Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Donruss Football Review

I returned from a trip last week and walked into my local Wal-Mart not expecting much in the trading cards section but I saw the new 2015 Donruss football offering. So I picked up two packs for a total of 80 cards.  I was blown away.  I haven't been this excited about a set in quite a while.  In fact I probably went overboard.  I picked up an additional pack a day later and four more packs today.  Yes, that is seven packs.  I rarely do anything like this so it has been a blast and I really wanted to share some of my finds.
I like the front which really reminds me of those 80's Donruss baseball sets which had the same type of striped border.  While not normally something I go for I really like it.  The rest of the front is fine but they committed a huge faux pas by not putting the player's position the front.  I really do not like it when a company does this.  The photos are good and they did a good job getting players in their current team's uniforms.  The backs are pretty basic but I like the color and layouts. 
The base cards had three red parallel cards per pack and had many subsets and inserts which was great.  My favorite by far were the Gridiron Kings/Legends and the Elite Passing the Torch cards.  Great photos with a mix of current and former players.  You'll also find the Rated Rookies cards that Donruss is known for as well as base cards featuring players from years past.  I love the retired player cards.  Another great thing was the fact that I had few doubles until I hit the seventh pack which surprised me.  I kept expecting to see doubles pretty early but it was rare through the first five packs.
Base Cards (just the plain Jane variety):  177
Rookie Cards (RC):  19 (3 red)
Rated Rookies:  12 (3 red/1 green college stat line)
Retired Players:  24 (1 green career stat line - Marshall Faulk)
Classics:  2
The Rookies:  1 (#333/999 Marcus Mariota)
Gridiron Kings:  7 (2 red/1 Seasoned Stat Line #84/379 - Phillip Rivers))
Gridiron Legends:  2 (1 red)

Rookie Signature Series:  1 (John Brown)
Elite Passing the Torch:  3
Elite:  28 (14 RC)
Elite Series:  4
Again I love this set and I think all the inserts, the old-timers and design do it for me.  My favorite cards I pulled are the Deion Sanders (in the awesome red Falcons jersey), LaDainian Tomlinson Passing the Torch, and Gridiron Kings/Gridiron Legends cards.  I enjoy art cards and Donruss has always knocked it out of the park with their "Kings" series.  I was of course excited to get the signature card and the numbered cards, especially the Mariota offering.  Not sure what I'll do with them next but it sure has been fun which is what it is all about.  I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks of these cards. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

2015 NFL Season - What I'm Thinking

We'll get right to it.  I'm very happy it is all about football now and not the off season stories that have dominated the news.  Here are my famous, maybe not so famous, predictions.

NFC Playoffs:  Dallas, Green Bay, Atlanta, Seattle, Detroit (WC), Philadelphia (WC)
AFC Playoffs:  New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver, Cincinnati (WC), San Diego (WC)
Super Bowl:  Seattle over Indianapolis

I'm still waffling on the Atlanta pick but that division is weak and who really is going to come out of there?  New Orleans doesn't have a defense, I'm not sure Carolina's offense is any better than last year, and Tampa Bay's season hinges on a rookie quarterback.  I'm not saying Atlanta is built to succeed but in a bad division maybe the new head coach can coax some immediate improvement from them.  Again that pick could change.  Philadelphia is also a team pick that might raise some eyebrows.  I normally don't pay any attention to the preseason but Philly's offense really looked good.  I may eat my words and wish I went with Arizona but I'll stick with Philly.  I think Seattle goes back to the Super Bowl and wins their second championship.  They still have a great defense and the offense got much better with the addition of Jimmy Graham.

San Diego is probably the only stretch in the AFC.  That left out Kansas City.  I really want KC to do well but I think they take a step back this year.  My buddy actually talked me into this without even trying.  I really like Phillip Rivers and their running game and defense could be better this year which means playoffs to me.  The AFC will have plenty of teams vying for that last playoff spot so there are probably four teams that could land here.  If Indy fields anything resembling an average defense they are my AFC Super Bowl pick.  Not saying they'll win it all but I think they can get there.  Pittsburgh may play them in the AFC Championship but don't rule out New England being there though it will be tough for them to get back to the AFC title game. 

The individual stories I'm looking forward to will lean towards the older crowd.  What?  A crowd of superstar quarterbacks in the NFL are aging.  This could be Peyton's last year.  Brady is like 38, Drew Brees is getting up there, Tony Romo is 35 and Big Ben and Phillip Rivers aren't getting younger.  We've seen a golden age of quarterbacks the last decade.  Things are changing and I'm definitely going to enjoy the remaining seasons of each.  Other than that I'm curious to see what Chip Kelly has built in Philly, can the Tony Romo of last year show up again, and can Detroit get over the hump?  Should be a great season as always as long as we aren't talking about off the field issues week after week.   

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Michael Sweet Autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, Review

Michael Sweet is the lead singer of the band Stryper who rose to fame in the 1980's.  Stryper is a christian rock/metal band that was part of the hair bands that came from the decade.  They, as most, bands have had their ups and downs and breakups.  They are currently together putting out albums and touring.  I was first introduced to Stryper through a school newspaper article.  I picked up their album The Yellow and Black Attack and I was hooked.  While there was plenty of rock out there at the time, this was new.  Rock with a positive message.  I soon saw them on tour which solidified my fandom for the group and I've been a huge fan ever since.  When lead singer Michael Sweet's autobiography came out last year I jumped on it. 

Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed is a good book, not a great book.  Michael Sweet opens up about life in Stryper and life in general.  The biggest takeaway from this is I sense Michael Sweet has a chip on his shoulder.  He seems to be defending himself throughout the pages and at times comes off as self centered.  That may be negative but I want autobiographies to be honest and I think we get that from Michael Sweet.  The book itself takes you from his early childhood, through the forming of Stryper, their rise, the band's career, their breakup and their getting back together.  Throughout he talks about his private life to include his family's influence on his musical life, the loss of his wife, and his new wife.  While I enjoyed the book, I thought it was short on some details or information.  I wasn't looking for a 1,000 page encyclopedia.  There just seemed to be places where more detail seemed appropriate.  Without going into specifics he would make a point about something but would not answer what seemed like the next appropriate point, like "what happened then".  Or large periods of time would be glossed over.  Again a ton of detail isn't necessary but maybe just more info to help the reader feel like it is time to go to the next topic. 

One thing I had to remind myself is this isn't a book about the band itself.  So I think sometimes I wanted more information on what happened that would probably be more appropriate in a book specifically about the band.  With that in mind Michael Sweet did a good job telling his story and the book is an easy read.  Again I'm surprised somewhat with how he always seemed to be defending himself or having to describe how he was the one with the plan or looking out for everyone.  He may be absolutely right in how he frames things but for me it was a theme throughout the book and I have to wonder.

I am a huge Stryper fan and a Michael Sweet fan.  I did enjoy the insight into Michael Sweet's life as well as that of the band.  There are definitely facts I never knew before which helps me paint the mental picture I have of Stryper.  Filling in some of the gaps while also providing focus on events that there wasn't much public knowledge of.  I think most Stryper fans will want to read this but I'm not sure many outside that circle (metal heads maybe) will.  I do think all Stryper fans should and anyone remotely interested in Michael Sweet and Stryper should. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Passing of Darryl Dawkins

Darryl Dawkins passed away last week.  I heard ESPN's Mike Greenberg speaking on Dawkins this week and I thought he captured him in a way that really resonated with me.  When you speak of Dawkins his stats will never come up though he had a good career.   Known as Chocolate Thunder he was just a player that was bigger than life when I was growing up.  I thought he was the best center there was.  He had to be.  He shattered backboards!  His personality would compare to Shaquille O'Neal's.  Dawkins named his dunks and even rapped about them.  He was made for today's social media instant replay world.  He is probably most famous for the backboards he shattered.  He was a strong man who loved to show it when going in for one of his famous dunks.  Again he may not have been a great player from his time but everyone knew him whether it be for his named dunks or his shattered backboards.  I am sorry he has passed but I will always remember him as that bigger than life player and person.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Major League Baseball Sprint to October

Baseball season is winding down and the playoffs will be upon us soon.  I want to touch on a few highlights for me as we get to the stretch run.  First off I have to talk about the Blue Jays.  Wow.  This team has been on a tear since July 29th.  Their offense has outscored opponents by 191 runs this season!  Only two other teams have outscored their opponents by over 100 runs.  Add to that they seem to hit homeruns every other at bat this team is fun to watch.  The Jays' pitching is average but this team will be tough to deal with come playoff time as long as their offense is hitting.  The Royals have the easiest rode to the playoffs currently enjoying a 13 game lead within their division.  Didn't see that coming but I love Kansas City having success after suffering so many years.  The American League West is all upside down.  The Astros currently have a 4 game lead over Texas and a 7.5 game lead over the Angels.  Who?  What?  Crazy but I love it.  Houston is another franchise that deserves some love for their long suffering fans.  While I love it, I wouldn't be surprised if the standing in this division change again before the end of the season.  The Twins and Yankees should also be applauded for the nice seasons they have put together when little was expected either of them. 

In the National League the Cardinals just keep winning.  Their stud pitching staff carries them while the
offense is average at best.  It is almost a shame as Pittsburgh and the very surprising Cubs are having very good years but may be destined to meet in a one game playoff.  The Dodgers aren't great but with Greinke and Kershaw they are not a team you want to meet in the playoffs.  No they can't pitch every game but they could win every game they start which will make it tough for any team to counter.  The Nationals have struggled allowing the amazing Mets to surge to a nice 6.5 game lead.  Very happy to see them do well but I, along with many, thought the Nationals could be the team to beat.  I just don't get what happened.  Don't blame it on Bryce Harper though as he has had a wonderful season.   

It has been a very exciting season with many stories we didn't expect.  It makes for a nice change.  The St. Louis Cardinals seem to be the one constant.  I look at this team and it just doesn't seem that scary but they are good.  Still there are lots of stories and who knows what will happen come playoff time.  I for one hope we'll see some new blood win a championship this year.  It is great for the sport and fans to have the different markets compete.  May not be great for ratings but that isn't what it is all about.  It is about players, owners, managers, teams, and fans who bleed team colors and deserve a chance to celebrate a championship.  Since my Braves and Red Sox are out of it, so out of it, I'm rooting for Pittsburgh in the N.L. and Houston, Kansas City, and Toronto in the A.L.  If nothing else it should be fun as always (except for the one game playoff but that is a different post) the next two months.  
The Chicago Cubs donned pajamas for the plane ride home after Jake Arrieta no hit the Los Angeles Dodgers.  You have to love it. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015 Topps Football Review

I think I'll try not to go into too much detail on cards moving forward.  I'll let the photos speak for themselves but will still highlight those features that stand out to me.  Football season is upon us so it is is an exciting time.  I picked up a 36 card pack of the 2015 Topps Football cards.  I like the front of these cards.  Kind of a new age border design that doesn't overdo it.  As always with Topps cards, the photos take precedence and the photos are top notch as always.  I also like the simplistic bottom which contains everything you need to know - name, team (via a logo which I always like), position and uniform number.  Nice looking front.  I also liked seeing the "All Pro" stamp on player who were chosen for the honor (see John Kuhn card).  All-pro is one of the highest honors a player can achieve each year and is much more prestigious than a Pro Bowl birth.
 The backs are pretty standard compared to other cards these days.  What does stand out for me is the stat lines.  You'll find the last two seasons stats for each player as well as their career totals.  I enjoy being able to see the additional season which allows you to get a better sense of how a player is doing as compared to the normal one season we normally see.  Pretty small font but that is an old guy complaint.  Overall a nice back.
Of the 36 cards I pulled 16 base cards, 6 rookie cards designated with the RC logo, 5 cards featuring players part of the Topps' top 60 for the year, 2 fantasy studs, 3 team cards, 1 4000 card (QBs who threw over 4,000 yards), 1 fantasy focus, and 2 top 60 credentials cards.  Not a bad haul but none of the inserts or subsets really stood out to me.  The top 60 cards and fantasy focus cards are my favorite of the non base cards I pulled.  I think this is a good set.  I'll probably pick up more cards sometime soon and put this right there with the 2015 Score Football cards and above the 2015 Panini Prestige Football set