Monday, December 31, 2012

Keeping the Kids Attached: TV or Cards?

In the English language, it's quite easy to refer to children as "kids." I know it's a cardinal sin because I know "kid" should only be in reference to a young goat. However, I'm an informal blog, so I will use "kids" and "children" interchangeably. Deal.

Writing a post like this hit me in the weirdest way. I just realized that I don't really follow these two things enough anymore: card collecting and Nickelodeo--I mean, "Nicktoons." When I was younger (note, I'm 22, so let's say ten years ago) I thought card collecting was pretty cool. I did the big ones like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh and if I look hard enough I'll find some old Topps cards of washed up MLB and NFL folk somewhere in my closet. I was also pretty hip on the cartoon scene, watching stuff on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon before the 5,000 digital channels of cartoons existed.

While doing some research last night, I recognized two things: most practices of sports card collecting is rather dead in various areas of the country except in small circles and towns, and there are more kid-centered television shows (live-action and animated) that center around sports. The Saturday morning shows and 5,000 cartoon channels are taking advantage of the dearth of an older fad, giving children the ability to find out more about their favorite team or have a favorite player. Don't get me wrong, the Internet really helped a lot of people out in that department, but in an age where Parental Controls still take hold in a family's household, the television is the only surefire way a child could get valid information about things they may be interested in.

I saw a preview for this show last night, and I had never head of it until now. It's a series called NFL Rush Zone. Apparently this show is already in its second season and it's relatively popular, even featuring voices of real athletes and officials.

I'll admit...the concept is pretty cool. If I were still ten or eleven, I would most likely watch this show. "Not the big screen!" Ha ha. You silly Texans.

There are also various segments you'll find on broadcast networks' cartoon blocks that will feature big-name stars depending on what sports season is going on at the time. I have seen a few of them over the past few weeks featuring Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, and that's a pretty good segue to get kids into the sport and the players that grace the television sets week in and week out. When the NFL season is said and done, you'll most likely see more NBA faces and the resurgence of MLB players as well. It gives the athletes more of a "superhero aura" to them as they're inspiring little kids and giving them advice on how to stay strong and healthy and help them in their journeys to be like them on the field.

That's cool and all, but other inspirations came before this.

Before the powers and abilities of television and various technology came into play, kids found other ways to worship their favorite players/teams and rub their favorite team or player into the opposition's faces. I'm talking about sports cards. Saturdays would consist of kids going to their respective mom-and-pop stores to pick up the newest pack of cards and show it off to their friends. Heaven forbid there was a decent rookie card in the pack, right? Then the kid would have to hide the thing to prevent getting beat up and having the precious card stolen. Today, there's a chance that some of those said cards are worth a lot of money; however, there's another chance that it might not even be the case anymore.

The main issue that I noticed while doing research was that the trading card business hit such a peak in the late-80's into the mid-90's that more card companies came into the fold and began flooding the business over the capacity. Think of it this way: the trading card business worked like a cactus back in the day--it only needed a little bit of water to flourish, and it was kind of cool to have around. Then, Hurricane Greed flew by during the peak and flooded the cactus, practically killing it. Because there were so many brands of trading cards at that point, there was no excitement in having something rare and valuable because there were five or six other brands like it and gave the rare item barely any value. Sure, there are brands of cards that are deemed "the real deal" in the eyes of collectors, but if I were a young age and saw that someone else had a LaDanian Tomlinson card (regardless of brand), I'd be pretty mad. Today, people see this as a dying hobby that few people would find useful or worth any sort of cash.

This is what today's kids are turning to. It almost makes me want know, cry a little.

It's as if the intimacy of the hobby is what died. Kids today might think that card collecting is filled with uber cheese and that 1960's poindexters are the only people who really collect trading cards these days. Just like in Fantasy Football, it's like you own a part of the player when you have their card. Plus, it's also fun to look at certain baseball cards and see how old or bulky the player got throughout the years. It was just something cool to have and something cool to show off. Today, children get their fix of their favorite players on television and don't really have much to show for that.

See what I'm getting to here? Sure, you might have an advanced form of YouTube 30-40 years from now, but a card is something you're always going to have and be able to hold. I don't know if kids still appreciate that sort of thing anymore. Believe me, if I were that age again I would be able to tell you. But from what I know, unless if I do some field research myself, it's pretty ambiguous as to what the children of today would much rather own: trading cards in their hand or trading cards on their digital tablet [I seriously almost gagged after typing that]. Technology is going to break, but something simple as a card can be taken care of, and it can keep kids attached longer and more efficiently. It's not like there's going to be another advanced model of cards that will come out six months after the current model is released. Thinking about it now, after studying the ideas of the media and technology, I come off as a person that really hates it--and there are often times that I sincerely do.

I embrace the idea of spreading the ideas of sports to cartoon form and such, but those things are just temporary fixes and attachments in my eyes. Owning and trading cards is always something more intimate and memorable. When you trade or collect, you make more relationships with friends and other people you don't know; believe me, it's a lot more than what you can do sitting in front of a television screen and watching the show on your own or maybe with a parent or another friend.

Sports should bring people together and give them arguments. It shouldn't alienate them.

What do you think keeps children attached in the long run? Do you think the dying hobby of card collecting and trading is more effective than sports cartoons in the grand scheme of things?

Happy New Year, y'all.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 2012 Army/Navy Game - A Whole New Adventure

Last Saturday, December 9, 2012, was one of the coolest days of my life. Call me weird, but before that day, I had never attended a football game. Not even a high school football game. You may say that I was a deprived child, but the only games we would ever go to in my family would be baseball games because there were six of us and it was cheaper that way. Don't get me wrong, I've been in a football stadium before, but I had never watched a game, but this game I went to was special. It had a lot of sentimental meaning, and I am so glad that this was a first.

My Dad was in the United States Navy, and he (most of the time my Mom) and several of his buddies from the Navy would go to the Army/Navy Game every year or so. For those who swear by college football, you know how crazy things can get with fans. My Dad would go nuts with facepaint (and if you knew him personally, you wouldn't be shocked about this) and based on things that I had seen the day I had attended, there were tailgaters having shot contests (I do not make this up). Because my Dad passed away in October of 2011, we had wondered if we were ever going to experience these games again.

Lucky for us, my family and I do not live too far from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, which is the halfway point between the Naval Academy and West Point. Before Lincoln Financial Field was constructed, a lot of the games were played at Veterans Stadium, which was literally a dump. A lot of us can remember when the stadium literally started falling apart during the game. Every couple of years, the game would be played in various places, like East Rutherford, NJ, Baltimore, MD, the DC area, and they were even played out in California many decades ago. This year, we all decided that we would attend this game as a family, and we all pitched in money to buy tickets, and a couple of weeks later, we got our tickets to the Army/Navy Game in the mail.

The day came, and it was rather exciting. Of course, parking was a nightmare. The cool part was that while we were waiting, the team buses were riding by. We honked of course. We made the super long walk over to the stadium, and out of boredom, my brother and I did our own harmonized rendition of the National Anthem. What else were we going to do? It's America's Game, for cripes' sake. I like to think we can carry a tune efficiently together, even when I'm laughing mid-song. Anyway...

I took photos of the event, but to be honest, my iPhone was having a massive off-day, so you can tell we were virtually in the nosebleeds (next to last row).
It's the thought that counts, though. 
What fascinated me the most was how people treat this sport like a religion. Each squad had their own sets of "spirit videos" and they were absolutely hilarious.

Here's one from Army:

Here's one from Navy:

They were all pretty good--these are just two that I found that were shown that day. They kind of remind me of my video-making days from my recent time in college.

One thing they did before kickoff was a "card stunt." This was one of the things that I wanted to blow off before we even did it. I'm like: "Well that seems lame," and other people were probably thinking the same thing. Then this happened, and I won't lie, it was pretty awesome.

The kickoff happened, and right off the bat, Army just ran the ball constantly until about halfway through the third quarter. Navy mixed things up a little bit throughout the game.  The one thing I'll admit that sucked because it was my first game were the constant "media timeouts" that were heavily scattered throughout the game. At home, I would at least see a cute commercial, or use the toilet in the comfort of my own home, or not spend $5 on hot chocolate that was a wee bit strong. But no, it was kind of cold out there. The projected temperature was 58 degrees, and it was far from that. Because we were so high up, it was more like...40. Luckily I brought my Navy throw blanket (which was bought at the Army/Navy soccer game over two months ago) and some of us stayed warm.

Army was up 13-10 for most of the second half, and it actually looked like they were going to get their first win since 2001. Because Navy had a hard time with Army's running game, it looked like my first football game was going to be a bust.  However, a 40+ yard passing play and a run into the end zone got Navy back into the game at 17-13. With less than two minutes to go, Army had to make a mad rush to score a touchdown. Because there was a missed Army field goal in the third quarter, seven points were needed to win instead of three. They kept faithful to their run and the occasional surprise pass and managed to make it to the 16-yard line. Fourth-year Trent Steelman, Army's quarterback, had the game (literally) in the palm of his hand. However, the trade-off was fumbled and Navy recovered, ending the game.

I don't think I ever screamed and jumped that much even when the Phillies won the World Series. That was the craziest finish to a football game I've ever seen.

My whole family hugged each other and jumped and screamed while all of the Army fans started leaving. Because we know how bad traffic can be, we decided to leave before each squad sang their Alma Mater. Don't worry, we still heard it, and we walked away feeling kind of bad for Army because they were so close to singing second.

The way back was surprisingly calm, as we were going the opposite way of everyone else. That never happens either. I guess everything went in our favor that day. After a big family dinner, we called it a night. And then we went home and passed out for the next two days because of how exhilarating the experience was.

I am so incredibly glad that this was the first football game I ever went to. The excitement to the people that barely had an idea of what the Army and Navy did ("I wonder how many ships Army has compared to the Navy." I could not make this up.) to all of the cadets and midshipmen jumping around during various parts of the game, I couldn't have asked for a better time and a better adventure with my family.


You will be able to find my photos from the Army/Navy Game in the PHOTOS section of the blog before Christmas. As a Christmas Bonus, you'll be able to find pictures I took in September from the Army/Navy soccer match as well. As you can tell, I'm armed forces out this year.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Red Whines: The Race Card, Fifty Years Later

Let's get this out of the way: I am a Caucasian female. I have many friends who are African American.

I don't know about you, but I know that there are people out there that own the philosophy that you are allowed to pick on your own color or race and if anyone else does so, well...that's "racist." Needless to say, the absolute reverse of this happened on Thursday.

I have my own opinions of this guy I'm about ready to talk about, but right now my opinion doesn't matter.
If you watch ESPN you know exactly who I'm talking about.

ESPN analyst Rob Parker was a part of ESPN First Take on ESPN 2 Thursday morning, and as they were talking about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (a.k.a. RG3), Parker starts questioning RG3's..."blackness," or whether he was [something along the lines of] a "cornball brother." The idiot got suspended indefinitely by ESPN for saying this, by the way.

What? Is it legally acceptable to critique someone's race now?
Yes, it's ironic that this is a black man, but this isn't the reason why I put this here.
Whoa there, buddy. Are we bringing unnecessary things into question here?
Oh, it gets better.

This is quoted from what he said:
"He's not real. OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else." (Thank you, YouTube...)
I have three logical questions for this statement:

  1. What, to you, is real?
  2. What is this "cause" you speak of?

That last question almost makes me put Rob Parker's lifestyle into question, but that's beside the point. He also mentioned subjects such as RG3 being engaged to a white woman and that he's a Republican. Something tells me that Parker must really not like this guy. It's like he tried so hard to give reasons to hate the guy and be different.

It's like I'm going to give a few reasons why I hate Alex Morgan. Firstly, she's a Morgan, so that must mean she descended from a bunch of dirty Brits--or Irish, and they can be some dirty drinkers. Secondly, soccer isn't a real sport to some people, so she's not even an athlete. Finally, didn't she pose in body paint a while back? Doesn't that make her a pig somehow? I'm not trying to be inappropriate here, I'm trying to get my point across. Yeah. I love this woman. It was hard for me to just do that, but did what I just say sound absolutely ridiculous to you? That's pretty much what Rob Parker did on Thursday.

This brings my main question around: Is race still arguably the biggest issue still looming in sports today?

In my opinion: Abso-freakin'-lutely. 

Don't get me wrong, this isn't applicable in all sports, but I hate to say this, it's seen more often than it should be in sports like American football. Pop Quiz--how many black quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl? ONE. Black quarterbacks are sometimes thrown behind the 8-ball because they just haven't been seen to be as successful as the white guy in the pocket. [Interestingly enough, Doug Williams was a QB for the Redskins.] You might also see little hints of racial issues when it comes to mishaps off the field (i.e. arrests and incidents at clubs) and arguments of the "oh, it's because he's black" start popping up. Did anyone say "oh, because he's white" when Ben Roethlisberger started getting jiggy with the ladies at nightclubs and afterward? No. Not from what I've heard in circles. Race is just a stupid first excuse for people nowadays. I'm pretty sure guys like RG3 will wear a Super Bowl ring someday, and I know that there are numerous white guys that are super excellent at playing basketball.

It's not just the athletes that get these race cards thrown at them. Coaches get it too. Earlier in the NCAAF season, Jon Embree, head coach for Colorado, was fired for not being able to get the team fit for winning games. People around football brought the argument that he wasn't given enough time to turn the team around and he was chopped so quickly "because he was black." Oh, not this again. While I do think he wasn't given enough time at all, I don't think race should be brought to the forefront. Again, it's another lame excuse. The team has had problems for years and years and years, and one guy is not going to fix a team overnight. It doesn't matter that he's black. It matters that he wasn't give a decent amount of time to rebuild the team.

It just upsets me that even fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, race is still a major issue, and minorities still think that majorities are revoking them of their rights. At the same time, minorities are criticizing each other because it's not "how they do." We all may be a different race, but that doesn't mean we're bound by it! Who cares if RG3 is conservative? He has his own opinion--good for him! I don't think that means he's completely against Obama (who is a black man). I'm not going to hate him and call him "not black" for that! Stereotypes are going a little too extreme now. It's disgusting.

The last time I checked, we're all free, and we all have the same rights in this country. Race shouldn't be an issue in that, and it definitely shouldn't be an issue in sports. Sports are supposed to bring people together. Even FIFA recognizes this:

Not only should athletes abide by this, but analysts and fans alike should take heed of this. Stop making dumb excuses and think of an even better reason to disapprove of somebody.