Monday, February 09, 2009

Random thoughts: Stimulus, Trades, and Books

I don't pretend to be a political person so I guess this post is my first shot at understanding it all. I watched the President's nationally televised news conference. I have watched our previous president's addresses and honestly cringed at every word he uttered. With President Obama, it honestly seems that he knows what he is talking about. So let's move onto this stimulus package we have been hearing about so much.

President Obama is pushing for a bill that would cost $800 billion that will supposedly surge the US economy. He stated in his address tonight that doing nothing is not the answer and we must act swiftly and aggressively. And if we didn't, this economic crisis will end up being a catastrophe. Now, these are all words that would scare the commoner [like myself], and I would normally say "Well, what are we waiting for? Hand out that cash!" Obviously last year's stimulus package did not do well for the economy, so in order for this one to work it has to be vastly different from last years. I believe this package will put more money into the middle class than to the wealthy [where last year's package was geared for?]. But one huge difference between Bush's package last year and this year's package is the amount Bush - $170 billion compared to Obama's $800 billion. What worries me is if this does not work, will this just cripple the economy THAT much more? Republicans and Democrats, school me on this.

Alright, onto something I know a little more about. Amar'e Stoudamire to the Bulls? Why not? Sure it's just speculation at this point and honestly just fun to talk about, so let's talk about it. There were a couple of different scenarios, but most deal with Tyrus Thomas since he has been playing well as of late. It's no secret that the Suns lack any type of defense whether perimeter or inside, so the long reach and spring of Tyrus Thomas would be a great asset for them. Would they get any further in the playoffs? I'm not so sure about that. Amar'e is a much bigger offensive threat compared to Tyrus because he is such a bigger presence down low. He can use brute force to get his points where Tyrus needs an opening or an alley oop. Tyrus can't even post up Earl Boykins where Amar'e will dunk [or at least try] to dunk on your entire family. I am sure any deal that the Bulls make would have to involve Drew Gooden or Larry Hughes. I think money contract-wise this would make sense because I think Tyrus is on his rookie contract with his option exercised so we would need to give up another contract closer to $11 million or so. With Gooden looking to finish his contract this season with around $7 million, he would fit in well with maybe a Joakim Noah. So yes, there goes pretty much all of our "big men" but what would you really be losing? I am tired of waiting for our draft picks to figure things out, with the exception of Derrick Rose. We need to also clear up that logjam at the guard position: Rose, Gordon, Hinrich, Sefolosha, Hughes, and Hunter. We can deal pretty much anyone but Rose. Gordon once again showed why he is no better than a 6th man when he turned over the ball twice in two important possessions at the end of regulation against Dallas. He is not your go-to guy. He is best when a play is designed for him to be wide open, and unfortunately, with the new coach, those plays do not exist. It will be hard to trade him because he can say no to a trade in his last year of his contract. Hinrich probably carries the most value of the tradable guards. I think his defense is overrated, it just looks good on this team where no guard can play D. He is a hard worker and will do well on any team...who needs him? Thabo is actually pretty good at defense. With his length it is easy for him to get in the passing lanes and distract an offensive player. Remember how he did against D-Wade in the 2007 playoffs? Shut him down! Thabo just needs to be given a chance. So I guess what I'm trying to say is...PLEASE MAKE A MOVE, PAX!!

Jaz has been reading a lot lately with her Twilight books and some books she has borrowed from her co-workers. So I decided to take up reading again. The last book I read was the last Harry Potter book. I got this book "Anything Goes" by Madison Smartt Bell quite sometime ago and have never gotten through it. I probably only got 50 pages in during the four times I tried. So I am going to finish this one this time! I'll write a review when I actually finish it THIS time!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Panini takes over the basketball card hobby

Well it was announced sometime last week that the company Panini will be the exclusive trading card company of the NBA. I've had some time to think about this and I am still not sure what I think about this news.

I grew up with companies like Upper Deck and Topps, and each year you knew what to expect. I'm more interested in the "mid-level" products like Topps Chrome and SP Authentic. I love the superfractors that comes out of Topps and the on-card autographs that SP Authentic gives you. But starting next year all that is gone. Of course the higher end products like Exquisite are great to ooh and awe at but $500 for a 5 card pack...what the hell are people thinking? That is when this hobby became way out of hand. I love the idea of possibly pulling a Michael Jordan/Lebron James dual logoman autograph 1/1...but to bust through cases of this stuff to try and get it? Wow. You can get a house, or a couple of houses with that money. Now everyone is obviously welcome to spend their money how they see fit, but it simply amazes me that people have that kind of coin just laying around. After selling a whole bunch of cards I finally had enough to get just ONE case. And dude, that was scary! Haha. Would I do it again? I don't know. I like paying off bills a little more than a nice rookie autograph of Marco Bellineli [true story].

Now what didn't I like about these companies? I think they were just lazy! Products starting looking a lot like each other so there was no effort from a design perspective from year to year. Maybe they needed to maintain a certain "look" so you knew which was Topps and which was Upper Deck, but it's like they didn't even try. And customer service...WHOA! I have heard so many horror stories on HobbyKings dealing with the customer service representatives from both companies. Simply terrible! And of course redemptions. Why would you release a product if it did not contain all of the items that you used to market it? It's like buying a car and then finding out that it didn't have seats because the company wasn't quite ready. Now I know that players have very busy lives and such, but don't these companies have contracts with these players? Aren't they obliged by a binding contract that they need to sign these cards? It just drives collectors crazy when they see that thick white cardboard or with small printing on it. And now what of these redemptions? Now that Upper Deck and Topps won't be producing cards starting next year, are they just going to not care? Initial signs are starting to say "No they don't". In THIS LINK a guy had a redemption for a card that probably booked around $1k, and got three cards probably booked together at $500. It's the shape of things to come.

Now Panini...what can they bring new to the hobby? It sounds like they are looking to get more into the retail business, like Target and Walmart and stores like that. So what happens to all the Hobby exclusives? What happens to the players that have exclusive contracts with Upper Deck or Topps? Will those rights be sold to Panini? I'm assuming Panini is going to want to make some money, and to make money, you need player like Kobe or Lebron or Garnett or of course Jordan on your side. Unfortunately, it sounds like there will still be sticker autographs on new products...already off to a bad start. Apparently they have a good presence overseas, so I guess the NBA is more interested in expanding their market than pleasing their fans in the US. It was a business decision, and the NBA could honestly care less about products like Exquisite and Triple Threads. One good thing that I think will come out of this is that kids can now come back to the hobby. I remember how happy I was to complete a set back when I was 10. Even a basic Exquisite base set [with no autographs] is too expensive for the common junior high kid. So it will be nice to have them back enjoying the hobby.

Panini's got a long road ahead of them. Assuming that their bid was way higher than that of Upper Deck or Topps without having any of the big names nailed down under contract, I don't know how they will be making money. The quality of these cards better be amazing in order for them to not become the biggest joke in the sports card collecting hobby. Good luck'll need it!