A True Collegiate Set
By Brandon York aka UofLnMU
There’s a reason they cheat to win. College football is where it is at. In the Southeast, the names are immortal: Herschel, Bo, Peyton. In the Midwest and West Coast, it’s no different. The coaches are revered as gods—Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, the Bear—and we are stunned to see them fall from the lofty peaks when they do. In the midst of a fascinating baseball season, pit against one of the most dramatic work stoppages in recent NFL memory, what has consistently dominated the sports consciousness? College football. As a transplant from Kentucky (the pseudo-South) to Georgia (the Deep South), it’s a simple fact of life: the sun rises and sets with it. The Nascar channels talk SEC football. Jon Stewart talks about Tressel & Terrelle between Weiner-gate jokes.
As a high school English teacher, I spend a fair amount of time looking at sport from a different perspective, and how sports fit in with archetypal narratives that people keep gravitating toward throughout time (Yep, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung check in on a sports blog.). College football is as close to Greek tragedy as we get in popular sport. There is a clear pantheon of gods, an invocation to the Muse (why else would the Longhorn band continue to blare “The Eyes of Texas”—or “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad,” or whatever it is that they constantly play), and we hear from the chorus on the plethora of call-in shows throughout the week until once again the Achaeans (or the Fightin’ Whatevers) take up arms against their opponent.
I’d love to see a set devoted to colleg football alone. Not a draft pick set. I love football, but I’m not interested in getting any cards of some tight end from UNLV who will likely warm the bench on some CFL team just because Press Pass or Sage had to flesh out a set that year. Obviously, it would have to be players who had already exhausted their eligibility, and the various sets would likely need to be regional in their initial distribution. I doubt many collectors in Seattle will be chasing after the heroes of Clemson football. That being said, sets would be presented for the BCS automatic qualifier conferences. A set of quality cards with the promise of Champ Bailey and Fran Tarkenton in Georgia uniforms would fly off shelves.
The emphasis this time must be on the quality nature of the product. There have been a myriad of school specific issues, invariably including black and white photography that looks to be xeroxed from photocopies. Of course, there are obvious insert sets: Heisman winners, various other Trophy winners, and memorabilia cards, though running down a Frank Sinkwich jersey swatch might be a little much (though admittedly, if you look at the uniform swatches in current sets, it’s pretty much a stretch to define them as a “Player X jersey”). Of course, to keep the interest up for such a set from year to year would be the inclusion of newly draft-eligible players (which would make for a nice group within the base set, and also a desirable insert set.
Finally, let’s consider what role this set potentially can play in the collecting world. Growing up, I knew what college allegiances I was supposed to recognize—my son has already gotten the message clear that he is to follow both Georgia and Louisville, and to forsake the Universities of Florida and Kentucky. Of course, growing up, I certainly didn’t know the implications of what any of that meant any more than my five year old son does. However, in same way that I learned about my hometown baseball team (through baseball cards), my son—along with a plethora of younger collectors—can learn about what it means to be “true to his school” (and conference).
Simply consider the amount of interest generated by Heisman winners at autograph shows. Expand the product beyond what collectors have encountered in the marketplace before. The secondary market for individual pieces would be a tremendous one—Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson) collectors in Ohio (provided there are still some there) would not be in the Pac 10 market, but certainly would be interested in a signed image on an Oregon State item, which hitherto would not have been readily available. It’s clearly a product that has a market that isn’t already saturated.
Make it happen. Now. I’m sure there are tons of sweaters in Columbus that can’t wait to be put into card form.
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