By Ian Ross
The familiar sound of hockey cards flicking through the spokes of a small child's bike has disappeared over the years to near extinction. To conduct such a spectacle in today's reality would be considered a gross violation of playground law and be grounds for removal of the child's place in sand box society.
Once an oasis of quiet enjoyment and hero worship, the sports collectibles market has been exploited by greed, leaving children blinded by dollar signs and flashy, pricey products.
For nearly half a century, young boys would sit on a back porch conducting the ritual need-em-got-em-need-em process while chewing on the gum that came stuck to one of the cards.
Now the back porch ritual has been systematically removed in favour of the trade and collectable conventions, an arena of blood-thirsty traders who refer to a price catalogue rather then their own personal evolution.
The stick of gum has been removed from the card packs in fear that it may stain a valuable collectable a definitive sign of the shift of focus from enjoyment to profit. This focus on profit has sentenced ball cards to be sealed in plastic protectors for life and game programs to be vacuum sealed into plastic bags without chance of parole, all in the hopes that some day they will be valuable enough to retire on. These collectibles are not only protected against damage, but they also cannot be enjoyed the entire reason they were first conceived.
Young boys, who decades ago would wait patiently outside locker room doors, grasping the cards of the likes of Gordie Howe or Mickey Mantle, are now bringing their sons to these conventions to pay $20 for an unemotional greeting and an autograph a simple black scribble normally reserved for signing cheques and approving contracts.
Greed has dug its claws so deep into today's athletes that even with multi-million dollar contracts, these players are still able to steal an eight-year-old's lunch money for a few loops and lines that make up "an autograph." Is it possible that green has completely blinded their conscience? Don't they remember their own childhood when they stood in the shadows of their heroes, staring in awe? The innocence of a child's hobby has been trampled over for the almighty dollar, with kids being transformed into stock brokers at the age of nine.
The nature of industry is to discover an opportunity and exploit it to the fullest extent. It is a shame the powers that be have now resorted to exploiting young children.
The days of tattered game programs lying under the bed may never return unless the players' association begins to set down some ground rules for both their players and the industry to follow. The chance of this change of fortune is doubtful as the global market continues to drift from ethics to profit.
The only hope for the collectibles market is to duct tape these corporate suits and corrupt players to a large spoke and allow the wheel to spin back their memories of what once was and what still should be.