By Mike Deak
WARSAW – It’s Spring Break week, and while most are at least off if not sitting somewhere warm and sunny, I’m cataloguing a series of random thoughts I’ve had about my sports brain and notebook for a couple weeks.
With most teams off this week, what better time to deliver at least some water cooler notes to chew on.
Indiana loves its basketball, plain and simple
I saw a Tweet on Sunday detailing the job the state of Indiana has done in hosting basketball tournaments in the past couple weeks. They noted the work the IHSAA and the NCAA have done in getting its prized basketball tournaments put together, executed, and celebrated.
They should be proud.
In an era that just a year ago had a grand total of zero basketball tournaments come to a conclusion, it’s amazing to think that within a few miles of one another the IHSAA held its high school basketball championships on April 3 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse on the same day that Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs was hitting a half court three to send the Zags to the NCAA national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Digging deeper into that sentiment is Indiana as a whole was a bastion of hoops greatness in March as the NCCAA National Championships were successfully contested a couple weeks ago at Grace College, and had they been able to go, the D-2 and D-3 national tournaments were scheduled to have been run in Evansville and Fort Wayne.
Whether or not you love basketball, even the casual observer can at least recognize the state of Indiana is not only basketball crazy, but can host with the best of them. Now if we can get a couple Super Bowls and the 2026 World Cup to come to Indianapolis as well…
Fever pitch, or cold open?
The start of spring sports was well documented among journalists, coaches and athletes alike as formal season prep began in March. Just about everyone shared the same insights in getting back out and playing, whether it is baseball or softball, track or tennis, and eventually golf on the prep scene.
Where I wanted to pitch one gripe (and my only one), is this: why are schools continuing to force a week of games before taking 8-12 days off for spring break? Or better yet, pretending like athletes, fans and the like aren’t going to be miserable playing or sitting in 42 degree weather with a 20-plus mph crosswind? I’ve lived in northern Indiana’s ‘God’s Bingo Card’ where numbers, or in this case temperatures, can go from 1-75 from one day to the next with no rhyme or reason.
I watched games played last week in 43 degree weather with a 20 mph wind making the wind chill an announced ‘feels like’ in the low 20s. Literally highlighted by the PA announcer. By my count, more than a half dozen games were either canceled or needing to be rescheduled in the IFN coverage area because of weather issues in the first two weeks of the March calendar.
For sports that can play indoors, like track doing indoor invites, have at it. For baseball and softball, they can only get in about a week of open game dates before break pauses the season for 8-12 days. Tennis is typically one match then break, coaches begging kids to take their racquets to Florida.
My suggestion would be to wait until your Spring Break is over to contest sanctioned games. If teams want to hold scrimmages or even some exhibition DHs ahead of break, it shouldn’t count against the number. But to force momentum only to pause for a week or two, that hasn’t made and doesn’t make a lot of sense.
All the coaches and ADs who love the current format because you get in more games, I made my pitch. But I also vocalize my premise to Major League Baseball, who decided it was a great idea to have Detroit open its season at home, which had Miguel Cabrera not even know if he hit a homer because it was snowing so hard the ball disappeared into the falling sky. And Boston, Colorado, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs all played at home, and all were freezing. Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa, Texas and Houston were among the road teams to start. Again, why?
So what’s the end game other than greed?
As someone who works unconventional hours, six to seven days a week, my wife has begged me to get a hobby. About 15 years ago, I restarted a casual one in collecting sports cards, and have been passively active over the years. It’s relatively harmless, keeps me out of trouble, something I can do with my kids. A year ago when the pandemic started, I wrote about how the hobby was taking off again as people suddenly had more free time (and when surplus checks were rolling in, more disposable income).
As 2020 unfolded and 2021 waved goodbye to its ugly neighbor, the card hobby has just gotten more involved. While I don’t personally feel it’s like how it was a generation or two ago, when you could find cards almost anywhere and they were part of the American fabric, I’ve observed that it’s taken on a new and involved obsession.
What’s been attention grabbing to me, however, is the greed that has consumed some of those who are getting back into the hobby.
Anyone, whether you collect or not, could have walked into a retail store in 2019 and bought a pack of cards. Didn’t matter if it was a Walgreens, Meijer, Target, Dollar Tree, etc. they all had product. In the past year, though, that has changed. You can’t go anywhere and find cards. You can’t even get Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon. Why? The flip game.
As case breakers have gained substantial momentum on YouTube and eBay stores, Twitter has emerged as a new house of cards, and 40-somethings have wanted to retry their hand at making money off their 2021 versions of their junk wax Todd VanPoppel and Gregg Jeffries rookies. The hopes are really high.
While I admit I think about value when I collect, I also have a purpose with what I try to find and what makes me happy. My disdain with shelf cleaners and hoarders are their lack of ethics. MH Holdings is the company that distributes cards to local retailers in Kosciusko County and abroad, and there are guys who will line up at Meijer hours before “Debbie” arrives so they can take what they want, most times before she even gets it out of the box or off the skid. But instead of getting one, they feel they are entitled $1,000 in product, because they fully intend to take it to their internet hub and flip for a profit. And there are some who will fight you for it.
This new trend is dripping in greed, much like the guys who were hoarding toilet paper and trying to sell it for massive profits online last March. Think about the guy in West Virginia who was going to every Dollar General in the four-state area and buying all the hand sanitizer, then putting it on eBay to sell for 3500 percent profit. And it didn’t end well for him.
It bothers me that people very high up their company food chains are doing this, whether at the local, regional or national level. Whether they collect or not, work in sports or not, have good intentions or not.
I guess to each their own. It is just annoying to me because if I wanted to buy one single pack, I can’t. The shelves at Meijer and WalMart in Warsaw look like the Bi-Lo bread rack in Florida before a hurricane. It’s a national issue that’s being discussed among the hobby community, because it’s happening in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and California, too. Stores like Target are limiting their sales by voucher and one per customer per day, or similar action. And the breakers are furious, because they can’t have it all for themselves so they can make big money.
I asked a friend of mine who also collects why the flippers just don’t go to Marathon and buy a roll of lottery tickets and take their chances that way. Our conclusion, likely the thrill of the hunt isn’t there because every gas station has lottery tickets.
Ironic, isn’t it?