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The Oddball Insider E-Zine

March, 2006 - Vol. 7, No. 3  Issue #120

  • Knuckleballs by Dave Clark
  • Autograph Hound by Marc Schoder

  • Read previous issue

    KNUCKLEBALLS, By Dave Clark - Knuckleball HQ

    Left Turn 101

    You'd think that a local TV sports department editor would do what he could to promote an up-and-coming sport that may have growing support in his audience, especially in a sports hotbed like here in the Boston market. Not that I'm here to trash him for calling NASCAR something like "two hours of left turns", but maybe a little perspective would further understanding. I'd like to therefore compare NASCAR driving to what most civilians experience, just to show that auto racing as a sport isn't just going fast through a lot of left turns.

    Your car is a stick-shift, which is an uh-oh for a lot of the public. And you're strapped in at multiple points, which is totally foreign to those who don't believe seat belts help when you need to reach for that coffee in the cup holder. Oh, and no cupholders, either. And the radio is two-way, and only gets talk... from your pit crew and spotters. And you have to talk back.

    Ever have to change tires several times in just a few hundred miles? Okay, maybe if you bought those $10 retreads in the yard sale. Or fuel up a couple of times in only four hundred miles, a few gallons in a couple of seconds, too fast for even swiping your credit card through the slot on the pump.

    And I'll bet you have no idea how important it is to pick the right line, or even have a clue what that is. An example of a poor line is what you often see ahead of you on the road. The road turns right, and the driver ahead of you goes WAY over to the yellow line in the middle of the road and follows that WAY around, then when the road turns left, they're WAY over to the outside, up against the white stripe on the edge of the road. Your suspicions are true: Most ordinary drivers don't try to aim at a place a few hundred feet ahead and go straight there; what they do is let the lines control them. What keeps them from sliding off the road and crashing upside down on fire in a ditch is paint. That's driving? Not for racing, it isn't. For talking on your cellphone, yes. For ignoring anything more than two carlengths ahead, yes.

    At speeds upwards of 120 mph, you're not only concentrating on a few dozen other cars that are all around you and fighting for position without any turn signals, you've got to stay out of the marbles and try to keep picking a good line and stay away from non-moving structures that are already at you when they seem to be fifteen feet away. Your mind has to concentrate and process information on other cars moving about as fast as you, and decide how to handle your location with things that are coming up on you hard and fast from the front, such as wreckage from other vehicles or entire wrecked cars you're charging towards at a speed of two miles per minute. And the painted stripes may be slick from dew, or patched spots may be rough, and the turns may be banked anywhere from 6 degrees to 30, which changes everything as you drive them at different speeds.

    And it's not just you. Your entire crew has to support you and make fast decisions to keep you in the best position you can, and for a few hours. If the car is "tight" or "loose", you have to judge that and report back, because that may mean you're looking good, or you need new tires, or maybe there's another issue you need to correct. Oops... there went third gear, and your oil pressure's up... what do you do? Can you handle it? You're in no place to call Dad or AAA. A lot of money's on the line... and, by the way, so's your life.

    Those who don't appreciate auto racing think that fans go to a race to see accidents, but if that were true, then why isn't demolition derby big?

    It's noisy, it's relentless, it's too complicated for most people to understand, it's scary, it's shockingly fast, it's political, it's tension-packed, it's expensive, and it's all-American.

    And when home, none of these drivers come back from fetching a gallon of milk to say, "Hon, you wouldn't believe what just happened to me" because their jobs are an entire world above and beyond that of an average driver. And if you sit one down and let him know that you indeed get it, he may volunteer a little something about Left Turn 102.

    eTopps - Are You Fan Enough?

    AUTOGRAPH HOUND, By Marc Schoder - Autograph Dog

    Are Sports Cards Still a Kid's Hobby?

    I began to ask myself the other day a very key question, "Are sports cards still a kidís hobby?" I began to think back to when I first started to collect cards. The year was 1987, Ronald Reagan was in his last term, and home run hitter Barry Bonds had his first mainstream baseball rookie card in the Topps set that year.

    The original idea for sports cards when they first started back in the 1840ís when they were designed to be straight mementos of a time period. It wasnít until 20 years later that they were used for commercial uses such as being sold with tobacco products.

    In the 1870's to the 1890's, trade cards were considered a very popular form of advertising. During this timeframe, "baseball themed" cards made up only a fraction of the total trade cards in the market place. Trading cards at first depicted many different topics like, presidents, animals, and comics.

    The most popular type of trading cards during that time was cards which show baseball scenes in a comical situation.

    According to the Library of Congress, Baseball cards first became popular in the 1880s when tobacco companies used them to stiffen small, soft cigarette packages and to promote sales. Although the cards in that time vary in design and format, most are much smaller than today's sports trading cards.

    We now fast forward back to 1987 when I started collecting. In Albuquerque, where I used to live, there were four sports collectibles shops that had everything from your normal packs of cards to single cards of your favorite player to choose from.

    At this particular point in time, this is how most collectors remember starting out collecting cards. Most, like myself, were able to go down to a local card shop or even a local drug store (my favorite was Walgreens) to buy that what was a 35-cent pack of Topps cards. It wasnít until two years later I realized that this isnít really a hobby.

    People (mostly men) who are from the baby boomer generation start to remember at this point when they are introducing their sons to the art of collecting cards, what their parents did to their cards when they did their growing up during their formidable years during the 1950ís.

    My father told me stories of when packs of baseball cards use to cost a mere nickel as well as when he and his friends would put cards in the spokes of their bikes. I remember becoming sick to my stomach when my father told me this because I told him then that 35-cents a pack was way too high. Little did I know at the time (circa 1988) that everything in the sports card industry was going to change.

    In the calendar year of 1989 the sports card industry outright exploded. During that year, a new company named the Upper Deck Company burst on to the sports card scene. The reasoning behind the explosion in the industry during this time period is that many collectors were happy something new hit the market and their expectations for the new company were extremely high. The first product that the company issued to the market was very good for the existing technology for the time. The high quality photos and the hologram to ensure the authenticity of the card, this for that moment in time, was top of the line and a great marketing niche that Upper Deck started out with. This makes me wish I had thought of it first. However, at the time I was only ten-years-old.

    When this all came to a head during that year, people from my fatherís generation stepped in and found a way to make a quick buck and to start a business for themselves. The population of Albuquerque around 1989 was approximately 589,000 people according to the U.S. census bureau. Albuquerque had 30, yes thatís right; count them 30 baseball card memorabilia shops. The idea of going to these shops could keep you busy for a good couple of weeks, however, when you realize that when they all carry the same thing you find you are wasting your time.

    Like the economy, the sports card industry goes up and down like a yo-yo. As time went on you saw shops open and close and some merge and actually succeed. At last count in the Albuquerque phone book, there were five sports card shops in operation. I will add that three of those shops are under the same ownership.

    The cost of cards has also gone up during this time period as well. I take you back to 1987 were a cost of a pack was a mere 35-cents, Take you to 2006, to buy what is considered a premium pack of cards which are insert cards or chase cards which are considered rare, you will look to spend upwards of $30.00 on a pack. Yes, thatís right, enough to buy you a good steak dinner at Cattle Baron in Portales.

    Even with changes in the economy, most kids donít even get that type of allowance from parents these days. Hence collecting other things like non-sport comic-related cards have become the big thing. They are cheap and easy to find at your local big box retailer in Portales or Clovis. With all that said, itís really a baby boomer's way to pay for their retirements and re-live their youth by creating a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business.

    Marc Schoder is a freelance writer and computer consultant in New Mexico. He can be contacted at or or by e-mail at

    The contents of the respective articles represent the opinions of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the editor/owner of The Oddball Mall Sports Cards.

    © Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.

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