I become obsessed with things I’m obsessed with.
That’s a funny sentence, isn’t it? But it’s kind of true. I get on kicks and the kicks go into overdrive and take up a good portion of my free time. Sometimes these are new obsessions. Most of the time, at least at my age, it’s reengaging with things that I loved in the past. A favorite TV show. A favorite superhero. A favorite Hobby, anyone?
Here are two examples of what I’m talking about.
I recently finished this book.
When I was a kid, I was Brady Bunch obsessed. I watched the show in reruns continuously. I wanted toys with the Brady’s on them. I drew the Brady kids from my imagination. Wished I was a neighbor who could come over and throw the ball around with Greg, Peter and Bobby in that Astroturf backyard. I say it’s Alyssa Milano, but my first crush was probably on Maureen McCormick. And then Eve Plumb. But my story isn’t rare. My generation probably did more than any after it to solidify the Brady’s place in pop culture lore.
But that was when I was a kid.
When I finished that Brady Bunch book as an adult, it was like I’d recaptured some kind of joy. I found myself wanting more. So, I began watching whatever videos I could with the cast on YouTube. Interviews. Specials. There’s even an HGTV show staring the cast in which they remodel the inside of the Brady house to match the one we’d been seeing from the exterior our whole lives. I found more books. Memoirs. I sat through entire episodes of the Brady Bunch Variety Show. I’m currently making my way through a podcast called The Real Brady Bros, hosted by Barry Williams and Christopher Knight. Greg and Peter Brady respectfully.
And I’m making my way through all five seasons of the television show.
Quite probably for the umpteenth time.
And I’m loving it.
I’m currently eyeing up this DVD boxed set.
I recently finished this book as well.
If there was a character who equaled my obsession as a kid as much as the Brady Bunch world, Muppet and Star Wars world did, it was Batman. I collected the comics, his and ONLY his. I watched the cartoons. I watched reruns of the ’66 TV show.
I wore the Underoos, man!
I dressed like Batman for Halloween. I acted like Batman on the playground at recess. I made those POW! and BAM! sound effects when we pretend fought (and sometimes really fought) in my neighborhood. With the exception of this year’s The Batman (thanks Covid), since 1989 I’ve seen every single Batman movie (yes, that includes 1997’s Batman & Robin) in the movie theater.
When I finished that great book, the first thing I did was queue up that new Batman movie. Then I caught up on some of the animated films that have come out in recent years. And there are A LOT. I got myself back into Batman comics. I’ve since been through the Bane Wars and the Joker War. I’ve read about Gotham city putting masked crusaders on notice, by a new mayor who has a bone to pick. Now I’m getting ready to enter the Fear State, through the wonderful comics written by James Tynion IV.
And I’m currently loitering in toy and comic book stores looking for the perfect 1996-era Batman & Robin action figures to put on my already cluttered writing desk, with all of these items.
Books fuel my obsessions.
They always have.
When I went to Dublin it was Leopold Bloom I went searching for.
I just finished this book.
Guess what I’m watching too much of?
At some point this week I’m picking up the first volume of these.
It’s gonna be a Ring-A-Ding summer in my house!
Books have also fueled my sports card collecting.
One of them actually helped get me back into The Hobby.
Back in October 2002 I wrote THIS article about my return to collecting in 2019. I got it mostly right. I discussed my anxiety. My nostalgia for collecting. The way I felt collecting cards as a kid, and how much different The Hobby was to me as an adult. I mentioned watching collectors open product on YouTube. I gave shout-outs to the blogs I was reading and the podcasts I was listening to. I wrote about how returning to collecting helped quell the anxiety.
But I left out one thing.
And what I left out of the essay was a book.
Specifically, this book.
If my memory serves me correctly, and it usually does, I read Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods during the summer of 2019, when my anxiety was at its worst. What I found in Josh’s book, despite its sometimes-tumultuous subject manner, was a calm. Not only a nostalgia for card collecting, but I genuine love. I felt at peace in his prose. I wanted to feel the peace. And I began thinking about my own childhood relationship to The Hobby, probably more with his book in my hands than I did watching Jabs or someone open up a wax box of 1987 Topps. I didn’t know it then, but I wanted to express how I felt about card collecting the way Josh did.
Eventually I’d write something.
But in the immediate, I wanted to collect again.
Wilker’s book helped fuel the obsession. It was broad in scope. It, along with the other aforementioned blogs, etc., got me back into buying wax. Building sets. Starting up a PC again for the first time since 1992. The effects on my anxiety were slow at first. But they were tangible. Yes, there was worry during the day. But some of it was abated when I was able to come home and mess with cards, or spend my weekend morning collating sets, instead of waiting for my wife to wake-up so that I could complain about my job and act like the most woebegone man on the planet.
But Wilker’s book was just a start.
Not all of my collecting happens this way. The obvious way it through team affiliation and player performance. But I’m beginning to see that if I read a book about a specific athlete or team, I tend to dip my toe (or sometimes dive right into the deep end of the pool), into the card collecting aspect.
And it’s been a recent facet
In the spring of 2021, my wife and I were vaccinated and finally able to go to Buffalo and Pittsburgh to visit family for the (mostly) first time since 2019. We were able to see our families, go out to eat and generally act like normal human beings. On a trip to a ½ priced books in the Pittsburgh suburbs. I came across this book.
But I stupidly didn’t buy it.
Instead, when I got back home to Brooklyn, I checked it out of my library. I was a baby to a five-year-old kid when the Pittsburgh Steelers were winning those Super Bowls and forging a dynasty whose legend looms large over city and team to this day. Those Steelers were already superheroes. Already talked about the echoes of gods walking amongst us. Never mind that by the time I old enough to watch The Steelers, it was when the winning stopped, the Super Bowls dried up, and those gods become mortals on the football field.
Their legend was already locked up.
I never thought I was going to return to football card collecting when I got back into cards. I’ve always liked football. But baseball is a way of life. A religion. I didn’t think football cards held a place for me. But getting back into them; it was an inevitability after I finished reading Their Life’s Work. If I wasn’t going to collect football cards generally, then I was at least going to have my fill of Steelers cards. And when I returned to Pittsburgh in July of 2021, I hit up the flea markets and did just that.
I’m even buying the new guys now.
I was a Dave Parker collector before I read this book.
But, as with Their Life’s Work, reading Cobra got me to want to focus my collecting not on ripping all of that wax and building sets at random, but to focus more on the Pittsburgh Pirates cards I wanted. To connect my collecting to team history and lore.
And it let’s you drop the dough on a cool card like this.
It’s not just local teams.
This book to collection ratio has been happening across the spectrum.
I read this book on Dick Allen
…and this happened.
I’m currently reading Dan Good’s wonderful book on Ken Caminiti.
…and yesterday I spent an hour or so going through boxes just to dig up these.
Next up is this one.
Rickey played so long, if I collect him, it’ll be like going down a rabbit hole in Alice’s Garden.
(And, no, I do not have his rookie…someone is gonna get my money on that one)
This book made me reconsider 1986 Topps, and is just a damned fine read.
If the guys in this book were playing now, they’d for sure, have a Topps rookie card. Probably in multiple products.
But for most of these guys its minor league sets or nothing at all.
Obviously, there are some books on players for whom you can’t just run out and fulfil your obsession buying cards.
But you can try.
And in some instances, reading a bio on a player just works to keep that long burning fire going.
What’s happening with all of this type of reading, or it least what I’m garnering from the experience, is that I’m developing a sort of subset to my collecting. Or what I call, Collecting by the Book. And I actually look forward to it. To seeing what books will show on my radar. How it’ll enhance and inform what I collect. I’m hoping a few more books that’ll get me digging into those boxes, like I did when I went searching for Caminiti. I don’t know what I’ll find. Or where they’ll go. Maybe in the same special place I reserve for cards that mean something to me. Maybe I’ll start a Collecting by the Book binder.
Right now, I’m in the hey-I’m-just-noticing-this-about-myself stage in this part of my Hobby journey.
Thanks for Reading! Happy Collecting!
NEXT FRIDAY: Russell Streur returns!