Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Buzz is Back!

October 29, 2014 the Charlotte Hornets 2.0 take the hardwood against the Milwaukee Bucks in Charlotte, NC. Unless you are a Charlottean or were in town for the majority of the original Hornets tenure in Charlotte, then you just can't begin to imagine the level of excite that is abuzz today. Yes, that pun was intended.


I still vividly remember going to Hornets games with my dad at the old Charlotte Coliseum, or as we called it "the Hive". The team in those early days wasn't the best in the league, but it was entertaining and boy did the Hornets fill the seats. Who would have ever thought the Charlotte Hornets would lead the NBA in attendance for 6 consecutive years back then?

I miss those days of watching Kelly Tripuka, Robert Reid, Kurt Rambis, Rex Chapman, Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry hustling up and down the court. The night the Hornets beat the Bulls on a last second offensive rebound and put back from Rambis. Those were the days.

Later iterations of the team would bring in Kendall Gill, Larry Johnson (Grandmama), Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice and other stars. The playoff win against the Celtics. I was there. I've never witnessed such an awesome sports experience before that moment or even to this day. Just watching this video again gives me goosebumps!


Now granted the team taking the court tonight isn't the original team. I've heard some outsiders saying that they can't understand why a new team name, new logo and colors would make that much of a difference. It's all about the product on the court. I couldn't agree more. While all the nostalgia will be fueling the tonight's game and most of the this season, it's still about the win loss record at the end of the day.


Post All-Star break last season the former team in Charlotte put up some great numbers and had an impressive 2nd quarter record. They made the playoffs only to face LeBron and the Miami Heat with a banged up Al Jefferson. Had things gone a little differently those last few weeks of the season they may have had a higher seed. Had Al not hurt his foot who knows what may have happened. But that was last season. This is a brand new season in every sense of the word. In addition to the players that have come back, the Hornets have added a few key free agents - Lance Stephenson from Indiana and Marvin Williams from Utah. Add those guys to drafted rookies Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston and I'm excited for this upcoming NBA season.

If you've been a regular reader of my blog then you've probably noticed by my lack of posts that I've hit that proverbial collecting wall. I often find myself going to Target or Walmart and not even looking at the card aisle these days. I really want to finish my 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter set, but I can't even find the time nor desire to collate the cards I do have so I can make a want list. I fear I've lost some readers and better yet that trading relationship I once had with many fellow bloggers. I do have to say however that my excite over the Hornets returning to town and to the court may flow over to cardboard. While I still have a very small collecting budget to work with, I'm finding myself starting to look at cards again...and even buying a few on the cheap end.  Take for instance these...

 

Big Al has been one of the best free agent signings by Charlotte, period. I really enjoyed watching his constant effort last season. His chemistry with Kemba Walker has been great and I'm looking for good things this season. I know this card shows Al in his old uniform and most likely the white swatch was taken from an old uniform as well, but for a buck I didn't mind making this one of my first Hornets 2.0 cards.

 

Cody Zeller had a pretty good rookie season last year and while I didn't pick up many of his cards, this was another early Hornets cards that I was able to snag for cheap. Panini appears to have done a nice job w/ the NBA Hoops brand yet again. I look forward to picking up cards of Cody and other players in their new Hornets uniform as the basketball card collecting season moves forward.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Latest additions to Sucktember's Atlanta Braves collection

As much as it pains me to watch my Atlanta Braves recently, I still manage to find myself with new cards of the various players.


I picked up this really beautiful 2012 Leaf auto of Alex Wood. This guy continues to impress me, but man he just can't seem to catch a break as the offense continues to let him down with their lack of run support.

   

   

Freddie just celebrated his 25th birthday and while he remains one of my favorite Braves players, his bat has gone silent...just like everyone else's on the team. Talk about a rough time for a team in general to be slumping. Yup, Sucktember is here again for my Braves.



Tossed in a new John Smoltz and Jeff Francoeur for good measure.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Presenting the Week 1 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

Wide Receiver for your Carolina Panthers...Kelvin Benjamin!

2014 Panini Black #18
2014 Panini Crusade #27
For those of you not in the Carolinas, Kelvin is the guy that helped make the ultimate decision that Steve Smith was no longer needed in Carolina. Of course there was so much more that led the team to the decision, a decision that didn't set too well with most Panthers fans. That was until the we saw Kelvin on the field in both pre-season and last week's game against the Bucs.

Kelvin stands 6'5" and weighs in at 240 lbs. They guy is a beast. Tall, fast, strong and has big hands. In week 1 he caught 6 passes for 92 yards (15.3 yard average) and a TD.

I know it's still very early, but Kelvin is already make some fans here in Carolina say "Steve who?" I don't own many of Kelvin's cards yet, but I may have to change that soon. The Panthers take on Megatron and the Detroit Lions at home this Sunday.

Monday, September 8, 2014

May I speak my mind for a moment?

I try to keep my posts on this blog cardboard related, but there are times I just need an outlet to express my thoughts and opinions on sports related topics.

Ray Rice.

I was appalled by what I had heard a did awhile back that granted him a two game suspension from the NFL. Now the video has been released. Wow.

Former Carolina Panthers teammate and current teammate, Steve Smith, has a charity of his own that deals with domestic violence. I wonder what Steve is thinking of his teammate now that the video has been released. To say Roger Goodell got this wrong is a huge understatement.

#banrayrice

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pack Break - 2014 Topps Football Jumbo

My Braves have begun their second half of the season downfall and while I'm not completely giving up hope for the NL Wild Card spot just yet, this time of year also means that the new NFL season is right around the corner!  What better way to celebrate the start of the new season than with a fresh new pack of 2014 football cards?  The past 2 years I've really loved Topps' effort with their football set.  Will I feel the same about their 2014 cards?  Let's see!

Jumbo packs as they now call them (they are still rack packs to me) contain 36 cards and retail at your local Target and Walmarts for $4.99 each.  I grabbed one pack to see what was up this year and honestly I'm on the fence here.  Let's look at a base card for starters.


Is it just me or do these cards look extremely busy?  I can usually digest whatever Topps throws at me in terms of card design, but not this year.  Team colors are represented which I like, but there is just too much border.  BTW, I selected this card because my Carolina Panthers failed to represent in my pack, so my NC State alum Philip Rivers will have to do.


The backs have the same hot mess the front has, but at least I can look at the back without getting a migraine.  Notice the blue and orange columns?  Those are for Fantasy Football!  The blue represents Philip's position rank while the orange represents points per game.  I've gotten into playing fantasy football the past few years and found it to be a lot of fun so this is a nice little addition to the normal player stats.

It wouldn't be Topps if there wasn't a smattering of new inserts and parallels to chase after as well.  Here are some of the examples that were in my pack.


Gold parallels return yet again, seeded 1:3 jumbo packs.  They of course are serially numbered to 2014 in the tacky black foil we all love to hate.  A.J. Green here is #'d 1432/2014.



Continuing with the Fantasy Football theme, Fantasy Focus cards zero in on the player's 2013 fantasy rankings.  Design full bleed design and at least it's something different and new from previous years.  These are seeded 1:2 jumbo packs.


Fantasy Strategies...yup, more fantasy themed cards.  OK, now maybe Topps is pushing this angle a little too hard.  I guess if you could care less for playing fantasy football then here is another insert set you could pass on.  Seeded 1:2 jumbo packs.


Greatness Unleashed (ratio numbers not listed on the pack?) look pretty cool, but didn't they do something like this with 2013 Bowman football?  I'll be interested to check out the checklist to see if any Panthers are represented because this Dirty Bird just ain't cutting it for this Carolina fan.


Here is another insert set I couldn't find listed on the pack.  The card obviously is called 1000 Yard Club, but the pack says there is a 4,000-Yard Club.  I'm confused.  Nothing to write home about here.  The back of the card shows Michael Floyd's entire 2013 receiving stats broken down per game.


Not sure what these mini cards are called, but they have a distinct "old" look to them.  Very similar to what Topps has done with other products like Magic in the past.

Overall my feelings about this years football effort are mixed.  I'll buy a Panthers team set and any inserts they may appear on, but as for completing the base set or any of the inserts I'm taking a pass.  These cards shown here are headed to my eBay store since I don't have a lot of readers that ask to trade for football cards.  Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Annual trip to Turner Field

Last weekend my wife and I drove down to Atlanta, GA for our annual Atlanta Braves trip.  I'd love to get down there to catch more than one game per season, but for now I'll just have to savor every minute.  The thing about Atlanta that can be trick is the weather, or the heat & humidity more specifically.  If I'm going to be sitting outside in Atlanta for 4 or so hours I'd rather it be in the Spring or in the Fall.  Going to a game in early August I knew would be a gamble, but the promo for last Friday night at the field was Zombie Night!

Initially my wife and I planned to buy the special Zombie Night ticket package.  This include being turned into a zombie by special make-up artists, an on field zombie walk plus an exclusive t-shirt and some other swag.  We ended up opting to buy tickets via Stub Hub to save some money, however it was still a blast to see so many undead fans at the field.

We opted to sit in right center field.  Last year we sat there and loved the view, plus it was fun listening to all the rednecks and drunk fans in our section heckle the right fielder (last year it was Hunter Pence).  We got tickets on row 13, which oddly enough is the front row.  Sitting right there at the wall is a lot of fun, plus we are right beside the Braves' bullpen so we can see Eddie Perez, bullpen coach (and one of the U.S.'s newest citizens!).  We also have a good view of when Craig Kimbrel comes running out of the gates to take the mound when called upon.  The Braves took on the Oakland Athletics on Friday, August 15th.  Initially I was excited to see Yoenis Cespedes play, then he was traded to the Red Sox at the trading deadline.  I really wasn't all that familiar w/ many of the A's players, but it was still fun listening to the fans heckle Josh Reddick...calling him JJ (Reddick of Duke basketball fame) and busting Coco Crisp's chops at his fielding blunders.

The view from our seats

Of course on of the things about sitting in the outfield is the chance of catching a home run ball.  There were 4 homers in the game, but all of them were to center or left center field.  Bummer.  At least I was pretty close to a few pop flies that Jason Heyward caught.  The Braves roughed up the starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, winning the game 7-2.  Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Freddie Freeman and Phil Gosselin all hit homers.  Gosselin's was the first of his career.

I wasn't aware of the starting pitcher until I checked my phone on the way down I-85.  When I saw it was Charlotte, NC native Alex Wood taking the mound, well that just made the day even better.  Wood pitched 6 strong innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 runs, while striking out 1 and walking 3.  Not the best numbers, but he won his 9th game of the year.  The only drawback to the big lead was not getting to see Kimbrel pitch in the 9th.  Oh well, I'll take a win over watching Kimbrel any day, especially with the way the Braves had been playing coming into the series with the A's.

Every game of the A's series had a different theme.  Saturday's theme celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Boston Braves World Series Championship.  Everything at the field had a throwback look, including the players uniforms and even the scoreboard on the jumbotron!  Peanuts and Cracker Jacks were a quarter, hot dogs were a buck.  I would have loved to stay another day for the game, especially since the Braves won again.  Sunday's theme was Father Daughter day.  I can't wait for my girls to get a little older when I can bring them with me to a ballgame.

The Braves ended up sweeping the 1st place A's that weekend.  My wife and I had a great time, but like all good things the weekend had to come to an end.  I hope to get back to Atlanta soon as the Braves only have a few years left to play at Turner Field before the team moves out to a new facility in neighboring Cobb County.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pack Break - 2013 Topps Magic

Here is another post that I typed back in February, but never posted!


Topps Magic, the Gypsy Queen set of football cards.  For the last several years I've been impressed with the look of these cards, but I've yet to chase building a set...and probably never will.  However I couldn't pass up buying one pack a few weeks back to see what 2013's set looked like.  Plus I hoped to pull a Cam Newton, Greg Olsen or a general Carolina Panthers card.


To me this is just more of the same...which for me at least isn't a bad thing.  I still don't know how Topps pulls off the look of the image, but I love it.  Design is simple and doesn't obstruct the player / action.  Seeing how I didn't really follow the NFL until the Carolina Panthers came into the league in 1995, I could care less for the older players included in the set.


The one per pack minis are still present.  I've never cared as much for these smaller parallels as I like the minis from releases like Allen & Ginter better.


My pack yielded two inserts, the first being Ground and Pound.  Seeded at 1:6 retail packs, this insert set just doesn't do much for me.  Maybe it's the pink?


Speaking of Gypsy Queen, these Rookie Enchantment inserts feature the same paper border that Topps first introduced in GQ a few years ago.  While my scan makes the foil look bronze, it is gold foil on purple.

All of these cards are available for trade for anything Carolina Panthers from this set.