Thursday, December 2, 2010

What do you do when your favorites take a turn for the douche?


(This video has nothing to do with trading cards. You probably shouldn't watch it at work, either. It's still pretty funny, though, and gives us a visual lead-in to this post.)

I've been thinking a bunch over the past few weeks, as I've been organizing cards, putting together want lists and writing this site about the pitfalls of being a sports fan, and more topically, a sports collector, in an age where things, by sheer virtue of the amount of information we have at our disposal, can get kind of messy.

Here's a few quick, no-names-attached examples of what I'm talking about:
  • Your favorite ballplayer, who you've been collecting cards of for ages, tests positive for steroids.
  • Worse, said ballplayer makes a complete ass of himself in front of Congress on live television when asked about said steroids.
  •  Another favorite of yours develops a reputation, cemented by a few sets of assault and/or harassment allegations that just sort of go away, as a guy who won't take "no" for an answer from the ladies. (Camera phone pics of said favorite's junk are optional.)
  • Yet another of your favorites kills someone while they're drunk behind the wheel of a car.
  • On the less scandalous side, maybe you're watching your favorite on television or reading an interview with them, and the guy just comes off as a total jerk in a way that you can't really un-hear or write off as being "maybe he's just having a bad day".
Maybe it's not even a single player, but your favorite team, who you've rooted for since you learned how to root for a team. You've stuck by them through good years, bad years, really bad years and all the criticism (some of it plenty justified) that people have levelled at them, and what thanks do they give you? They toss your favorite player of all time to the curb over money that they squander elsewhere, sign a bunch of players who you can't stand and who make your team unrecognizable, or maybe they even tear down their amazing, historic ballpark, a place where you have some of your best memories, and replace it with an overpriced, ugly abortion of a building more memorable for having seats no one can afford to sit in and a ridiculous big screen TV in center field?

(OK, I admit, this last one isn't a blind item.)

Anyway, now that I've painted the picture for y'all, how do you proceed?

Do you stick to your guns and double down, regardless of what level of self-loathing it may generate?
If you stick around, at what point do you cut bait past what the player's already done, if he continues to royally screw up?

Are you able to compartmentalize, separating what a guy does on a ball field completely from what he may do in his personal life?

Do you throw the brakes on collecting the player's items, but hang onto whatever you've collected, as it all serves as memories of a better time when he hadn't been outed as having something like 16 underaged mistresses, a KKK membership and a meth habit? 

If you hang onto your cards, memorabilia and the like of the guy you used to collect, do you leave any of it on display, or does it get put somewhere out of sight?

Do you have a big "I can't stand this guy anymore!" sell-off, even selling items at a loss because everyone else feels the same way you do about your former favorite?

Is it bonfire time?

For my part, I've never had a huge player collection with a ton of emotional investment get struck by this particular kind of lightning. While I've got a bunch of cards of "the usual suspects" people think of when this subject comes up and I even collect quite a few "infamous" players' stuff, there's really nothing I own that I'm filled with huge pangs of regret over, at least not presently. If it does go down that way at some point, I think I'll probably just return anything I'm displaying to a box, stop buying new cards of the player unless I absolutely need them to complete a set, and quietly remove the player's cards from my want list, but as I haven't really had to deal with it, I can't say for sure.

However, I am, as just about anyone could figure out by reading above, a Yankee fan in exile. The teardown of the Stadium was the last straw for me, but ten years of lousy trade and free agent choices (not even talking performance; speaking solely of character here) and kicking Bernie Williams (still my favorite player of all time; watched and loved his whole career) to the curb didn't help. How have I dealt with this, as a collector? It's actually been pretty easy: I just don't buy Yankee things that showcase the "new" Yankees, the ones who came from an evil alternate universe, kidnapped Rivera and Jeter and demolished my beautiful ballpark so they could replace it with a luxury box-choked monstrosity. Those same bastards even kidnapped Granderson and Swisher after the fact to try and soften the blow, but I'm onto them!

As to how this affects my collecting: I'll still buy Mariano Rivera cards when I come across them (Mo may be the classiest player still playing the game), I'll buy a card if I need it to finish a set and I do still want that goofy '07 Topps Jeter with Mantle and Dubya on it (beyond that, I'm pretty Jetered out), but otherwise, I just don't contribute to the newer Yankee card economy anymore. It gives me more money to focus on the guys I actually did like, who played in a ballpark that I still get starry-eyed about. The current team may as well have moved next door to Chavez Ravine for all I care.

As for looking past the off-the-field stuff and compartmentalizing the sporting accomplishments of athletes I've liked, it can be hit and miss for me. I'd cite specific player examples where I can or can't do it, but I'm really trying to keep this piece as "blind item" as possible, because in truth, just about none of us, even (especially?) the sportswriters, know the whole story in any of the cases I'd cite.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts on the subject. I already know what I think and now you do, as well. I'm way more curious as to what my fellow collectors think, so please, go to town in the comments!


  1. I used to collect and support Tanyon Sturtze. He's from the town next to my hometown and went to college 2 minutes from my high school sweetheart's home. And he was an awful pitcher for the Rays back when they were Devils too, and that was all great to me.

    Issue 1: He went to my rival High School. But I didn't hold that against him.
    Issue 2: He went to the Yankees. Ehh...didn't hold it against him still. Middling relievers get work where they can.
    Issue 3: He had a semi-major role in a semi-major Yankee-Red Sox fight while he was a Yankee. Not cool man - who beats up guys from your hometown team when you're playing for the enemy? But still, since he was a Yankee, I allowed it.

    Final straw? A few months ago the Facebook feeds of my friends blew up about how douchy Sturtze was. Apparently they ran into him in a bar, he was wasted, and he began to profusely hit on this guy's girlfriend for a very very very long time (probably 10 minutes, but that's pretty long in drunken hitting on time). Dude came back over like hey Tanyon that's my girl, Tanyon or someone in his crew threw a punch, and next thing you know it's this whole melee.

    So I don't mind if he plays for the Yankees (though it makes it hard to root for him). But hitting on 18 year olds, who are taken and spoken for, as a late 30 something is considerably less classy.

  2. I may not know much about baseball, or baseball cards, or wearing pants, but I would think that the best approach would be to keep the cards that have positive memories attached to them which outweigh the negative thoughts about the player. With music collecting, you can still enjoy the music after finding out the artist is a goatfucker, for example, or at least I can, but with the cards, pretty much all they can do is evoke memories (unless you make tarot sets out of them, or stick them in the spokes of your ten speed). If the positive memory outweighs the negative, keep it.. if it doesn't, trade or sell it in favour of something that would work for you.

    Not sure I said anything much you haven't already said, but screw it.

  3. I'm a Yankee fan too, and while I will always miss the old Stadium and wish it wasn't torn down, that doesn't make the new one "bad", just different. At least it looks more or less like Yankee Stadium and not the generic new-cookie-cutter ballparks in Queens/Philadelphia/Colorado etc. My Yankee fandom is about the present and future first, not the past. I am someone who loves history, including baseball history and Yankee history, but I don't dwell in it. The Yankees to me are the players and the ballgames, not whatever steel-and-brick structure they play in. Dirt that Babe Ruth walked on is still just dirt, just as a bed George Washington slept in is still just a bed.

    This is not to delegitamize your feelings about the Stadium, Bernie, or anything else. Just that you may want to give Swisher, Granderson et al another chance. Baseball is a game meant to be enjoyed - there are still many wonderful enjoyments about being a baseball fan and being a Yankee fan.

  4. You know, Bo, I've tried to stick with 'em, and I just can't. It sucks, because I really don't have a team now, and I miss being able to love the Yankees, but they've made it just about impossible, even to someone who was around for Reggie leaving because Steinbrenner wouldn't budge on a quarter mil a year and just about all of the other great moves of Steinbrenner's "glory years".

    It's kinda like the Yanks chipped away at their own soul, a piece at a time, after '01.

    I've tried to look at that stadium and think "Yankee Stadium", but all I see is a lame copy of the real one at best, and "Nationals Park" at worst.

    I like Swisher and (especially) Granderson, but they're just two more guys I could have on my fantasy team at this point. 5 years ago, if you told me that the Yanks would have Granderson in center and Sabathia as their ace, I'd have been psyched, but all I've seen from Sabathia since he got here (and really, since he got to the Brewers and there was that snit about the no-hitter he lost) is arrogance, and Curtis can't make me love a team without a soul all by himself.

    I've had to sit through a decade of not liking Giambi, A-Rod, Kevin Brown, Joba, A.J. Burnett and Sabathia, watch Bernie get kicked to the curb so Kevin Thompson had a roster spot, watch the club price their true fans out of a ballpark that shouldn't have been built in the first place, watch so-called "Yankee fans" jump all over Javier Vazquez before he'd thrown a single pitch on his second tour of duty and then complain about the results, see Posada turn into a sourpuss and Pettitte outed as a guy who threw his best friend (admittedly a jerk) under a bus to save his own steroid-using ass...the list goes on and on.

    I don't begrudge people who want to stick around. For a lot of folks, leaving's unimaginable, and at one point, I thought of it the same way. I watched the Bucky Dent and Stump Merrill-managed teams happily...I cringed, but they were still my Yankees. Unfortunately, I just can't abide by a team that I feel has sold its soul.


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