Monday, March 15, 2010
My olive branch to Upper Deck
Upper Deck and I have never been best buds. We don't see things eye-to-eye.
I come from a different place than Upper Deck or many of the collectors who have blogs. By the time UD arrived on the scene, I had been collecting for 15 years. I had established an allegiance with Topps, as had just about every collector who started in the hobby before 1980. Meanwhile, I held grudging respect for interlopers Fleer and Donruss.
But when Score and Upper Deck appeared, my attention was elsewhere. It certainly wasn't on cards. Early Upper Deck might have been innovative, but when you're 23 years old, it's difficult to get fired up over a tiny hologram on the back of a card.
Except for a March-to-September romance with 1993 Upper Deck, the company just didn't do it for me. Shortly after '93, no cards did it for me and I stopped collecting for a decade. While collectors raved over SP and die-cuts and the rise of relics, I didn't even know it was happening. Didn't care.
By the time I returned to collecting current sets four years ago, Upper Deck was running on fumes, living off its '90s achievements. The sameness of sets from year-to-year held no appeal for me. UD was good at high-end, but I didn't collect high-end because I couldn't afford it and it didn't fit in with my interests as a collector.
But now, thanks to a lawsuit settlement, Upper Deck is in a situation where it can not produce a baseball card set with logos or team names or team colors or anything connected with MLB.
There has been understandable lamenting from those who enjoyed UD over the years.
I have tried to work up some tears as well, but no matter how much I try, the tears won't come. I know that lack of competition is not good in the long run. I know that. But as someone who doesn't care about high-end sets, didn't collect Upper Deck in its heyday, doesn't prefer Upper Deck to Topps, and doesn't care much about UD's off-shoot sets like Goudey, expressing outrage for me, would be totally fake. It would not be true to my feelings. It would be disingenuous.
Fortunately, along came Ethan Orlinsky.
He's the guy from MLB Properties who uttered the now famous statement regarding MLB's settlement of the lawsuit against UD:
"The real winners today are the millions of fans who collect baseball cards. They will be able to clearly identify official Major League Baseball trading cards without any confusion."
I love condescension, don't you?
Orlinsky is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for MLB Properties. He's also a lawyer, which automatically makes me suspicious of anything he says.
From the very little I've read, Orlinsky is a rabid baseball fan. He was working for a law firm in London when a legal position became open in MLB properties and he jumped at the chance. Since that time, over 15 years ago, Orlinsky has become a major player in MLB operations. MLB relies on him quite heavily in many areas.
But don't ask me to get into the details about everything that he does. After all, I'm just a collector. I get confused by all of that behind-the-scenes mumbo jumbo. In fact, I don't even know the difference between an MLB-licensed card and an unlicensed card. I'm a mere cardboard-eating idiot.
The emasculation of Upper Deck couldn't get me fired up. But Orlinsky's statement could.
Now, I'm really not the confrontational type.
Thorzul called on folks to send their 2010 Upper Deck cards to Orlinsky. I didn't send any. I'd rather keep the few 2010 UD cards I have or send them to collectors who want them.
But I am doing something. It's a very small gesture. It will have no impact on anything. But it means something to me.
Whenever I find myself in Target or Wal-Mart or any place that sells cards, and I wander over to the card aisle, I make sure to do one thing each and every time.
I buy at least one pack of Upper Deck cards.
Right now, the UD pack I buy is last year's O-Pee-Chee set. I enjoy the set, even if I am severely conflicted over it. It reminds me of the days when I collected as a kid, and I am half thinking about completing it.
The OPC cards are certainly available. I see them everywhere. Apparently it wasn't that popular. I guess folks are fixated on glossiness and foil. But for as long as it is available, I will be buying a pack, every single time I walk in the store.
I have done this since news of the settlement, and I will do it for as long as UD is around in stores. When OPC is gone, I'll go for the 2010 base set or maybe a repack featuring 2007 Upper Deck. Ugh. Yes, I will sacrifice.
Remember, I don't really care for Upper Deck. In the past, unless it was a set like OPC or Timeline that I liked, I would completely ignore UD in the card aisle, because there was tons of other stuff that I preferred much more. But I want to make a statement, even if I'm the only one who knows what I'm doing.
Spending an extra 3 dollars on one UD pack might not be much of a gesture, but it's what I feel comfortable doing. And it's a tangible argument in favor of competition and against condescending PR releases.
It won't do much to offset Upper Deck's monstrous legal bills, but I'm not looking to bail out UD. They got themselves into this mess. A couple bucks at a time is all I'm willing to spare.
Do I recommend you do the same?
Nah. You do what you want. You're a collector. You have a mind of your own, no matter what MLB says.