Saturday, August 9, 2014

35th National Sports Collectors Convention Recap Part 5 of ?

When we had breakfast we knew we were in for a long day. Most people would assume that meant it would be bad, but we were extremely excited. We knew today we'd share the stage with our friends, the crowd would be bigger than other days, and we'd have a visit from legendary Hockey Hall of Famer, Bobby Hull. The evening was going to be stellar.

The Panini Grand Case Break featured the only case of National Treasures basketball in the building and a case of Prime Hockey. Both products contain mind-boggling, unreal hits. So as 11 a.m. rolls up we are ready to go, there is a good crowd forming and as I am talking to the people, I notice our friends from Tristar have Bobby already at the stage. How about that? A star that's not only on time, but actually early? Nice! So I walk Bobby up and begin to introduce him. He starts telling me a story about his playing days and I am a fan, so I am listening intently. As I go to shake his hand, he starts talking about forgetting something. It was his teeth! His front teeth are all a grill and he had them in his hand when he hit the stage. Now THAT is an entrance. An unforgettable National moment indeed and some of it is caught on video here as we walk up on stage and National founder Mike Berkus talks with those surrounding the Sports Collectibles Main Stage.

Bobby joined Tracy Hackler on the stage and they proceeded to break into Prime Hockey. Then something else happened that those watching won't soon forget. Bobby opened up his first pack of trading cards! This was a very cool moment for everyone, to hear Bobby tell stories about seeing his own cards and describing the quality of cards today. You can see him open up a pack of Prime in the video below.

Up next for me was a quick interview with ESPN's Mint Condition. They were getting some amazing coverage for upcoming shows, and no question, the National is the place to build up a series of future episodes.
Photo courtesy of ESPN Mint Condition.
We're big fans of the show because it gets great exposure for the hobby. Behind the scenes Kelsey Schroyer has put together some amazing segments, while on-air personality Michele Steele knows her sports! We chatted about who to watch out for from the 2014 NFL rookie class and picked one veteran that could have a breakout year. I won't tell you who I chose, but I'm hoping you enjoy it when it airs! That was really fun. I also love that Michele represents women in the hobby. She is a great ambassador for a growing demographic that deserves more attention from the manufacturers.  

The Panini break was followed by something a little different. Beckett took the stage. That was interesting for us. I want to make something clear. What's done is done. I had to deal with a lot of garbage from that company over the years. They didn't want to even engage us in any way shape or form during the first 5-7 years of the 2000s. Sure we'd talk to some of their guys, but anytime we'd try to interview them on our show, they'd refuse. It was childish. They were so in denial about us that they would edit us out of Press Releases from the card companies and leagues that included our name in it. How do I know this? I received the same PRs. It was despicable. I looked up to that company as a kid and believe it or not, I wanted to work there. Two other times, they made inquiries about buying us. It was a waste of our time, and theirs. Then things started to change, Russ actually wrote for Beckett Hockey for awhile and an editorial change hung him out to dry. At that same time I was getting together info to do some writing for Beckett Baseball. Editorial change left me in the cold. Letting someone go is one thing, not communicating at all is lame and uncalled for. What we did do is pick on someone that gave us the cold shoulder, that's all we ever did, again childish... and it ended with a meeting and a photo at the 2011 National.

So when someone asks me why I am hesitant to do anything with them, there you go. Is that good enough for you? Now, all that being put out there. It is water under the bridge. What's done is done. I had the opportunity to meet a few of their guys at this show. Bill Dumas invited us on their radio show. Nice guy. I didn't think it would happen here as we were so busy we didn't even have much time to do our own show. I wouldn't rule it out in the future. I appreciated the offer. I also met their host Derek Ficken, he too was very cool and said some very complimentary things. It was appreciated. I hope that moving forward that's how things go. That's the kind of people Beckett should have representing their company, not some of the miserable people I've dealt with in the past.

So when Beckett took the stage it appeared as if they raided the Topps vault. They had plenty of packs and boxes, some Beckett promo items and instead of a case break, they did pack wars. They did a great job. All the kids were opening packs of 2014 Topps minis and the winners walked away with some great products.I hope their crew had fun, the kids did, no question about it. I wish I had time to think about how interesting it was to see us interacting, but the show was so busy, you just had to go with the flow and keep moving.

There were a couple of more breaks including a giveaway from Dave & Adams, and Scotty from did a Panini Preferred Basketball case which is full of fun things. He was hilarious and owned the stage when he was up there.

Around this time (4 in the afternoon), I got a text from Tracy Hackler and it was about their big VIP event that was scheduled to take place later that evening. I had no idea where it was taking place. So finally I found out it was going to be at Cleveland's FirstEnergy Stadium. I was pumped, I already knew that Broadway Joe Namath, The Human Highlight Film Dominique Wilkins, Bash Brother Jose Canseco, 300-Game Winner and recent HOF member Tom Glavine, NBA Rising Stars Trey Burke and Kyrie Irving, and Dr. J Julius Erving were attending. How cool is that? Rumor had it that a certain rookie QB that was chosen by the Browns was also going to be there, but that was not yet confirmed.

It was a great stadium. The entrance was a shrine for the best to ever play for the Browns including a faux locker room. The staff was so friendly, they were amazing unlike some Chicago stadiums. When we got inside, it exceeded expectations. The room was full of industry peers, fabulous food and drink, there were all-new Panini girls, and soon it would be filled with top tier athletes. The Panini girls crack me up. They are eye candy for a bunch of guys that have been in a crammed into a convention center hall with 97% men for five days. Anyone that's offended by that is silly to me. If you can't appreciate a beautiful woman well...

The first star to hit the floor was Tom Glavine. He was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was at his 300th win and it was very cool to see him after getting the top honor MLB has to offer. He was so humble. We chatted about the game and that it took him a couple of starts to get the magic win. He was a little self conscious and was telling people he was the least popular guy in the room. I can tell you that was not true at all. We may never in our lifetime see another 300 game winner. He was awesome! Andy Pettitte was closest, no one else is even in the ballpark. Sabathia needs 92. Verlander needs like 150. Glavine was hardly the least popular guy in the room. He was the guy that achieved perhaps the greatest feat of anyone in the room. What an honor to have seen it and to get to talk to him about it! #thankspanini

It was a wonderful week, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time this night. The next athlete out was Joe Namath and I was standing right in front of him when he walked out to the floor. As a kid, all I watched were the Jets.
Every Sunday I would so to my grandparents house in Rockaway Queens and watch the Jets. In fact one of the first collectibles I ever got was a ticket stub to Super Bowl III. My dad had gone to the game and when my parents divorced, I inherited the esteemed ticket. #thanksmom It was my first piece of memorabilia. I got to tell Joe that story and how I followed his career through his final season with the Rams. I still think he should've replaced Pat Hayden! Joe looked great and asked my name. He said, "Doug, thank you and that was some game, maybe the best in my career." He also told people that if we're suiting up he's on our team. I was so happy because sometimes you meet people and you get let down. Thrilled to say this was not the case. Joe 'Willie' Namath is as cool as they come.

Next up was another legend, Dominique Wilkins. As awesome as he is tall. Dominique made me like him even more. Most of the Panini reps were handing out signed photos for the athletes. The Highlight film took it up a notch He personally handed out his own photos while also making sure that anyone that got a picture, got a good one, something they were happy with. Kids, can you say impressive? Again, here is guy that I used to watch simply because you knew when he touched the ball, something outstanding was going to happen. He made an art of dunking and he put the Atlanta Hawks on the map. He made a fan for life on this night.

I've got a little more to share from this evening, but it will have to be in another post. Watch for it soon. If' you'd like to hear a little more recap that includes Panini America's Tracy Hackler. Listen to last night's Cardboard Connection Radio show.

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