Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie


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?

13 comments:

Tatiana said...

Why do you all insist on taking this subject further than it needs to go? The very title of this post alone is so inappropriate. “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”. Do you even know what that means? That means to not mess with it. To leave it alone. I think everyone needs to stop and take the time to think, “Hey, these are baseball cards. Small ridiculous pieces of cardboard.” Are you all so pathetic that you have nothing better to worry yourselves with than baseball cards? I mean we are in a recession people. We have ourselves, our families, our homes to worry about. The first two free boxes provided from UpperDeck were gifted to Mario after a representative of UpperDeck read Mario’s post on Beckett explaining how he could not afford the 2008 SPX product because it was too expensive. We didn’t disclose who the products were from because we wanted to avoid this very issue. Box breaks and reviews were the main focus of Wax Heaven. That’s why the boxes were reviewed. Mario had lost all hope and was getting ready to quit on Wax Heaven due to lack of material because of no money, and almost like a sign from heaven, the two boxes from UpperDeck arrived. We didn’t ask for them. Mario wrote a letter to Topps and UpperDeck about 6 months before and received no response. I highly doubt the letter and these to boxes are tied into each other. We don’t owe you people anything. We don’t have to tell you every single thing that happens. If I was to get my menstrual period, I wouldn’t go running to tell my readers.
Mario and I have been having monetary issues for the last year. Hence, the lack of box breaks. Every penny we had was invested in going to games, and even most games we went to were free due to my knowing a Marlins Manatee, a security guard, and winning the FSN Watch and Win Sweepstakes. You know, it is so very disgusting that with all the things Mario and I have to worry about, we now have to worry about people questioning his integrity and throwing around accusations. Do you know that our power got cut off last month because of monetary issues? Don’t believe me? I have all the paperwork. I haven’t been able to buy groceries in over two weeks. Out of desperation, we went to the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop so I could see if I could find anything for a good deal. I walked out spending $14.00 and getting necessities(toilet paper, shampoo). I’d provide you with a receipt, but flea markets don’t issue you receipts. Is there anything else you savages want to know? You wanted answers? There you got them.
I literally feel sick to my stomach. I feel a ball in my throat. I feel like I am going to vomit. You got your answers. You proud of yourself?

You have anymore questions or issues, be a man and email me personally and we will talk it over one on one, but don’t use this blog post as a protective blanket in hopes that your beloved readers will come and protect you. That goes for everyone.

Andrew said...

Very interesting article.

William Noetling said...

I'm not so sure that you do deserve to know the truth in this matter. Mario is beholden to NO ONE, no blogger is. This is an independent activity primarily intended for the gratification of the writer, not the readers.

IF Mario was a professional writer, being paid by a professional agency to blog, then you might have some expectations as to the veracity of his writings, but let's face it, this is the blogosphere, writers write what they want and take what they can get.

Plus, I'm sorry, your entire rant seems to me to be more sour grapes that you haven't been chosen for the spotlight or a higher echelon of blogging.

Rob- AKA "Guido" said...

JV- You know how I feel about you, your blog, your writing style, and your service to our country.

BUT

I think you should have emailed Mario directly with your questions and concerns.

PunkRockPaint said...

I was proud to read that. Your post was a fine example of investigative journalism. As for the worry of getting blackballed... The day will never come that calling 'em like you see 'em makes LESS people read your blog.

It seems to me that neither you nor Dave were overly critical in your comments to Mario's announcement.

Like you, I am happy for Mario. I guess I just look at it differently. If big, mean, scary Upper Deck wants to slip in a few ridiculous "hits" into some review boxes... at least they are going to collectors.

That being said...

Like a lot of collectors, I use reviews, box breaks, etc. to help me make a decision of what product on which to spend my hard earned money. (Don't let the fact that I am writing this at work lead you to believe that I am not working hard. Someone has to keep this seat warm!) I get angry at unscrupulous box breaks. I have enough faith in my intelligence that I won't be suckered into making a purchase based on somebody's "lucky" pull. But then again... the collector/gambler in me wouldn't have bought a blaster of Artifacts without seeing Mario's break.

It isn't the fact that he was "sponsored" by UD, but rather the fact that it was hidden. I HAVE NO DOUBT that he is telling the truth about those blasters. BUT if he expects us to believe that he didn't know (or at least suspect) where those "miracle" boxes came from, SHAME ON HIM!

I will continue to read his blog. I may even sign up and check out the UD blog/break thing. But if I ever buy a product based on something he pulls from a box that a the Upper Deck Corporation knows is being used for "advertising"... SHAME ON ME!

Of course, the kid in me LOVES seeing rare/valuable/cool cards so I hope he DOES pull some great stuff (and doesn't get TOO much grief about it.

Keep up the good work.

Gellman said...

Im with Rob on this one, Mario is way too accessible of a guy for this type of stuff to be posted.

--David said...

As far as this specific post goes, I say you've done some serious investigative research! Frankly, it doesn't matter to me what the motivation for the investigation was. I don't see why some people are getting upset with this post when some of those same people slam/question blog writers themselves on their own blogs (anyone pay any attention to the whole "Joe Collector" crap, er discussion?).

I guess in the name of "fairness," this could have been sent to Mario before posting it, but I don't see anything wrong with you posting your reserach and your thoughts on here.

I don't see how anyone could/would get 'blackballed' over ANY post. Even the 'Joe Collector' discussion moved on, and so will this.

To possibly answer Tatiana, the reason why it became important is because Mario made it important himself. Had there been no "364 days in the making..." speech, there would have been no question. For some, the timing is a smear on his integrity. For others, it may raise an eyebrow, but the sleeping dog will truly lie (as in sleep)...

tastelikedirt said...

I'm impressed by the amount of research you put into this post. Well done. I think you could have emailed Mario directly as part of your research and it may have answered some of your concerns before throwing it out for the world to read. All this controvesy has been interesting to read about recently, but like watching a race to see a spectacular crash. Is exciting, but kind of a bummer when you realize there's a real person in there.

jv said...

I'll reply to everyone here in order.

Tatiana - First off, I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to your husband. See if you can get him to come answer the question instead. Second off, I'm sorry to hear about your financial situation. I truly am. But don't come on here bitching about being broke and in the very same comment say, "Every penny we had was invested in going to games". DON'T GO TO THE MOTHER FUCKING BASEBALL GAMES! There is such a thing as sacrifice and it involves dropping things that aren't necessities when needed. I think the Marlins are playing next year, too. Accuse Mario? No, Ma'am. I quoted. There is a difference.

Andrew - Thanks!

Will - I assure you it's not jealousy. I've never had a jealous bone in my body. I know that's a hard thing to parlay to people via the internet but I promise you I have multiple flaws and jealousy has never been one of them. And you are absolutely right, no blogger owes any reader an explanation. But, it would seem to me to be in the best interest of the reader to be honest and then to at least logically explain yourself if you're not. Or, at the very least apologize if you mislead your fan base on purpose. ANY of the three from Mario will shut me up. I promise.

Rob - You are the only person so far that has made me question what I've done. You're right and if I could change it, I would. But, the damage is done now and I can't. I don't apologize for the message...just it's delivery.

Punk Rock Paint - ALL very good points and I totally agree. My problem is not in the sponsorship, the "to bias or not to bias" or the blaster (because I believed him before he posted the ridiculous bank statement). It's the lie. That is the question.

Gellman - see above "Rob". You're right and I did this the wrong way. But, I'm glad that there are a handful of people that see this post for what it is and agree with the sentiment. Your readers are not obligated to honesty but rather deserve it.

David - How did Tatiana not catch the dual meaning of the post's title? Didn't my post start with, "I'm sorry. I just can't."? It's so funny to me because this is just like the Ben Henry debacle I found myself in a few months ago. I wasn't attacking the PayPal button. I was attacking his reasons. I'm not attacking Mario. I'm attacking his own statements and I want answers that, at this point, I don't think he'll give.

Tastes Like Dirt - My favorite Simpson's quote is from Chief Wiggums. He goes to arrest Homer and Homer exclaims, as usual, "DOH!!"

Then, Chief Wiggums says, "That's what they all say....

(pause)

...They all say, doh."

Now, if you seen this scene and know what I'm talking about then you can hear Wiggums tone of voice when he says this. Let's replace his words with these....

"kind of a bummer when you realize there's a real person in there...

(pause)

...a real person that lied."

Laurens said...

There is something to be said about objectivity and the lack of it, even in something like trading cards.

It seems like you are the only one of the masses, that turned around and questioned why?

On one hand, it seems like you have to pick your battles and try not to go after everyone who may offend your sensibilities.

More importantly however, regardless of any negative responses, it is really interesting [though maybe not
surprising]to see you stand up against the grain.

James B. Anama said...

jv:

First, I have to say thanks for linking my little commentary to your article (that's the only way I knew to find that you wrote something).

Secondly, you put a lot of time and effort into your post. I don't think I could have taken the time to do what you did, nor keep track of all the details the way you did. That only shows how great a writer you are. Keep it up.

Regarding the comments about how you should have shown this to Mario first before posting it...well, it could go both ways.
On one hand, you could have shown him your post to see what he thinks, get his comments, think it over and then possibly hit the send button. But at the same time, you've done enough research, you know where you stand on the topic, regardless of whose feelings get hurt...why not post it after going through all of what you did?

Again, it's an Upper Deck issue. As a Topps collector, I could care less what he says about their products because I would rather be caught dead than be willing to buy their stuff. But you do bring up a lot of good points about credibility, honesty, and integrity.

Has Mario lost any of the three? He might not think so. The majority of the Hobby who read his work may not think so. But there will always be those few who may think so (For the record, I will not judge until reading his first FEW reviews).

Somebody pointed this on one of the many posts regarding this issue, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Mario has caught himself in a catch 22 situation here with his "sponsorship." If he gives good reviews on any UD product, there will be that perception is that he has sold out because of the sponsorship. If he gives negative reviews, it will only appear that he is trying to appease his fan base by being "objective."

Apparently Mario had all this in mind when he first started his blog last year. Let's wait and see what happens.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Tatiana said...

JV, I'm impressed to see you broke your very own rule "no use of foul language on here". I hope your son isn't old enough to read.

Your behavior is severely disappointing. I do not have to explain anything to you, but if you insist... I also said that most of the games we went to were FREE. Key word being 'most' and 'free'. The games we did pay for were games that we could afford at the time. This, of course, was before Mario's company decided to begin raping him and his family by not paying him for over a month. Not once, but twice.

You want to talk to me about sacrifice? Come live with me for a week and then you can tell me to sacrifice.

It is because of people like you that Mario kept the gifted boxes from Upper Deck a secret.

There is your answer. Now please, anymore responses, kindly email them to me directly. Or better yet... just LEAVE IT ALONE.

And wash out that mouth with soap, mister.

jv said...

Tatiana,

I swear to God...are you reading anything I'm typing?

I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU!

And, no, you did not answer the question and I don't care to have YOU answer the question.

This is not about you. I understand that you are Mario's wife and I respect that. I am very concerned about your personal life in the sense that I do not wish struggle on anyone. I have left numerous comments supporting this ideal on Wax Heaven in the past.

I am truly sorry that you guys are going through a difficult point in your life. But, I did not ask for your personal life to offered, you did that unprovoked. If you don't want it discussed, please don't mention it.

As a collector and fellow blogger I expect and welcome your comments if you want to leave them, but you're not the one to answer any questions I'm asking. Otherwise, I would direct them to you. You are the author of For The Love of Baseball...not Wax Heaven.

The question is...

Why did you lie on September 19th and say that you've never received free product from Upper Deck?

Plain and Simple...

Please, please, please, before anyone leaves another "drop it" comment understand that I'm replying to this comment. You won't see me posting here unless I have to respond to something.

The subject is over as far as I'm concerned because the question's apparently not going to be answered.

The closest thing I can find to an answer is to drop me from the top 7 on Wax Heaven, knowing that alot of my hits come from there, to keep as many people as possible from linking to me and finding this.

And that closing the comments on the rebuttal post from Mario, which I REMIND YOU did not contain an answer to the question, were turned off as well.