Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I'm sorry. I just can't.
The monster that is the Upper Deck sponsorship of Wax Heaven has me losing sleep at night. But, not for reasons that some might think...
So Has The Evil Empire Claimed One Of Our Fellow Bloggers??? - bdj610's Topps Baseball Card Blog
Is There Really Even A Line? - Indians Baseball Cards. Always
Free Stuff - Hand Collated
The Point of It All - Fielder's Choice
A Comment On Sponsorship - Sports Cards Uncensored
The Cash Game - White Sox Cards
As of 12:00 am, Monday, October 13, 2008 there have been 43 comments left on Mario's original post. If you take out the comments of Dave and myself trying to get our point across, Mario defending himself against our vicious attacks, and the other random back and forth commentary then you'll find that more than half of the comments are simply congratulations to Mario for this accomplishment.
More than half are congratulations, you say? Well, I suppose it is if you count the sentiment of Dave who began by saying, "This is good news, and I’m happy for you Mario" as well as my own, "First off, congratulations. Played right, this could be a huge accomplishment for the hobby as well as for those of us dedicated to blogging."
In actuality, had we stopped there, then literally EVERYONE that posted comments would have been perceived to have agreed with this move and to have congratulated Mario.
It appears to me that the general consensus is that this is a kick ass deal for any collector and that everyone is proud of Mario for having been the first among us to reach this plateau. But, more importantly this is an outstanding achievement for a blogger. And not just any blogger, but one that has devoted himself to the ideal that he has "worked harder than anyone else to bring something for everyone".
This could have happened to Ben Henry or Chris Harris, but it didn't (granted they could have been approached with the offer, I don't know.) Mario has decided to be the guy. I'm fine with it. I have no qualms with whether or not he'll remain objective. I agree with the sentiment that I just won't read it if I don't like it.
In fact, I agree with basically EVERY post I've read on the subject that I think this is a good thing. I congratulate(d) Mario on the decision and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. I'm truly optimistic.
Here's my problem...
Scott of Hand Collated laid out what he called his "two bits of advice" for Mario
1) Make sure people know that Upper Deck sent the box for free. Make sure that people also know everything associated with this agreement (free ads, sponsorships, what have you). That way, no one can accuse you of trying to be sneaky or unethical.
2) Make sure every knows that the box you are about to break may not represent all boxes. This seems like an obvious thing to me, but now you’re making sure everyone knows that just because your box is filled with the complete Andrew Miller collection, it doesn’t mean that all boxes will be.
"Make sure people know that Upper Deck sent the box for free"
I took the liberty of watching all of the Mario's past box breaks the other night, both the YouTube and the Vimeo versions. I would venture to say that in over 90% of the videos (or their corresponding posts if there were any) Mario mentions where the boxes come from, how much he paid, etc.
In the Goudey video and in the SpX video he doesn't. I could not find a video for Upper Deck Series 2, although there is a mention that the break was filmed. There very well could be a video somewhere but I did not see it.
Why these three boxes?
Mario's response to Dave's initial comment on the post "It took 364 days" was, "For the record, I made this announcement because it was now official but out of the 10 products busted this year, 3 of those boxes came from Upper Deck."
After I commented, "I’m still curious to know which three boxes you’re referring to. And if there are other boxes that you might never admit to having received. I know of one particular box that comes to mind."
Mario admitted, "As far as the products I have received in the past, they were SPx, U.D S.1, and Goudey."
Well, let me go back a little further...
On June 5, Mario announced on "New Layout" the following, "I will also be uploading Upper Deck press releases before anyone else for the time being. Trust me, I have not sold out. I am just doing my part to spread news as quickly as possible".
On June 10, just five days later...Wax Heaven Is Closing It's Doors
Then, on June 11, a Miracle occurs and the now infamous box appears the very next day!! It contains two of the above mentioned Upper Deck supplied products, SpX and Series 2, and is "addressed to me but had no return address." The day this post was made, I told myself that the boxes came from Upper Deck. I knew it then.
Until the comment made on "It took 364 days" I have not been able to find a single reference to how these two boxes were obtained.
Then on August 16, 2008, Mario busted the Goudey box. He exclaims near the start of the video that, "I believe this is the hobby edition, I am not entirely sure, um, if there is a difference."
Not entirely sure? When have any of you ever opened a box of anything and not known if it were retail or hobby? I told myself that the box came from Upper Deck. I knew it then.
Yet and still, no mention of where the box came from.
I've had reservations about Mario's ties to Upper Deck from the beginning. It's not that didn't trust Mario, it's that I didn't trust Upper Deck. I don't trust Topps. I don't trust Donruss. I don't trust Beckett. There is too much back story on each of these companies to make me think they are less than ethical at times.
I've never had any reason for disbelief in Mario or Wax Heaven...until he pulled the hair card.
I've come to realize that I have no reason to doubt Mario's integrity. But, at the time, in a chat with Dave of Fielder's Choice on September 2, I stated that I felt like the box break was rigged. Dave disagreed. To the best of my knowledge he still disagrees with me.
MY WORDS to Dave in our private conversation were, "I think Mario has more integrity than to open something loaded...but, the first thing I thought was this is from an Upper Deck product and he has ties to them...It's nothing against Mario I would just wonder about anybody with a relationship to a card company opening any of their products online and pulling something like that... "
I am in no way accusing anyone of anything. Mario said, "I went to Target after the rain killed my chances of going to the Flee Market and/or a Marlins game and bought two $19.99 boxes of Upper Deck Artifacts."
I believe him. I have no reason not to.
But, and this is where I sum it all up, I have a problem with a post by Mario from September 19, 2008 titled...
Topps, Upper Deck, & Blogging
Please go read the post so that I do not display Mario out of context. Rather than paste the entire work, I will quote sections that I consider to be problematic.
"One day, just a month after creating Wax Heaven I began working on a professional, well-thought out letter for Topps Company, Upper Deck, and even Fleer asking for free samples of their products (not counting high-end stuff) and sat by as my request was ignored." "after 12 months, over 1,000 posts written, and 6,000+ comments left by readers—neither company has yet to respond to my letter."
"I’d love to receive samples of new products the way Beckett Media does but the truth is that might never happen."
"Finally, let’s say Hell does freeze over and both companies send me products to review."
Oddly enough, Dave and I both commented on that post with almost the exact same sentiment that we did when it was officially announced on "It took 364 days" yet we did not receive the backlash that we did for repeating ourselves on 364 days.
But, now, less than one month later Mario says, "Starting next week, Upper Deck will be sending out select products to Wax Heaven" and "The first box is expected to arrive no later than Tuesday."
Starting next week?!? No later than Tuesday?!? By my calendar, the "first box" came on June 5th. That was a past Thursday, not a future Tuesday. I understand the wording that they will be sending "select products to review". These first boxes must not have been for review.
But, they were still reviewed, weren't they?
I've probably just blackballed myself in the blogging world and that's fine. It's not my intention and God knows I don't want people to quit reading my work. But, if it happens, then so be it. I'm not trying to hurt Mario or Wax Heaven. That's why I've quoted his site's admissions on the subject.
I have a huge problem with all of this. Objectivity? I question it all now. I've sat and reread the entire Wax Heaven site all the way from January until the present. I've watched every single video that I could find. Am I looking for ways to burn Mario? Hell no! Take out the fact that Mario plugged the crap out of this blog. Take out the fact that Mario has me on his Top 7. Take out the fact that Mario has been an inspiration, in fact, the reason that I started doing this.
Take away all of the feel good happy parts of it and I'm left looking at a conundrum. A riddle that I can't just say, "Oh, well...shit happens" about.
I knew you got a free box of SpX and Series 2. Why did I not know it came from Upper Deck until now? I had a feeling something was up with the Goudey as well. Why no mention of the box's origins?
This post is going to be torn apart, I can feel it. But, people want to spout on and on about honesty and integrity and ethics and objectivity. This single issue alone makes me question all of it. Maybe it's human nature or maybe it's just my nature, I honestly don't know.
But, to sit here thinking that my blogging "idol" was already opening UD products without telling anyone blows all of the above mentioned character traits away.
At this point, I don't know what to believe about what Mario's said or what he will say.
I am not making accusations. I am quoting facts. I am not positioning myself as the definitive answer. I am posting this in the hopes that there is an explanation from Mario and/or someone at Upper Deck detailing why the readers of Wax Heaven were not informed that these boxes were gifts specifically from the Upper Deck company.
It's one thing to receive free products. Hypothetically, if I send someone a box of UD Heroes and they bust it online and never mention where it came from there is absolutely no problem with that. I consider that a trade. I would have traded a box of UD Heroes and they would have traded me nothing.
It's one thing to receive free product from a manufacturer. It's another thing to then become their official spokesman or to receive their sponsorship.
We leave in very unscrupulous times in the hobby. There are accusations and conspiracy theories around every corner. There are issues that decry explanation of the underlying ethics in practice. In my opinion, Mario opening manufacturer supplied products online, reviewing those products whether positive or negative, and never having disclosed this info is akin to deception.
I was a reader of Wax Heaven long before I was a writer of Treasure Never Buried. Mario's site has always appeared to me to be of outstanding authenticity and honesty. I now doubt things that I never have in the past.
Is this a slam of Mario? Just the title. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Omission of truth is more dangerous than utterance of fallacy in some cases.
This is one of those cases. We deserved to know the truth. Why weren't we told?
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