Monday, August 17, 2020

Bitch and Ye Shall Receive

Alternate Title: I guess I have to stop ripping packs now.

Alternate Alternate Title: I hate being caught up in a technology war.

Blogger has not been kind to me lately. It keeps telling me I have to migrate to the "new" version. But whenever I do, I can't edit my Pages, or do routine things like upload a scan of a baseball card. Then it lets me revert to the old tried and true, but tells me the clock is ticking on the way I've always done it...really, this time, for real...

...meanwhile more and more websites don't work with my browser, including, for example, Google Earth, a kinda popular thing on the web. My old man old timey wrong software sin? I use Safari, the web browser basically built in to Mac OS.

Yes, yes, I can get another browser easily enough. I have been using personal computers since I was 13 years old and walked away from a life programming these devices, which would have quite a bit more lucrative than the way my tree planting with the amigos life turned out. But I don't regret that at all.

Sometimes in my work I run into clients, etc., who refuse to adapt a new technology, though I am referring to just techniques for growing tree seedlings. "But that's the way we've always done it." My reply: "yeah, and your office used to have typewriters in it too." The problem with that snappy comeback is probably that more and more people never did ever touch or see a "typewriter" in their lives in the first place.

Now, I am the stick in the mud refusing / neglecting to keep my devices up to date, add more to them just to keep them working, yaddayaddayadda. Life is too short for software updates, quite often, in my opinion. I've got baseball cards to sort.

To make this all even more fun, my wireless wifi internet provider, via dish on the roof, has developed fun signal latency problems that can make web pages randomly refuse to load. And it wouldn't be 2020 if we all didn't use up more bandwidth than allowed, resulting in speed throttling at times too lately. Even just streaming audio calls of baseball games has a cost, elsewhere.

Eventually I will adapt and overcome, particularly as I am looking forward to getting back to the wonderfully relaxing habit of writing up one baseball card per day for my 2013 set blog. But with the clock ticking towards a couple months of work on the road collecting tree seed, those hopes are dimming for now.

Meanwhile, 2020 rages on. The economy seems headed for trouble no matter how many Reichsmarks the peeps in Weimar print, "doomscrolling" is the new nationwide addiction, paranoia into our lives has crept --- add that all up and the result is: I can't buy a pack of baseball cards? Really?

I am sure you have all seen it, where you live. I live in the middle of nowhere and routinely try my best to get out from the middle, out to the bleeding edge of Nowhere, where I can no longer doomscroll the news for a most excellent reason: my phone reports "No Service." Along the way to that Nirvana, I do always try and take my last possible chances to take along a pack of fresh new baseball cards, to have a little reading material as I try to tune in a long distance radio broadcast, hopefully.

In a few weeks I will discover just how far the "flippers" have penetrated out towards Nowhere, when I stop at a Wal-Mart where just a month ago, the store still offered every packaging format of 2019 Update. In July 2020. I bought a couple packs, and a pack of Big League, and my ripping jones was satisfied, or at least my acquisition jones was, as I didn't have the energy to actually open those packs till games finally resumed.

Little did I know it would be almost the last time I saw baseball cards this year, except for one oddball type of pack, one I have enjoyed ripping ever since Topps started offering them back in 2012. But the things I have seen (or not seen, really) since then, man.

One detail I didn't add to my story of finally finding Series 2 on the shelves on Opening Day itself was that for this first time I actually saw my local baseball card "rep" in person, there was a small team of people placing the cards on the shelf - the rep, his young son, and what seemed to be probably his girlfriend.

As I, and 2 other people, waited for them to reach those packages with Mike Trout on every surface, the girlfriend asked the young boy where a certain box of gaming cards should go. "Oh, my Dad usually takes those for himself." This from the mouths of babes bon mot prompted a flurry of activity and subject changing comments by the rep, but the cat was out of the bag, as they say.

Finally they reached the Series 2 and I happened to be standing the closest to that spot on the shelf, so I was able to enjoy 3 whole packs of cards and share them with you fine individuals the last time I convinced Blogger to work with me, not against me. By the next day, when I finally remembered I needed a loaf of bread after all that baseball card excitement, all baseball cards had been stripped from the building once again.

But now I knew 2 things: what day the rep stocked my shelves, and that he dabbles in re-selling them.

Does he re-sell baseball, or only gaming cards? I will never know. I also don't know if I will ever see many baseball cards again, the way things are going. Except those one kind of packs, I guess.

The next week, I didn't make it to the store on Friday. Big mistake. I had like, Real Life going on or something, I forget. I was quite looking forward to buying a pack or 3 of Chrome, cuz I like pink baseball cards, and I just have this modest desire to simply purchase enough packs to see about a dozen and a half of those bubble-gum-flashback-inducing baseball cards, to keep a random set of 9 pleasing examples of them in my binder of random baseball cards. Crazy wish, I know, right?

But I did need something or other from the store that Saturday, and on past the baseball cards I soon wandered, to find the now usual baseball card sight of 2020: an empty display box of Chrome. And an empty everything else, except a lonely looking row of the one pack blisters with the one purple card inside. Whomever or the whomevers it is that swallows every single baseball card delivered to my town now doesn't seem to like those blister packs. Part of the stupefying UnReality of 2020 here is that a mere 17 months ago, this very same store offered more 2018 Update packages of all types than 2019 Series One and 2019 Heritage, because the shelves were still overloaded with all those packs showing Shohei Ohtani admiring a long ball he had just hit - because no one in my town was hardly buying any baseball cards, at all, and all those Oh Oh Ohtani packs had been there for a solid 6 months of gathering dust.

Now I enjoy the lottery ticket aspect of baseball cards as much as anyone else, so I liked my chance to "hit" something amongst the purple cards at least, after my first "SteeeeeeeeeRike" on buying some 2020 Chrome. So I went a touch to the greedy side I guess and splurged on 5 whole blister packs - 85 new baseball cards in the year 2020, all to myself!

And I was also quite pleased because in classic baseball card fashion, I am actually falling for a 'grey' set when I usually want nothing to do with that color and the game of baseball. Grey is the color for fishing - when it rains, the fish are a lot less shy without a flaming ball of fire in the sky revealing them to their predators, and it's Game On, especially out there in Nowhere. Sunshine and colors = Baseball; Grey = Fishing. My life can be that simple sometimes, and I don't expect much from it. Just an occasional nifty brand new baseball card like this one:

Or this one, my favorite player from the 1970s, sometimes, like when I pull a brand new card of his:

So that kind of helped me forget my disappointment over no mysterious-new-car-smell pink baseball cards. Plus, I now knew that when it came to baseball cards, there's always next week.

Friday afternoon would be the time. The Magic: The Cards guy would make his appointed round to my town and offer up the brand new pink shiny baseball cards. I set my alarm for 5:15 to make sure I didn't go out of my brain and miss my chance. Plus, I had to work till about 5 anyway.

Alas, 'twas not to be. SteeeeeeeeeRike Twooo! The store remained 100% empty of baseball cards. By this point, even the 2019 Opening Day cards with the all-same images from S1/S2 and the now boring inserts (since the kid like insert mojo has moved to Big League), yes, even 2019 Opening Day had finally sold out. And since there were no empty display boxes, I knew my rep had let me down. Especially since the stock of Panini/Score Football cards with Tom Brady in a Pats uniform (brilliant!) as the cover boy - well, that stock was still exactly the same. The one way to know, in the crazy summer of 2020, if the sports card rep has appeared, is that more Score Football cards are on the shelf than were there the week before.

"Every Friday, between 2 and 5," he had said. Promised, even. Doesn't this rep know that Rain Man gets kind of upset when his routine enjoyment of baseball cards gets disrupted in any way?

Fortunately, I was able to quickly reason my way to a hopeful future - the rep would show the next day, and distribute the glorious sports cards the way he was supposed to. Saturday, it would be. Yes, my precious.

SteeeeeeeeeRike Threeeee! At least in terms of baseball cards. I was correct - the rep had come a day late. I knew this via 2 obvious sigils he left for me - another empty display rack box whatever of 2020 Topps Chrome, and now 2 kinds of 2020 Panini Football cards, pristine in their perfectly full box rack display of Aaron Rogers seemingly on the run from some pursuers. Maybe they had pink cards inside, I briefly wondered? No, Football cards of future concussion victims are just not my thing any more. Will Aaron Rogers remain a Packer? Hmmmm.

But that was about it for my random attempt to enjoy sports cards last weekend. I should be building a set of Big League, right Nope. A night of randomly absorbing 50-ish cards from a Complete Set of 2020 Topps Baseball, just to keep some side collections going through a sad year of 3/4 bleed, overly grey baseball cards. Nope. No cards for you.

Of course I have stacks and stacks of old baseball cards to enjoy, and I have been retreating to the past a fair bit this year, and I would have been sharing those retreats with you absent this absurd battle with Blogger.

Don't, however, forget my new baseball card motto, to go along with my old motto that titles this post. "There's always next week." Put some more Panini football cards down on that shelf, Lucy, I'm uhh gonna kick the winning field goal this time, for sure! Especially since a need for esoteric repair items meant a drive to the Big City an hour away, the one with 3 Big Box stores, not just one.

Alas, 2020 is relentless. The Big City had even less Panini Football cards than my town does. Which meant a whole lot of Nope on the idea of any baseball cards of any kind. But then I had no idea what magical day those stores receive the manna from on high anyway, so I wasn't too discouraged. I mean, you have to know what hour the rep arrives to buy baseball cards, right? Isn't that the way we have always bought baseball cards? But I was still calm cool and collected, since on my way home I had no choice but to drive right by my regular little Big Box store, early on one more Friday night.

I am beginning to think that we as a Society might need to watch the movie Groundhog Day very very closely for clues on how to escape from 2020 and its incredible sense of same same every day after day. Especially since my cousin told me recently that the very first Mad Max movie is set in the year 2021. Start stashing extra fuel, now.

So in my cozy hometown store, it was the same same empty blue box of 2020 Topps Chrome. And empty boxes of everything else, again, except the Panini Football cards now offer 3 sets of untouched display boxes to pick from. Given the amount of 2019 Panini Football cards also on offer this whole time, who plays for which set of cards is starting to get more than a little blurry, as are their set names. Maybe the newest one was Chronicles of Prizm Mosaics and I could have suddenly been rich, I dunno.

All I knew was: No pink baseball cards for you. Just, purple ones:
I always like the purple Pirates.

And, since I have been thinking of these as 'Turkey Red' packs despite a distinct lack of red in this design, grey ones:

Once again a full rack of over a dozen single pack blisters was there waiting for me. So, I bought some. I selected 3 from the middle, and once again left the rest for whomever else around here also has no other baseball card option.

By this point, I have done my homework. These blister pack things are instant money on the flip, as they say; a routine doubling in price when they are re-sold on eBay, minus shipping, eBay fees, PayPal fees, and gas, maintenance, and insurance on a vehicle to drive to the Big Box stores all the time, of course. The IRS hands out a 55¢ credit per mile, you know, and eBay does hand over the 1099 deets when someone pulls in over $10K on there. Or maybe less by now. Might not hurt to check. And keep a mileage log like a good little taxpayer.

So now I still don't know if a flipper crew makes a routine visit to my town, or if my diligent efforts to always leave some packs on the shelves for the children, the children have now resulted in a rabid horde of same desperate for all the baseball cards around here, or if the rep just walks straight from the baseball card shelves to the cash registers, or what is going on except this: these purple packs are the only baseball cards I can buy.

Personally, I refuse to purchase packs of baseball cards online. I don't mind buying old cards online, at all. But buying new cards this way, Nope. I just refuse to add another middle-man to the equation. One thing I learned in my business is that the more people there are in between the person owning the land and the person doing the work on it, the more poor the actual worker, and the outcome of the work, tends to be.

I mean normally for me to enjoy a nice colorful baseball card showing me the boys of summer (well, aside from first Topps having to get back to creating colorful baseball cards) a lot of businesses have to get a slice of my 22¢ for each one: Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Player's Association, Getty, Topps, MJ Holdings/Fairfield/Excel/Beckett Distr., and finally WalMart/Target/Meijers. I am fine with all that. What I will never be fine with is adding eBay, PayPal, USPS, and some random dude who drives around buying (or deliverying) things from (or to) Big Box stores all day every day, so that my soon to be worth 0¢ baseball card now costs 44¢.

If I can't buy a couple packs of baseball cards once a week or so on a grocery trip, I guess I have to stop ripping packs now. It is something I have done for most of my life and is one of life's simple pleasures. Spend a couple dollars, and your mind is taken back out to the old ballgame. Now, 2020 has almost taken away even that, somehow.

To me, the craziest thing about this mania for just regular baseball cards is that no one will actually want the vast majority of them. Even 'Complete Sets' have become just lottery ticket packs of cards with a random chance at a /13 special only-in-this-box type of shiny of the Rookie of the Month. I truly believe that such sets are cracked open, the RC logo cards are laboriously extracted (why can't Topps just put them all together in the front of the box?) and the rest of the cards simply thrown in the trash.

My one hope lately is that someone will do a serious Return on Investment study of sports cards vs. lottery tickets. Though that would make no difference to all of this. And I never buy lottery tickets anyway, only baseball cards.

And there it was, in the 2nd blister pack:

THE card everyone wants, or at least the card from this particular packaging format. One of the more desirable Rookie Card cards, as I like to call them. Say it with me now kids, "Rookie Card cards."

And, the reason I have had very few chances to buy many baseball cards this summer: some of the lottery tickets really do have a prize underneath the grey (coincidence?) scratch off ink. Bitch, and Ye Shall Receive.

I can still hardly believe this. 11 chances to hit a 1/350 chance at "the only card in the set worth any money." All I really wanted was another Turkey Red card.

And now I have to thank all those card fanatics that routinely cleaned out every Chrome card in my town through 3 go-rounds of putting them out on the shelf. I couldna pulled that purple without them.

One of the nice things about blister packs w/purples has often been, for me, some pretty good luck inside the pack inside the blister, too. Way back in 2012, I hit a crazy rare card in one, a /10 Cal Ripken bat relic card, and have seen plenty of other random baseball card goodness inside those single packs over the years.

This year, these 16 card single packs suggest there is a 1:8 chance of hitting a Topps Gold card inside. However of the 11 purple packs I have ripped, I have hit 5 Topps Golds. Including this one, in the 3rd blister pack:

OK, Topps, ok, I will quit bitching now. You did your job and you did it well. Well enough, anyway. All my baseball cards will eventually be free and then some, this year. With these 2 cards in hand. I do have a pair of difficult decisions on my event horizon I guess, starting with whether to try out this fad called "grading" I hear so much about. Seems like a no-brainer for these 2 cards, and I think Topps might have came through here with no detectable corner dings that make the "10 Nazis" sneer at lowly 'raw' cards. That bottom right on the Gold is starting to nag at me though. And my brain is starting to fret about 'centering' for the first time ever. No soup.

And then there will be the almost un-wished for decision point with cards like these: Sell, or Hold? The living ghost of US175 hovers over all, of course, a card which has been very very good to me. And I guess I would like to have a Rookie Card of an exciting young Center Fielder (hands down the best baseball card position) like Luis Robert. If only there was a way I could hold his plain ole regular Rookie Card card, too, especially since I am beginning to doubt whether I will be able to buy a Complete Set on a shelf in an actual store.

And then I recalled another common feature of enjoying parallel Topps baseball cards. The parallel version quite sometimes kinda seems to appear in the same pack as the plain ole boring regular version:

So I guess I have to stop ripping packs now. Since there won't be any to buy anyway, and if even if there were I know I would pull nothing but dupes after a 3 pack run like that one.

And, yeah, it's still the year 2020. I'm not sure what will happen next. Are you?

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