Archive for November, 2010
Shakeups are nothing new in NCAA Division 1 Football. There are always new teams making runs up the national rankings ladder and then fading the next year, replaced by whichever team has the hot hand and the most talented roster that season. However, the sport also remains fairly top heavy. While an upstart team can go from a losing record to nearly undefeated in one year, there are also the traditional powerhouses who accept nothing less than a major bowl game every year, and anything less is considered a major disappointment. It’s actually more surprising to see one of these powers struggle through a season than it is to see a smaller school come out of nowhere to find national success.
Schools like TCU and Boise State getting so high in the BCS rankings is not the only surprise to come out of this season. Part of the reason those teams and other non-traditional powers like Oregon and Stanford are ranked so high is due to the struggles of some traditional powers that normally would have a stranglehold on the national rankings this time of year. They aren’t there at the top this year, so the door has been left wide open for new teams to emerge. What teams left the door open? There are several, but here are three of the biggest disappointments so far this season:
Florida (2008 Final Ranking: 2nd/2009 Final Ranking: 5th/2010 Current Ranking: NR): Urban Meyer wins games, period. He has done it since he started coaching, and let’s not forget that before Boise State, TCU, etc., were crashing the BCS, Meyer made news at Utah by taking the first non-BCS school to a BCS bowl game. Plus, he won that game for good measure. Meyer took that success to Florida, and the team has been in the national championship hunt every year since. Well, until this year that is. Coming off an embarrassing loss to rival Florida State, this will mark the worst season the Gators have had under Meyer. They are barely bowl eligible, and it will be a surreal scene to see them in some lowly bowl game that nobody cares about instead of heading to New Orleans or another major bowl site. Like any powerhouse there is plenty of talent on the roster, but apparently leaving the Tim Tebow era was a lot more difficult than anyone down in The Swamp was hoping for. John Brantley was a highly regarded prospect and seemed an adequate replacement, but Tebow he is not.
It actually hasn’t been the worst season as most of the Gators’ losses have come against legitimate, ranked opponents in the always brutal SEC, but losses to teams like Mississippi State and South Carolina have raised some eyebrows. This is not the kind of season that a perennial powerhouse should have. A bad season for Florida should be finishing ranked in the teens or the bottom half of the top 10, not unranked completely. Many people forget that Florida wasn’t always this good, and they used to play third fiddle in Florida behind Miami and Florida State. The next couple years will say a lot about whether they remain top dog in the state and in the national rankings or if they fade back into a good but not elite team.
USC (2008 Final Ranking: 5nd/2009 Final Ranking: 24th/2010 Current Ranking: Not Eligible): Well, it’s gone about as bad as one would expect considering the severe penalties imposed on USC by the NCAA. And yet, it wasn’t supposed to be this bad. Many top recruits, most notably Matt Barkley, decided to stick with USC through the sanctions, and most figured USC would still hold its own this year. Fast forward to the present and USC isn’t even among the top couple of teams in its own conference, a conference USC has gotten quite used to owning every year. Slowly but surely schools were catching up with them, and the NCAA sanctions fast forwarded that process and shot Pac-10 teams like Oregon and Stanford past them. Schools like Oregon State and Arizona are also right there with USC now, and even when they come out from under their sanction it will be clear that they no longer own the Pac-10, or Pac-12 as it will have become by then. The Notre Dame loss really put an exclamation point on the Trojans’ poor season, and a loss to UCLA could incite full panic mode among the Southern Cal faithful.
It remains to be seen if Lane Kiffin can turn this slide around. We will have to wait and see what kind of recruits he can bring in under these sanctions. He’s considered a solid recruiter and headed the recruiting efforts during his last tenure at USC, so it’s possible he can use the infinite resources at USC to bring in the top recruits that can turn this around. If he doesn’t, his time as head coach will be short, and the conference will be wide open for the first time since before former USC Coach Pete Carroll got the Trojans rolling.
Texas (2008 Final Ranking: 3nd/2009 Final Ranking: 2th/2010 Current Ranking: NR): Easily the winner of the overall most shocking fall for a powerhouse, the Longhorns have been on the doorstep of national titles the past couple years. This year, they have plummeted to a losing record and a hideous 2-6 record in Big 12 games. Kansas State, UCLA, Baylor, now these are not teams the mighty Texas Longhorns are supposed to lose to. Heck, these aren’t teams they would expect to beat by no less than 20 or 30 points! However, as in Florida, they have had quite a bit of trouble replacing a franchise QB. This was supposed to be a pretty smooth transition from the great Colt McCoy to blue chip prospect Garrett Gilbert, but Gilbert has become a turnover machine. This is compounded by the fact that the Longhorns defense has been pretty bad, and with the offense turning it over the defense has been on the field quite a bit looking downright awful.
Like Florida and USC, Texas has way too many resources to think they can’t recruit their way out of this mess and insert four- and five-star recruits to fill their needs. However, like USC in the Pac-10, one has to wonder if this is the end of a dominating run that will cause Texas to still be competitive but fall to the back of the pack. The same can be said for Florida. One thing that stands out about all of the losses each of these teams has suffered is that most of them have come against ranked opponents. It just happens that they have run into a good four or five ranked opponents each in a year where they are only fit to beat non-ranked teams. They can recover, but what if those other teams are still improving and they have to face this many ranked opponents every year? Can they go back to beating everyone or will upstart teams continue to play them tough and pull out wins?
All three of these schools are facing a gut check going into 2011. History says they have the ability to turn things around and once again be elite, but in the ever-evolving recruiting landscape they could endure one more down year before being back with the pack. If that happens they will have no choice but to step aside and allow other teams to take their vacated spots as national powerhouses while they try to rebuild. Fans of these schools can hope for the best, but they may need to get used to spending a few years waiting for that next national title shot.
Ah, yes, the old jersey number debate; everybody has an opinion on it. With so many decades of sports greatness in the books there really isn’t a number left that isn’t associated with at least one legendary athlete. More often than not, multiple great athletes have been the proud owners of the same number, and that’s where the debate begins. Who was the best player to wear #1, #2, #3, and on it goes. The fatal flaw, however, is that most of these debates center on a certain sport such as the best baseball player to wear a certain number, the best football player to wear a certain number, etc. But what about all time? Are there players out there that were so good they can lay claim to a number over stars from other sports? There are a few numbers that could be hotly contested under this format, so here are some of my favorites and the contenders for the top spot:
NUMBER 1 – WARREN MOON
No. 1: Not the most star-studded of all jersey numbers, but it’s worth a look. After all, anyone willing to take on the big #1 has a bit of cockiness in them, a belief that they are worthy of being associated with all that goes with being #1, like winning and being a leader. Contenders include Oscar Robertson, Ozzie Smith, Jacques Plante and Japanese legend and home run king Sadaharu Oh. Every sport has its share of #1s, so there are contenders across every game played. However, the winner has to be none other than Warren Moon. Moon was a very successful quarterback everywhere he played, and he will always be remembered as one of the greats. He was great in college at the University of Washington, but nobody paid him much attention and he ended up in the Canadian Football League. Moon didn’t let it keep him down, however, and he went on to win five Grey Cup titles in Edmonton to force the NFL to take notice. When he finally got his chance in the NFL, all he did was have a lengthy and highly successful career over 17 NFL seasons on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Moon truly embodies the spirit of #1: he never gave up, was a winner, and wasn’t happy being #2.
NUMBER 3 – BABE RUTH
This number is a bit top heavy, but they are some heavy hitters. Dale Earnhardt, Bronko Nagurski, Joe Montana at Notre Dame, and the Great Bambino himself, Babe Ruth. Earnhardt and Ruth have the only real shots at taking this number as their own, and while Earnhardt was a great competitor and winner, his resume is on par with other racing greats. Ruth, on the other hand, nearly 60 years after his death, is still one of the all time greats in baseball. There is just so much attached to his legend and mystique that he has taken on an almost mythical identity, and that puts him on a whole different level above practically every other athlete who ever existed. Ruth is a legend, and a legend should own his number. Informed readers might point out that early on the Yankees did not wear numbers, meaning Ruth became #3 only later in his career. Still, even if he had only played one game in a number, it’s hard not to pay him his due.
NUMBER 7 – JOHN ELWAY
No. 7: The lucky number seven. Some superstitious folks may have had an affinity for the number. It also seems to be the default number when picking a jersey number. Maybe it’s just me, but as kids our team jerseys were all piled in a box and everyone seemed to instinctively go for #7. It must be the superstition that attracts people to that number, but it may also be thanks to John Elway. The captain of the comeback was a gamer, and his career reads like a Cinderella story with a pair of back-to-back Super Bowl wins coming at the end of a long and excellent career. There is strong competition from other sports featuring names like Mickey Mantle, David Beckham and Phil Esposito, but Elway’s name is mentioned among the top quarterbacks of all time. When a certain guy’s name is the first to pop into your head when you see a number, it has to be his to own.
NUMBER 8 – CAL RIPKEN JR.
No. 8: This number is one of the first really star-studded numbers that seems to be a favorite of top players. Troy Aikman, Kobe Bryant, Yogi Berra, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Young, Carl Yastrzemski, it’s a very strong list. However, when one player owns such an epic record that may never be broken, it’s hard not to give him top honors. By now you may have guessed this number goes to Cal Ripken Jr. His consecutive games streak (2,632) is simply staggering, and it means that much more considering he wasn’t doing it just for the record. He was out there producing at an All-Star level every game in every season. Ripken’s legacy is the stuff of legend, and this number should be his so that it can stand the test of time right along with his amazing record.
NUMBER 12 – TERRY BRADSHAW
Call it the bunch of quarterbacks and Stockton number. The little Jazz man John Stockton is up against gridiron greats like Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, and Tom Brady. Apologies to Stockton, but it’s an NFL race here, and a close one at that. I would give it narrowly to Terry Bradshaw over Brady and Namath. They are all right there on that level where they were all successful and great team leaders, but Bradshaw gets it for having a shade more pure talent. Believe me this is not taking anything away from the other two, but Bradshaw headed one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, and while Brady has done something similar his stats suggest it was more a product of the system than when Bradshaw did it. Still, one of the tightest races for any number and considering Brady is the only one with time left to improve his stock of all these players, he may take the top spot one day.
NUMBER 16 – JOE MONTANA
Plenty of debate over this number, and it mostly comes down to Joe Montana, Len Dawson, Brett Hull, and George Blanda. Montana has the rings to stake a claim, but I am always amazed by the greatness that was George Blanda. The most seasons played, the points scoring record, the fact that he was elite at two positions, it’s the kind of career that will stand the test of time. It’s not that Montana wasn’t a legend himself, but I want to look back decades from now and associate a number with a guy that accomplished things almost nobody else did. There have been other elite, championship-caliber quarterbacks besides Montana, but Blanda’s career seems nearly impossible to duplicate.
NUMBER 23 – MICHAEL JORDAN
It’s Michael Jordan’s number, period. I’m actually pretty amazed that this one even comes up as often as it does. Ten years ago it would have been blasphemy to question who owns this number. The thing is, everyone wants to help discover and crown the next MJ. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, for some reason fans can’t be happy with one MJ, so we talk up new stars to try and justify them as being on MJ’s level. No one has or may ever again dominate like MJ, and the LeBron argument went out the window the day he decided to “take his talents to South Beach.” He can win 10 titles in Miami but he will do it with more help than MJ ever had and yes, I know the latter had Rodman, Pippen, etc. Still, it’s not even close, and it probably never will be. It’s also worth noting that these days most people pick #23 as their jersey number simply in honor of Jordan, and that’s something that can’t be said for many other numbers, at least not on a massive scale. Guys in other sports even do it. This one is about as set in stone as it gets. Other numbers may switch owners over time, but not this one. Michael Jordan = #23.
NUMBER 32 – MAGIC JOHNSON
Wow, where to begin? It’s the big one folks, the one that if you had a schoolyard game featuring teams based on jersey numbers, the #32 squad would probably win it all. Magic Johnson, Jim Brown, Marcus Allen, Julius Erving, Franco Harris, Sandy Koufax, Bill Walton, and that’s not even a complete list of true contenders. It’s deep, very deep. I’d probably take Koufax, Johnson, Brown, and Erving to the Final Four, and then it gets very close. Probably Brown and Johnson are the top two, and I’d probably give it to Johnson for his success with titles and the way he made his position such a threat. The way we view elite point guards as scoring and assist machines is really because of him, so he has that ability to stand the test of time. Also with all due respect to Brown, as new running backs come along some of the best do approach his stats and talent level, so again if you imagine this decades from now the line between Brown and Magic may be more defined.
NUMBER 33 – PATRICK ROY
It’s appropriate that this number follows the very strong #32, because it’s one of the few that can challenge #32 for being the most star-studded number. You have Patrick Ewing, Sammy Baugh, Tony Dorsett, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Patrick Roy. This may be the toughest one yet as many of these players are not just considered great, they are considered to be the greatest. And when you think about the greatest, you have to pick Patrick Roy who is widely considered one of the greatest NHL goalies of all-time. He has four Stanley Cups and pretty much ever other award or accolade a goalie can have. With the Canadiens and the Avalanche he carried his teams and led them to victory. And he’s got a pretty sweet nickname as well, “Saint Patrick.”
Whew, some tough calls there! As always it’s open to debate. Post a comment if you agree/disagree or have another really hot number that needs to be debated!
It’s the holiday season and as sports fans everywhere take a little time to make their holiday wish lists, there is little doubt autographs of players like Michael Jordan, Aaron Rodgers, Steven Stamkos, LeBron James, Jonathan Toews, Tiger Woods and more are on those lists. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find authentic autographs of these players as forgers look to capitalize on the holiday season, so it’s important to be careful when making a holiday purchase of sports memorabilia. And unfortunately, if you are looking to get a quality authentic signature from one of the top athletes in the world, you’ll find that is just not that easy. Fans and autograph hounds flock to places they know these athletes will be at and there is just no way they can sign for everyone, as you can see below:
What are your options then? You’ve got that blank spot on your wall or empty space on your desk for a great memorabilia piece, but you don’t want something fake and you don’t want to chase the biggest athletes all over the world in hopes you’ll be one of the few that actually get a signature. Look no further than Upper Deck Authenticated.
Not only do you have the peace of mind of getting a real signature from your favorite athlete, but you can also get some truly groundbreaking collectibles. Upper Deck Authenticated made the realization a long time ago that sports fans don’t just want an autograph jersey or ball, but different and innovative items that stop traffic and start conversations. Just take a look at some of the items UDA offers.
As you fill out your Christmas list, make sure to visit www.upperdeckstore.com to get a good look at some of the world’s greatest memorabilia from the world’s greatest athletes. Hopefully as you run down the stairs on December 25th, you’ll find plenty of UDA under your Christmas tree and in your stocking. Happy holidays!
Thanksgiving weekend triggers the start to the holiday shopping season where everyone is looking for a special gift for their loved ones. With so many sports fans out there, autographed memorabilia is a hot seller every holiday season, but it is also the time of year where most buyers are taken advantage of unfortunately.
The people purchasing the memorabilia generally are not as aware of how much fraudulent memorabilia is actually in the market as serious memorabilia collectors are. They are also not as aware of what to look for and which companies to feel comfortable purchasing memorabilia from. These shoppers routinely look for the best deal and usually shop online which makes them a prime target for autograph forgers.
Imagine what your loved one would think if you gave them an item they knew was fake right away. I’ve seen it happen before and it is really a sad situation. So we want to help you with your holiday memorabilia purchases by educating you on what to look for when shopping for authentic memorabilia.
First let’s see how good you are. Can you pick out which items below were signed by the Upper Deck exclusive spokesman and which ones are forgeries? Take your time, and good luck!
Do you have a good feel for what is real and what is not? Let’s see how you did. If you said the first image was real you would be wrong. It is a forgery. In fact if you said any of these images were real you would be wrong. They are all items that have been forged and sold to unsuspecting customers. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Millions of dollars of fraudulent autographed memorabilia will likely be sold over this holiday season. Protect yourself by following these rules:
Rule #1 – Ask lots of questions
As you deal with sellers, it is important to know they are on the ball and legitimate. Asking questions is a good way to test if they are. Asking a lot of questions is a great way to try to catch them in a lie or see if they have trouble responding. Here is a list of good questions to ask sellers of autograph memorabilia about the items they are selling:
Were their witnesses at the signing of this item? – Sometimes companies will send items to athletes, but if they don’t actually witness them signing the items, how do you know they were really signed by the athlete? You don’t, and that’s a problem.
When and where did the athlete sign this item? – Any memorabilia seller should keep records of signings they witnessed. If they have trouble telling you, this should raise some red flags.
What type of certificate of authenticity does this item come with? – You want to purchase an item with a certificate of authenticity or COA from a very reputable company. Upper Deck Authenticated items traditionally sell for more than items from other companies because it is well known how much effort we put into documenting the authenticity of our collectibles. If you have a certificate of authenticity from Billly Bob’s Sports Memorabilia Headquarters, does that really mean much?
If I send this item to JSA or PSA for authentication and it doesn’t pass, what type of refunds would you offer? – JSA and PSA are two of the largest third-party autograph authentication companies. Just saying their names to the person you are purchasing the item from, should let them know you are aware of forgeries and are not going to be taken advantage of.
How long have you been in business? – This is a good question to gauge the level of expertise a seller has and to give you piece of mind if you are dealing with someone who is fly by night or who has been in business for awhile.
Do you offer any type of guarantees to the authenticity and quality of this memorabilia? – Again, it is critical to make sure you know that if there is a problem with authenticity, you can get your money back. What’s more, nowadays authenticity shouldn’t be your only concern. If the signing was conducted by an inexperienced company, they could have used pens that will cause the signature to fade over time or memorabilia that is not good quality. You want to make sure that if there is a problem outside of authenticity, you are covered too.
Rule #2 – Be careful on e-Bay
There is no doubt that e-Bay has become a fantastic way to shop, especially during the holidays. There is such a huge selection available on the site, you really can find almost anything there. Despite several actions e-Bay has taken to protect buyers, there is still the chance you can purchase something through an online auction site like e-Bay that is not authentic.
As with any important purchase, do your homework. Check the seller’s history to see how many sales they have completed, their feedback ratings for completed transactions and most importantly other completed sales they have for similar items. If people didn’t complain about something similar they are selling, that is a good sign. Also, reach out to them and ask questions as well. Some sellers don’t like responding to questions or do not respond in a timely fashion, but if you are going to spend in excess of $100 on a purchase, you had better do all you can to make sure you are getting the real deal.
A word of warning, because Upper Deck Authenticated items are generally perceived as the safest items to purchase in terms of authenticity, forgers are now using images of UDA memorabilia for their online sales. Make sure to ask what the hologram number on the piece is. You can contact us at (800)551-8220 to confirm that hologram number corresponds to the piece they are selling.
Rule #3 – Purchase from a retail store or directly from Upper Deck
You can get some great deals by purchasing online, but the problem is you cannot see the item. You can’t tell if there are defects to the framing or item like you could if you purchased it in person. Additionally, you really don’t know if that seller will be there for you if there is a problem. That makes visiting a retail store that specializes in selling autograph memorabilia a good idea. And with the sluggish economy, many of these hobby shops have great memorabilia items at great prices that are directly competitive with online retailers. Plus you don’t have to pay shipping! Check out some of our favorite hobby shops here.
Another great way to purchase is directly from Upper Deck. You have two great options there. One would be to stop into our retail store in Huntington Beach, California. This retail pilot store specializes in carrying all of our top memorabilia. Check it out! Also, you can make a holiday gift selection online direct through the Upper Deck online store.
Rule #4 – Work through a reputable manufacturer like Upper Deck Authenticated
There is a reason why Upper Deck Authenticated memorabilia is considered the world’s greatest memorabilia and that is because nobody works harder to make sure they are providing innovative, quality and authentic collectibles to their customers. Just check out this video on all we do to make sure our worldwide customers are getting the best collectibles in the market.
Rule #5 – Remember, if the deal looks to good to be true, it likely is
It is as simple as that. If someone is offering you a Tiger Woods signed hat for $75, there is a real problem there. Authentic signed Tiger Woods items just do not sell for that low. Don’t be afraid to pass up deals that seem too good to be true because in all likelihood, they are.
Follow these rules and this holiday season, you’ll be thankful you didn’t give a loved one something that wasn’t the real deal.
I remember when one of my best friends told me he made the decision to purchase season tickets for the San Diego Chargers, I was just thrilled. Truth be told, I wasn’t necessarily happy for him or the Chargers ticket office, but mostly for me. I knew that a couple times this season, I would likely get the call to join him for some of the games. I was so fired up that one of the calls came for the Monday Night Football showdown with the Broncos.
It was a game both teams needed, but the Chargers had the track record of getting hot in November over the last few years in particular. It seems like the NFL analysts pick the Chargers every season to be Super Bowl contenders, but they just get off to a terrible start they have trouble coming back from. Such is the case this season, but as they have done so many times before, they came out and took care of business when they needed to.
The Broncos started off with a perfect drive that had every Charger fan in attendance nervous. The Chargers roared back however with touchdown after touchdown and tenacious defense. Even their special teams looked good as they converted a fake punt for a key first down that helped swing momentum their way for good. Now the Chargers are poised for a real challenge as they head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts. As a Charger fan, I’m hopeful they can keep this hot streak going, which should be easier as they welcome back Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson this week.
What really made the game memorable for me wasn’t just the score, it was all the fun of being at the game, especially a Monday night game. Check out some of the images I took in that made the evening so memorable. And special thanks to my friend Tom who will hopefully be calling me to join him again soon…