Bowman's been out for a couple of weeks, I guess, I don't know -- I barely pay attention to the product -- and has been enjoying its darling status as the latest and greatest.
Of course, you couldn't find Bowman in stores even before sports cards were removed from retail shelves because this is the kind of product that draws the "investors," get-rich-quick dreamers and, yeah, some scammers, too. Isn't that a nice legacy for Bowman?
Bowman didn't used to attract that kind of customer, of course. It was once the primary card brand in the land, along with Topps, and produced some pretty nice sets in the first half of the 1950s. But today it's all about prospects and guys I've never heard of and I think the biggest issue I have with it is: it's not a complete baseball card.
Think about it. What is the drawing point for a Bowman card? Why do people buy it?
They buy it for the name. Sure there needs to be a picture, but what they are seeking is the name on the card. That's the most important thing, that's basically the only thing for those collectors.
The other things about the card -- the stuff that matters to me -- the design, what's in the photo, the words on the back, are meaningless to Bowman collectors, obviously. Because if you've been looking at Bowman for the past 10 years, Bowman -- or actually Topps -- isn't putting any effort into the photos or the design.
Every design for the past decade has been an indefinable collection of geometric angles or curves. There's a white border and a team logo and that's it. I challenge you to come up with a distinctive name to describe each of the Bowman sets from 2011 to present. Because they all look the same.
Bowman has been about solely the prospect for a long time. But at least 15 years ago, I could find an interesting photo or two to keep my attention. The black borders it used in the early 2000s were nice, in retrospect, although at the time I didn't think Bowman deserved them.
Currently, though, there is nothing interesting about any of the cards -- except for that name. And you end up with pages in the binder that look like this:
This is not just one year of this. I've looked at all the Bowman Dodgers since 1989. It's been exactly like this since 2011. What else happened in 2011? Well, that was right around the time that Bowman started adding inserts (I think there were inserts in 2010 Bowman, too). So why do we need to pay attention to the base set anymore?
Just about every Bowman card since has been one close-up shot after another of pitcher pitching, hitter hitting, runner running, thrower throwing. It's stale, it's mind-numbingly boring. And it's not a card to me.
A trading card is a complete package: the name, the photo with thought, the design, the back. It's a loving treatment of the item, a true collectible.
Bowman in its present form is a commodity. It is something to be bought and sold. That's it. If you want to appreciate a Bowman card for its art, you're going to have to get some chromed-up version with shiny refractors and colors all over it. You have to dress it up. Because the card itself is going to be an assembly-line piece of shit.
The cards are so uninteresting to me that I can barely get myself to do the things I do naturally for every other card set. I can't get myself to compile a want list. I can't get myself to store the cards I own in a box (you should see my box of Bowman cards -- while every other brand is neatly in order by year and team, Bowman is a scattered collection of "you stay in there and THINK about what you did.")
I would rather open any other kind of card set that is currently made than Bowman.
But you know all that about me already.
Let's make it really challenging. Let's see if night owl can find 10 Bowman cards in his collection that aren't from the 1950s that don't suck.
OK, I'm up for that challenge. Let's see what I've got.
This is from the black-border era of Bowman. It's from 2009. Russell Martin was making really good cards in 2008-09, so Bowman isn't special in this area. But at least they didn't screw it up. I also think it's cool that Martin's Bowman Chrome card from this set is a horizontal version of this photo.
It seems like Bowman has ditched horizontal cards the last several years (But I don't know any of this Bowman stuff for sure because I haven't purchased a pack of Bowman in at least six or seven years). It's unfortunate and it does lead to the current sameness that plagues its sets. There is nothing as interesting as the Iannetta card in Bowman base this year, I'm sure, and this isn't even all that great of a picture.
Remember when you could see people in the background of Bowman cards? Heck, in the background of any card? What an interesting shot. Who knew Bowman could do this?
Well, the people collecting cards in 1994 could because Bowman was still doing that then.
It seems a little unfair to show a 1989 Bowman card -- heck that might as well be the 1950s with the way Bowman is behaving now. But it's nice to know that there used to be baseball pictures on Bowman cards that weren't of swinger swinging and thrower throwing.
The one thing I do like about the 2021 Bowman design (and I'd show my 2021 Bowman card here right now except I don't have one because people must have their investments) is the the 3-D effect in which the player's helmets or arms or whatever break through the design. 1997 Bowman did it better though, because this design is bad-ass. Black-and-red borders with a glittering red Bowman logo. Now this is a card.
I tried to steer clear of Bowman Chrome cards, because this is a post about how everyone marginalizes the base set, but, let's face it, I'll take whatever interesting Bowman thing I can find in my collection. This is a nice practice shot of the always interesting Torii Hunter, back when we were allowed to see things in the background of our pictures.
OK, cheating again with an '89 card. But, really, card-set makers, I'd be happy with a card like this. Fake outfielder pose? Bring it on. Get me those billboards, too.
One of the greatest Darryl Strawberry cards, period. And it appeared in Bowman. Shocking. But you could still do stuff like that in the early '90s.
Can you imagine Bowman featuring a coach in their set today? The Twitter outrage that would ensue.
If you put shots like this back into Bowman, I will buy Bowman again. No, I won't stand in line for it, or overpay for it, but I will definitely want to buy it.
Listen, I know that Bowman isn't about the base set. It's about the shiny and the inserts and the parallels and mostly about the name of the player. I also know that the amount of collectors who appreciate a card for all of its elements -- picture, design, cool stuff on the back -- are declining and fewer and fewer people understand.
That's OK. Because there are products out there for all kinds of collectors and all kinds of people. I'm certainly not saying that Bowman should die or anything like that. I just think it's soiling the good name of "the baseball card."
You can like Bowman, not that you need permission. But if you say you prefer it? ...