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You can't cancel memories

I've just gone through what has been the strangest 24 hours of monitoring sports news during my entire work career.

I'm sure as a casual fan, it must have been wild to catch updates about this league postponing and that tournament canceling as you went about your day, working or running errands or whatever.

Now imagine your job is to stay on top of sports news and to disseminate that news as quickly as possible and that was me. Within 10 minutes of each other last night, the local ECAC college hockey league canceled its playoffs and the NBA suspended its season and my head was spinning. Throw in all the other sports cancellations and delays that you've all heard about, and then add the stuff that we care about only locally -- like state basketball and hockey championships being scrapped -- and it was quite the whirlwind of erasing a whole lot of stuff that had been so important for so long.

Maybe none of it really matters, I thought, if we can just cancel everything just like that.

But you can't cancel this blog. And you can't cancel memories. And fortunately I have a lot of those. Half of this blog -- if not more -- is memories.

In fact, I've discussed quite often my favorite baseball card when I was a kid -- the '75 Steve Yeager and the '75 Cey, the '77 Fisk and the '74 Garvey -- you're all familiar with that stuff.

But what about football? What were my favorite football cards?

I really only collected football as a kid three years, 1976, 1977 and 1979. Outside of that, the '75 Alan Page was a definite favorite of mine. But from those three years, you have to go directly to 1977 for all-time favorites. Namely, this card:

You couldn't make a more impressive card as far as I was concerned. It appealed to me in many ways.

First, the colors used with the Cowboys that year really appealed to me. Maybe it was my fascination with McDonald's at the time, I don't know, but they really stood out. Then add the All-Pro bar. It would be many years before I realized that the All-Pro mention doesn't even come close to the stature of a baseball All-Star, but it sure looked equally as impressive to me.

Then, there's the man himself. I didn't know who Drew Pearson was. But all that facial hair and that well-coifed afro made me certain that he was something special. And then there was this:

Something about that pose, it made him seem like he was seated on a horse. He's probably just sitting on a bench but, he sure did look like he was five feet in the air on the back of a horse. (This was a common perception for me, I though the same thing looking at Fisk's 1976 Topps card).

This was the best-of-the-best of the 1977 Topps NFL cards for me. But Pearson had company.

Another Pearson -- no relation -- had my admiration. He didn't look nearly as cool as Drew, but he was posing underneath that Cowboys banner, so that was good enough.

Then there was Billy Jo DuPree, groomed like Drew Pearson, also an All-Pro, definitely a Cowboy, and also with that awesome name. In a weak moment, I'd rate the DuPree card above the Pearson card and then scold myself.

The Cowboys were my favorite team at the time, because of those three horsemen, as well as cards from Harvey Martin and Golden Richards and this great Efren Herrera kicker card.

As I've said before, I didn't give a single thought to so many of the NFL cards showing players without helmets or with no logos. I just figured that's the way things were in the NFL. I didn't watch it much at that time, so you could get a lot past me.

But it made enough of an impression as a set that it remains my favorite football set, and is the only one I'm interested enough in to try to complete.

Even though I had just a passing knowledge of the game, I knew which teams were good, and those Cowboys and Raiders cards just naturally seemed more impressive than the others.

Steelers, too, definitely Steelers. These were the toughest cards to get. They were so much better than everyone else.

And they had Rocky Bleier, who was my favorite player for like a day back then. I don't know why he stopped becoming my favorite player. I actually could have kept him as my favorite player for the next 40 years and it would be a good choice. The Vietnam story and all that, that was someone to admire.

Plus, those 1,000-yarder logos were as great as the Rated Rookie logos that '80s kids get so excited over. I barely knew what 1,000 yards meant, but it sure did look like something worth celebrating.

All of these cards came in a Twitter trade from Coop-a-loop. It made quite the dent in my '77 football want list and there were so many memories in these cards.

Just look at these cards. A dude named Sam Adams, the future "Hunter," a future NFL broadcaster and the NFC championship game (I rooted for the Rams).

More All-Pros! So many cool names and looks. And there's my favorite team once I soured on the Cowboys, the Oilers! Wonder what happened to them.

All of the checklists that I received are gloriously unchecked. It's amusing that it was perfectly OK to create checklists in this fashion at the time (with team leaders ON THE BACK!) and no one complained. Also check out the number of Colts available compared with the number of Chargers.

Today, I notice the weirdness of '70s football cards. The phantom player in the background.

The card in which Darden looks like a baby bird being fed.

And then I see the fearsome trio of Sistrunk, Carr and Eller and I remember what pulled me in about football and those '77 cards at the time. They were static shots of a sport that moved so quickly I could barely process it at the time.

This wrinkled representation of Super Bowl XI shows the first Super Bowl I ever watched. I can't tell you anything that happened other than that the Raiders won and the Vikings lost and I watched the game on a black-and-white TV in what was the "rec room" in our house at the time (the same place I saw my first World Series game, in 1975).

These cards are full of memories that I'll have for the rest of my life and that's why cards from this time are the most important ones for me -- far more important than anything I buy of current cards.

Who knows when those current players will start playing again so current card makers have something to put on current cards. But I have my memory cards and those will never be canceled.


I've been thinking a lot lately about colors used on vintage cards, and what jumps out at me the most with those Cowboy cards is the primary colors... The Cowboys' blue numbers and stripes are nicely complemented by the yellow and red borders... Much like the 1966 Topps Dodgers cards. It's making me think I might have to pick up more from 1977 Topps FB than the Steelers team set I'm very slowly working on.

What I really like about that Chargers checklist is that they had enough room left over to have the "Collect all 528 cards!" pitch. I don't recall seeing anything like that on the front of a card.
acrackedbat said…
These players look so much tougher than today's footballers. Some are downright mean in appearance. The 70s were colorful years. How I miss them!
Brett Alan said…
Do you have any idea yet what your sports section is going to look like if sports are essentially stopped for months? I look at all the sports radio and shows such as SportsCenter as well and wonder what the heck they're going to do. Right now they can talk about all the cancellations and how it affects everyone--players, teams, fans, economies, etc. But that's only going to be interesting for so long.
Billy Kingsley said…
I'm pretty sure that with enough alcohol you CAN cancel memories, haha.

70s cards are cool in any sport. Memories and nostalgia is probably the biggest factor in having any hobby, I think.
night owl said…
@Brett Alan ~

No idea. We talked about that some at work but for only a few weeks down the line (may cut back on number of pages). We may be covering backyard kick ball games.
BaseSetCalling said…
Today, when I look at my 70s Topps Football cards, it never ceases to amaze me that I never noticed that Topps didn't have the rights to the team logos until, I don't know, some 20 years later.

Nor did I really understand that Fleer could use those logos, but couldn't use individual players. That I kind of knew, but could never figure out why those Fleer cards were like that.

It was Football! In color! (B&W TV until 1980 or so in my life). On a piece of cardboard - in my hand! With some bubble gum!

I think if my favorite team wasn't the Raiders, the impact of color pictures of football players would have been even more dramatic.

The other day I came across my 1970s Topps Basketball cards, of which I only ever had a pack or two, some years, at most. But now, I think I need a team set of the 74-75 Sounds.....fantabulous!
Fuji said…
Cards inspire memories... as well as blog posts. I don't remember watching any specific games back in the 70's, but I do remember my father talking about a lot of the players in this post. And that Super Bowl XI card is part of my collecting history. About 10 years ago, my friend was reentering the hobby and would tag along with me to card shows and flea markets. I remember him buying a graded copy of that card. He was so excited. Not sure I've ever thought about that day until I saw this card in your post.
GCA said…
Those Cowboys cards do look nice, but they're Cowboys. I was glad Houston and ol' 55 Hanburger got in the mix too.
AdamE said…
Hopefully no NCAA tournament means you get a slow March for once.
The News & Observer in Raleigh ran the rest of the ACC Tournament through a computer program to play the remaining games. That was the part of the sports page today. NC State won. I am waiting for them to hang a banner.
bryan was here said…
I also love the 1977 football set. That Walter Payton card is a work of art. much like the Drew Pearson. And don't forget, Mr Invincible, Vince Papale, is included as well!
I remember picking up the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers team set for 50 cents at my local card shop back in 1985. And that included the Lee Roy Selmon rookie, with his name spelled Leroy.
That set is chock-a-block with Hall of Famers. I have the key cards already (Payton, Papale, Steve Largent rookie) so I kind of work on completing it from time to time.

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