Wednesday, January 15, 2014
My name is Nick, and I collect baseball cards
My name is Nick, and I collect baseball cards.
If you read this blog at all, you probably know that already. But you're in a select class.
Outside of my family, not a lot of people know that I collect cards. In fact, I have a presentation due next week for one of my classes that involves talking about an important hobby or just a general interest of mine. (Yes, it's kind of a blow-off class.)
I was thinking about bringing in one of my Cubs binders and discussing that with the class. I've never done anything like that in the past. I'm certainly excited to have the opportunity to be graded on talking about my baseball cards for once.
But, if I'm being completely honest, I'm a tad nervous about it, too. I'm trying to figure out why that is. In the process, there's one question I have to ask myself, one that I'm sure we've all admittedly pondered at some point.
Am I ashamed about collecting baseball cards?
As you probably know, this hobby isn't a popular one amongst people my age. All the conversations I hear these days have to do with cars or the Kardashians or video games or something. And I can't understand a lick of it.
I still have yet to meet anyone my age who collects baseball cards. That's part of the reason why it's not exactly a hot conversation-starter when I'm introduced to new people.
Then again, even some of my most distant acquaintances know I love baseball. But not that I collect baseball cards.
Why is that?
I think some of it has to do with the stereotypes that face us.
Not to go all "after-school special" on you here, but stereotyping is obviously wrong. Yet there are a lot of people that have misconceptions about the collecting type.
The image of a middle-aged guy living in his mom's basement seems to be a common (and completely false, of course) stereotype amongst people outside the hobby.
Plus, any time a story about baseball cards hits the national news outlets, there's always some wiseass in the comments that says something along the lines of "Get a life, people."
I don't pay a second of attention to idiots like that, but I do think it's hard for people to imagine a 21-year-old college student like myself so engrossed with a hobby of collecting pieces of cardboard sometimes. Age-wise, I'm way in the minority here in the blogosphere.
I've noticed the looks on some people's faces when they see my room. It's kind of a hybrid between disbelief and contemplation. They just can't figure out why a person my age would spend a great deal of time and money seeking out cards of guys turning a double play or wearing throwback uniforms.
They don't get the commitment people like us have to this hobby.
Speaking of my room and all, it's not like I try and hide my collection or anything.
Frankly, the topic of baseball cards doesn't exactly come up too much in social circles these days. People don't ask about collecting, so I don't have much of an opportunity to talk about it.
Anyone who has come over to my house, however, has likely seen the man cave that is my room. I don't board it up when I have company around.
People are free to dig through my White Sox binders if they'd like. Perhaps I'd even point out my cards of new Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. And maybe I'd specifically lead them to this awesome cartoon rendering of "Big Frank".
But no one does.
And that's okay, because the few conversations I've tried to have about cards with non-close friends have been disasters.
The ones I've had usually start out with probably the most prevalent hobby amongst people my age.
Do you play video games?
Then what do you do for fun?
I collect baseball cards.
YOU collect baseball cards?
Yes. (And then the million-dollar question comes.)
What's your most valuable card?
I don't know. There's not really a way to place a value on most of my cards. (And then the two-million-dollar question comes.)
What's your rarest card?
Um, well...I have these printing plate things. There's only one of each in existence. Well, they're actually not that rare because card companies have really flooded the market with them and...
Can I copy your homework for the next class?
Another response I get is one that I'm sure a few of us have heard at some point.
I didn't even know they still made baseball cards.
Yes, people, they do. They're really doing wonderful things with them nowadays. 3-D stuff and everything.
This, I think, is the biggest boundary between people like ourselves and non-collectors. Nobody seems to know anything about them besides us. It's like we're on our own little island or something.
I mean, when's the last time you saw a TV commercial advertising baseball cards?
Companies like Topps don't seem to be too intent on roping new collectors into the hobby. They seem to be more focused on keeping the existing ones around. And there's nothing wrong with that.
But maybe, just maybe, if Topps were to really make a push at it, a little publicity might give them a whole new outlook on this hobby. Perhaps it'd even convince a few people my age to get into the whole collecting thing.
I'd certainly be on board with that.
Happily, though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If I may, I'd like to recount one of my favorite stories about my hobby.
When I was away from home during my short stint in on-campus college housing, me, my roommate, and one of our friends went to a local Target to kill some time.
We were fast approaching the card aisle. Now, my roommate knew I collected, but our other friend didn't.
Keep in mind that this was in late 2010. I wanted to see if that particular Target had anything of the newest product at the time, 2010 Topps Chrome. (Only later would I find out about the whole "pancaking" fiasco.)
Since I'm always a little hesitant to bring up baseball cards in conversation, I wasn't sure what to do. Eventually, I simply flat-out asked if they wouldn't mind stopping in the card aisle. That's when I got the common "YOU collect baseball cards?" response from our mutual friend. I prepared for the familiar barrage of questioning.
What my friend said next totally caught me off-guard.
That's neat! I used to collect action hero cards, so I know how that one goes. I don't mind stopping in the card aisle at all.
So we went to the card aisle. And it was great. As it happens, they didn't even have any 2010 Topps Chrome, but my friend's reaction was enough to make my night.
I guess if you surround yourself with the right people, the fact that you collect baseball cards won't matter in the slightest. And I'm proud to say that I have quite a few friends right now who are fine and encouraging about it.
So, no, I'm not ashamed to be a part of this hobby. Anyone who thinks I should be can shove it.
Next week, I'll be proud to get up in front of the class with that familiar lead-in.
My name is Nick, and I collect baseball cards.