away from the biggest and most watched sporting event in our world.  And my hometown Atlanta Falcons are playing for all the marbles.  Somewhere Scott Case is taking someone’s head off.   Billy White Shoes is doing his famous end zone celebration.  Deion Sanders is high stepping through my mind.  Mike Rozier is plowing over a defensive lineman and Patrick Kerney is getting ready to fly off of the corner for a strip sack.  And people like me and Mike are sitting on our hands, anxiously awaiting the kickoff next Sunday.  I’d like to say that no matter the outcome, we are young and only getting better every year.  But that would only be half the truth.  The whole truth is that the City of Atlanta and the State of Georgia wants this badly.  The Falcons want this badly.  I want this badly!  Let’s go Falcons!  Rise Up Dirty Birds!!

J-Dub

Our Last Day

One of the coldest facts of life is that we have no idea when our time on earth will be up.  We sometimes take for granted that we will live to retirement and enjoy the lives we build for ourselves over the prime years.  While in reality, I may not even make it to the end of this blog.  I say that we sometimes take it for granted but I think the more accurate statement would be that we almost always take it for granted.  Very few people wake up thinking it could be their last day.  But the fact is we just never know and that can be downright frightening.

It’s no secret that Albany, Ga has experienced her share of tragedy during the month of January.  I am not about to step in anyone’s shoes and claim that I understand it or “know how it feels” to be where victims are either.  And while most of the area woke up on Sunday knowing that it would likely be a very difficult day, you can never really prepare for an event like this.  We also didn’t know if it would be Lee County, Worth, Dougherty, Mitchell, Northwest Albany, South Albany, East Albany, or Putney.   No idea.  As a matter of fact, up until 5 minutes before the tornado hit South Albany, we were watching a potential path from Dawson to Leesburg that just dissipated.  Then, Mother Nature chose its destination and we all know by now what happened. 

I’m not here to make sense of it or try to understand it in the least.  There is none of that.  I am here though to discuss how precious our lives really are despite what we think sometimes.  This is the second major weather event I have been close to.   I was not in Albany for either of the floods, though I know they stretched resources and sanity to the limits then.  I was, however, in Camilla in 2000 when the devastating Valentine’s Day Tornado hit and took 22 lives across the region and in the hometown I had known since birth.  It destroyed a landscape that I had intimate knowledge of.   It was like a wasteland of debris and confusion.   I can only imagine that lifelong Albany residents are experiencing those same feelings right now.  

I knew most everyone affected by the tragedy in 2000.  Camilla is a small town after all.  This beast struck in the middle of the night.  My aunt and uncle’s home was in the heart of the destruction.  My aunt wasn’t home because she had the daunting task of being the EMA Manager/EMS Director in Camilla.  So she was working that night and had no idea what condition her home or family were in during the immediate moments after the tornado.  My parents and I arrived at her house to find my uncle and two of their kids safe but extremely shaken.   Their home had withstood the storm (with plenty of damage) but their hearts and minds were in shambles.  We walked through the neighborhood in the pitch black checking houses and looking for people that needed help.   It was so dark and quiet.  I was as scared as I had ever been and I was 23 years old.  The only light was the occasional lightning strike and those were the rare moments that you longed for the dark because you were able to see the destruction that was surrounding you.  We also had no idea what was unfolding just across the highway where a mile of mobile homes had been utterly demolished.  An unforgettable night, much like Sunday afternoon was to so many here in Albany.

There are countless unbelievable stories that eventually came out from the residents there that survived the event in 2000.  Traumatic stories of survival and heroism and despair.  There are certain moments, pictures and stories that I’ll never forget.  The same will come out of this event and it will be one that is never forgotten locally.  That’s on top of what had already happened on January 2.  But these events highlight my topic.  None of the people who lost their lives woke up those mornings and thought, “This is probably my last day.”  Of course, that’s not real healthy thinking to begin with I suppose but the old saying is “live like every day is your last.”  And in that, there is some solid truth.  We walk around thinking that we can put off today what could be done tomorrow.  We think that we can tell someone that we love them the next time we see them.  We think that our situation is bad because we didn’t get the raise we were hoping for or we didn’t get our package in the mail or we aren’t having what we wanted for supper.  And true, in a vacuum, those are real feelings and thoughts for us.   I don’t mean to trivialize everyday struggles because I know they are real.  They just seem to take on a different meaning in times like this.  You have every right to have your bad day.  But perspective helps with those days.

What would happen if we truly lived every day like it was our last?   First, I mean that in a practical sense.  That doesn’t mean we should go rob a bank and buy new cars because it really might not be your last.  It would be your last as a free person but I digress.  How would we treat our loved ones?   Our neighbors? Strangers?  Would we be arguing about abortion and same sex marriage and religious views while hating everyone that has a different set of views?  Or would we be so focused on ourselves and our loved ones that the noise around us would be muted?  Does that mean we should turn a blind eye to social issues and world news topics?  No, but we could sure start to mind our own business a little bit and not get involved in things that really don’t alter our lives one way or the other.  Trivial would truly be trivial and those around us would get the best of what we have to offer.  Who doesn’t want that?

I posted a line from a song a few days ago that says a lot in a few words, “it takes more than eyes to see.”  We just either don’t know or forget how to look around until something like the above happens to us or our loved ones.  Hearts go out for the losses and we get chills when we hear the horrible stories of devastation.  This makes us want to hug our kids a little tighter when we tuck them in at night.  It makes us want to tell our wives (or husbands) that we love them and appreciate them.  It makes us want to get involved in our community and pitch in and donate and help clean up.   And it should and we should absolutely do our part.  But what are we going to do in the months or years to come when this event is a memory?  Will we go back to road rage and getting mad at the lady behind the counter for being too slow?   Will we get aggravated because our wives can’t decide where they want to eat?   Will we long for a moment of quiet at our homes because our throbbing heads just can’t take the fussing anymore?  Of course we will, because it’s human nature.  

I’m not even saying that we are bad people because that is a part of life.  But in those moments, we should sometimes stop and think that there is someone out there whose husband or wife isn’t coming home tonight.  There is a parent out there who longs for arguing children in the home.  There is a child out there that would not mind at all if their mom or dad was around to ground them for back talking.  I am not trying to be grim but I am, if that makes any sense.  We are losing our identity as a society.  We are becoming more and more inhuman as time passes.  And some of us are throwing our hands up and accepting it as the way of the world now.  It all comes back to who we are.  Are we someone who is going to project love and peace or are we someone who is going to be the pot stirrer, even when the pot is boiling over?  

We only have a short time on this earth.   It may seem like we have some long days or weeks or even years but humans have been around for thousands of years and our lives may represent 70 years of that if we’re lucky.  That is not a long time.  And I have learned that no matter how much we want to, we can’t do it over.  We can’t revisit the past and change it.  We can just try and make amends and move forward.  What we can do is change now and going forward.  We all have parts of ourselves that we aren’t happy with.  That can be physically, mentally, emotionally or socially.  We can change and we can get what we want out of this life for that short time we are here.   It basically boils down to whether we want to or not.  It may seem more difficult than that but it’s really not.  Our hearts can change, our waistline can change and our personalities can change.  Most importantly, I believe our souls can change.  Our souls are something that is very unique to us.  We may have a twin out there, a doppelganger if you will, but I believe our soul is as unique as our DNA.   Our souls generally gravitate to other souls we are attracted to.  We may think sometimes that attraction is physical, and it usually is on day one, but if our souls aren’t attracted to each other, relationships won’t last.  

I have probably weaved in and out of traffic to get to this destination but my mind has been spinning for a while.   My point is this; we have to love more, we have to be more patient, we have to have more understanding, we don’t need to judge people on appearance, we don’t need to take our moments (even of frustration) for granted because they are still moments and we generally recover.  I feel all the time and sometimes that sounds like a bad thing.  But I have learned to embrace it as a quality that some don’t have.  We all have a uniqueness that we bring to the table.   Now the feels I have aren’t always warm and fuzzy but I am very in tune with my thoughts and emotions and I have more clarity than I did 5 years ago.  I have bad days.   I have emotional breakdowns.  I have shitty experiences.  But in some of my darkest moments, I have been able to reach out to the people I love and get the help I need.  And because of that, I TRY to take very little for granted.  I see struggle all around me in some form and I am fortunate.   I am alive and I have people that I love and that love me.  Think about where you are right now in your life and how you can get the most out of it.  I’m still learning everyday.  I just hope I have enough time to figure it all out.  Of course, that’s something I don’t really know.

J-Dub

This Life – Part 1

1977 would be a pretty eventful year.  A lot of events took place that may not have seemed life changing at the time but they have gone on to have a profound effect on us personally and as a society.  Apple Computer was incorporated.  I now type this blog on an Apple iPhone and we share the same birth year.  Snow fell in Miami Florida for the only time in history.  Also, as I type this blog, I am watching the Miami Dolphins struggle mightily in a playoff game in Pittsburgh where the temp is 12 degrees.  I found it coincidental but I don’t suppose it’s very meaningful.  Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia, was sworn in as President of the United States.  He was the first, and still the only, President from my home state.  A few years ago, I played on his secret service’s softball team in a game vs Plains High School alumni.  He pitched for the team.  How many people can say they’ve played softball with a President.  It was pretty cool.Fleetwood Mac released the Grammy Winning album, Rumours.  Last year, I took Alicia to see the Fleetwood Mac tribute band, Rumours, in Atlanta for her birthday, sort of checking off a bucket list item.  Not much of a chance seeing the real band anymore so this was as close as it got.  The Bee Gee’s released Saturday Night Fever.  The movie of the same name would soon follow later in ’77.  I always pictured my Uncle Speedy as the perfect Bee Gee.  Son of Sam was also associated with the disco scene and was captured in New York that year.  Led Zeppelin performed their last North American concert while The Clash released their first album.  A film named Star Wars hit the big screen.  I think it turned out to be pretty popular.  I remember the Ewoks and the original Chewy before special effects were so good.  There were others too like Smokey and The Bandit, Slap Shot and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Pretty big year in music and movies I’d say.The Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners would play their first baseball games.  Years later, I would be a Mariners fan thanks to Ken Griffey Jr. and would despise the Blue Jays thanks to Kelly Gruber.  Gruber was a hustler and While he would normally be a player I would root for, he stood between the Braves and a World Series with that hustle.  AJ Foyt won the Indianapolis 500 for the 4th time.  The AJ Foyt of my generation, Tony Stewart, is why I love racing today.  That, along with watching it on Sundays with my dad and grandaddy.  Reggie Jackson hit 3 homeruns in a World Series win over the Dodgers, lending to the nickname that would stick, Mr. October.  I guess I was destined to be a sports fan with this type of activity.1977 was the year Tandy was created.  If you aren’t from my generation, you probably don’t even know what this is.  But for me, it created my love for video games.  The Tandy Computer was the first console I played.  Bedlam was my favorite game and it was completely text with no action or graphics.  Sounds boring, I know.  But I spent hours trying to avoid being lobotomized by a crazy doctor.  It’s also where we got Paperboy, Pitfall and Downland.  Commodore and Atari also hit the scene in 1977.  What a year for gamer history!  You kids can thank these classics for setting you up for Madden and Call of Duty.  I would go on to specialize in video gaming for many years of my life.  Tecmo Bowl, RBI, Mario, Resident Evil, Fallout.  Of course, it’s a specialization that doesnt really count as specialization.The Pinwheel Network was created.  Better known now as Nickelodeon, this tv station was on in every house I went to as a child.  It’s still on at my house today with Spongebob Squarepants.  Earlier classics were Dusty’s Treehouse, Mr. Wizard’s World, You Can’t Do That On Television, Double Dare and Ren and Stimpy.  I’m pretty sure that was the “Golden Age” of television for my generation.  I don’t understand the stuff kids watch these days but that’s probably the way my parents felt about my shows.  TV was better in my younger days.  I don’t know whether that was because I was less knowledgeable about what was real and what was fake or if The years have just washed away the bad programming.Everything wasn’t all roses either though.  The King, Elvis Presley, died in August.  The world mourned the passing of one of the most influential musicians in history.  As big of a music fan as I am, I would have loved to see him play live.  I love a live show and I’m sure he put in some memorable ones.  Three members of Lynard Skynard passed away in a plane crash.  The southern rock legends would continue and still play today but the original band died that day too.  The King and Skynard in the same year.  Groucho Marx  and Bing Crosby also took their last breaths in 1977.  I guess 2016 was crueler in numbers as it relates to the celebrity death but these were equally big names.

All in all though, a pretty large year.    The most significant event of my life happened that year also.  On February 13, 1977, I was born.  I was the first grandchild on the Kelly side of the family and the second on the Shiver side.  Dusty beat me by a couple of years.  My dad, Dewey was (and still is) a truck driver and my mom, Pam, worked at the school system.  I was born into a relatively normal life in a relatively normal town.  A lot of abnormal things have happened over the last 39 years but my life has been pretty good.  My parents are still together after 40 years, all but one of my grandparents were able to see my children when they were born, I married my high school sweet heart and we’ve got our own pretty good life.  

But as I’m so close to reaching the big milestone of 40, it’s become an obsession of sorts to revisit my journey along the way.  I see a lot of things every day that take me back to some moment of my life that brings me joy, pain, laughter, fear or some other emotion.  There have been a  lot of “normals” along the way but there have been some events along the way that could have changed my path and led to a different present.  Life is funny.  Sometimes it’s sad.  But it’s life.  I have no idea what memories I’ll write about next.  I don’t know if I’ll write part 2 tomorrow or next week.  I don’t know if I’ll write about a year in my life or a several year span.  Or maybe just an event that happened and the lesson I learned.  I’ve shared several memories on the blog before but that’s what a big part of life is about to me.  Making memories.

It’s also fun to write about.  A lot of people and places intertwine during the walk down memory lane.  It’s not always about fun either though.  I have had some hard lessons I’ve had to learn along the way because I’ve made some bad decisions.  It’s also not always deep, profound and life changing either because I was a clown growing up.  I’ve enjoyed life along the way and I want to convey that too.  Overall, my life has probably been boring compared to others.  But there might be something in this journey that resonates or links us together.  There’s only one way to find out though.  And that’s to continue dive in and take the trip down memory lane.  And it all started in 1977.

J-Dub

Who Am I?

As we age, we start to try and figure out some things. Some are important, meaning of life type things. Others are simple, like how to put on a toilet paper roll correctly, up and over of course. But what’s more difficult is trying to figure out things about ourselves. We usually have an idea of how other people see us based on how we see ourselves. Never mind the fact that we can be bias and are almost always wrong. We also usually have an idea of how we want to portray ourselves. Again, the person we portray is not always who we are. So, the question becomes, “who are we?” Or more specifically, “Who Am I?”

 It is one of the troubling questions you begin to ask yourself when you have reached mid life. And no, I’m not talking about a mid life crisis. I am talking about understanding what we have been, what we can become and what we might always be. Some of it is hard to accept so we don’t like those answers and keep looking. We think “that can’t possibly be one of my traits”, and we blindly look for a more suitable answer. On the other hand, we run across something that we are proud of and we embrace that trait and pat ourselves on the back. I think that’s ok though. If we are going to really be honest with ourselves, we are going to need some good to go with the bad. We really just need to hope there is enough to even it out. I am trying to be honest with myself, though difficult at times. So I am going to try and be honest with you as I try and answer the question with the information I currently have as I near 40.

 I Am An Introvert – Yeah, believe it or not, I am. I can open up with my closest friends and family and let my guard down. In that regard, I may not be a full blown introvert. It is not debilitating but it is very much there. When I play softball with a new team, I may not say 10 words the whole day of a tournament. When I go to a meeting with new co-workers, I find my seat and keep to myself unless someone comes up to me. I’d rather hang out at my house than go out and do something. I’d rather watch a football game in my recliner than at a sports bar or even in person, unless it’s a huge game. I haven’t always been this way either. I used to have to be the center of attention. I used to be the comedian of the group. Now, only certain people get to see that side of me, God help them!

 I Am A Hypochondriac – I know this one is a shocker for some of you. It’s bad though. I am pretty sure I have emotionally had every major disease you can have. It’s even worse with my kids. Brain Amoebas, Flesh Eating Virus, Meningitis, all of the really bad ones. I take some of the craziest leaps when it comes to health concerns. I totally understand that these are legitimate concerns to parents and no one wants to go through these things. I just don’t have a rational way of dealing with the thoughts about them. I can reach a point of incapacitation. I can’t think, I can’t function, I can only see one thing. I have improved some in this area but not much. I do have to stay away from the internet when it comes to medical questions though.

 I Am Kind Hearted – I usually don’t like the thought of anyone not liking me. Please don’t tell me that there really is someone out there that doesn’t. I try to go out of my way sometimes to make sure I haven’t hurt someone’s feelings. I am that guy that takes a dime back into the store because I got too much change. I am the guy that tries to remember every detail of conversations to pick up on things that you like so I can try to brighten your day in the future. I remember birthdays and anniversaries and other important dates. It makes me feel good when others feel good. I truly would rather give than receive. That is one that I am proud of.

 I Am Trustworthy – Of course, I have been dishonest or a letdown just like anyone else. I am no saint. But I believe in trust and honesty. I think that is one of the tenets of our society, which is not one of our strong points. In my honesty, I believe what everybody’s grandma use to say, that if you don’t have something nice to say, sometimes you should say nothing at all. I have put my foot in my mouth before but I have generally been able to hold my tongue when I had to. Being trustworthy and honest is one of the things that has advanced me in my career and I know that. It is why I have been married to the same lovely woman for 15 years. It’s given me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise been afforded.

 I Am Irreverent – I have a sick sense of humor. Nothing really offends me and nothing is out of bounds. It can sometimes get the best of me and it definitely battles with my kind hearted side. Think about the paradox of never being offended and always thinking I have offended someone. While there is no out of bounds, I sometimes forget where other’s boundaries are. I like hard core comedians. I don’t mind foul language. I can laugh at myself as much as laughing at something else. I think I have a great sense of humor. It’s just not for everyone. So next time I share that questionable meme on FaceBook, just roll your eyes and move along.

 I Am Jaded – This one is tough. I know that I am though. I have seen too much of certain things and not enough of others. I have seen both sides of the philanthropic figure head. I have seen both sides of the religious FaceBook poster. I have seen both sides of the wealthy and the poor. You know the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? Yeah, that’s what I think about a lot of people. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong. Again, I am not perfect. But usually, I have to see some true colors before I am all in. Or either, I see your true colors and I am out and there is no bringing me back in. Like I said, it’s a tough one to live with but it’s deep rooted at this point.  

I Am Loyal – To go along with some of the comments of being jaded, on the flip side, if you show me that I can believe in you, I’ll be as loyal a friend as you’ll ever have.  I reserve my best for family and close friends.  If you’re in the circle, it’s a tight circle and I’ve got your back.  There aren’t many people that can fit in the circle so it does mean you are special to me.  I’m polite and kind to everyone I meet if they are the same to me.  But it’s “ride or die” for my closest.

I Am A Husband – I get a lot wrong at home.  I don’t do things exactly like Alicia wants them done.  Sometimes I’m mentally checked out from these other things that “I Am”.  But I know what my priorities are in life.  I enjoy playing sports and Alicia picks up my slack when I do but I’m home every night, our bills are paid, I pull my weight with house duties and I’m a one woman man.  She knows what she means to me and I try to remind her more often than I make her forget.  All of the positive things I am above, I try to be to her the most.  I have so much to improve on but I work on it all the time.

I Am A Father – Anybody who knows me well, knows what my girls mean to me.  My life changed forever in 2007.  It wasn’t about me anymore.  It took me a while to realize it but I get it now.  My life revolves around their well being, their safety, their happiness and their growth.  I’ve done a lot of things that I would’ve never done 10 years ago just to make them happy.  And they are stuck to me like glue so they must like me a little bit too.  I spend a lot of time worrying about them and life is harder and more pressure packed but that’s the trade off for the smiles, laughter and hugs.  Just like being a husband, I am a work in progress but I’m further along than I was when Bailey was born.

I guess I’m really a lot of other things too.  I’m a Bulldog, I’m a marginal athlete, I’m a hard worker (mentally), I’m a sports junkie, I’m a dreamer, I’m a half brained philosopher, and I’m a middling wordsmith.  I’m also selfish, I’m a procrastinator, I’m a junk food addict, I’m lazy and I’m uninspiring sometimes.  A lot of good and a lot of bad so I guess you have to decide whether I’m your cup of tea or not.  I’ll probably stop being some of these things at some point and start being other things eventually.  I’ll probably trade in the marginal athlete for the part time hammock sleeper or something along those lines.  Maybe the last thing I am is a realist.  So I am learning to embrace the good and bad and trying to accept what they both bring to my makeup.  I’d love to add millionaire and statuesque heart throb to the list but I am what I am.  I am.

J-Dub