Taking My Hacks

Lofty Expectations

Joe Orlando

As a person who became a serious collector back in the hobby boom during the 1980's, I can remember an atmosphere that was quite different than the one we see today. How was it different you may ask? Well, it was different for a multitude of reasons; however, the difference I would like to discuss today is the difference in performance expectation of the modern day athlete.

Let's rewind the clock a bit to the 1980's for a moment. I am sure many of you can remember, as I do, that solid performance clearly resulted in demand for that athlete's collectibles. It was virtually immediate. Just a hint of major talent or potential propelled an athlete forward into the hot zone for collectors across the nation. Whether it was Ron Kittle, Cal Ripken Jr., Dwight (Doc) Gooden, Don Mattingly or Kal Daniels (I bet you haven't heard that name in a while), collectors were constantly on the lookout for the next star.

Today, the hobby has made a 180 degree turn. In the present day, a very good performance by an athlete is no longer enough for the hobby to care. The hobby wants more but the definition of "more" is hard to understand at times. There are athletes that consistently put up great numbers like Rafael Palmeiro in baseball or Tim Duncan in basketball, but collectors do not seem to care all that much. In those cases, you can make the argument that these guys are not the most exciting athletes in the world but they are seemingly the victims of a new era – an era of lofty expectations.

It is true that guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were basically stars before they ever stepped on the court but, once they started playing, it never seemed to be quite good enough because the performance is expected. Maybe it is a result of fan resentment due to the high salaries paid to athletes today. Maybe it is because much of the mystery has been taken away due to the access to so many sporting events on television today. We see all the great plays but never before have we seen so many of the flaws these great athletes have as well.

It seems as if many sports fans look forward to the mistakes superstars make today as much, if not more so, than the great accomplishments the athletes work so hard for. Just watch the highlights throughout the year and you will see what I mean. There is just as much coverage, if not more, on Barry Bonds striking out with the bases loaded or Shaquille O'Neal missing a free-throw as there is focus on the home runs and slam dunks.

Maybe all of this isn't a bad thing. Maybe we were naïve and sheltered in the past. Maybe this is just a way for fans to see the whole picture instead of the sugar coated version. I am not quite sure but I do not remember watching so many "highlights" of errors, strikeouts and miscues 20 years ago as I do today. Twenty years ago, it seemed that fans and collectors were looking of the next great hero. Today, many fans are just waiting and almost hoping to see those same heroes fail – and collectors have become more skeptical than ever.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief