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.