Thanksgiving is a time to take a step away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and enjoy the friends and family we have in our lives. It’s also a time for football. My Thanksgiving schedule has been pretty set for the last several years with lunch at my aunt’s house with my mom’s side of the family and then dinner at my mother-in-law’s house with the wife’s family. We also have a breakfast with my dad’s side of the family but we don’t always make it home in time for those. I am not a punctual person and neither is my wife. We spend the day stuffing our faces with great homemade food, watching football, hanging out with family, watching football, eating again and then watching a little more football. It’s the main basic tenants of life if you think about it; food, family and football!
I also try to take the opportunity to really think about what it is I’m thankful for. That may be a cliché but that is what the day is about, right? I don’t normally make a big production out of it but it is a day where I take stock in where I am versus where I was a year before. Physically, that is in front of the TV watching football but mentally and spiritually, I look for ways I’ve grown over the past 365 days. Sometimes I am not very proud of the internal inventory I take but I can always learn from the time I spend reviewing the past. It’s the one day where we try not to take things for granted. It’s also as good a time as any for me to put the things I am most thankful for in writing. Did I mention that there was football as well?
The first one is easy; my family. Starting with my wife, she has loved me for over 20 years of our lives and has put up with more than any woman should have to. She entertains the hobbies I refuse to grow out of such as sports cards, video games and horror movies. She even acts like she’s a little interested from time to time but I know that it’s all just for my satisfaction. She goes to football games and hard rock concerts, watches the kids while I play softball, keeps everybody occupied while I’m screaming at the Dawgs on TV and lets me spend several nights a week staring into a laptop writing about cards. We have been through ups and downs but far more ups and our marriage only gets stronger as time passes.
I am thankful for my two beautiful daughters; Bailey and Georgia. Bailey is turning into a little lady that is more responsible than I was at 10. She cares about people, cares about her family and knows right from wrong. She listens about like I did at 10 but I guess she had to get some traits from her father, huh? She loves everything that I love and always wants to spend time with Daddy and that makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Georgia is a ball of fire at 3 but I have found myself including her in some of my favorite things lately and she is handling it all well. She likes Pearly’s for breakfast on the weekend, she likes going to the card shop (even if it’s to buy a toy) and when it’s time to go to bed, she wants to snuggle Daddy. I am blessed beyond measure with the girls in my life.
My mom and dad have always been supportive of me and they still work hard today to make sure their two boys have everything they need in their lives. They taught me how to make a marriage work, how to build a career and work hard and to believe in myself when I feel like the world is against me. My mom is one of the keys in me getting my blog started as she invested in me and my efforts to get everything in place. My dad taught me how to be a man and what was really important in life. I am thankful that I have wonderful parents that are still together 40+ years after they were married. I am even thankful that they had another son so I could have a brother to pick on early in life and reach out to later in life.
I can’t name all the friends and family that I am thankful for but I am deeply indebted to their support and friendship. I have friends that collect with me, that play softball and basketball with me, that live and die with the Dawgs with me, that go fishing with me, that drink a beer and laugh til we cry with me, and that would be there in my darkest hour for me, no matter the cost. I am extremely fortunate to have friends that I just met a couple of weeks ago while also having friends from elementary school that I haven’t physically seen in over 15 years. They are still my friends and we still share our lives with each other on social media and through occasional text messages. I am very fortunate to have avoided rubbing a lot of people the wrong way for the last 40 years. I have had very little personal conflict with others and that is a rarity today.
I am thankful for the people in my life that I have looked up to and also the few people in life that have looked up to me. The former list is longer than the latter but I take my role very seriously as a teammate, coach, blogger, co-worker, father, husband and friend. I have been fortunate to see life from many different perspectives over the years whether it be through the interactions with someone wanting to start a business, someone trying to save their business, someone starting a marriage, someone who’s marriage is falling apart, someone who has everything, someone who has lost it all, a 75 year old who has lived their life to the fullest, a 15 year old who hasn’t even begun to live and just about everything in between. I am truly blessed to have walked the path I have. That doesn’t make me any more special than anyone else but I am thankful to have the experiences I have.
I am thankful for you, the person reading this blog post. I wrote for myself for a long time and never thought people would be interested in reading it. Surprisingly, I have found that not to be the case. Somehow, someway, I have found an audience to entertain with my musings on sports cards, dumb movies, niche music and the inane events in my life when I was 13 years old. I am truly thankful for that. This has become such an important part of my life and the people I interact with here have become such important people. I have found that there is an entire group of people that share the same thoughts and experiences as I do but I would have never known about or been able to reach those people without the blog. The blog would not have been successful without you reading and sharing. I’m looking at you Kin Kinsley!
On a much lighter note, I am thankful for Taco Bell, Netflix, Harvest Moon, Miller Light, Diet Dr. Pepper (sometimes with Crown), Steak Biscuits, Chili, Fries, Reese’s, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Deftones, Starset, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Kirby Smart, Kelly Kapowski, Tecmo Super Bowl, Night of the Living Dead, my LCS, Junk Wax and Beckett. There is more but these are some of the things that help me make it through each day. And as long as Taco Bell continues to make new innovative foods like a chicken nugget quesadilla, they will have my support!
So let’s tie this in to sports cards…..and football. I mentioned above that I am thankful for junk wax. But there are so many individual sets I am thankful for under that umbrella. This is one such set. 1988 Topps Football means a lot to my collection. It is the home of the Bo Jackson and Brian Bosworth Super Rookies. It is the home of the Eric Dickerson and Joe Montana All-Pro’s. It has a clean, old school design that screams 1980’s but trendy at the same time. The set is colorful but not overdone. The wax pack designs are legendary in football. And there is gum; 30 year old high fructose gum!
Because this was a bit of a special occasion, I went directly to Baseball Card Exchange for this box. For those who don’t know, BBCE authenticates unopened boxes and you know you are getting something that is legit and not searched. It’s really the safest way to buy junk wax boxes but it does come at a little higher cost. I don’t use it for my ’89 Topps or ’90 Fleer boxes but if I am ripping something that is considered a little higher tier junk wax, I’ll pay a little extra. And yes, I consider ’88 Topps Football to be a little more premium than some others from that era. Hopefully, you will agree by the end of this rip.
First, the wrapper is a classic. I love the late 80’s line of Topps football wrappers as they all had pretty much the same design but they had different colors from year to year.
The design on the card was very Topps-like but ’88 felt a little more colorful than usual for me. The white border was accented by variations of the team colors around the photo. No better card to showcase that than this Steve Grogan, right Scott?
Each pack had a “glossy” 1,000 Yard Club Card that featured a running back or receiver that eclipsed 1,000 yards at some point in their career. There are a lot of stud names here but Eric Dickerson was the best on the ground and Jerry Rice the best through the air, in my opinion. I always liked Mike Quick too for some reason.
Before we move on from the 1,000 Yard Club, I thought some of you Error Collectors would appreciate this Curt Warner. Do you see it?
The Quarterbacks were some of the legendary players from the 80’s. We have Brady and Rodgers now but I think the talent was spread more evenly across the league back in the day. Steve Young was a backup at the time. Point out a backup right now that you think could have a Steve Young type career.
There were a couple of Hall of Fame running backs that were about to hit the NFL but weren’t quite ready for this set. Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith would be rookies in ’89 and ’90, making some of these guys forgotten men. But when you see these players in the context of ’88 Topps, you realize how good they really were. I’ve already mentioned Dickerson as one of the best but Roger Craig, Marcus Allen, Mike Rozier and Herschel Walker were no slouches. And Neal Anderson, Earnest Byner, Joe Morris and Keith Byars were all very good NFL running backs.
When you see the Wide Receivers, you should start to notice a trend. I am including the best players from ’88 in each section and so far the Redskins have been all over this piece. Doug Williams was in QB’s and George Rogers in RB’s. But they had the best trio of starting wide receivers in the NFL in 1987-88 with Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. It’s really no wonder why the Redskins won Super Bowl XXII.
The Tight End section is slim like always but these guys were all studs. Aside from Todd Christiansen’s hair, what’s not to love here?
Defensive Linemen were pretty dadgum tough in the 80’s! Charles Mann represented the Super Bowl Champs but the Bears had a dominant front that included Mongo McMichael, The Fridge and Richard Dent. Bruce Smith and Howie Long were just hitting their stride.
If the Redskins dominated the WR category and the Bears ruled the defensive line, then the Saints were the team to beat at Linebacker. This group was really, really good with Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling. They just didn’t have quite enough offense to compete. Let’s not overlook “LT” in this set either!
These were my favorite defensive backs from the late 80’s. I have always loved Darrell Green cards and Ronnie Lott is a true legend. Joey Browner was an interception machine but could also drop the hammer on receivers as well. Fred Marion led the Pats in both tackles and interceptions in 1987.
This group of Super Rookies is missing a few studs that will be showcased in a moment but there are several players here that had very serviceable NFL careers. Ricky Nattiel was a good receiver for John Elway and Alonzo Highsmith carried the rock for Warren Moon, keeping defenses honest. Henry Thomas, Shane Conlan and Johnny Holland were all good defensive players and Jerome Brown was close to dominant in Philly with Reggie White. Brown lost his life at a very young age and didn’t get to rise to his full potential.
The Record Breakers in this set were Steve Largent, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Largent set the NFL record for receptions in a career with 752 by the end of 1987. Joe Montana set the mark for consecutive pass completions with 22 over a two game span against the Browns and Green Bay. Finally, Jerry Rice hauled in 18 touchdown passes in 1987, breaking the previous record held by Mark Clayton from 1984. He also had a TD catch in 13 straight games, another record.
Now we get to the good stuff! Not only was this set loaded with NFL Legends of the late 80’s and some key rookies; there is also a record breaker card for Walter Payton. He set a record for most rushing touchdowns in a career in 1987 with 110. He also held the mark for most career rushing yards at 16,779. Anytime I can add an original Walter Payton to my collection, I’m as happy as can be!
Let’s take a look at the best rookies from the 1988. The first is Vinny Testaverde, who had a very solid career over a staggering 21 seasons. He also won the Heisman Trophy in 1986.
Next we have Christian Okoye, “The Nigerian Nightmare”! Okoye punished defenders over 6 seasons, rushing for over 1,000 yards twice. He was the ultimate short yardage back but had enough speed to break off some big runs from time to time as well. Okoye is one of my all-time favorite players!
One of the really big rookies in 1988 was Brian “The Boz” Bosworth from Oklahoma. The Boz was bigger than life and was a superstar on and off the field. He was a ferocious defender who had amazing athletic talent. Unfortunately, once he got to the NFL, he met a man who was more ferocious than he was.
That man was Vincent Edward Jackson, better known as “Bo”. The former Heisman winner at Auburn was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but never signed due to a rift that started with the Bucs causing Bo to break an NCAA rule and be deemed ineligible for his senior baseball season. Bo has always alleged that it was some sort of sabotage on behalf of Tampa Bay to railroad his baseball career. In response, Bo refused to sign with the Bucs and went to Major League Baseball where he started an All-Star career in Kansas City. He did come back to the NFL as a 7th Round Pick by the Los Angeles Raiders and the rest is history.
This set is nearing 30 years old and I believe it still holds up amazingly well. I still really like the design. I like the “Super Rookie” moniker and the rookie class is very good. From the wax pack to the 1,000 Yard Club subset to the base cards of NFL legends, there is a lot to like about this set. Topps Football in the late 80’s is often overlooked by collectors of today but I really don’t understand why. There were some very good rookies from 1987-1990 that included Randall Cunningham, Bo, Okoye, Boz, Aikman, Deion, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. Those are some legitimate names when it comes to NFL greats and their rookie cards are readily available at about $25 per box. I give 1988 Topps a “5” on the Dub-O-Meter because there are very few flaws that I can find. The checklist spans from Walter Payton to Bo Jackson and that covers a lot of NFL Stars. I get why people want autographs and serial numbered cards today but I am very thankful that junk wax is still accessible and I can explore cards of true NFL heroes from my youth for a relatively cheap price.
So there; among all of the other things I am thankful for today, I remain thankful for wax packs, high fructose gum, Bo Jackson, Christian Okoye, Mike Quick and even Steve Grogan. I will never allow trends or money dictate what I like about sports cards. I’ll buy new products and I’ll hope for big name autographs but I’ll always come back to my roots when I want to sit and enjoy the cardboard!