Friday, August 30, 2013

Ryan Whalen Autograph Card

Once in a while, I like to buy a mix-and-match re-packaged grab-bag of mixed sports (I do prefer those with guaranteed 'hits' because I'll usually try to find out more about the usually-unknown player I'll score while I'm a it). One such pack gave me this card a little over a year ago:

It's from the Cincinnati Bengals' sixth-round pick in 2011, Ryan Whalen of the Stanford Cardinal (no 's') football team. It's from Upper Deck's 2011 Sweet Spot set (card #47, signed on-sticker in blue sharpie).

As every football season starts, there is always more action behind-the-scenes and in the news than on the field: Fantasy Leagues, free agent signings, pre-season injuries and roster cuts (NFL salaries, unlike in the NHL, aren't usually guaranteed, and cut players don't count against the salary cap), and of course the never-ending debate over whether College athletes should be allowed to take money selling their likeness (they currently are forbidden to), since everyone else does, from the schools themselves and the NCAA selling their jerseys, card companies selling their faces and names, TV networks paying all sides while profiteering from ad revenue...

It's relatively easy to argue for both sides: on one hand, the schools usually give athletes full scholarships, missing out on admission fees, providing the athletes with services such as dieticians, medical staff, training facilities, free food and housing and the like. The salary is the education - worth tens of thousands of dollars in the American system -  and the school makes that money back through, well, making that money back on the players' backs.

On the other hand, star athletes are much more in demand than pretty much every other students - including lesser athletes. They are asked to appear in school promos, press conferences, media interviews - all of this mixed with time on school benches and training. They don't have the same peace of mind not ability to enjoy College as most other students have. In theory.

In the end, athletes may get a little something, but giving them too much would result in class-action suits where past players would also want a chunk of change; also, if the pendulum swings too much the other way, full scholarships may only be offered for the top-tier, bankable athletes, and those from lesser-viewed positions (linemen in football, for example) or less popular sports (track and field, water polo) may be more affected than those in baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

But back to Whalen. He played 4 games in 2011, and 9 in 2012. His best game last season was against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he caught 4 balls for 31 yards (a 7.8 average). He has yet to score a touchdown.

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