Archive for the Dad Life Category

A defining moment for a generation of kids

Posted in Commentary, Dad Life with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

For weeks we’d been hearing about the developing “Coronavirus” and how it’s been impacting persons around the world.  We’ve been urging folks to wash their hands more frequently and for people to stay home if they are sick.

It was real, we knew that was the case. But the time at which things become real for each of us is different. That time for me came on March 11, 2020, when the sports world came to a screeching halt.

Before I get to much further I will say that this piece is my personal perspective and my view of things through my experiences. You can dismiss it as me being naive; me being petty; me being selfish, etc. But this isn’t meant to be an all encompassing piece. This is the account of the my experience in this time.

Just over a week ago the world looked much different. We had sports to distract us from the trials and tribulation of life; they brought strangers together every day.  And on that Wednesday,  a day after the NHL had postponed its operation, we still had an evening of NBA basketball to distract us. 

I had my kids that day and we spend part of the afternoon running errands and watching my nephew play some Little League baseball.  As we headed home from the field, I received a text from my brother in law telling me that the NBA season had been postponed due to the threat of the Coronavirus/COVID-19.

I relayed this information to my 9-year-old son, who has become a big fan of the sport in recent years. And who can blame him, he’s growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area which has seen a great amount success with the Golden State Warriors’ five straight Finals appearances.

He asked a lot of questions during the drive, but took solace in the fact that there was still one game being played — the Mavericks game — and there was still one more on the schedule, which featured Zion Williamson playing in Sacramento.

We sat down that night in front of the television watching Luka Doncic dominate during the final quarter of the game, but that Breaking News banner kept flashing on the bottom of the screen — a reminder that this would be one of the final games for the foreseeable future.

As the network switched to the Kings-Pelicans game, they kept talking about the seriousness of the virus; about Rudy Gobert testing positive, and how asinine if felt that the next game would tip off.  And as we know now, that game featuring the NBA’s biggest rookie never would begin.

The players started warming up and then they left the court. We learned that one of the referees scheduled to work the game had worked a game recently that involved Gobert and ultimately the game was postponed.

The networks showed fans perplexed; fans booing; fans leaving. And then there was the “money shot” showing a young girl crying, seemingly upset the game was being canceled.  I looked at my son and he was quiet; no emotion on his face.

I asked if he was OK and he just stared at me, looking at me with his brown eyes, silently seeking answers, none of which I had. I opened my arms and told him to come to me and then he let out all of his emotion. It was at that moment that all of this became real to me because … it had become real to him. The side effects of this pandemic were impacting my kids.

That was a Wednesday night. He was a wreck for a while and wound up sleeping in my bed because he was scared. And when morning came, he woke afraid because he had a nightmare related to all of this. He hugged me almost tighter that morning that he ever had before.

He stayed home from school that day, but my 11-year-old daughter went to school also having questions: Her main inquiry was whether her fifth grade science camp — for which recently purchased supplies — would be canceled. 

As it turns out, that may in fact be their last school day for the year. School was formally postponed on Friday; the science camp was obviously nixed out of precaution — a bummer for my daughter who has been talking about this trip since the third grade. There’s also a real chance that my daughter may not get to experience her promotional ceremony as she starts middle school next year. Its unfortunate, but we get it.

This Coronavirus has been around for months, mostly being spoke of as impacting those in other countries. But it is now here impacting us on a personal level, and this is a moment that will define their generation.

As I think about what it must feel like to be a child during these times — full of uncertainly and having lots of questions — I am reminded that there are some parallels to my own life.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and my world was changed when the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck on Oct. 17, 1989. I had some family drama (parents separated) I had dealt with before that, but the earthquake brought everything to a halt, including the World Series that year which featured our two local teams, the San Francsico Giants and Oakland Athletics.

I remember being home with my younger sister and a friend when the quake hit; I remember us ducking under a table immediately as we had been taught in school, and once we realized we were physically OK, there was concern for others, including our mother who was on the way home from work,

The streets were dark that evening as power had been out due to structural damage; and the only news we had immediately was that buildings had collapsed and persons had been injured and killed as a result of the temblor. School was postponed for about a week if memory serves me right, but that natural disaster was a moment that defined my childhood — there was a clear loss of innocence for myself at that time and while I had many questions my mother could not answer, I remember her being there for all of it, being strong and making sure we were safe and fed.

Its too early to say how the Coronavirus will impact the kids of this generation.  At present my family is doing its best to keep the spirits up for the kids — we’re trying a semi-structured home schooling effort coupled with walks around the block and some free time.  But it if you ask me, this certainly will be a time they will never forget, and it is our duty as parents and adults to make sure that the kids who turn to us feel as taken care of just as our parents did for us during our times of crisis.

I had the talk with my boy …

Posted in Dad Life with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

There comes a time in every man’s life when he sits his boy down to talk about important things in life. That time came last weekend.

I asked him if we could talk, and he looked concerned. He looked nervous and I told him that he’s growing … and so is his collection.

The Birds and Bees talk has already been broached in a age-appropriate way with my 9-year-old, but THE TALK I had with him recently was about choosing a collecting focus.

He had cards on the table and cards on the book case, and cards in sorting boxes, which ultimately are set to make it into binders. It was time for him to think seriously about WHAT he wanted to collect and not just quantity. I told him there was no rush, but I wanted him to start thinking about it. I left it in his hands.

The morning after I mentioned this, he woke up and asked when we could talk — he wanted to discuss some possible focus for his collection.

I told him that he didn’t need to have unbreakable rules for his collection, but he should think about what type of cards excite him, and what players’ or teams’ cards he likes to see.

While his focus is not like that of a laser, he has come to this conclusion: He wants to collect these three players: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and Matt Chapman. He likes other players, but he is actively collecting these guys.

Eventually I want to get him to a point where he basically has items that he wants to keep, and others that he is open to moving. And when he has that determination, I hope to help him find some trading partners to move some of his excess for items that he enjoys.

He finally said yes to the Mays… and Mantle … and Hank

Posted in Dad Life, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

I was sitting at my desk sorting cards and labeling items yesterday when I came across a four 1969 Topps checklists featuring Mickey Mantle.

I grabbed these at a card shop a few years back and they’ve just been sitting around. They are well-love cards, most of the check boxes on the checklist marked. I pulled one out and asked my son: “Hey, you don’t have a Mickey Mantle in your Collection do you?”

Of course the boy responds that he does not.

“Well, would you like one?” I ask.

He smiles and says, “sure!”

I explained what the card is, and then asked about the 1963 Topps Willie Mays I had offered him in the last. This time he agreed to add it to his collection.

But before I handed them to him, I told him I had one more thing to find for him. I figured I had to round this collecting moment with the other major cardboard icon from that generation — Hank Aaron.

So I found the extra 1974 Topps Hank Aaron #1 I had and set it aside as well. We had discussed Hank earlier this week in context of Barry Bonds while we were at the Phillies-Giants game on Thursday night.

Funny thing happened though. As soon as I located the Aaron, I found a 1969 Topps Carl Yastrzemski behind it. That card also felt like it needed to be in my kid’s collection since we talked about him at the game while watching grandson Mike Yastrzemski round the bases after a homer.

These are the father-son collector moments I absolutely love. I’m sure these won’t be the last legends to head his way.

The err of my way: Not everything needs to be collected

Posted in Commentary, Dad Life with tags , , , on June 28, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

As I’ve grown older, I’ve done a lot of thinking — some good; some bad. But when it comes to this hobby, I’m always thinking about it: the cards, the purpose … the addiction.

It’s a tiresome exercise to be up one day and down the next on a hobby that is supposed to be nothing more than a hobby, yet has become your life.

I like to act like this is merely something I do for fun, like it’s an escape from reality. And in some ways it is. But at times I’ve got things completely backward, sometimes my life has actually become my escape from this hobby.

Too deep for a Friday? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s time for me to check myself; to again write words that I can reflect on to help remind me why I still do this. And of course as the saying goes, “There’s no time like the present.”

I have brought my son into this hobby, for better or worse. I’ll say for better — it’s helped further an amazing bond with a young man whom I see so much of myself in. But it’s that same notion that makes me reflect on it all the more — Do I want my son to be like me? Do I want his thoughts to be consumed by his hobby?

Clearly the answer to the latter is no. A resounding Fuck No!

But I’ve arrived at this conclusion today: A lot of my driving force in hobby spending lately has been to establish this unbreakable bond with my son — which I didn’t have fully with my father — so much so that I am finding myself generating reasons to buy cards so we can “experience” these things together. When really, we can experience much of the same with items we already have, or even outside this hobby.

I do not need to collect everything; and everything doesn’t to be collected.

This is a mantra I need to repeat to myself every day. Because while I have an absolute love for a product like Topps Stadium Club, and feel good about purchasing it, I often find myself manufacturing a similar sentiment to help justify purchases of other items.

My son can enjoy a pack or two of a product and walk away. He’s innocent. But I don’t need to go buy a box or multiple blasters of said product to maintain the father-son bond.

I don’t need those cards in my collection; I don’t need them for our relationship; I don’t need them to stay active in social media circles..

Simply put: I don’t need them to And believing that we do has been an error of my way.

You know you’re raising a kid collector when …

Posted in Dad Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

True story, this morning I went to the laundry mat and while I was loading the washer I heard a familiar crinkling noise in the pocket of a pair of pants I was holding — but those pants were not mine, they were my son’s.

It was a great feeling to pull that wrapper from his pocket and set it on the washer. It meant that he didn’t immediately discard the wrapper and misplace the contents, or leave the cards in his pocket — which is something I did from time to time when I was his age. This wrapper also represented the fact that he thought enough of it to 1) not litter, 2) hold onto the wrapper until we got home, 3) meant he already placed the cards into his basketball binder — which I might add is like three times the size of his baseball binder.

The wrapper really put me in a head space in which I was thinking a lot about childhood, card collecting and … the laundry mat experience.

As a kid my mom would drag us from our apartment to the laundry mat to do loads upon loads of laundry. I was born in a big city and raised in a suburb, but my family never owned property. We’ve been renters our whole lives and when it came to laundry, it sometimes meant piling items into bags or baskets and loading them into the car, or even at times public transportation.

Whenever I went to the laundry mat, I had a Beckett Baseball Monthly with me, sometimes a small stack of cards in Card Savers which I kept in my pocket. And when I was tired of looking up the prices of vintage cards I could only dream of owning, I found myself hounding my mom for quarters with which I would either play Pac-Man or Galaga, or simply hold onto with hopes that the liquor store in the shopping center might have packs of cards for sale.

My kids don’t really enjoy the laundry mat the way I ever did, which is when I choose to go, I usually go when they are in school. There’s a very nostalgic feeling when I step into such places, but I did not think I’d find myself reminiscing this much today about my childhood, all stemming from a wrapper from a pack of 2018-19 Panini Contenders basketball.

First Warriors game offers excitement, victory

Posted in Dad Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Eight years old. So many questions. So eager to experience the sport live.

That was me in 1988 when my father took me to my first Major League Baseball game. It was in Oakland and the Athletics hosted the Baltimore Orioles that day. I can remember generally the events of the night. But it would be years before I could appreciate the intricacies of the game.

Oddly enough that age and description is also true of my son, who last night got to experience his first Golden State Warriors game. I grew up a baseball fan but enjoyed the other sports.  My son seemingly has taken a liking to basketball, and who can blame him.  It’s easy to be a kid who gets swept up in a sport that everyone in this area talks about because the local team has been the best team in three of the last four seasons.

I told my son about a month ago that I had purchased tickets for us to go see Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durrant and Draymond Green play – remember, this was before Demarcus Cousins was actually scheduled to debut, so he really hadn’t heard of him.

As we got closer to the date, he kept asking about the game, and increasingly paid more attention to the games as we watched on television.  Then last week he told me that he already had his outfit picked out, one consisting of a Steph Curry shirt, some Warriors sweatpants, and a pair of Curry Under Armour shoes.

His thirst for this one single game really tugged at my heart strings. I’m a divorcing father of two, a boy and a girl.  The kids are quickly approaching the tween years, and I am pushing 40 in less than 18 months.  I’m not going to call it a mid-life crisis, but there has been an emphasis for me to make memories with the kids, especially as it pertains to stuff I know … which is this case is sports.

I watch games with them; I include them in much of my card shop trips, and try to take them to as many baseball games as I can during the summer time.  But this Warriors game was special because the damn tickets are pricey, and for the first time it was not I who was asking to go to a game – it was my son.

We woke Sunday morning, Feb. 10, 2019, and one of the first things my son asked was if we could go to the card shop before going to the Warriors game … because he wanted to look at basketball cards.  And later that day we headed to Oakland and got to the arena about 10 minutes before the doors opened to the facility. We stood in line with thousands of others, and once we got into Oracle Area, we basically went straight to our seats so we could watch the players warm up.

There was DeMarcus Cousins shooting three pointers with the hood of his black sweatshirt pulled over his head.  And moments later came Steph Curry taking jumpers both inside the arc, and even half way between the arc and the half court line. Later Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant took the floor, takings shots all over the court.  This was not only my son’s first time seeing the Warriors, it was MY first time seeing this version of the Warriors. I’ve only been to a handful of Golden State games over the years and have not seen them since 2005, a night in which the Warriors hosted Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.  And every time I had seen the team before this time with my son, I had seats in the upper level. On this night with my boy, we were 18 rows from the court, behind the north basket. So this was a sort of “firsts” for both of us.

The game started slow pace for the Warriors as the Miami Heat took a commanding lead early, causing my son to look at me like he was a bit worried.  At one point Golden State was down 19. I leaned over and told him I was worried too, but explained that Golden State could easily close this gap because they have so many good players.

And that’s what happened. Golden State cut it to 10; and then had it down to 5 at halftime. GSW then took an 8-point lead through three quarters, setting up a fun final quarter in which Miami would close the gap and re-take the lead on the back of Josh Richardson who scored 37 points. The Heat even had the lead in the final moments of the game after stellar play by Dwayne Wade, who was playing his last game in Oracle Arena.  In the end, though, the Warriors triumphed after Cousins hit a pair of free throws in the final minute and Golden State’s defense helped prevent Miami from scoring a tying bucket as the buzzer sounded.

The game was close, but it made for an exciting fourth quarter which had my son smiling all the way to the car. The look on his face is one I won’t soon forget.

It was a great experience. We saw Curry hit — and miss — multiple three pointers; watched Durant dominate at times; witnessed Klay hit big three pointers at each end of the court, and watched Cousins and Green both play their brand of gritty basketball. And we got to see an NBA Legend in Wade make his final trip through Oakland.

Hopefully this game was the first of many he and I can attend. But unlike baseball, basketball games are much more expensive these days – the price I paid for the two tickets (plus parking) was about as much as I had spent on my Game Five 2018 World Series tickets. That financial hit makes it tough to get out to a mid-season game.

My kid has shown an interest in cards!

Posted in Dad Life with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

“Dad, it’s like real cardboard …”

For a parent card collector these words coming from the mouth of your offspring are priceless, especially when you’ve just introduced them to their first true vintage addition to their fledgling card collection.

I’ve been a baseball card guy for more than three decades, having begun my card adventure when I was just seven years old, shortly after moving to the suburbs from the Big City. And I now have two children, the oldest pushing 10 years, and the other having just turned 8.

I always envisioned that one day my card collecting habits would one day rub off on my children, and up to this point there has been very little interest. Kids these days don’t know what it’s like to not be able to get information or entertainment at the blink of an eye or the touch of a screen. Collectors from my generation and those before know the struggle all too well, having to buy and handle newsprint, and in some cases using baseball cards as our method of learning and remember statistics and even historic events.

I introduced my kids to cards many years ago. They’ve both opened packs; attended shows and shops with me, and often see me rummaging through my boxes and piles. But until recently, there had been very little real interest. I’ve given my kids packs, especially my son, who in many ways is my Mini Me. But he hasn’t truly enjoyed then; he’s busy, swiping and button mashing.

And then just a few days ago, without my prompting, he walked over to the bookshelf, took out his binder of cards – many of which are 2016 Topps Bunt, the last product that he and I really broke together, and he started flipping through his pages.

Like many starting to collect, my son had placed every card he owns into 9-pocket sheets and in a binder with no regard for organization. His baseball cards were next to his football ones, and even some random basketball and Olympics cards sprinkled in.

I watched him from a distance and then he comes over to me and says, “Dad, I’m going to sort these by sport.” The later he brings the binder to me and says, “Can you tell me if any of these are good.”

The question as to whether or not a card is good is very subjective. I know for a fact that none of his cards at the time carried any sort of premium, or really any desire outside of his own. But I am not in the business of crushing budding collector’s souls with a statement like that. And so we flipped through, page by page, and I called out every All Star, every Hall of Famer and every Red Sox, Athletics or Giants card we saw. I wanted him to appreciate what he has, not be so concerned with what the cards are worth.

My son continued to look at his cards for a bit; and I even gave him a larger Collector D-Ring binder, all while teaching him the importance of moving the entire stack of sheets to the flat side of the D-Ring before closing the cover.

My son and daughter went to stay with their mother for a few days and when they returned, I told my son that I had a new card for him, one that I had picked up from a Local Card Shop, one that I never owned as a kid collector. It was a 1995 Pinnacle Ken Griffey Jr., an iconic card showing The Kid being a kid, blowing a massive bubble with his gun. It was my generation’s version of the iconic 1976 Kurt Bevacqua card. I got the card for $1.

I presented the card to my kid and his response was “What the heck?! He and his sister giggled about the large bubble Ken blew in the image. I had succeeded; they cared about the card.

And so I began thinking about items I could gift to my son, cards that he could add to his collection, items that had some sort of meeting, and not just run-of-the-mill commons I had sitting around. I looked through stacks on my desk and found two cards that I thought would be nice additions. The first was a Lonzo Ball Hoops rookie card. Both of my kids know who Ball is because he made an appearance on Fuller House on Netflix, a show the kids watch and re-watch just like I used to watch re-runs of The Wonder Years. They laughed when I showed it to them.

The second card? The aforementioned vintage card, a 1972 Topps World Series Game 4 Highlights card of Roberto Clemente. But before I showed them the card, I told them the story of Clemente, about his baseball skill and his true heroism, his fatal humanitarian effort in Nicaragua.

The kids were astonished by the story. And then I presented the Clemente to my son so he could put it in his binder. The card isn’t worth a ton of money, but it was the kind of card that served as a teaching point, one that I hope he’ll remember forever.

I handed him the card in a penny sleeve and top loader, and he surveyed it and then removed it – By the way, I taught him how to smack the palms of his hands together to insert and remove cards from Top Loaders – so he could place it in his binder next to the aforementioned Griffey card. His words were priceless.

“Dad, it’s like real cardboard…”

I then told him that’s how baseball cards used to be. I pointed to the showcase on the wall and explained that that’s how cards used to made, and every single one of the cards in the case were made the same way, only they were now living inside a plastic Beckett Grading Services slab inside the showcase.

I don’t know if my son will end up loving cards in a week, in a year, in a decade, or if he cares that the cards I’ve accumulated will end up being the possessions of him and his sister at some point. But these last few weeks have been promising; perhaps one day he will understand completely my passion for this hobby, even if it drags me down at times.