“That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.”
– A.E. Housman
Nostalgia is a strange beast!
An affliction usually affecting us ‘older’ folk, nostalgia is something that just creeps up on us. We never truly see it coming until it’s there, right in front of us, when all of a sudden we find ourselves transported back to past times! Reliving those ‘happier’ moments of our youth that we recollect with a wistful fondness, a smile etched onto our faces as we remember what it’s like to gaze at things with a child’s eyes once again!
It doesn’t necessarily mean that things were better ‘back in the day’, but nostalgia often fools us into thinking that they were. Our younger lives weren’t tempered with the knowledge and experience that we have as adults – the cynicism and pessimism that invade our lives today simply weren’t there as children, so we looked at the world and experienced it completely differently than the way we do now. And THIS is what nostalgia taps into!
Columnist and editor Doug Larson described nostalgia, rather aptly, as “a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days”.
Growing up in the 80’s in the UK I learned to worship ALL things American! I lived my life stuck to the TV screen, absorbing anything that the US could throw at me – The A-Team, Knight Rider, Airwolf, even Streethawk goddamnit!! Great comedies like M.A.S.H, Cheers and The Cosby Show! Later came a steady influx of US movies to keep me going through my late teens and into my student years! I completely fell in love with America and its culture!
It was only natural that a love of US Sports would grow organically from this! And while this was true to up to a point, it was only really the NBA that grabbed my attention at the time!
I remember watching highlights of the NBA Finals in the latter part of the 80’s, loving the hard, work man-like graft of the Celtics over the flashier ‘Showtime’ ball played by the Lakers! I remember booing at the brutish behaviour of the Pistons! I also remember being pretty nonplussed by the early exploits of a pair from Chicago by the names of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. “What’s the big deal about these guys?” I recall thinking to myself… Neither of them could hold a torch to Larry Bird! “What are they ever going to achieve with their careers??”.
I was young!!! Gimme a break!!!
But this is what nostalgia is all about for me!
Baseball didn’t come along for another decade! I moved away from Basketball as I got older and started to appreciate what the MLB had to offer. Over the years I steadily immersed myself in Baseball folklore and history. Thanks to the exemplary documentary making skills of Ken Burns I started to appreciate where Baseball came from and why it means so much to the American people, why it’s so ingrained in American culture!
Unfortunately, the one thing that all this reading and documentary watching couldn’t do was give me a sense of context! For instance, I could never truly appreciate what it was like being a Dodgers fan and seeing a creaking Kirk Gibson hit the walk-off home run off Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I could never truly appreciate being a Red Sox fan and seeing that slow roller pass between Bill Buckner’s legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run for the Mets in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series!
Sadly this ‘lack of context’ has also spilled over into my collecting!
I’ve written in the past about the “geographical twist of fate” that had me born thousands of miles away from the home of the sport and Hobby that I love so much today! As a result I don’t have any real collecting stories from my youth. It’s difficult for me to look back on Baseball card collecting with a sense of nostalgia as I wasn’t around to experience it when I was a child!
So now I have to relive these times by lapping up the writings, stories and experiences of other collectors! One such story came to my attention over the weekend by The Idaho Statesman sports columnist, Brian Murphy.
Brian’s piece looks at the evolving and changing nature of Baseball card collecting, comparing the Hobby as it is today with the one he remembers as a young boy. For me it encapsulates the whole notion of Baseball card nostalgia and the nostalgia of collecting!
Brian doesn’t go out of his way to preach about a Hobby ‘gone bad’, but merely points out that the Hobby has changed. But it’s interesting to see through his eyes just how it has changed and what his thoughts on this are.
Please give it a read as it’s a great piece that may well resonate with a number of you who have collected Baseball cards in the past and continue to do so today.
I feel that Baseball card collectors are often amongst the worst affected by the misty-eyed machinations of nostalgia. As we collect the cards that are produced today I always get a strong impression that there’s a constant need amongst certain collectors to hanker back to those sets of yesteryear.
You only have to look at the phenomenal success of Topps Heritage, alongside numerous other retro-themed releases, to know that there’s a market out there for those who long to return to the cards of their youth.
Maybe it’s because collectors have become worn down and cynical about the cards that are produced nowadays, or maybe it’s because there’s a genuine desire to grab hold of those wispy tendrils of memory that take us back to a time when collecting Baseball cards seemed to be (on the surface at least) a much simpler and more straightforward process!
You see folks, that’s what nostalgia will do to you!
But maybe a short trip down Houseman’s “happy highways”, every once in awhile, never actually does anyone any harm? Although it’s probably worth remembering that, as with most things that now now reside in the past, you can never truly go back and recapture what once was great.
‘The Phantom Menace’ anyone??? I rest my case!