Baseball Cards, Nostalgia, and My Refusal to Sell Memories

Twenty years ago this weekend (Easter Weekend – not the date) I was celebrating Easter with my family.  One memory I have from growing up is getting Easter Baskets with candy and chocolate, etc.  The one twist my parents liked to do was give my brother and I a few packs of baseball cards along with it.  That was the real excitement for me.  On Easter Morning in 1997 I opened a regular retail pack of Topps Baseball cards and it changed my perception of everything in my favorite hobby.

The interesting thing about collecting baseball cards in the 1980’s and 1990’s was that it was strangely profit driven.  Even in the young mind of adolescent kids, it somehow became more about what a card was ‘worth’ rather than the excitement of pulling a specific player or insert strictly for the joy and surprise in the eyes of a collector.  My dad always told me that cards (and anything else, really) were/are only worth what someone would/will actually give you for them.

One of the card types I had never pulled from any Topps pack was a Finest or even more rare, Finest Refractor.  It was a super glossy rendition of a card that actually had a protective plastic cover to keep it from getting scratched in the package, a refractor was a card that had the glossy finish but also gave a rainbow color refraction.  The big cards in that set were Willie Mays autographs and Mickey Mantle reprints, etc.  I collected Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas cards when I was a kid.  A refractor of any sort was generally a tough card to pull – let alone insert cards from special sets.

My dad always told me about the great ballplayers from his childhood – Mantle being one of his favorites, although he was relatively young when the Mick was entering the end of his career.  To me, he was the Griffey of his generation on the field and at bat.  They both ended up having career numbers cut short because of injuries.

s-l300

As I opened my pack of cards I was already excited about baseball season coming around.  I hoped I would pull a Griffey card to add to my collection. After flipping through the first few cards I noticed nothing special.  Generally, my luck was zilch… my brother had the nickname ‘Lucky Boy’ ever since I can remember.  No matter what packs of cards or contests he would enter with me or whatever it was – he would win.  I figured he would get some card in his pack that simply didn’t exist.  I don’t remember what cards he pulled on that day simply because this was my lucky day – and I haven’t forgotten (obviously) all these years later.

Sitting in the living room with the lights off and the sun coming up; I made it halfway through my first pack and knew there was nothing special, maybe a Barry Larkin or something.  Then I opened the second pack and it was the same story, a couple decent guys (I think I pulled a Barry Bonds insert).  Then, in the third (last) pack from my Easter basket I looked through them with my typical cynicism and about halfway through the pack I stopped.  I was looking at two players on the same card that blew me away.  Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron standing side by side… I couldn’t believe it!  Then I saw that it had the typical protective plastic cover that meant it was a Topps Finest.  As I let out a yell and did a fist pump I went over to show my dad and my brother what I had pulled.  My few steps across the room and into a bit more light made me stop in my tracks.

I had pulled a Topps Finest Refractor Mickey Mantle card.  Not only that, but it was a card with Hank Aaron next to him.  It felt like I was floating.  This stuff didn’t happen for me… this had to be my brother’s pack of cards.  No, it was mine and this was real.  To this day I remember my dad telling me how cool it was and my brother was his typical awesome self, not an ounce of jealousy as he was simply excited for me.  To this day I always think about opening that pack of cards and the joy that it brought me. 

I looked up the ‘value’ as soon as I could get my hands on a price guide that had the card listed.  It was listed at between $50 and $80.  I was 13, so holding a card ‘worth’ that much money felt like a surreal moment of presumed wealth.  The only thing was that eBay wasn’t a thing.  Hell, the internet was barely a thing at that point – especially in rural Ohio.  I had no real means of selling the card and even then – I didn’t want to.  It was more than just a rare card, it was my rare card.  It was my lucky day and it was a day that I didn’t want to forget… not even for $80.

Now, twenty years later, I am 33 years old and I have had to store a lot of my things as my wife and I have moved around the country for a few years.  My entire childhood baseball card collection is among the things my parents are keeping safe for me whenever I come back home and have a place of my own for those things.

Somewhere in my box of top loader and screw down cases of baseball cards there is a 1997 Topps Mickey Mantle Finest Refractor that is worth more to me than it would be to most people.

mickey card

It is the reason why every year around this time I will go to the store and buy baseball cards.  There aren’t a lot of ways to feel like a kid again, but for me this is one of those things that brings me back to that Easter morning with my family and a few packs of baseball cards.

It’s also the type of feeling that comes with cherished memories… and that is something for me that’s never for sale.

c876dea6bf26af16f36d60cd3e3685be

Advertisements

Making Your CFM Last For Decades – Team Building House Rules In Madden 17

In the words of Aaron Lewis (from Staind), It’s Been Awhile.

image.img_.jpg

In the spirit of not only updating NoobTubeTV with new and fresh things for the secular Holiday Season of Capitalism and video games during the winter snow and vortex.  I am presenting a new way to play a part of your Madden 17 Connected Franchise Mode from the Owner/Coach perspective!

This will focus on house rules I have implemented over the course of playing multiple seasons with multiple teams in CFM.  Before we get into the details of how to make a great experience more challenging and entertaining I have to give you the ‘why’.

Madden has improved in many regards as far as CFM goes.  They really have made strides and complete jumps to another level in some cases.  That said, they also have a lot of work to do with figuring out how teams deal with the salary cap and such.  By the time you reach season 4 and 5 in your CFM (2019-2020) you will start to see that almost every team is in a dire situation with salary caps and such.

One easy fix is to turn off salary caps.  I suggest not doing this simply because it’s nice to have a limitation placed on yourself during the offseason.

The other issue is that it is still way too easy to accumulated tons of first round picks and later picks as well.  On top of that part being easy it is also relatively simple to scout for players that you can draft with assurance that they will be rated 75+ OVR.  In order to preserve an ongoing CFM that will not only keep your team competitive, but also honest – here is my Madden 17 method of Team Management House Rules.

During The Season

Re-Signing Players –  Because you get a chance to make three offers during the season before you have one final chance after the season and then into free agency this rule is easy.
NOTE – This doesn’t mean you are limited to having certain OVR players on your team.  This is strictly a limit on re-signing players during the season.  This is meant to make your team stay within the same general competitive level as others and give other teams a shot at signing great players as well.

  • Any player rated 90+ is permitted ONE offer at any point during the season and you can only re-sign ONE of these players during the season.  If you have multiple 90+ rated players you must choose who you place the most value in keeping.  If they decline you then have to wait until the final re-sign chance after your season is over.
  • Any player rated 80-89 is permitted TWO offers at any point during the season.  The difference here is that you get to re-sign up to SEVEN players rated 80-89 during the season.
  • Players rated 79 and lower don’t have limits on offers.  Do what you want to here.

Scouting and The Draft

Here’s the deal.  You get to scout any players you want.  Feel free to go bonkers and even get the Scouting Perk for your coach.  The catch is that you are limited once the draft arrives.

Using the ‘Watch’ function is key to this rule and it will make the draft a hell of a lot more fun for you.  Not to mention more challenging from the perspective of adding some realism.

First, your draft picks will have limitations (This will also help you avoid weird salary cap penalties if you want to cut a rookie with guaranteed money – this can and does happen).

Scouting and Watching –

Each draft pick you own will allow you to watch a certain number of players projected in that round (prior to drafting them)

1st Round – 6 Watchable Players (2 Picks = 12 Watchable Players)

2nd & 3rd Round – 7 Watchable Players (two picks = 14 watchable players per round)

4th – 7th Round – 8 Watchable Players (three picks = 24 watchable players per round)

HERE IS THE CATCH!

  • You must select your watched players before the draft begins.
  • You only get to manually draft a player that you have watched.
  • You may draft any player from any projected round at any time.
  • If none of your watched players are available you have two options
    • Simulate the pick (you get to keep any draft pick obtained if it is traded and you must keep the player drafted for at least one season, if only on the practice squad.)
    • Trade the pick
      • You may trade this for any pick or set of picks.  However, you need to even out your pick numbers prior to Week 9 of the regular season.

You get a maximum of 12 picks in any one draft each year.

1st Round – Maximum of two picks in one draft (Never two years in a row).  If you have two picks in one year you only get one the next year.  If you find that a team wants to trade up and give you a pick you can only do it for lower round picks OR must trade the new First Round Pick to a team with one of the ten WORST records without giving them more than two picks as well.

  • If you make an Washington/St. Louis for RG3 kind of deal with a team you must count your 1st Round Picks as two picks each.  This means you lose two picks extra picks that year.  You must trade two picks two another team.

2nd Round – Maximum of two picks

3rd Round – Maximum of two picks

4th Round – Maximum of three picks

5th Round – Maximum of three picks

6th Round – Maximum of three picks

7th Round – Maximum of three picks

These rules are meant to keep your CFM fair for the CPU and fun for your own benefit.

I have had to make tough decisions and even gamble on re-signing a few players because of weak draft classes.  Usually, I roll with my Browns in Madden CFM and this year I made it through five seasons before realizing that building such a dominant team with multiple draft picks made the actual experience less enjoyable.  I had to start a new one just to keep my interest in Madden (as I don’t particularly enjoy the lag fest and arcade feel of Madden Online).

Now that these new rules have fixed my CFM experience, it’s time to start fresh and this time I will be starting with the Bills.

Happy Holiday Gaming!

One Step Forward – Madden 17’s Franchise Mode Takes Two Steps Back

It has been a rough ride being an NFL fan and having one option for video game representation.

Madden NFL has had a bit of a roller coaster existence since becoming the monopoly that it is.  Franchise Mode has been the primary victim when it comes to changes to the game.  It has also been the elephant in the room when fans are asked for feedback from EA Tiburon.  It seems that the Franchise Mode/CFM/CCM team has finally realized (for Madden 17 at least) that customized rosters and real world features are key to people enjoying Franchise Mode.  There are a couple changes new to Madden in general but the real changes seem to be the things that have been featured before or needed since the monopoly took effect.

Coaches Are The Least Important Aspect of Madden Franchise Mode - This isn't a big decision... it's a non-decision.
Coaches Are The Least Important Aspect of Madden Franchise Mode – This isn’t a big decision… it’s a non-decision.

First, the things that truly matter the most when it comes to Franchise Mode improvements.

  • Full Player Editing – This isn’t new as they might want people to believe.  It existed in Madden 12 and provided much needed customization for rosters.  The fact that this is available to online leagues is also a nice touch.  To add that any changes will be shown in the Transactions is a nice and necessary perk for league members as well.  The biggest curiosity for me is whether or not we will be able to edit Draft Classes before the draft or if we will have to draft players that are once again less than stellar prospects and edit them all to resemble legitimate rookies.
  • Practice Squads are finally entering the Franchise Mode universe.  It was always puzzling to me that EA would make claims about not having the resources to put certain small aspects into the game.  This was one of the many that was apparently a matter of time. Now we can have players on a practice squad as long as they have played fewer than two full seasons in our respective Franchise Modes.  It will be nice to know that I can take a flier on that 7th Round WR that can run like the wind but catch like Simple Jack.
  • Dynamic Development is one of the aspects that I am skeptical of when it comes to Madden.  They have tried and failed to implement all sorts of development and player growth from season to season.  Now they are putting the trait of Development into the front of how players grow in ratings.  The broken season awards system is going to play a strong role in how players are moved up and down in development traits as well.  It really makes no sense for players to be pre-rated in this way as Slow, Normal, Quick, and Superstar.  Make every player start each season with the same baseline and allow the season to determine how each player progresses.  Sure, Tom Brady is and has been a Superstar, but he isn’t too far from being done.  Then we have players like Robert Griffin III that have played up to par in their rookie year and then either fall apart or get injured.  Maybe he comes back and becomes a superstar after this season.  His slow development rating might say otherwise.

The other changes like ‘Big Moments’ and the ‘score ticker’ make me scratch my head.  I love the idea of a score ticker and believe it has been needed for years.  This doesn’t change the fact that Franchise Mode has yet to make it feel like anything more than a single team focus that misses out on an entire story outside of your own franchise.

Big Moments are rather insulting as it looks like they want to make the user think that every moment is a big moment.  ‘First Drive of the Game’ is probably the least impressive in-game ‘Big Moment’ I have read about.  The non-game Big Moments are laughable.  Injuries, Free Agents and Coach Re-Signings aren’t big moments.  Signing a coach is the least important aspect of Madden and they call it a Big Moment.  Give me a break.

Madden does seem to be making strides this year.  I am actually excited about it this season.

As jaded as I am and seem to always be about Madden, I am truly excited to play it this year.  I just wish 2K would shock the world and release a new football title.

Princess Zelda Deserves A Better Developer

Ever since I started playing video games I assumed every character that wasn’t a princess was a male (this dates all the way back to my Atari 2600 days… yeah, I’m old).  The only character I can think of that was ‘distinctly’ female was Ms. Pac Man.  That should tell you how pathetic the attempts were to make a decent female character to use in a video game.  Sure, there were characters thrown into future games like Final Fantasy, etc.  Even in Final Fantasy we have had to assume the role of a male as the lead character in almost every instance.  This isn’t to say it’s ‘bad’ it is to say it is creatively weak and limiting in many ways.

Even in games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and even Tomb Raider (the list goes on) the females depicted in these games typically had exaggerated features and/or possessed lacking cognitive presence.  Recently, games like The Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc. have allowed us to create characters in our own image.  This is something I relish because I have played as a male in every game for the most part.  While I enjoy feeling like every moment of my gaming life is like playing with my personal avatar it is nice for a change of pace and a different perspective.  Over half of the world’s population is female and close to 98% of all video game protagonists are male.

Enter – Nintendo.

They created quite possibly one of the most recognizable heroes in gaming history in Link.  What is curious is that the games are almost always titled with ‘The Legend of Zelda’ somewhere in there.  That’s right… the little guy in the elf costume with the wooden sword and bow & arrow is not Zelda… it’s Link.  Welcome to the Thunderdome if you didn’t know that by now.  Also, perhaps you can see why there is suddenly a bit of curiosity and outrage from fans of the franchise that are wondering why a female can’t be the primary playable character in the new Legend of Zelda game ‘Breath of the Wild’… or any of the others.

Nintendo’s reasoning (according to Eiji Aonuma) was that they couldn’t justify making a female Link and the only realistic option would be to make Princess Zelda the primary character.  According to Aonuma, if Zelda was going to be the primary character fighting bad guys, etc. ‘…what was Link going to do?’.

Seriously.  That was the justification from Nintendo ‘What was Link going to do?’.

How about this…?

image

Perhaps we can start the story off with Link going into a deep dark forest or castle or even both.  He is looking for something powerful, something without a name, something of which he has limited knowledge and as he begins to open a door with a strange green glow coming from behind he is bound by an unseen force and vanishes, leaving his sword, shield, and bow behind.

Zelda hears through rumors that Link has vanished on his mysterious quest.  The man/boy that has saved her on countless occasions is in need of help.  Zelda arrives at the scene of Link’s last known location finding his weapons on the ground.  She removes her tiara, goes out of the scene briefly and comes back dressed in her own adventuring garb.  She picks up Link’s weapons and prepares to kick some ass.

Now, this is just something I came up with as I typed this on my smartphone during a lunch break.  It isn’t a story or a fully developed plot, but it is most certainly an answer to the ‘What was Link going to do?’ question.

I refuse to apologize to the multitudes of misogynists that think women are anything less than the equals of men.  If you have a problem with women being the hero in a video game it doesn’t bode well for how you view women in more important realms.

#HeForShe

Call of Duty and the Disposable Consumer

6123472357_9e7b99b9b3_o.jpg.jpg

Maybe we should start with the obvious.

Activision doesn’t care about you… neither does Electronic Arts or Ubi Soft. You can go down the list of developers and gaming corporations that genuinely don’t care about you as a customer. Heck… any corporation for that matter.

With that said, the latest announcement of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare being officially released again in November has brought a new reaction from many that once worshipped the series (present party included). Now it seems that quite a few former COD apologists and fanboys have started to go in a new direction… reverse.

Most FPS gamers within a couple years of my age (let’s call it early to mid-30’s) remember when the debate was Halo vs. Call of Duty and coming in a distant 3rd was Battlefield. I recall my wife buying Call of Duty 2 for me as a Christmas gift back in 2006-ish. We were pretty close to poor at the time and the fact that she got me that game meant a lot. The graphics blew me away, mostly seeing the heat from the desert in the first mission. I had the first COD on PC and my machine could barely play it, but I found a way. Now that the 360 could play all these games at great resolution I was hooked. I both lacked the money for COD 3 and after renting it briefly lacked the desire to play it at all… it felt different enough from COD 2 that it left a sour taste in my mouth for Treyarch titles after that.

COD4: Modern Warfare blew my effing mind. We still didn’t have the income for me to justify buying it… so, I had to hope to get it for Christmas. It was almost a double blessing as my 360 died within a couple days of release from the RROD. So I started my MW gaming around Christmas and was hooked. It was tactical and fun. The simple killstreaks were easy enough to use and didn’t totally alter the game in multiplayer.

Hell, even the single player campaign was amazing. I felt like I was in a movie and it was certainly one of the first games that I legitimately couldn’t take out of my system. I basically stopped playing most other games. I didn’t buy COD 5: World at War because I was sick of WW2 shooters. It had nothing to do with wanting to have more mobility or some sort of exo-suit… if I wanted that I’d have bought Hali or even Killzone. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was simple in its own way and that’s what made it great.

Activision started breakin records because of the success of the Modern Warfare games. They improved those games throughout the rest of the trilogy. In the meantime they started releasing DLC to bring in more money. They even had most of the DLC finished prior to release and on the disc… they just wanted to make you pay for it… because they knew you would.

Fast forward to now and we see the money grab that has been Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3. The terrible campaigns for single player and the sci-fi exo-suit, wall running atrocity that has become common place in Call of Duty.

Meanwhile, their latest launch trailer has received over 300,000 dislikes. It’s a game based in space warfare/invasions/whatever/sigh.

What makes this the worst Call of Duty ever? The fact that if you buy the ‘Legacy Edition’ for $80 ($20 more than regular retail) you will get COD4 Modern Warfare – Remastered. Yeah… they know what you want and now they are going to try and take you to the cleaners if you want to play it again.

This goes beyond not caring about customers… this is as close to bad business as a company can get without encouraging a class-action lawsuit. I will no longer be buying Call of Duty games as long as they continue this type of behavior.

Good bye Call of Duty, it was good when it was good… but you’ve changed man… you’ve changed.

Not In Madden – Big Trades Still Don’t Exist

With the recent trades leading up to the NFL Draft I really have to wonder what makes it so difficult for EA to add things like this to Madden’s Connected Franchise Mode.  This isn’t the first time we have had the exchange of more than 3 picks/plays from one team to another.  In this case it even involves a pick from the 2018 draft!

NFL_Draft

Madden has unfortunately been an annual addition to my gaming library every year since Madden 2007 (I skipped out on Madden 06 because I was broke and just out of college among other things).  Now we are looking at an NFL that doesn’t allow legitimate real-time injuries to take place in the NFL video game.  Nor do they seem to allow player morale or other such depth into a game that holds a monopoly over football gaming.

The more I see how front offices work in the NFL the more I realize how broken Madden has been for a rather long time.  I don’t expect ultra-realistic things to happen, but seriously – when can we trade more than three draft picks at a time?  When will they make trade logic a thing?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question.

When will 2K make a football game again?

New Rules, The NFL, and How You Are Ruining Sports Games

image

With all their new rules you’d think Bill Maher was the new commissioner of the NFL… don’t get that joke?  Either I am the Dennis Miller of gaming commentary and online personas or I am just old and lame.
I am starting to think that Madden has hit that slope as well.
Seeing that the draft is coming up and the NFL is as popular as ever it seems like they would be pushing more and more to make their monopoly on football video games a more true representation of the game on the field and on television.  Then again, maybe they are when it comes to all the rule changes that seemingly gut the NFL of any sort of toughness under the guise of ‘player safety’.
In Madden it is nearly impossible to injure a player by hitting them harder (which is basically 80% of the injuries in the league). In Madden your players can’t get unsportsmanlike conduct penalties because that type of thing isn’t in the game either.  So, the new rule of two penalties for being an arrogant taunting jerk with a big mouth has no place in Madden to begin with.
This is why I constantly wonder when the madness will stop.  When will 2K or another publisher pour in the resources to give football fans and football gamers a different option from Madden?  I have been on this journey for over a decade demanding a true competitor to Madden and the football gaming monopoly. 
I am starting to wonder if I’m alone out here on the digital gridiron.  Everyone else seems happy to play two-hand touch on Madden and I am stuck wondering why I waste so much time playing a Franchise Mode for the sake of having a ‘new’ football option every year.
This might be why I am looking forward to MLB 16 more and more.  At least SCEA goes above and beyond to truly add depth to their game every year.  Madden has seen their top guys leave over the course of the last few years and with that they haven’t grown or done anything new.  They have invested in Ultimate Team because gamers seem to have more money than they know what to do with.  So in many respects, if you are playing Ultimate Team you are part of the problem as well.  I’d say this goes for Diamond Dynasty players on MLB, but now that SCEA has made it so you earn packs as you play the game rather than simply giving the option to buy more (which you can also do)… maybe they are similar afterall.

image

Maybe I am just like Mugatu and I have taken crazy pills somewhere along the way.