Wait, There Are Summer Olympics Too?

The Winter Olympics gets a lot of screen time in the Shlabotnik household. Mrs. Shlabotnik loves figure skating, I enjoy ice hockey played on an international-sized rink, and then there’s the curling. I really like curling and there’s never as much curling on American television as when the Olympics are taking place.

…but the Summer Games?

Mrs. S enjoys gymnastics…

…Aaaaaaaand that’s about it. I’ll watch some of the Rio Olympics, but it’ll be more along the lines of “mild curiosity” than anything else.

I think my general disinterest in the Summer Games is that the events are not, for the most part, games. They’re competitions. Swim faster, jump higher, lift more, shoot better, throw farther. There’s nothing wrong with competitions, they just don’t interest me much.

…But I also don’t want to be a grumpy old man yelling at Olympic Athletes to get off my lawn, so I’ll ask all of you a question (and I’ll ask again at the end of the post):

Which Summer Olympic events are you most interested in, and why should others watch it as well?

BTW, although I’m an American, I love underdogs, so those factors are not often compatible. In other words, I will generally root for the USA but that’s not a given.  If you suggest an event based on rooting for the team from India (just pulling a country out of a hat), it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

Because this is a blog geared toward card collecting, I’ll feature several cards from my favorite Olympic sport, one that I unfortunately have to wait until 2018 to watch: Curling.

The first one is from the “Games of the XXII Olympiad” insert from the 2014 Topps Olympics and Paralympics Team and Hopefuls set.  The “game” in question is, of course, curling, and the card features Pete Fenson, someone I’ve never seen do any actual curling but I have often heard him give insight into curling televised by NBCSN.
2014 Topps Olympics Games Of The Olympics Pete Fenson
This card pretty much finishes off my interest in the 2014 Olypics set unless I run across some cheapy-cheap signatures.

I’ve also finally tracked down two cards featuring Canadian curlers who had made it into the 2014 Goodwin Champions set. Why Upper Deck would feature two Canadians is not for me to say, but they are Curling cards and I like Canada, so it’s all good.

Rachel Homan is the skip for Team Homan, whose website proclaims that they are the “#1 Ranked Women’s Curling Team in the World”, but it’s not clear what that’s based on. Team Homan did win two consecutive Scotties Tournaments Of Hearts (the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship), so that goes a long way towards establishing dominance.
2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Rachel Homan
In trying to make the card look old-timey, they managed to make Ms. Homan look older than she is (mid-20’s). It’s safe to say that she does not use this card in any of her social media profiles.

Kevin Martin is considered by many to be the greatest curler of all time.  I can’t speak to that, but he’s on this Goodwin Champions card…
2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Kevin Martin
…And he’s on this 2015 Leaf Sport Kings card I just picked up from COMC
2015 Leaf Sport Kings Kevin Martin
…which is a much nicer card and goes into detail about Martin’s accomplishments: 4-time men’s Canadian Curling champion (aka the Brier); Gold in the 2010 Olympics and medaled in another (out of three appearances); 1 world championship and two other medals (out of 4 appearances) and 15 Grand Slam titles on the World Curling Tour… So he’s good, eh?

It’s the end of the post, I’ve bored you to death with my curling cards, and it’s once again time to ask you…

Which Summer Olympic events are you most interested in, and why should others watch it as well?

NBCSN Has Curling For The Next Six Fridays! (Squeals Like A Little Girl)

The other day my Tivo tipped me off to something exciting for Americans like me who haven’t been able to watch curling since Sochi… Starting tonight, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) is going to have “Curling Night In America” for six straight Fridays!
2014 Topps Olympics Ice Cube Curling Center
You can see the press release here.

This coverage is from the inaugural U.S. Curling Grand Prix which took place in Minnesota in early December. It features men’s and women’s teams from the U.S., China, Japan and New Zealand.  I don’t know any more about this, largely because I was afraid if I searched for more specifics on the Curling Grand Prix I’d spoil myself on the results.

2014 Topps Olympics Pete Fenson
Team USA is coached by Pete Fenson, who made a cardboard appearance in the 2014 Topps Olympics set, although he ended up in the category of “Hopefuls” rather than “Olympians” (and went to Sochi as a TV commentator).

As I’ve mentioned here before, I did not come anywhere close to growing up around curling, I came to enjoy it from watching the Olympics. I had no idea what was going on at first, but the more I watched, the more I understood, and the more I understood the more I got into it.

Last year I got into it so much that I created a set of custom curling cards…
2014 TSR Curling - Ayumi Ogasawara
While Japan was represented at the U.S. Curling Grand Prix, I have no idea whether Ayumi Ogasawara was there… But I just like the way this custom turned out.

So needless to say, I will be watching NBC Sports Network tonight!   (…or falling asleep on the couch and watching the recording tomorrow morning.)

Seems Like It’s Time For Some Show ‘N Tell…

It’s just one of those “If it feels right, do it” things that they apparently talked about a lot in the 1960’s.  Given that I was five when the 1960’s ended, I didn’t get to experience the “If it feels right…” thing at the time. Any time I did the “If it feels right” thing as a five-year-old, I got that glare that my mother was so good at.

The other day I added a new card to my tiny-but-growing Curling collection.
2014 Topps Olympics - Games Of The Olympiad Erika Brown
This is a “Games Of The Olympiad” insert from the Topps Olympic set that came out earlier this year… or was it late last year?  Anyway, Erika Brown was the skip for Team USA, and she’s featured here.  My curling collection now stands at 5 cards, all from that same Topps set.  Unfortunately I have limited options when it comes to expanding this particular collection, but we’ll see what happens.

This is not a new card for me, not by any definition, but I just wanted to say that Rick Renteria got screwed by the Cubs (as if that weren’t obvious enough).
1994 Topps Rick Renteria
For those of you who haven’t been following baseball as closely, Rick Renteria was firmly in the Cubs’ plan as their manager in 2015… until Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays. Not being a Cubs fan, I don’t know how good a job Renteria did in Chicago, but I don’t get the impression that he did a bad job, and I hope he finds another job… not that he needs to, his contract pays him for the next two years.

Here’s something I don’t get to say too often:  I got some cards out of a dime box…

A month or two ago I made one of my 2-hour shleps to a regional show and had time to go through some discounted cardboard.

Here’s another thing I don’t get to say too often:  My friend George had a major crush on the subject of this next card:
1993 Classic First Lady Of Hockey Manon Rheaume #3
Manon Rheaume was a goaltender who was the first woman to play in several minor hockey leagues, and was the first to suit up for an NHL exhibition game.  She’d had a tryout with the Tampa Bay Lightning and got into a couple of pre-season games.

I was hoping to get some Minor League Heritage and Pro Debut cards at this particular show, but the guy I usually buy these from didn’t show up, so I was only able to grab a handful of Pro Debut and no ML Heritage.

Here’s one which features a nice photo of John Gant, who is a minor leaguer in the Mets’ system, and went 11-5, 2.56 with the Hi-A Savannah Sand Gnats.  He took a couple of no-hitters into the 6th inning, which is enough to get articles written about you on MiLB.com.

2014 Topps Pro Debut John Gant

It’s interesting that the Major League cards had the useless little design element of having a “file folder tab” on the right that includes the team name, but for Pro Debut they just left it blank… probably because it was more trouble than it’s worth.

And before I leave this card, I’d like to point out that John Gant pitched for the Savannah Sand Gnats, which meant that GANT was a GNAT.  Somebody had to have made something of that, even if it was just a fan with a sign.

….and now…

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The Shlabotnik Report is proud to present the newly-acquired 7th card in Joe Shlabotnik’s basketball collection!
2008-09 Fleer 86-87 Retro Rookies Robin Lopez
This card got misfiled in a baseball dime box, but when I saw that Sideshow Bob hair, I knew I couldn’t leave it behind.  I later found out that this is a 2008/09 Fleer Retro card done in the style of the 1986/87 set.  I did a brief lookup of Robin Lopez shortly after I got this card, but I remember very little.  I want to say that he’s with the Mavs now, and he has a brother.  How’s that for in-depth reporting?

I will wrap up this post by sharing two cards which shouldn’t be the rarities that they are:  2014 cards of Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters:

2014 Panini Priszm Matt Wieters
2014 Donruss Matt Wieters

The Start Of A (Real) Curling Collection

Shortly after the 2014 Winter Olympics, I shared some custom cards devoted to my new favorite Olympic sport, curling.

2014 TSR Curling - Jennifer Jones

Custom cards are fun, but I wanted to get some real curling cards… So I did some shopping on COMC and got a bunch of curling-related cards from the 2014 Topps Olympic & Paralympic Team And Hopefuls set… a very awkward name, but I suppose it is truth in advertising.

Erika Brown was the skip of the US women’s team.  I have to say, these are pretty attractive cards, much better than you usually see for what amounts to a one-off set.
2014 Topps Olympics Erika Brown

Jessica Schultz was second in the lineup;  I’m not sure why she was featured instead of, say, Deb McCormick.
2014 Topps Olympics Jessica Schultz

Pete Fenson falls into the category of “Hopeful”, because his team didn’t get through the qualifiers… but he was part of the TV coverage, so it’s not like he wasn’t in Sochi.
2014 Topps Olympics Pete Fenson
I didn’t bother scanning the back of the card, but it’s worth noting that Fenson might think he’s from Bemidji, MN, but Topps says he’s from “Memidji”.

This card is from the Olympic Venue insert set, and shows the “Ice Cube”.
2014 Topps Olympics Ice Cube Curling Center

There are two more inserts from the Topps set that I need to eventually track down… As well as other inserts that I can live without.  No offense to the subjects involved, but I can live without Erika Brown’s autograph or a Pete Fenson manupatch card.

In researching this post, I found out that there are a couple of Canadian curlers in the 2014 UD Goodwin Champions set, so I’m going to have to look into those.

There are also some particularly nice postage stamps related to curling, so I may have to dust off my “stamp collector” hat as well.

Curling Dervishes: The Rest Of My Virtual Curling Set

About a week ago, I shared a number of Olympics-inspired, virtual curling trading cards I’d made while watching the curling matches in Sochi.

Again, I should point out to anyone coming here through a search engine or otherwise that these are not actual and/or commercially available trading cards… they’re just cards I made up on my computer.

I have to admit, I’m undergoing something of an Olympic withdrawal. Over the past couple of weeks, I got used to having curling or hockey on while I was getting ready in the morning, or trying to catch up in the evenings so that our DVR didn’t run out of space (it’s always on the edge).

Now, it just seems like I should be watching something, but hockey is back to the NHL (pause while I spit on the ground) and because I live in the U.S., curling just vanishes into the ether for another four years.

So, to postpone my curling withdrawal a little bit, here are more of my curling cards based on the 1973 Topps Baseball set.

The Norwegians weren’t the only ones with funky pants…
2014 TSR Curling - Alexey Stukalskiy
…although the Russians only had one pair of funky pants, and they didn’t wear them all the time. I do like these, though.

…Not that I would wear such a thing, but I like them.

After it became clear that the U.S. Curling teams weren’t going to have an impact, I started switching over to Canada and Great Britain.
2014 TSR Curling - Anna Sloan
I’ll admit to one thing with the Great Britain teams: I loved listening to their Scottish accents.

As a curling novice, I always pick up a few bits of knowledge whenever I watch a match. One thing I learned this time around is that the vice-skip and skip do not always throw third and fourth. The Swedish women are among those who shuffle their “throwing order”.  Their skip was the lead, and the vice-skip threw fourth.
2014 TSR Curling - Christina Bertrup
…So even though Christina Bertrup is third, she’s not the vice-skip.  The main reason she ends up representing the team here is simply because I like the way her card turned out.

…and now, on to the Gold Medal-winning Canadian teams… First the men.
2014 TSR Curling - Canadian Men's Team
The Canadian team did a number on the team from Great Britain, winning 9-3 when Team GB conceded after 8 ends.

I enjoyed watching Ryan Fry during the Gold Medal game; his accuracy was 81%, 85% overall, but he delivered a lot of the important take-outs.
2014 TSR Curling - Ryan Fry

Brad Jacobs had an impressive 95% going in the gold medal game.
2014 TSR Curling - Brad Jacobs

The Canadian women’s team, lead by skip Jennifer Jones, went undefeated on their way to a well-earned Gold Medal.
2014 TSR Curling - Canadian Women's Team

Vice-Skip Kaitlyn Lawes had a rough Gold Medal game – so I’ve been told, I haven’t watched it yet.  Since I got spoiled on the result, I decided to save the recording for when I need a “fix”.
2014 TSR Curling - Kaitlyn Lawes
Lawes reminds me of someone, but I haven’t figured out who.  It could be someone I’ve known personally, in which case none of you would care.

And now, because HockeyKazi requested it, here’s Canadian skip and one of the world’s best woman curlers, Jennifer Jones!
2014 TSR Curling - Jennifer Jones
(Pssst… Don’t tell him I was going to feature this card anyway).

So, lemme ask ya somethin’… Aside from the handful of cards in the US Olympic set that Topps put out towards the end of 2013, does anybody know of any real curling cards? So far all I’ve been able to find is a German 1932 Sanella card, a 1970’s Sportscaster card, and a Garbage Pail Kid sticker for “Curling Sterling”.

There are a few Sochi-related cards on eBay, but I think they might be as legitimate as my cards here.

Virtual Curling Trading Cards — Because Somebody Had To Do It

So you may have heard that there was a big international curling bonspiel over in Sochi recently.

I hear there were some other sports going on as well… I want to say something about hurtling down a snow-covered mountain…?

2014 TSR Curling - Anna Sidorova 2

I’ve never curled, never even seen a match in person, but I surprised even myself with how much I got wrapped up in Olympic curling these past two weeks.  During prior Olympics it’s been more a matter of “Oh look, curling’s on, let me see if I can figure out what the heck they’re doing”.

Back in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the general concepts started falling into place for me, and I started to understand the objectives and strategies involved… but I didn’t really follow it so much as I just enjoyed watching matches.

This time around I’d watched some of the lead-up events that were televised, so going in I knew something about the teams and individuals.  Once it started, and I kept up as best I could when there’s several curling matches on TV each day.

And I really got into it.

2014 TSR Curling - John Shuster

I’ll admit, part of my overdoing it had to do with the general “Get it while you can”, because I have no idea when I’ll be able to watch curling again…  Hopefully I won’t have to wait until the late-2017 “Road To PyeongChang!” events.

Leading up to the Olympics, I toyed with the idea of creating a virtual Olympic card set, but I didn’t have any concrete ideas, and I figured I’d make it a set for the Olympics in general.

Then I got sucked into curling.

Then I got the idea of adapting the 1973 Topps baseball design for the virtual cards.

…and the next thing I knew, I had the beginnings of a set.

2014 TSR Curling - Niklas Edin

…Before I go much further, I should point out to anyone coming here through a search engine or otherwise that these are not actual and/or commercially available trading cards… they’re just cards I made up on my computer.  It’s the kind of thing I do for fun.

I started doing the US teams, then if I appreciated someone on the other team, I’d do a card here, another two there… and the next thing I knew I had close to 20 made up.

Don’t worry, I won’t share them all with you here.

Not right now, anyway. :-)

Naturally, I have to include a card of at least one pair of the famous “Norwegian Pants”.
2014 TSR Curling - Thomas Ulsrud

Completely made-up factoid:  The Beatles song “Norwegian Wood” was originally called “Norwegian Pants”.

And when I awoke
I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire
I love to dance
In Norwegian pants.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t include a card featuring someone shouting…
2014 TSR Curling - Ayumi Ogasawara

…or the very intense stare of Eve Muirhead.
2014 TSR Curling - Eve Muirhead

Going into the Olympics, I was optimistic that the US women would put on a good show, maybe even medal.
2014 TSR Curling - Ann Swisshelm

I saw a couple of lead-up events involving the U.S. Women’s team, and I thought they looked ready to make some noise at Sochi.
2014 TSR Curling - Jessica Schultz 2

They also looked good in the first couple of ends of their first match, and then…
2014 TSR Curling - Debbie McCormick

Sometimes they put up a good fight and came up short, like when they took Canada to the 10th end.  Other times they just fell flat (not literally… although one curler on another team nearly did).
2014 TSR Curling - Erika Brown

What happened to the U.S. teams? Where do they go from here? You’ll have to ask someone who knows what they’re talking about. Me, I just stayed behind the Americans until near the end of the round-robin, then I started following other teams I’d grown to appreciate during the tournament.

I will say that I was generally happy with the way things turned out. I’ll get into that more next weekend when I share the rest of my “set”.

Did anybody else watch Olympic curling? Did it go the way you’d hoped it would?