Monday, December 30, 2013

12 in 12 - December Review

Well, much like my October, 2012 quest to watch 30 documentaries in 30 days (actually 31 in 31), my 2013 challenge of reading 12 sport books in 12 months has been a tremendous success.

I have rediscovered an enjoyment for the written word, an excitement for the numerous undiscovered titles out there and a real appreciation for the craft of writing.  What started off as a vehicle to get me reading again has turned into a passion to seek out quality authors and intriguing subjects.

My final book of the 2013 year fits that bill perfectly.

I decided to call an audible early in the month.  I had started reading the new Mike Tyson biography (which I have since purchased) but with it being a beast of nearly 600 pages, I knew the likelihood of finishing it before the end of the month was thin.  So I had another book on the docket.  Mint Condition  is a story of baseball cards and how they have woven into the fabric of who we are throughout the decades.

I was all ready to plunge into that subject until I got the call from the library that a long-awaited (and highly anticipated) title was ready to be picked up.  I immediately made it the must-read book of the month.

Keon And Me
Dave Bidini
295 pages

I was excited for this book for a number of reasons.  First, I knew Dave Bidini was a huge....and I mean HUGE Dave Keon fan.  Being a player collector in this hobby makes me immediately relate to the unwavering admiration and appreciation of a person's "favourite player".  I really gravitated towards that.

Secondly, I had read a great essay (linked by Dave Bidini via Twitter) on the subject of Keon And Me and the power of "truth vs. memory".  It was a fun read and had me jumping in anticipation of the book.

Lastly, I was really looking forward to reading a book written by a musician.  For those who don't know, Dave Bidini was a member of the Canadian rock group The Rheostatics.  He also writes a weekly column for The National Post newspaper.  So I know the guy can write.  But what I wanted to see how someone with the creativeness of a musician writes.  I was not disappointed.

Keon And Me is just what it says on the cover - "My search for the lost soul of the Leafs".  Dave Bidini writes this book as a lifelong fan of Dave Keon.  The passion and intensity of his love for Keon is definitely at the forefront.  It is so strong that by the end of the book.....I felt like a huge fan of Keon's.

But this book is more than just a gush-fest for Dave Keon.  It's told in two narratives - the present day Bidini coping with the Leafs of today and the discovery that Keon's number hasn't been honoured by the Toronto team and a young Bidini growing up in Ontario, bullied relentlessly and struggling with adolescence in general....having Keon as a focal point and at times a guide.

The book takes us through Dave's quest for Keon and his unresolved feelings towards his childhood bully.  The back and forth writing style really works well and created a layered knowledge of who Dave Bidini is and the feelings he's harboured for a number of key people in his life.

What I really loved about the book (and what I was hoping for....written by a musician) is the fantastic pace and temp and creativeness in his words.  Dave Bidini takes me to the schoolyard, takes me to Maple Leaf Gardens, takes me to the numerous places throughout the book as he searches for the backstory of who Dave Keon is.  The word "page-flipper" comes to mind, and in this case it's true.  Bidini would end a chapter in such a way as to leave you reflecting on what you've just read while anxiously flipping to the start of the next chapter.

The book is so well laid out.  As a whole body of work, it seems so simple, yet the people and places, details in the moments are so rich in description and meaning that it feels so complex.  A great mixture of the two.

I won't reveal the ending, but if there was one area that I would've liked to have seen change, it was just that.  I'll say's a 295 page book.  It would have been better as a 310 page read.

Regardless, this book is one that should be mandatory for any Leafs fan and would easily be enjoyed by someone who has a strong link to a favourite player.  Conversational, witty and thorough, Dave Bidini is a name I will be re-visiting over the next few months (he has quite a back-catalogue).

4 out of 5

And with 12 for 12 quest is complete.  In the future I will be continuing my reading (I've got 4 books on the go right now).  I might get a book done in a month, I might not.  I might get 2 or 3 titles read in a month, I might not.  And I'll be sure to share some of the titles I've read here on my blog (just not all of them).

And to those of you who have enjoyed my ramblings....thanks!  Now get out there and read a book.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PARKIE PROJECT - Meatball Added


Today is the first day of my holiday time off from work.  After a number of long, busy, stressful weeks, it was all about sleeping in and lounging this morning.  And boy did I love it.

Now to spend the afternoon finishing my Christmas shopping.

But first, I thought I'd share the newest addition to my newest project.

1951/52 Parkhurst
#65 - Metro "Meatball" Prystai RC

This card came as part of a package from a fellow Linden collector.  He had sent some Linden cards (which I'll show off in a post later this week) that he picked up on my behalf and added this Parkie as a little holiday gift.

Thanks Kevin!  It's a perfect fit to my project.

Out of the four cards I know have, this one has the nicest corners for sure.  The centering is nice (which is part of the aesthetic bar I'm setting) and the color is still strong.

A slight surface crease in the upper right (which is near impossible to see unless you tilt it to the light) is really the only blemish other than the tape residue.  The tape residue is not overwhelming and it adds some character to this card.

A very memorable card in the collection.  Now, and for the duration of my set progress.

I decided to do a google search on Prystai since I knew nothing of the player.  I was surprised to see that he has his own webpage.  Seems there's a book being done on his life.

Dmytro "Metro" Prystai started his career with Chicago, had three All-Star appearances and won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings.  He scored the Cup-winning goal in the '52 series which he called "the best team he ever played for".

The name "meatball" also appears as a nickname on the card.  Would it be because of his Ukrainian heritage or his interactions with the Chicago mafia?  Whatever it might be, I don't think a nickname like that would end up on a card these days.

Although his NHL career only lasted 10 years, it looks like he had an impact during his time in the league.  Some regard him as the nicest guy to play the game.

He just recently passed away at the age of 85.

BV $40-60

Thanks again Kevin for the great add.  I really appreciate it.

I'm going to try to add one more card to this set during the holiday season, but nothing is written in stone.  I want to go at a reasonable pace and definitely price (the right price) comes into play on all pickups for this project.

Parkie Progress - 4 out of 105  (3.8%)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

OPINION - Flipping

I don't think there's anyone out in the hobby world who wouldn't like to make a few extra bucks buying a couple cards and then flipping them for profit.  I'm sure we have all done it (or tried) at some point in the past.  Thinking you've found that great deal and then realizing it when you cash in - be it a couple bucks or a double-up.

And I see nothing wrong with people buying someone else's sale with the hopes of getting a higher return.  But I do have an issue with the "time and place".

Case in point, yesterday at the monthly card show.

I was perusing the tables, looking for Lindens as always, and came across a table with a new face behind it.  I always like to see new faces - it means new cards to look at.  Sadly no Lindens.

But as I was flipping through one of his sales boxes, the seller decided to point out a few cards he thought were a great deal at his price.  Weird thing was, they had a different looking price tag on it than the other cards in the box.  Two of them in the box and a third on the table.

The seller was bragging that he just got a steal of a deal on the three cards - from the table right next to him - and was now looking to flip for profit.  Wow.

Now I get that once a card is sold the new owner can do whatever they want with it, but it left a bad taste in my mouth that this guy literally went over to the adjacent table, bought 3 cards (at what was a fantastic price) and then without even removing the guy's pricetags proceeded to try and make a profit on the cards.

And we're not talking a couple bucks, but some hefty price inflating.

What he actually ended up doing to me is making me have zero interest on what was on his table and shift over one to the guy who had the sweet sales.

Good for him for getting a couple great bargains, but hold off for a bit before trying to flip them - even a couple hours.  Or maybe just peel off the price tags.

A real turnoff.

At the end of the day, I didn't pick up any new pc items, traders or just shiny stuff.  All the money in my pocket stayed in my pocket.

That's not to say there weren't good deals to be had.....but it's all about time and place.

So what's your opinion on buying and flipping?  Is is "no holds barred" or do you see some "unwritten rules" on etiquette and approach?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - Superlative: The First Six

Before I show off my newest Linden find, I'd like to say that I'm calling a bit of an audible when it comes to my December book read.

I've been flipping through Mike Tyson's autobiography...and I'm finding that I like it.  With it being nearly 600 pages and a library rental, I know that this book won't be finished before I need to return it.

So I'm buying it.  The order is in.

Now I also went to the library this week to pick up yet another new hockey release.  Dave Bidini's Keon and Me.  Another book that I'm excited to read.  And because the book isn't due until the end of the month...and it's less than 300 pages, I'm putting it on the list of books to read this month.

Yes, I'm going to read both Keon and Me as well as Mint Condition.  And maybe some others.  What a difference a year makes.

Anyways, onto the card.

I saw this card pop up a couple times on ebay (as there are 9 copies of it made) and sadly, there was the ever popular "Linden Tax" added to the asking prices.  It was an easy head shake and an ignore on those auctions.

But then I saw someone on the hobby boards show off a copy.  I quickly inquired and we made a very prompt - and fair - deal.  The card was shipped off and it hit the mailbox today.

It's one that (like a few others this year) has me questioning why...but it is another card on the list - and now scratched off.

2013/14 Superlative The First Six
Fall Expo Redemption Silver
#SR-84 six jersey w/ Amonte, Hull, Sundin, Bure, Samsonov

A nice card - yes.  But let's take a closer look at this "ode" to an Original Six era.

When you think of any of these six iconic teams, do you immediately think of any of these six players?  Sundin maybe, but Amonte?  Bure (as a Ranger)?  Samsonov?  And of course - Linden (as a Hab)?

I know there are some die hard collectors that pick off cards with these players on it.  I can only think that the popularity of these players (even though their association with the teams depicted on the card) lends heavily on them being added to this set.

I just can't get excited about a card like this.  I feel like I have picked it up just so it can be scratched off my wantlist.  That's it.

It's been a bit of a frustrating year with some cards of his coming out, but I'm trying to keep my main collecting venture a fun one.  I think that's why I've passed on many of his cards recently.  It's just not as fun.

Oh, and by the way, in case any of you were wondering - the card is out of the sealed toploader.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

MY COLLECTION - A Pair Of Extra Autos

A couple of weeks ago I received a package with yet another Linden card for my pc.  This one came through a trade on the hobby boards.  I love when I can add a card without shelling out cash.

I had asked about the Linden and the trader expressed interest in some autos I had.  We worked out a deal and in addition to the Linden, I picked up a couple autos myself for my trade box.

It wasn't until I took a close look at them that I found something interesting.  Something I thought I'd share.

2011/12 ITG Broad Street Boys
#A-DS Dave Schultz autograph

"The Hammer".  What is it about enforcers and their slick looking signatures?  Don't believe me?  Take a look at Marty McSorley's - one of the nicest out there.

There was something that struck a chord with me when I saw this card listed.  While not a superstar player, Schultz definitely has a following.  Hopefully it will make for a good trader.

2012/13 ITG Motown Madness
#A-TN Ted Nolan autograph

I decided to pick this card up for the simple reason that Nolan is back in the NHL coaching.  Maybe that will boost the interest in this card...even slightly.  Ah, who am I kidding - it probably won't.  I've seen Buffalo's record.

Another nice looking signature though.  Love the domed lid Ted's sporting.  Ah, the good ol' days.

So, now that you've seen both cards, what do you think?  Something odd eh?

Here, I'll help you out even more.  If you can't see it now, you need to just move along.

The design similarities are baffling.  Every single element of the card design is identical.  From the scuffed partial logo acting as a background for the cutout photo, to the borders surrounding the sticker auto, to the lower tab housing the player name (I guess they did use a different font), to the lower background color separation.  It's all exact.

Now I get that most people who would be attracted to the Philly product probably would pass on the Detroit offering (and vice versa), but the re-hashing of an entire concept does speak a little to laziness in my eyes.

Sure, both are nice cards...but when you put them together like this, the individual lustre of each fades - a lot.

Something I had no idea of until I saw them both land in the mailbox at the same time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

12 in 12 - November Review

When I first received the book I read this month back in the spring, I got a kick out of seeing it.  Anyone who knows me knows my distain for Mark Messier.  What further made me laugh was the "inscription" added inside the cover...

Thanks Mark!  Your sincerity seems genuine.

And early on I had always decided to read this book as part of my '12 in 12' venture.  And since Messier is number 11, I chose November as the month to read it.

OK....that's not true.  It was a random decision.

But I took on the task and be review might get quite heated.

Jeff Z. Klein
306 pages

I'd like to begin by saying this....Mark Messier is two things to me.  An Oiler, and an asshole. (there, I feel better)  This book did a decent job of reinforcing that opinion I have.

Long championed as being one of the "best leaders in sports" (which I find laughable), Messier played a lot longer than he probably should have in a league that evolved into a game he couldn't compete in.

This book gives an account of Mark's career from his youth, to his brief WHA days, the Oiler dynasty, New York dominance and yes....Vancouver.

The book did not have the support of Messier or his family so there are no direct interviews with Mark, his family, friends or teammates.  Instead, author Jeff Klein (writer for New York Times Magazine) relied on volumes of information already out there.  News Stories, Magazine articles, past interviews, other name it.  And to his credit, Klein did a very nice job in organizing and presenting his findings.

I'll admit, the first half of the book I really enjoyed.  It took me back to the early 80's when hockey was introduced to me.  The Islanders and Oilers were kings of the league and the lineup in Edmonton was a who's who of all-stars.  It was a great trip back in time.

But when the book shifted to the Ranger years, my enjoyment turned into a reinforcement of my beliefs.  I was shaking my head more than sitting back and enjoying the words.

The book is a definite fluff piece and rarely goes into any sort of controversies or conflicts.  Messier is made out to be some sort of iconic hero.  Hence, the throwing up.

As mentioned, I was especially interested in how the book would portray two specific instances (both involving my guy, Trevor Linden).  The first being the vicious crosscheck Messier lashed out to Linden at the end of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  ZERO!  Absolutely no mention of the cowardly act.  Not surprised.

The other being the locker room relationship the two would have as teammates in Vancouver (and I use that term loosely).  Again, Messier comes off as squeaky clean.  It's more Keenan who is painted as the jerk.

I'm amazed that so many people think Messier is the ultimate captain.  Two instances in this book lead me to believe otherwise.  The way he treated Vancouver fans, the organization and teammates in general was anything but "captain-like".  (The Wayne Maki number 11 incident alone capped that).  And the fact that he could not elevate his game during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey because he couldn't generate the intensity against his New York teammates playing for other countries (the USA especially).

Messier plays the game so one dimensionally that it's funny.  His numbers are padded solely because of the stacked lineups he played on.  If you're not part of his "in"'re an afterthought in his mind.  He's more of a politician than a leader.

Still, I can't help but give the books more positives than negatives.  It's well written, well organized and easy to flip through.

3 out of 5

December's book...... was going to be.  Until I picked it up from the library and saw that it was near 600 pages in length.  There's no way I'm going to be able to renew it mid-month and it's on my Christmas list.  So I'm going to start on it, but not finish it.

Instead, I'm going with a little lighter read.  One that Captain Canuck himself recommended (and let me borrow)...

With my Christmas break starting on Dec. 18 and lasting nearly a month, I'm looking forward to doing some good quality reading over the break.

Last one of the year!!!