Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Gettin' through high school
I've written quite a bit about 1989 Fleer lately, but it's about the least enjoyable Fleer set from the 1980s for me.
I just don't have a connection to it like other '80s Fleer sets. When I think about that, I believe the reason is because life was pretty good in 1989. Going to class was behind me, I was college educated. Lots of free time. A girl to wine and dine and the world to explore. I still collected cards, but they weren't getting me through anything.
Now, early 1980s Fleer? Those were some uncertain times. Thank goodness Fleer was around then.
During high school, I was a good student but not popular. I didn't feel like being smart all the time so I settled in with the kids that were like me, not quite popular, not quite eggheads, more smart-asses than anything else. Good boys who got into trouble periodically.
I didn't really belong to anything. No sports teams for the most part. No clubs. I didn't join classmates every Friday night after the football game and head up to the overlook to get wasted. I didn't ditch the game and head to the basement to smoke weed with the burnouts either. I just did my own thing and tried to cope with being a teenager as best I could. I had two things to assist me: music and cards.
Music gets all of the credit. It's a teen-aged cliche. But cards? Cards hardly get any credit for getting kids through high school, even though they certainly helped me.
I collected every year I was in high school from the final packs of 1979 Topps to four or five months after '83 Topps hit the shelves. I collected Donruss and Fleer, but a lot more Fleer than Donruss. Fleer spoke to me more, probably because it was about as awkward as I was in high school.
That's why when I received some 1983 Fleer off my want list both from reader Chris and from J.C. of The Fleer Sticker Project, my heart skipped a happy beat upon viewing them. These were my boys, the ones that helped me through. The ones -- if you take the time to view them and appreciate them -- that have as much promise as your average confused high school student.
When I pulled the first few cards out of the package from the Fleer Sticker Project, I was hit with the memories of the 1982 World Series:
This is the World Series from my senior year in high school. I'd been a senior about a month so the confidence that I finally found in the later part of my senior year wasn't there yet. I would immerse myself in baseball to cope with those high school hallways. The World Series was HUGE then. Much bigger than it is now and it will never be that big in my mind again.
I even created a scrapbook of the entire 1982 season, culminating in the Cardinals' victory in the World Series. Wish I still had that.
I was still a Topps guy when I was buying packs of Fleer cards. Topps' cards -- if you're going to equate it with high school stereotypes -- was the intelligent jock and class president with a cheerleader on each arm. It was definitely not like me. But I couldn't help but like and admire Topps, even though Fleer was much more my style. Look at the above cards. So many questions. What is going on? What is the photographer doing? What is the player doing?
That's Fleer. That's a parent talking to his teenage kid. What are you doing? What is that? Use your head! Come on, Fleer, you can do better than that!
I love Fleer.
Fleer gave you moments that you just didn't see on any other card. Doesn't that sound like your average teenage outcast? Fleer didn't do what you expected or wanted it to do, but, sometimes, it turned out pretty good. Sometimes it turned into something memorable, something you might tell your friends. Did you see what that no-good, teenage son of mine did?? That was pretty good!
Mostly, when I was in high school, I would wait until the weekend to walk to the drug store to buy some cards with money I earned on my paper route. I'd stare at those cards all weekend. Then when it was time to go to school, I'd deal with the hassle of the day, and then I'd come home -- and if I was lucky, I'd have some time to flip on the record player and look through my cards. All of the cards -- whether Topps, Donruss or Fleer -- got me through. But there was only one card set that knew exactly what I was going through.
That would be Fleer.
All of these players are familiar, every single one. Because I soaked up every bit of baseball I could get in high school.
Now, when I look at cards and players from this time, I think of collecting in high school and everything that meant. There's also a bit of nostalgia involved.
For example, I can't remember the last time I saw an orange helmet that wasn't in the NFL.
But mostly, my quest to complete this set -- and the other early 1980s Fleer sets -- is an attempt to fulfill those hopes and dreams in high school when just about every hope and dream I had was a million miles away, like it is for many high school kids.
By the winter of 1983, school was much more fun and 1983 cards remind me of that, too.
Of course that means I really need to get that 1982 Fleer want list posted. Sophomore year was a bitch.