Thursday, July 8, 2010

Exploring the Nature and Reason for SCU's Negativity

There is a lot to be said about the way that sports card blogs function in this hobby, especially the higher profile ones. One of the biggest aspects of the arguments against the nature of the blogs is the negativity we seemingly "spout" from our pores. If there is anything I get from anti-blog people who stumble upon this site, its that the overwhelming negativity that I bring on a daily basis is somewhat disheartening to the people who consdier this to be a fun thing, rather than something that should be breeding commentary and analysis. Right? Its just cardboard, why is it something that the blogs have taken so seriously in some cases?

Well, there are a few answers to that question, and most of it centers around the type of person one is. Since I can only speak for my own feelings, that’s all that I will do in this case. Ive only talked about SCU's creation about a million times, but I think that a slight re-telling is definitely in order here, as it should spotlight some of the reasons I approach the hobby the way I do on this site. Rather than just telling you to click that tiny "X" every time you don’t like what you read, maybe its time to see it from the perspective that drove me to write four novels worth of text on a site that barely anyone reads (in terms of the grand scheme of things).

Back in early 2008, blogs were definitely not what they are now. There were no sponsorships, no exposure, and most of us were only read by our families and other bloggers. Most of the hobby action was taking place on message boards, mostly those at Beckett's old website. Because the community was run by Beckett, and a good portion of the members still subscribed to their magazine, speaking out against the company was extremely frowned upon. As a whole, it was painfully obvious to a select few members that the view of the hobby presented in the magazine was like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when they only see the big Wizard's head, and not what was behind the curtain. Beckett never addressed any of the hobby issues that a lot of us had major problems with, and it almost became a running meme on the site that fake patches didn’t exist and that everyone in the hobby was honest and fair. Because they were so concerned with a dwindling readership and the "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" aspect of the hobby that I hate so much, they didn’t want to cover anything that would scare people away.

If you look back around that time, even the daily blogs had a different demeanor about them, especially when it came to the industry itself. Because many of them had no other commentary available, the fluff filled reviews and previews that Beckett offered on a normal basis were seemingly accepted without rebuke. Then the boom fell, and people started to wake up, myself included. Although I hated the Beckett members who thumped their price guide like the bible, I never really put much thought into what responsibility they had to the collector to provide accurate and seemingly unbiased coverage on the hobby. After the famous Exquisite Box Break happened, something inside me snapped, both with Upper Deck for sending them the stuff, and Beckett for presenting it like it wasn’t an issue. Once I had the mindset to comb through their coverage with a different perspective, I saw exactly what was going on.

In April of 2008, I started SCU with the intention of finding a place to use my writing skills that I had grown to love, and to provide an alternate view of what was actually going on in the industry and the hobby. To cover the things that no one else would cover. From the beginning, many of those things happened to be negative, and my viewpoint became increasingly negative towards the scam ridden industry that we require as the lifeblood to our collections. As I honed my character on this site, and built up opinions on certain subjects, I found that it became incrementally harder to find interesting positive things in the hobby. It was rare that I found something great worth talking about, mainly because the negative aspects of what the companies did on a daily basis far outshined the positive things they did.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few things I definitnely took joy in. I loved getting on card signatures from my favorite players, and I definitely loved cards that fit the paradigm of what I thought a card should look like. Because SCU is and was 100% commentary based on my opinions, I never hesitated to speak my mind on anything, even if it didn’t put me in the best of light with the parts of the hobby who still sided with the people walking around with their eyes and ears covered. As it so happened, Upper Deck was the company that produced the cards that fit into my collecting habits the cleanest, and though my past feelings on their actions and relationships were negative, it was very hard to ignore the quality of the cards they produced. Routinely, they out performed just about everyone else, offering more in their products that I liked than any of the other two main companies. A new Upper Deck set became the one thing I looked forward to each month, and I really didn’t care that people absurdly thought they were paying me for my commentary.

Now, on this site, I agree things are probably more negative than they have ever been, almost exclusively because its gotten to a point where there is very little that excites me any more. I love low end Topps products, but that is only a fraction of the calendar now that Upper Deck is no longer producing licensed cards. That one thing I looked forward to is gone for the foreseeable future, and my likes and dislikes are going to take a lot of work on the side of card designs and product content to change.

On the other hand, I cant help but feel like this is all a moot point anyways. I have always been an overly opinionated and overly critical person, that’s just who I am. Its only natural that my writing about the industry and the people involved are reflective of my nature. Im not going to put on a show and act like things are peachy keen all the time, especially in an industry that has its roots in people who take advantage of the ignorance of the general populace.

You may hate that I am overly negative about something as menial as cardboard, but when you consider the amount of time and work I have put into this site, its not that menial to me. Then when you consider the other side of the spectrum, a site that focuses only on the positive and ignores the problems, which would you rather have? I can guarantee that the negativity "spouted" on this site is nothing compared to other industries, and though that isnt an excuse, it should provide you with a frame of reference. As much as I hate to do it, this is where I tell you that overly positive people probably wont find solace here at my site. Its not because I hate cards, or hate people, its just the way I am.

Now, there has been a lot of discussion on twitter and elsewhere over the way that Robert Power handled his purchase of the Strasburg superfractor. Most of our feelings are generally negative about the reasons he did what he did, especially when you consider how much publicity he sought out on his own. Although I think the way it was presented in Beckett is completely the opposite of the true reasons for his actions, the discussion is valid. Does negativity scare people away the way that Beckett has always thought it has? This is where I say that there is not a chance.

I will admit that I do get a handful of comments from people who cant understand why I act the way I do, but the majority of the emails I get are more geared towards finding out more regarding the things I talk about. Instead of getting scared away by the negative aspects of the commentary I write, many people visit the site to see exactly what MAY be happening outside of their frame of reference. Funny enough, even the people who spend a lot of time working against me, come and visit a number of times a day based on the tracking I have set up. That’s pretty interesting to me.

So, to those of you who loud the negativity of this site, it might be in your best interest to consider what that negativity means to the betterment of the hobby and industry. Without the criticism provided by the end users of the products, how will anyone ever know to get better? Im not saying at all that I am responsible for that contingent of collectors, nor am I saying that this site has any impact on any improvements to the hobby. However, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t say what I think, even if it does probably focus on the poor aspects of a children's hobby instead of only championing the few positive things that happen.


  1. People might not like it, but you come to the table with a different point of view. A hobby like ours that can have so much money invested in it needs as many points of view as possible.

  2. There is certainly a place for negativity. Does it seem like overkill at times? To me, yes. But to each their own, it's your blog, you can write whatever you want!

    I still think that even you are a bit naive to the business side of this 'hobby' at times. Why SHOULDN'T Beckett do what they do? They're in this for the money as much as any of the companies are. Sure, it may seem scandalous, but they've got bills to pay just like everyone else. I just don't buy their magazines, or maybe just once or twice a year as a reference of who's in what sets. Fair prices, to me, are whatever I feel comfortable paying, not what some arbitrarily put together checklist says.

  3. SacamWatch, asshats exposed, ebay douchebaggery...what's not to like?

  4. While not agreeing with your presentation methods around 80% of the time I have never left SCU without having truly thought about issues presented.

    This has to be one of your more eloquent posts I have read.

  5. Negativity and criticism are two very different things.
    You are correct in that without criticism nothing would move forward. But anger towards other collectors, and calling them stupid or idiotic for their choices is not criticism, its just negativity.

    I just don't see any reason for anger towards the guy that bought the Strasburg card. It seems to me personal publicity probably played a role in his actions, but so what. It doesn't make me angry, and either way commenting and getting angry about it doesn't do anything fOr the hobby.

    Reviewing card sets with a critical eye is great, but then taking personal affront to bad designs or what ever is not criticism, it is entitlement.

    You can be critical and positive. Push forward your views, it's your forum, say what you want. I understand the dislike of Beckett, but wouldn't you be better served to focus on your views and not worry so much about how bad they are?

  6. keep the trash talking coming, its alot more interesting than roses and daisies do a great job with the site and keeping things engaging to read. If no one ever critiqued peoples/companies actions you would never see improvement.

  7. Like I tell my coworkers when I badmouth corporate: I'm not being negative, I'm being a realist. That's exactly what you're doing. It's refreshing to read the real side of things instead of reading the unicorns-and-rainbows fluff that Beckett spews out month after month. That's why I read this blog every night, for enjoyment and information.

  8. I always find it somewhat ironic that for as much as you (and many others) bash Beckett, people sure do talk about it alot... and quote them verbatim. Love 'em or hate 'em, people read it and talk about. Beckett wins!

  9. My issue with your negativity is that you rarely, if ever, suggest solutions for the things you find so terrible. You say nearly everyone is doing it wrong, and yet never say what they should be doing. By doing this, you leave yourself the option to hate everything. If you were to suggest something and they actually did it in the next set, you'd have nothing to complain about.

    Another thing is, if you hate 95% of cards designs out there, why don't you design your own? According to you the card companies are idiots when it comes to design. But I've yet to see you try your hand at it and show them how it's done. Why is this? It's like making fun of someone who has trouble shooting free throws, yelling at them for doing it wrong, but never trying to shoot a free throw yourself. If you want cards to look a certain way, design them. Submit them to card companies. If you love the hobby, offer to suggest and submit designs for free. Make friendly contacts with them (might want to leave out a link to this blog if you do).

    It just seems to me that you're behaving like someone who complains just to complain and likes to think they are the only one who 'gets it'. If someone loves Triple Threads, so what? Why are they idiots for doing so? It's their choice, not yours.

    It's one thing to complain about all aspects of a hobby, and then figure out proactive things to do that could help it along. It's quite another to complain about that hobby, and then just sit back and do nothing. If you want change, do something. A negative blog yelling at companies and collectors alike is not that something.

  10. Ok, Ryan, I get what you are saying. However, I think you arent getting the complete picture from the nature of your arguments.

    First off, just like a food critic doesn’t go in to the kitchen and make the food, I don’t go to the card companies and create the cards. I don’t know how, nor do I really need to know any of that. If I see something that looks good to me, I say so, if not, I will criticize. Now, if I had the money and the time to devote to learning how to and creating cards, I would. However, its illegal to produce cards without licensing, and its extremely costly and time consuming.

    As for not offering solutions to the problems I comment on, I don’t think that you are getting the implied solutions I present. For more knowledgable collectors, most of them can infer what needs to happen to fix the issues, and I don’t need to spend time elaborating. Also, because I have commented many times on the issues before, on at least one occasion for each issue, I have expanded on a plan I would implement.

    Yet, even with suggested solutions, I have very little influence over companies or collectors, so really its just me shouting into the vast expanse of the internet rather than actually affecting anything but the readers who agree with me in the first place.

    That’s about it.