Saturday, March 31, 2012

2008-2009 Fleer Basketball Cards Review

I opened a 2008-2009 Fleer basketball rack pack containing 52 cards.  I know - 2008-2009?  The price was right at $2.98 and you never know what you might find with older sets. 
The basic card has the Fleer logo in the upper left corner of the card front with a silver outer border and a black inner border that turns to the primary color of the player's team in the bottom left.  Speaking of, this is where you will find the team logo.  The team name and player's position is along the bottom of the card front with the player's name vertical going from bottom to top on the left side.
The back contains the stats for each year the player has played as well as their name, position, team name, and team logo.  The card back is oriented in the "portrait" style.  The font is very small so  those among the older crowd might want to have their magnifying glass handy.  This also creates quite a bit of wasted space.  I would have also liked to have seen personal info such as weight, height, draft information, and college. 

There were two versions of rookie cards.  The gold bordered versions shown above and those replicating the 1986-1987 Fleer set.  No issues with either of these.  The player pictures are studio "action" shots but are done well.  Also included in the set were three Michael Jordan retrospective cards.  I'm all about retro and I haven't seen much of Jordan in card sets so it was a nice bonus. 
There isn't any one feature of these cards that stands out but I do like these cards.  I could definitely see myself buying more.  The card backs were a little disappointing in I had to squint to read them but I still like the visual styling.  Again pick up a pack if you like basketball cards.

2011-2012 Panini Hoops Basketball Card Review

I purchased a pack of 2011-2011 Hoops basketball cards which are now a Panini brand.  There were 5 cards in the pack and I the price was $1.99.  So while the price is cheap you really don't get to take much home.  The front of the cards remind you of the classic Hoops designs of old.  Not a band design but it is a little bland for my taste.  There is also quite a bit of white space on the front of each card which is nothing more than wasted space.  The front of each card contains the NBA Hoops logo with the player's name and team name.  I like seeing team logos but I won't hold that against them.  Also missing is the player's position. 

On the back is the missing logo and position as well as a paragraph with recent highlights.  Height, weight, birthdate, round drafted, and college are also included.  The stats include the last four seasons as well as a career total line.  At first I was happy to see a small picture of the player until I discovered it was just a smaller version of the photo on the front. 

Overall I think this set is pretty underwhelming.  I didn't receive any inserts but looking at the reviews online there are some very nice cards.  While I won't be buying any more cards at my local store I will be looking for those inserts online.  Below are a few looks at the set that might help. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

4th and inches...Free Agency

First off "4th and inches..." will be my tag line for when I want to throw out randomness about the NFL.  Tag lines can be cliche but I like it and this initial entry is about the first weeks of free agency.  It all begins and ends with Peyton Manning.  He signed with Denver for 5 years and $96 million.  Wow.  I like this move.  San Francisco may have been the team more ready to compete for the Super Bowl but I like it.  Some of it has to do with the pairing of him and executive/former great John Elway.  You know Elway and coach John Fox are happy to get past the Tim Tebow era and develop a game plan involving the passing game.  Will Manning be ready?  Yes.  Will he be 100%?  Who knows but an 80% healthy Manning still makes him a top ten quarterback in this league and should make Denver a team ready to challenge for a division crown each year.  Some say they must win a Super Bowl to justify this signing but I don't agree.  I think Manning will charge the fanbase like it hasn't been since Elway was under center.  A Super Bowl win would just be icing on the cake.

Tampa Bay also made a big splash signing Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright right out of the gates.  If Josh Freeman is for real this team could make some noise in their division as Atlanta's free agency news is all bad as players are walking left and right and the Saints don't even have a head coach right now.

New England and Washington ensured they won't be wanting for wide receivers with the Pats signing three and Washington two.  Overall New England has been one of the busiest teams.  They haven't signed the sexiest free agents out there but as is their M.O. they are stock piling bodies in the hope they can get the best out of players other teams didn't want. 

The Bears grabbed WR Brandon Marshall for a pair of third round picks.  Assuming he isn't in jail or suspended next season this is a great pickup.  Yes, he wasn't a free agent but I'll lump it in here anyway.  Chicago also picked up running back Michael Bush and quarterback Jason Campbell, both from Oakland.  This gives them quality backups at positions in which the team has had a glaring need in the recent past. 

I am surprise restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace still hasn't received an offer.  Any team signing him would have to give up a first round pick but he is only 25 and is a very fast receiver who has put up very big numbers the last two years.  He wouldn't be a rookie coming out of college having to learn the ropes.  I think he could step right in and make any passing game quite a bit better right now.  Pittsburgh would have the right to match any offer but they don't have a great amount of cap space so I think he can be had at the right price. 

Quick Hits:  Didn't see Reggie Wayne returning to the Colts but the comfort of staying with Indy may have been his priority.  San Diego also made smart signings in Le'Ron McClain, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, and Randy McMichael just to name a few of their nine signings.  St. Louis spread their financial wings in signing cornerback Cortland Finnegan and center Scott Wells. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Portland Trail Blazetrs Blow Up Roster

At the trading deadline on Thursday Portland decided to blow up their lineup.  Not saying change wasn't needed.  They have 11 of their last 16 games and the team seem to have checked out.  To that end coach Nate McMillen was fired.  Not a bad coach, in seven seasons he twice had 50+ win seasons and 48 wins in 2010-2011.  His tenure was tough as franchise player Brandon Roy couldn't stay healthy and Greg Oden who was supposed to anchor the middle also couldn't stay healthy.  Still the dissapointment of this season was just too much and they both had to go.  Greg Oden was released Thursday.  He was mainly on the payroll as a possible dispensible contract to add to trades and clearly it was time to part with the former number one overall pick . 

Gerald Wallace was traded to the Nets for a first round pick and some throw ins.  With the draft this year projected to be deep and New Jersey playing poorly this was a great pickup.  Even so, Wallace was a nice pickup last year from the Bobcats.  He is very good defensively and shoots a high percentage but was a victim of the rebuiling effort.  Marcus Camby goes to Houston in a deal for Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn and a 2nd round pick.  Portland saves a few dollars this year and it is doubtful Portland will keep either of the 2009 draft busts they received in this deal.  The contracts of all players involved expire at the end of the year so that is a wash.  The 2nd round pick is nice but you can never count on a 2nd round pick to bring you quality.  I really like Marcus Camby so I might be talking from the heart here.  I would have liked to have kept him.  Even with diminishing playing time he is the guy in the middle.  Won't score much but he'll protect the basket and give you good defense even at 37.   

Two trades that didn't happen may be as big as any that did.  Raymond Felton who was acquired in the three team trade last summer that sent Andre Miller to Denver wasn't moved.  He is shooting a career low 37% and though he is averaging six assists a game he hasn't shown anything to say he is the point guard that will lead this team to the next level.  Rumor has it he was shopped to anyone and everyone and the fact he is still in Portland tells ya something.  Rumors I had read had Jamal Crawford leaving town with a few teams having above average interest.  He is scoring at the same clip as last year but his 40% shooting percentage isn't making believers of fans or the team.  As ishe is a luxury.

Were these the right moves?  Portland wasn't going anywhere with the roster as is.  It is a tough decision to start over but sometimes you have to do it whether it is popular or not.  It will also make for some tough games to watch the rest of the season.  Everyone's hope is that this year's draft will be as deep as folks say there is.  These trades also put Portland in position to have tons of cap room.  Maybe they'll make a run at someone decent.  The lack of a true general manager has to be addressed as well as deciding on a coach.  Much to do this upcoming offseason.  Still I have hope and can't wait to see what the future holds.   

Buffalo Bills Sign Mario Williams

Wow.  I didn't see this coming before free agency started but I love it.  Yes I'm a Bills fan -  I accept hugs.  Buffalo hasn't made the playoffs the last 12 seasons.  That is a long drought and one that has been very hard on the fanbase as well as ownership.  Let's get some things straight.  Mario Williams is not the savior of this team.  If you look at Houston last year their defense actually did better without him than with him.  Is that a knock on him?  No.  He has also dealt with injuries only playing in 13 games in 2010 and five in 2011.  Still he brings quite a bit to the Bills the greatest being his mad skills.  He can rush the quarterback and does it very well.  This will help the Bills defense which ranked 27th in sacks, 19th in passing yards allowed and 28th in oppopents passing completion percentage. 

Mario Williams also gives Buffalo a face for the franchise and hope.  Hope that maybe they can turn the team around and winning is in their future.  There was hope for seven games last year before the team returned to their old ways.  Hopefully the owners and management will continue to build the team in a positive manner that will keep progress moving in a positive direction.  The re-signing of Steve Johnons was the first step and this was another sign things will get better.  There is still more work to do but I like this signing and think Williams' talent will shine no matter the wins or losses. I, and I think most Buffalo fans, can't wait to see what the 2012 season brings.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Star Wars The Phantom Menace in 3D Review

I may have waited until the last moment but I saw Star Wars The Phantom Menace in 3D today.  I loved it.  I am a big Star Wars fan having grown up on the original trilogy and enjoyed the completion of the series with the release of Episodes I, II, and III.  I even like The Phantom Menace though many including die hard fans don't.  I was worried the movie being in 3D would take away from the experience.  It didn't in the least.  It did what it was supposed to do and gave the film the allusion of depth.  I already wear glasses but am used to the 3D glasses being worn over my own so no issues there.  I have been excited about seeing Star Wars again in theaters since I heard of the release of the 3D version.  It was exciting and I enjoyed the experience from beginning to end.  Star wars shows so much better on the big screen and I didn't leave disappointed. My 19 year-old son attended with me and I think he enjoyed it as much as I did.  I recommend the experience to anyone who is even considering going. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Major League Baseball Adds Addtional Wild-Card Team

We saw this coming for some time.  Major League Baseball (MLB) has talked about adding a wild-card team to the current playoff system.  Even the idea of a one game playoff between the now two wild-card teams is not new.  Me?  I detest it.  What does it really accomplish?  With only one game to play, teams who have proven their worth for 162 games must now put it all into one game.  Yes it will make for drama.  Of that I have no doubt.  But to what end?  Again these teams who made the playoffs did so because they were good over a long period of time.  It took five starters to get them where they are.  Yes some pulled their weight more than others but it wasn't one pitcher starting every game.  Now you ask these teams to put one guy out there in a winner takes all scenario.  It won't matter how they got to that point.  Maybe the staff ace had to pitch them into the playoffs and isn't available to start the one game.  Sure that happens to other teams now but that is going into a longer playoff series where no matter what that staff ace will get his shot at the opponent even if he pitched the last game of the season and now has to wait until game three. 

The NFL is built for a one game and advance scenario in their playoffs.  They only play 16 regular season games.  The quarterback who got them there will start every playoff game.  I don't get it.  MLB will tell you there isn't room in the schedule for more than a one game playoff and they don't want to play into mid-November.  Very valid points but it is nothing but excuses for shoving a one game wild-card round on us.  It seems like players and teams alike complained about the three game playoff rounds that have been in place at various times throughout baseball history.  Now they are happy with a one game playoff?  Where are those guys now?  Another argument is that more teams would be in play to make the playoffs.  That argument can be made no matter how many teams are let into the playoffs.  Whether 12 or 24 teams make the playoffs each year there would always be teams battling for the last playoff spot.

Maybe when I actually see it in action I'll like it.  As a Braves and Red Sox fan who watched my teams fall out of the playoffs on the last day of the 2011 season I should think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I don't.  Don't have franchises setup their teams and rotations for the long haul and then let it come down to one game where maybe starer #3 has to be the guy?  It doesn't pass the sanity test to me. 

Below is a link to Jayson Stark's article that breaks down wild-card addition and the other changes that were made to the MLB playoffs.  There were many so please take a look as I can't even start to do them justice.  As always Stark does a great job of explaining a complex subject.