Monday, March 27, 2017

Tim Brown Autographed Card

It's a done deal: the Oakland Raiders will move once more, this time to Las Vegas. With the NHL having approved of an expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, who will begin play next season, Las Vegas is definitely aiming to make its mark in the sports field. It remains a tourist town, with only 600,000 permanent residents in its core, but there are no other cities like it. It's an experiment, albeit one that has a better chance of working out than, say, hockey in Arizona or Atlanta.

It's the franchise's second move out of Oakland, as it spent 1982-1994 being known as the Los Angeles Raiders, before moving back into its original NFL home, Oakland-Alameida County Coliseum (1966-1981, 1995-2018). Prior to that, as a member of the AFL, the team played at the San Francisco 49ers' Kezar Stadium (1960), the San Francisco Giants' Candlestick Park (1961) and Frank Youell Field, a stadium named after a mortician that was later bulldozed to make additional parking space for Laney College.

Pretty unstable and bush-league for a franchise that holds an AFL championship and three Super Bowl championships, eh?

I don't know what the future holds for the team in Vegas; perhaps they'll move back to Oakland in 15 years. What I do know is the stadium they're building for them will be packed and will host at least one Super Bowl. It's revitalized the team's image and reshaped Vegas once more as a family-friendly spot.

Growing up in the 1980s, I was a fan of the Raiders and 49ers. Still am, always have been. My admiration for the Niners wavered when they sent Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs, and I never took to Steve Young - but I stuck to the Raiders no matter what they did, even when they anointed Carson Palmer as their QB; I didn't believe they'd win with him, and I disapproved of the decision, but I kept wearing my cap, my windbreaker or my tuque, depending on the season.

The 1990s in L.A. were about Wayne Gretzky on the ice, Mike Scioscia behind the plate and Tim Brown on the field. Luckily, I got to meet Brown at a signing when I was in high school, probably circa 1993, and again upon his retirement in 2005; it was then that he signed this card for me in blue sharpie:
That's card #150 from Pro Set's 1990 Series 1 collection; the first series contained cards #1-377, the second one encompassed #378-769, and the Final Update portion went up to #800O and #800D, for the offensive (Emmitt Smith) and defensive (Mark Carrier) Pro Set Rookies Of The Year, which was originally supposed to be a single title. There were also five ridiculous inserts found in packs of the Series 2 set, of which I had two, Santa Claus and commissioner Paul Tagliabue; I was missing those of Miami Dolphins founder Joe Robbie, failed comic-book superhero SuperPro, and golfer Payne Stewart.

I seem to have lost the card I had Brown sign in '93, which pains me a bit. The 2015 Hall Of Famer was special from the start. He was the first wide receiver to ever receive the Heisman Trophy, back when he was with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He then set the NFL rookie yards records and proceeded to appear in nine Pro Bowls and make the NFL's All-Decade 1990s team - in a decade that included such receivers as Jerry Rice and Michael Irving. He spent his first sixteen seasons with the Raiders but played his final season, 2004, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a falling out with management and ownership.

He had been eligible for the Hall in 2013, but was not admitted right away; that's too bad, because that's the year I went:
I'm in the middle, flanked by my current stepdad and brother. It was freezing; it felt like I hadn't left Montréal. I have a knack for that, as it was also the case when I went on a Vegas/Arizona trip in November 2015 and caught bronchitis (and a snowstorm). There are ways in which I would prefer avoiding feeling like home...

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