Sports Cards For Insane People: Sports Cards And Christmas, A Royal Wedding Of Heartless Commercialism

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Merry Christmas four days ago! In this installment of Sports Cards For Insane People, we look at the sports card industry's past attempts, and failures, to get into the holiday spirit.

The subject for this installment of Sports Cards For Insane People is inspired by Jamie Mottram, who first tipped me off to Christmas-themed sports cards. Images were found via the excellent sports card archive, Check Out My Cards.

Okay, sports card industry, gather 'round and listen up. Over the last couple of decades, you've taken a fun and innocent children's hobby and totally Cash4Golded it with your make-believe price guides, and your packs worth more than a month's allowance, and your die-cut foil-embossed holographic mystical time-traveling dæmon-summoning whatevers. Y'all are fun' crazy over that stuff, man.

And now it's Christmas, an institution that's been warped from a humble holiday of family and religious importance into a cattle call, banged rabidly into a plastic triangle with a KFC spork, for everyone in America to shove each other's heads into Wal-Mart doorjambs and rob their spouses of major life decisions by buying them ribbon-topped knockoff luxury vehicles without asking them first and just generally just act like a bunch of self-loathing assholes for 1/12th of of their human existence.

Sound familiar? This is your bread and butter right here. Now go out there and produce the most cynical "sports card industry" thing you can think of. I'm expecting big things out of you.

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OH WELL DONE. I'm just ... I'm so proud of you guys. It's like a cruel meta-joke, and the punchline is the confused, almost betrayed face of the kid who pulls this out of a pack, which he received a dozen of because his grandmother had trouble reading his chicken-scratch handwriting on his Christmas wish list and confused "race cars" for "race cards." VROOM VROOM, you little jackass! Merry Christmas!

Oh, wait. Let's take a look at the back of this card.

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"Certified authentic piece of racing history." A guy wore a hat: racing history. And if it's certified authentic, that implies that there was an actual certificate of authenticity, right?

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Moving on.

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I love artwork like this, because you can never figure out which direction it's going. Like, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to depict Santa issuing boxes of football cards to Drew Bledsoe and Emmitt Smith, but I prefer to believe the opposite:

Santa. ho ho ho! what a coupl'a swell ballplayers! say, i got just the thing for you fellas! y'all gonna love these ball cards! lookit this, got all kindsa ball cards in m'bag! here! here, take'm all! boy oh boy!
Drew Bledsoe. Uh ...
Santa. see,m lookit this one! lookit! it's got a ballplayin' fella on the front! and look, got all his numbers an' facts on th'back! gee whiz! what a fine lookin' bunch o' ball cards! i got 'em just for you fellas!
Emmitt Smith. Look, we don't want these. They're stupid.
Santa. ...
Drew Bledsoe. Yeah. Like, I'm a professional athlete. What am I going to do with these?
Santa. oh! um, well! um, lemme look in m'bag! might could have some wood toys. think i might could have some butterscotch candies!
Emmitt Smith. No! We don't want any of your weird 1800s shit. Please just get off the field. We're trying to play. Just take these back.
Santa. oh, uh. okey ... okeydoke.

A heartbroken SANTA sheepishly puts the boxes back into his bag.

Drew Bledsoe. Hurry up.
Emmitt Smith. Are you crying?
Drew Bledsoe. Haha, he's totally about to cry!
Emmitt Smith. What an idiot.
Santa. /stops, bites lip, removes cap, buries face in it, starts bawling
Drew Bledsoe. What a sad idiot.

Moving on!

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There's a lot to tackle here. I'll start you off with some talking points:

  • Why is an elf nicknamed, "HIMSELF?" What does that even mean?
  • Why does the portrait look so much more realistic than the other elves in this scene?
  • Santa clearly didn't hang up that portrait, because it's tacked up at elf height. So did HIMSELF put it up there... HIMSELF?!!?!?
  • Wait, is that a Bel Biv Devoe card?

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THIS KID IS SO EXCITED, apparently over the stats on the back of these cards. What is wrong with this dude? "I'm sorry, ma'am ... your son is going to grow up to be a football blogger. There's nothing we can do."

And, finally: while looking through all the Santa cards I could find, I came across this card, which is perhaps the most nonsensical, ill-conceived sports card I've ever seen.

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The '90s were big business for spazzy artists, weren't they? Things are happening, we get it! Just calm down and draw normal proportions! No need to Ed, Edd and Eddy the Hell out of everything you draw! Anyway, here's Dan Marino in a Santa hat to a dolphin through nonuple-coverage against a team of rats wearing Bears helmets in a game attended by disembodied elf heads.

That is just standard '90s weird, though. The back of this card is of greater concern.

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"Bear's"! "Its"! Periods where they aren't supposed to be! Unbelievably clumsy rhyme scheme! If you were to draw up a Reed-Kellogg sentence diagram for all this text, it would eventually resemble the shape of a Christmas tree. Like, a horizontal tree with brown needles that was never cut out of its net because it was a rejected reconciliatory gift from a man to his estranged family. Its long-dead limbs are still hung with paper ornaments, each one scrawled with an apology for every time he ever disappointed them. A snake lives in it. Merry Christmas!

Click here to read more adventures in Sports Cards For Insane People.

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