If you are a reader of my blog over at www.dubmentality.com, you know full well that I am retro-centric in a major way. I love nostalgia! I think our TV shows were better in the late 80’s-90’s, our movies were better, music was better, the food I ate as a kid was better, and even sports were better in certain aspects. I am biased and I know that I’ll get pushback but I think the players were better. There will never be another Michael Jordan, Nolan Ryan, Bo Jackson, Joe Montana, or Wayne Gretzky. There are some that come close and there are some that make names for themselves, but I don’t think we’ll ever see the kind of athlete I got to see “back in my day.”
This is not to say that there aren’t amazing, ultra-talented, and otherworldly athletes throughout sports today. I’m not going to argue with someone that wants to put Mike Trout, LeBron James, or Tom Brady on the same pedestal. But when I was a kid, there was that added layer of these guys not being human. They were heroes that took the field as some sort of mythical being that we looked upon with astonishment. We would emulate them in every front or back yard in America and pray at night to be them when we grew up. It wasn’t about contracts, holdouts, super teams, social media callouts, or anything like that. It felt pure. It certainly wasn’t, but as a kid, it sure felt like it.
I could write for days on how sports have changed over the years but I’m going to focus on football for the purposes of this product review. I could actually go on for days about football as well because we have spent the last few years trying to figure out why we are playing so many games in London, what is or isn’t a catch, and when a tackle is a personal foul and when it isn’t. The game itself has morphed into a hyper speed version of what it used to be with average offensive linemen weighing 325, quarterbacks hovering at 6’6, and wide receivers running 4.25 40’s. The rules have had to change just to keep up with the abilities of the humans that play the game. So for the purposes of this piece, we’ll keep it light and look at how the sport and the athletes have changed with a twist of humor.
First and foremost, the uniforms have changed quite a bit. I am not talking about color schemes, because those have changed too. I am talking about the actual look of uniforms in the mid 80’s versus 2018. When I was a kid, defensive players may not have been as big as current players in stature but the huge shoulder pads and cowboy collars made them look even more imposing. Howie Long, Chris Spielman, Bryan Cox, Percy Snow, Reggie White; these dudes were hulked up in their pads. Look at the huge pads for Percy and the collar for Howie and his defensive line mates!
All you have to do for a counterpoint is look at Michael Bennett and his should pads. This defensive lineman is essentially wearing youth pads on an NFL field! Bennett is somewhat of an extreme but you see small shoulder pads throughout the league now!
Look at this comparison between Herschel Walker and Marshawn Lynch!
The photo of Bennett brings me to another uniform change. Do you see the way his jersey is form fitting at the shoulder? Look at these Montana and Rice jerseys that come all the way down to the elbow.
Jerseys are super tight around the shoulder area now, see?
If a jersey was short anywhere, it was around the midsection. I remember a lot of players wearing “cut-off” jerseys like Brian Bosworth and Chris Zorich.
When I used to get ready to play youth football every year, I remember having to break out all of my pads. I had to find my thigh pads, knee pads, hip pads, and even the dreaded butt pad! I’m not entirely sure that players wear any pads at all on their lower extremities anymore. I am certain that they don’t wear knee pads!
What about helmets, or facemasks to be more specific? Remember when punters wore the single bar facemask? What about the double bar facemasks that the place kickers wore? Larry Csonka wore a sweet one with the horseshoe loop. Now facemasks look like something from “The Matrix” or some other futuristic movie. Look at this gem Gary Anderson wore! He was better off not wearing a helmet at all.
Before we move on from uniforms completely, just check out one of the masters of the uniform, Brian Bosworth!
Let’s talk about coaches for a minute. Today, “most” coaches are young, fit, whiz kids that have mastered the art of the wide open offense. These coaches spend a lot of time in the weight room working out themselves. In some cases, they are younger than the players themselves. They are good coaches too, so that isn’t what this is about. But the NFL Head Coach look has changed quite a bit over the years. Sure, we still have Andy Reid, Mike McCarthy and Bill Belichick but you’ll find way more Vance Joseph’s, Dan Quinn’s, Sean McDermott’s, and Anthony Lynn’s on the sidelines today.
Here are some classic coaches from the 80’s! These guys knew how to win football games and didn’t really care what they looked like in the process. The league was full of coaches like Dan Reeves, Wayne Fontes, Jimmy Johnson, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan, and Art Shell. I’m not saying that either is right or wrong but they have no doubt changed over the years. I used to look at NFL Head Coaches and think, “I can do that one day.” Now, I’m not so sure!
Maybe it’s me but I feel like teams used to play in bad weather games a lot more than they do today. It could be the integrity of the field that is causing this illusion but I remember guys getting done with games and their jerseys were ripped, bloodied, and almost always mud or grass stained. There are more turf fields today than there used to be but you don’t get the image of beaten up players walking off the field anymore.
I think officials used to be better at their jobs too. I don’t know that to be a statistical truth but the games were a lot less clunky when we didn’t have 5,000 camera angles to prove the officials wrong. That has changed the whole way they officiate. Now, they call a game by giving the benefit of the doubt to the offense, knowing they can go take a look at the replay. Back in the day, they had to go with what they saw and that was it. There were bad calls, without a shadow of a doubt, but it was also a part of the game. Players make mistakes and coaches make mistakes. I thought it was perfectly alright when an official made the occasional mistake, so long as it didn’t affect my team! It slows the game down now when every turnover, touchdown and first down is automatically reviewed.
The last thing I will cover is the hitting! I am not going to pretend for one minute that the game isn’t safer today, as it should be. But just on the surface, I miss the big hits of the old NFL. There are players from my younger days that probably wouldn’t have a place in the league today. Guys like Scott Case, Chuck Cecil, David Fulcher, and John Lynch would be severely hampered by today’s rules. Again, I get the safety aspect, 100%. But it’s kind of like watching NASCAR without any wrecks. I think it also has helped offenses open up tremendously with no longer having the fear or taking that big hit when they run that crossing route. Defensive players are certainly playing at a disadvantage.
When it comes to sports cards, some of my favorite sets are those that have some sort of link to the past. I enjoy throwback sets, players in throwback jerseys, and sets that include some of the greats from yesteryear. No other football set can match all of that like 2018 Panini Classics. This will be my set of the year for football and it really isn’t all that close. Classics has been good in the past, but Panini put a perfect set together this year. I have bought more of this product thank any other product in one year. And each box has offered a nice surprise that I didn’t find in the box before. Let’s take a look at this set and enjoy what could be the best football set in years.
First and foremost, the price of Classics is a tremendous plus. For $60, you can get a full 24 pack box with 1 autograph and 1 memorabilia card. Some boxes have a second autograph that is a “buyback”, and I saw several of those in my rips of the product. A “buyback” is just what it says. The card is an original from a previous years release and it is autographed and generally very low numbered. The interesting part of this year’s buyback feature was that the cards weren’t limited to Donruss. There are some cards from Pacific, Score, Wild Card and other “Junk Wax” releases. I have seen some tremendous buybacks come out of 2018 Classics.
The base design for Classics is simple but fresh. This Larry Fitzgerald is a nice action shot, the photo is clear, and the player is in focus. Each card has a pennant for the team name and the player name and position on a larger banner in the backdrop. The Classic logo is in the top corner and there is a white border, reminiscent of great cards from the older days.
There are several cards in the set that feature players in the Color Rush jersey. I don’t always like them when they are all over my screen but they do pop on cards nicely.
The base set is made up exclusively of action shots. And they are all nice close-ups too.
I am REALLY happy to see Andrew Luck back in the league this year. He is one of my favorite players!
Is there anyone having a better season than this guy??
Well, maybe this guy….
Now to the Legends portion of the checklist. You can immediately notice the uniform change with Eric Dickerson.
Apparently, long sleeves were a thing once too!
Here is an old school facemask picture for you.
The single bar kicker facemask!
This looks like it was a muddy game. Steve Young is rocking the hand towel too, which was a staple of the early 90’s QB.
Because Panini has the collegiate license, all of the rookies are in their college uniforms.
This image is from a game that I will never forget as a Georgia Bulldog!
The first insert set is called “Classic Clashes” and features two players who have a rivalry. Most football fans will remember the tussle between these two last year.
“Composers” is probably the least visually appealing insert but it does include 30 of the best QB’s past and present.
“Eras” features a past and present player from the same position and team.
“Full Throttle” includes some of the most highly skilled players to ever play their position.
“High Praise” features Legends with an award winning resume.
“Instant Classics” is probably the best looking insert to me because of the Retro feel.
Each card in the set has a numbered version. Each numbered card has a different border color to represent the numbered set, beginning at 99. The cards numbered to 99 are yellow, cards numbered to 25 are orange, cards numbered to 10 are blue, and 1/1’s are black.
The best addition to 2018 Classics is the Chrome Refractors that also come in numbered variations. These are simply beautiful!
A fun addition to the set this year are these cool stickers. Talk about Retro!!
I pulled this amazing 1/1 Lawrence Taylor “High Praise” insert!
One of the memorabilia sets is “Canton Collections”. These cards feature a patch of a player in the Hall of Fame.
“Classic Combos” is another memorabilia insert and features a swatch from two players on the same team. These are found in both the current players and Legends checklist.
This is a Legends auto of Ted Johnson numbered to 49. I will always enjoy pulling autos from retired players.
This Joe Mixon was a nice blue version numbered to 10.
Here is one of the “Buybacks” I pulled. This is a 2005 Playoff Honors autograph numbered to 15. You may be able to faintly see “Recollection Collection” stamped in the upper right corner. All of the buybacks carry that stamp.
I initially thought this Chrome DeShaun Watson, numbered to 15, was going to be my pull of the year. But wait….
This was the pull of the year! An Alvin Kamara 1/1 Autograph! These are not usual pulls for me so this was an amazing box!
2018 Classics is easily the set of the year for me. It is very reasonably priced, the cards look really good, the card stock is solid, the checklist is loaded, and the hits are really, really good. Even the boxes that didn’t generate a huge autograph still produced a nice patch of a retired legend or a player that was in the Hall of Fame. Several of my Twitter friends joined me on the quest to open as much Classics as humanly possible. And I am still not done this year. Whenever I find a good deal on a box, I jump on it. Have you opened any Classics this year? What are your thoughts?
PSA Graded Card Storage Box. 3-3/4 x 12-1/2 x 5-1/2″ (inside). Holds 25 PSA Graded Card Slabs. These boxes are made from high-quality paperboard that is wrapped in white paper outside. Boxes feature an interior rail system that the slabs slip perfectly into. The system keeps slabs separated and firmly in place.