Classic card of the week

Danny Manning, 1993 Upper Deck "Collector's Choice"

I’ve been a bit heavy of late with the artist renderings, I know. What can I say; I have a soft spot in my heart for the detail with which talented artists portray professional basketball players. It’s like flowers. Flowers are great and all in real life, with the way you can look at them and smell them and all that crap. But a painting of a flower is something you can look at and say, “Wow! That looks just like a flower!” Unless it’s one of those paintings that’s supposed to be a flower but looks like a mess, and you need someone who is good at interpreting art to explain it to you but you are not listening because you are bored. Man, art is the best.

And this particular card is not abstract at all, no sireee. That’s Danny Manning right there—two of him, actually—drawn by Alan Studt. I have to admit, the details are pretty cool, most notably the sweat beads on Manning’s forehead and the ripples in his Clippers jersey. The ripples represent waves of franchise ineptitude, or, they are just ripples. I don’t know. Ripples, ripples, ripples. That word has lost all meaning. Where was I? Oh yeah, my favorite part is this:

I love the idea of a diverse collection of Caucasian, die-hard Clippers fans attending home games en masse, holding up signs that read, “SLAM.” Are they urging players like Manning on: Hey you, basketball player—slam-dunk the basketball! Or are they simply acknowledging the game: I enjoyed that slam dunk that just happened! The signs are missing an exclamation point, so that may indicate the latter. Either way, it just goes to show how pumped people get at Clippers games. I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re wearing a vest or have opted not to, if you just got to the game from work or if you weren’t working that day or whatever, if you have facial characteristics or have faded into a background blobface a la Double Dribble … you can go to a Clippers game and cheer on Danny Manning and not be judged. I mean, hey, the guy in the Kangol forgot his SLAM sign, as did the woman (?) near him. No biggie. There are other ways to cheer. For example, looking the other way or robot clapping.

This all reminds me of my mild fascination with people who make signs for sporting events. It’s quite the cultural phenomenon. Whenever we—my wife and I share this fascination—spot a sign at a sporting event, we always think, “Wow, someone really took the time to make that.” She even has a story of a time many years ago when her dad took the family to a U.S. men's soccer game at the Meadowlands, and the family gathered round a piece of poster board and some glue and glitter beforehand and made a sign. She doesn’t recall what it read—she only recalls her embarrassment—but you can bet your arse there was plenty of red, white, and blue on that baby! I also like to believe my father-in-law wrote, “Beat those Commie bastards!” in marker at the bottom, even though they were playing Switzerland.

I wonder if there’s ever been an occasion where a professional athlete was motivated by a crowd sign. Like, say Danny Manning just received word before the game that his great aunt had passed away, and he was bummed, and he didn’t really feel like slam-dunking the ball even if given the opportunity. But then he looks into the crowd and he’s like, “You know what? These people came here for some SLAMs, and gosh darnit, it’s my job to give them some!” and then he steals the ball and runs downcourt and does a 360-degree windmill tomahawk slam-dunk that breaks the backboard and then no one can fix it and the game is postponed and everyone has to go home. That would be awesome.

Nowadays though, fans pretty much make signs out of the self-interest of appearing on television, which is, in my opinion, a disgrace to signs, even ones with penises drawn on them when no one was looking. Especially when they take great liberties with the “first letter of network will spell out a phrase in support of my team/cause” thing, like:

C an’t
B eat
Fal C ons!

And the Falcons are losing by 26. A simple “TOUCHDOWN” sign would have displayed support for the sport in general and would not have succumbed to the tribalism of picking a side, and the embarrassment that often brings. People are idiots sometimes.

Did you know?
Many years ago I attended a Giants-Seahawks game that ended 9-6 with only field goals, and my sign reading “TOUCHDOWN” stood out like a sore thumb. The next week my sign read “POINTS,” but no one was there because the Giants were on the road.