Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Man Without A Team

Lately, I've questioned what I'm still doing here. I visit the card blogs multiple times daily and read the words of those that I consider to have a more unique writing style than I. I read the reviews and the opinions of those that understand the hobby and the sport better than me. I read my own posts and wonder, "how many more friggin' times am I gonna say the words Google Reader".

Yet, I stick around wondering how long people will keep linking to me considering the direction in content I've subconsciously headed in. I spend hours upon hours submitting posts to social sites, feeds to RSS sites, and emails to non-card blogging sites, all in an attempt to build a deeper reader base.

Then I wonder why I'm spending so much time promoting a blog lacking quality updates.

Maybe I'm uninspired of late. Maybe I'm losing my fervor. I honestly don't know. I've been thinking lately that it's because I'm a man without a team. Tonight, I've realized that I'm wrong.

Until tonight, I haven't known what, who, or why I continue to collect. It's not the "thrill of the chase" anymore because the Relic Fever broke a long time ago. And it's not because of the autos because, frankly, I have no clue who half the guys that I've pulled are. I'll probably never care about any of them either.

I think the problem has been that when I left the hobby, I left the sport as well. In early 2007, I came back to not only the old shoe boxes of Donruss, but SportsCenter, too. I didn't know who was who anymore. I didn't now which teams were "alive" or which players had retired. I had no clue who any of the starting lineup for my beloved Indians were.

Some might call it "familiarity," and I would have to agree, that it was just easier to pick up my Manny Collection where I left off. I did know that he was a BoSox due to headlines I had read from their first World Series win. But, I asked myself, "Where's Lofton, Baerga, Thome?" I was naive to think it would all be sitting there waiting for me.

What is an Albert Pujols and why is he in McGwire's position? Where are the Expos? What happened to Fleer and Score?

And, the most embarrassing to admit, "Which one is left field and which one is right?" I had literally been gone that long.

As a child, your favorite team is born out of something you experience, something that has an impact on you. No matter what the reason and no matter what the scenario, you start to follow a team or player because of something they "do" for you as a person. For me, that player was Kenny Lofton. And because of it, that Team was the Cleveland Indians.

I was never a very good hitter in Baseball. I actually never hit a true home run. But, I hit my fair share (and then some) of In The Park Homers as a kid. I was lightning fast. My coaches made me bunt 3 out of 4 times every game just to get me on base. The 4th time they would let me swing away because my mom, Janet, was screaming, "Just let him hit!!"

I couldn't catch very well either, but it was masked by the fact that I could get to most anything before it dropped. I idolized the speed of Kenny Lofton and mirrored his style.

From there it was Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar, Albert Belle, Charles Nagy, Eddie Murray, and ultimately, Manny Ramirez. At some point, I had a collection going for all of these guys and countless others. I would watch as they would slowly fall away and retire, quit, or get traded. When I last looked, Lofton was in center field with an Indians' hat on.

When I returned, I quickly found that he was still there. It was actually one of the first things I checked on. But, earlier this summer I pulled a 2004 Topps Chrome of Lofton in a Yankee's uniform and said, "Huh"?

I went online and started digging around to find stats and reasons and explanations for why the leader among active players in stolen bases was traded at some point. I was blown away to find that not only had he been traded but that he had played for over 10 different teams since I last paid attention. Disheartening comes to mind.

And so, after all of that, I realize that the reason I've struggled for direction in my writing is simply that I haven't had any. Everything has been based around the newest releases, the latest gimmicks, and the daunting task of introducing my son to Baseball Cards. With the exception of the latter, I've been in it for the wrong reasons.

So, tonight, I've decided to revive my Kenny Lofton Collection. Sure, I like watching the guys I've collected in the past. I'll still keep looking for a nice "fitted, faded dark blue, retro logo" Indians hat. I may even still try to get up to Cleveland to drink a Budweiser and watch some guys that I know nothing about play ball for a couple of hours.

I'll still grimace a little when I see Junior struggle to hit, The Big Hurt struggle for a spot on a club, and I'll still read and watch the news to see if Manny's pulled a Sprewell and choked the shit of out someone.

It didn't all start with a Team anyway. The Love started with a player...

It's Kenny Lofton that I'll be collecting from here on out. Indian or not...

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