Saturday, January 30, 2016

2015 Topps Road To Wrestlemania Trading Cards

I don't really pick up Wrestling cards very often but as someone who grew up watching wrestling on TBS and also throughout the early WWE days I do see myself as a casual fan.  So while I'm not up on all the current wrestlers I do pay attention to headlines and will pick up cards from time to time and did so recently grabbing two packs from two different Topps' sets.  The first is the 2015 Road to Wrestlemania which cost $4.99 and contained 21 cards.  I didn't pull any of the relics or autographs.  I did pull some stars including a Hulk Hogan insert, The Rock, Triple H, and Kane.  Other inserts were a couple of Hall of Fame cards, a Rocking WrestleMania (The Rock), and a two classic matches cards. 

The cards themselves have black borders or no border at all.  Makes for a darker looking set especially considering how may photos have dark backgrounds.  The photos are very nice and the style is pretty appealing.  The backs have short narratives based on the focus of the card.  This is a nice set and think it would be something wrestling fans will enjoy.  Being the casual fan at best I probably won't grab another pack but I did like this one. 

2015 Topps Star Wars: The Force Awakens Series 1 Trading Cards

Sticker, Montage Card, First Order Rises Card
I've been picking up some packs of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens series one trading cards.  While I wasn't near as excited about the Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens cards I do like this set (Journey cards are growing on me though).  While I haven't pulled any of the big inserts I'm definitely happy with set as a whole.  Great photos, scenes, character cards, and plenty of others to add variety.  I'm not going to go into tons of detail and will just let the cards themselves do the talking.  Again I'm a fan of these cards and I'm looking forward to series 2 which should be out in March.  
Two base character cards and a concept art card
Base Storyline Cards
Base Storyline Cards
Weapon and Location Cards
Movie Scenes and Behind the Scenes Cards
Tie Fighter Medallion Card (025/199)

2015 Topps Wrestling Heritage Trading Cards

The second pack of wrestling cards are the 2015 Topps Heritage Wrestling cards.  Topps hearkens back to the 1985 Topps baseball cards with the look they have going here.  I like the it and the cards I pulled.  The pack was $2.99 and contained 9 cards.  Six were base cards, 1 a rookie of the year card (Shawn Michaels), Then and Now Card (Kane) and a Called Up Card (Kalisto).  There is a nice feel to this set for me.  I like the variety as well as the look.  Wrestling fans should check it out. 
And there are Divas...Divas are always good...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Denver and Carolina Win to Get to the Super Bowl

I think the only big surprise from this weekend's Championship games was the disaster that was the Arizona offense.  Granted the offense, mainly Carson Palmer, hadn't been that great of late but this was a total meltdown.  Hopefully it was just the lingering finger injury that Palmer has been dealing with and it will be resolved by next year.  The Carolina Panthers for their part still dominated both on offense and defense.  Carolina has to like the way their offense and defense are clicking going into the Super Bowl.  Whether or not Denver can move/counter move will be key.  If I'm Carolina I just keep on doing what I've been doing.  There will always be some new wrinkles the coordinators will throw into a game plan but the Panthers are good enough to win with what they have going right now.  Cam Newton is definitely on top of his game and is the MVP of the league this year.  While he has had bigger numbers before, this year he has been more accurate throwing the ball and downright scary when he runs.  It is fun to see a young team do well and if the franchise wins their first Super Bowl this year it will be well deserved.
Denver made an excellent New England Patriots team look pedestrian.  While the Pats' defense played well enough to win, the offense didn't look good and if it hadn't been for the Denver fumble in their own territory in the second quarter I wonder if the game would have been as close as it was.  Peyton played well not throwing an interception and was on point while helping Denver score two early touchdowns to put pressure on New England.  To see Brady and the rest of the offense have no answers for a defense is pretty scary but that is how good this defense and coordinator Wade Phillips have been.  Great game by Denver and you have to love that Peyton Manning goes back to the Super Bowl in what may be his final game.  I hope it is his final game and, win or lose, he'll be going out on a high note.  In the Super Bowl Denver will need to find ways to run and get the ball in their receiver's hands.  They did that well this game and even had Manning rolling out much to everyone's surprise.  Against Carolina though I'm not sure three points in the second half is going to cut it.  It is nice we have two great teams and all we can hope for now is a great Super Bowl ala last year.      

Sunday, January 24, 2016

2015-2-16 Panini Hoops Trading Cards

I'm not a fan of this year's Hoops cards from Panini.  It just seems like they phoned it in.  They aren't bad cards but they also don't say "wow" when you open a pack.  The fronts are fine with good photography.  I like the team logos and I pulled plenty of rookie cards.  Not a ton of stars though.  And I'm getting tired of the foil on the cards.  I don't think it is needed nor is the huge Hoops logo.  I'm good with the products logo being on the front but it doesn't have to be so big.  Again I'm not sure how much thought was put into this year's set. I've only picked up a few packs and not sure if I'll grab anymore.  Hard not to though since this is the cheaper of the basketball cards that will be out there.  We'll see.  Maybe I'll feel better with a fresh look.  The backs are the black and white backs you are used to seeing with Hoops which again isn't that exciting.  Maybe a color team logo, border around something or in the stats?  Ugh.  Maybe I'm being a bit negative.  I'll have to look at what others feel about this set to see if I'm missing something but for now I'm giving it a "shoulder shrug". 

NFL Championship Games

New England @ Denver -  I expect New England to win this game.  New England and most folks breathing know Peyton Manning is not the Peyton Manning of old.  I think if they can control the Bronco's running game this is New England's game to win.  That said, I'm not sleeping on Denver's defense.  They can control Brady.  He doesn't like pressure and Denver can bring it. Then it is that cat and mouse game of whether Brady can hit Edelman, Gronk, or Amendola.  I'd love to see this be a slugfest with Manning showing flashes of old.  I'm not sure that will happen but it would be awesome to watch.  Still this should be a fun close game.

Arizona @ Carolina - This game has good offense  and defense on both teams which should make for a good game.  Carolina's weakness is their ability to cover receivers.  The Cardinals' offense has to get out of their funk and take advantage of the receivers they have, specifically Larry Fitzgerald.  If Arizona can do that I think they win this game.  While Carolina can score points I'm not sure they win a shootout.  I love Cam Newton and what he can do.  He should give the Cardinals' defense fits.  There aren't great receivers on the Panthers sans tight end Greg Olsen.  Still Carolina just gets it done on offense.  I think this is also a close game with Carolina winning.

No matter what match up we get in the Super Bowl it will have great stories.  Can Brady and Belichick win their 5th Super Bowl together?  Can Peyton get his 2nd Super Bowl win while hopefully going out on the ultimate high note?  Can the Arizona Cardinals and a very deserving Larry Fitzgerald win their first championship?  Can Cam cap a MVP type season and win a Super Bowl?  It should be a fun weekend of football and I can't wait to see who we'll have in the Super Bowl. 

Stryper Fallen Album Review

You won't see me do many album reviews because I don't know how to speak to music in the correct terms.  What I will do is be a fanboy who talks about a band's latest album.  I have been a huge Stryper fan from when I was in high school which would have been right around 1985.  I've seen them 5 times in concert and enjoyed them every time. Their latest album is Fallen (2015).  Like many hair bands they fell out of favor in the 90's, broke up and then reunited around 2000 and started putting out new albums.  There have been five albums since their last album of any note until this one. 

I wanted to put something down because I really believe this to be a good rock album.  I understand only true fans will be interested but I also think others would be pleasantly surprised.  I can hear sounds similar to past albums "To Hell With the Devil", "In God We Trust" and even "Against The Law" which I thought was a bit underrated.  It is still a newer sound the band has been tweaking the last 15 years or so.  Again I know only Stryper fans are going to give this album a shot.  I really enjoy this music and for the first time in probably 25 years I've played a Stryper album over and over  (excluding compilation albums).  It is a good feeling.  These guys can play and it nice to have an album come together with a good sound. 
Classic Stryper

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The NFL and Owner Stan Kroenke Do St. Louis and Rams Fans Wrong

Stan Kroenke
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the NFL decided to move the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles.  This wasn't done this week.  It is very obvious by the actions of owner Stan Kroenke and when Roger Goodell tipped his hand this week with the letter he sent to owners.  Is there anything wrong with that?  At it's core, no.  But the way this whole thing was handled is completely and utterly unfair to St. Louis, the state, and the fans.  Stan Kroenke hasn't spoken to fans or given interviews concerning the Rams in years.  All the while he purchased land in Los Angeles and made his plans.  At some point it would have been the right thing to do to speak out on the topic while the city and fans fretted over the possible loss of their NFL franchise.  But he never did.

The city of St. Louis was allowed to come up with a very good stadium proposal working through all the hoops concerning land, funding and bureaucracy.  It wasn't an easy journey for anyone involved.  And while St. Louis came up with a proposal neither San Diego nor Oakland have stadium plans in place.  This seemed to make it look good for the teams from those cities moving while keeping the Rams in St. Louis.  On the surface anyway. 

This week when the owners met to vote we heard the relocation committee recommended Oakland and San Diego move.  We also heard there were other owners who either didn't like Kroenke or the idea of the Rams being allowed to move while St. Louis had a viable stadium option on the table.  That all soon unraveled.  The first vote quickly showed owners were on board with the Rams moving.  Then they were approved by a 30-2 vote. 

Again, a team moving to another city because they can make more money is at it's core not wrong.  How the league let the city of St. Louis drift in the wind for the last two years when they had no chance of keeping their team is downright wrong.  It was a sham.  How can you say otherwise?  Looking at the NFL bylaws on relocation and the stadium proposal it is hard to believe Kroenke met all the requirements.  I am disgusted by how this was handled.  Kroenke shut out the city and the fans.  Completely silent for years not giving any hint while going behind their back.  Not engaging them in an true discussions on how to keep the Rams in St. Louis.  And Roger Goodell let it happen.  How do you run a league seeing an owner doing this, and say yeah that is ok.  I have lost so much respect for the NFL and Goodell.  I have had none for Stan Kroenke for quite a while.  He has to rank up there as one of the worst owners ever in this league. 

Enough with that.  So the Rams are leaving.  Ironically they are going back to Los Angeles whom St. Louis "stole" the team from 20+ years ago.  Interesting side note.  The Rams actually started in Cleveland playing eight years and won the NFL Championship in 1945 before they moved to Los Angeles after that season.  I get all the reasons why this can be good.  Those Rams fans who are still in Los Angeles will be ecstatic.  Former Los Angeles Rams who are still in California will be able to reconnect with the team and hopefully we'll get to see more of those great older jerseys. 

2016 MLB Hall of Fame Inductees: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza

The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voters voted Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza into the Hall of Fame yesterday.  Griffey broke the record for the greatest percentage of votes with 99.3% of the vote while Piazza goes in with 83% of the vote.  Great job by the voters (except for those 3 leaving Griffey off their submission).  Both are great players and both deserve enshrinement.  The breakdown of the vote can be seen here

Griffey was thought to have the ability to be one of the all-time greats prior to ever playing a game.  And he didn't disappoint...  While the numbers will say it all he was one of those guys you watched and just knew.  And if injuries hadn't robbed him of so many games who knows what we'd be saying about this guy.  He only played 140+ games twice in his last 10 seasons.  Still you always knew.  The great swing, the great defense, his ability to run the bases, he did it all and he did it all great.  I'm very happy the voters recognized his greatness and made this a slam dunk.

Mike Piazza is the best offensive catcher I've ever seen.  There are others that deserve to be in the conversation but he is it for me (no offense to Pudge).  Not only did he hit for average (career .308 and 6 straight seasons of .300+ at one point) and power (427 homers) but he also got on base at a career .377 clip.  Detractors will point to his defense but you have to look at the total package and he was so dominant on the offensive side, that the fact that he was an average defender (maybe below average) can be overlooked.  (Note:  I really didn't get to see Johnny Bench until he was past his MVP years but he is definitely better than Piazza). 

I also believe Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds should be in the hall of fame.  I waffle on Tim Raines year to year and this year I'm not positive he should be in.  With the Hall of Fame trimming the fat as it be by getting rid of those voters who haven't been active in reporting on the sport for 10 years I think there is more hope than ever in getting more fair votes.  Clemens and Bonds didn't improve as much as I'd hoped but it doesn't mean they are doomed.  If nothing else, the fact it is so hard to get in definitely means that only the elite will make it.  Doesn't mean I always agree but there are only a handful of players that have been inducted of late that I would have issues with.  Good job by the voters this year with getting Jr. and Piazza in where they rightfully belong.