It’s a long and somewhat depressing off-season. Six months of guessing, planning, bragging, but above all not a single minute of regular season NFL action that means a jot.
So what is there to do in the wasteland between March and September?
Well there is baseball and even basketball, but despite almost 20 years of trying I cannot emotionally attach myself to the likes of the Denver Nuggets or the New York Yankees.
As a six year old to relieve boredom I recall my father buying me a sticker album, Panini Football 1980. To my non-European readers I refer to the round ball variety of football.
It was there that I remember the initial joy of opening packets of stickers (which I recall cost 5 pence a packet) to see if I could pull out a shiny silver badge or a famous player such as Liverpool star Kenny Dalglish or my childhood football hero Viv Anderson (a defender for Nottingham Forest and the first African Caribbean player to play for England).
Growing up in a small town in Surrey (a county below London on a map) I did not live near to a major football team so I chose the team to support based on the team sticker that had the most trophies by the players feet.
Back in 1980 Nottingham Forest were the best team in England and Europe under the genius that was Brian Clough, so I said to myself that would be my team. Little did I know that almost 30 years later I and most other Nottingham Forest fans would still be harking back to those glory days, with little to show for it in terms of trophies earned in the past three decades.
So I have football stickers to blame for my love of Nottingham Forest starting in 1980, and 29 years later I still share the same childlike excitement for opening packets of cards to see if I can pull a rare card or a limited edition one.
It is interesting in England that children in 2009 will potentially commence their love for collecting stickers the same way I did all those years ago, just like American children will open their first pack of NFL trading cards and share the passion for collecting small pieces of card.
Somebody somwhere was happy when they opened a pack and got this Matt Ryan card - on sale for $500 on EBay today
Growing up in the 1980s I became obsessed with all things NFL and I recall that in 1987 Topps released a set of NFL cards. They were smaller than the set issued in the United States in both physical size and collection size.
I used to save up money given to me to get the bus to school to buy these cards and I remember sending off for the small collection box to keep my collection safe.
I would read all the stats on the back of each card and flick through the collection in boring lessons such as Music or Religious Education.
My music teacher Mrs Nye in fact confiscated my collection for a whole term (semester) as I was paying more attention to them than I was to playing an electric keyboard.
I did get them back the very first day of the next term and vowed to never bring them back to school. I can proudly say that I still have that collection, featuring the likes of Joe Montana, Dan Fouts and Dan Marino.
Where my interest began - a 1987 Topps Dan Marino card
From then for about the next 15 years that was the only interaction I had with NFL trading cards, until one day at work in 2002 I was talking to a rather beefy looking businessman about the NFL.
He shared my love for American football and told me that he had a signed Walter Payton shirt hanging up in his office that he won on an Internet auction site called EBay.
After he told me how much he payed I quickly gave up on the idea of collecting full size NFL players shirts.
He must have seen that I was not exactly wealthy and suggested that I bid for an NFL trading card which is signed or has a small piece cut from an NFL players shirt.
I was very excited to even think I could own a small (very small in fact) piece of shirt worn by an NFL athlete in a real NFL game.
He told me that rookie players are the ones worth the most money so I bid for a card featuring the 2001 Heisman Tropy winner Eric Crouch and a small piece of a brown leather football that he had held.
I won the auction, and from then on I have spent time over the last 6 years collecting various cards on Ebay, as well as purchasing packets (an even on one occasion a full box) of NFL trading cards when visiting the USA.
I have not made any bids in 2009 but I get the feeling my wife would kill me if she saw a return of the small brown bubble envelopes dropping through our letterbox with remarkable regularity.
I am still waiting for the day that I pull an amazing cad from a pack I have purchased, as opposed to bidding for the card I know I have a chance of winning on EBay.
Cards I have pulled include; one with a piece of ball used by the Dolphins Ricky Williams in 2003 v the Buffalo Bills; one with a piece of the shirt held up by Calvin Johnson when he was drafted by the Detroit Lions and an autograph of former Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller.
I have emailed all the USA based card companies in the past and they have been kind enough to send me free cards and even card buying guides.
It’s a fun hobby for sure, provided you do not become obsessed, and providing you have the spare cash to indulge.
Above all it’s something to do during the tedium of the off-season, and what with the 2009 NFL Rookie Draft just weeks away, my advice would be to snap up any Rookie cards when they come up on EBay.
You could get a signed rookie card for a quarterback drafted in the sixth round for a very reasonable price! And we all know which three time Superbowl winning quarterback was a 6th round pick don’t we!
So does anyone else admit to collecting NFL trading cards? And if yes what was your best ever pull?