Growing up in Connecticut, summer was all about baseball. The warm sun baked the infield dirt and the occasional rain transformed the outfield into the greenscape that threatened to downgrade our homerun attempts to mere popflys. We adjusted our caps as we walked to the diamond, bats slung on shoulders, hands mauling our leather baseball gloves until they were extensions of our arms. Liberated from the confines of formal education for three glorious summer months, it was time to buckle down in pursuit of RBI’s instead of A’s and B’s.
There was always chatter. Stats to prove points about which professional baseball player was better than another, who wasn’t cutting it, what team was going to win the pennant. Our language was littered with baseball analogy and metaphor until our mothers and younger siblings thought we were speaking a foreign language. We chided each other for bogus opinions. We earned respect if our take on an issue became reality.
A key component of the ritual was the stop at a local department store on the way to the diamond where we would purchase baseball cards. A myriad of household chores performed for income were the financial fuel for endless stacks of rookie cards, card sleeves to protect mint condition status, and price guides evaluating card worth. When rained out from actual play, or before the final parental admonitions to get to bed, baseball cards covered our bedroom carpets like spectators in stadium stands.
The sight of the cards on a store shelf kindles kind memories. They re-connect us with the simplicity of childhood and with the power of a game that taught lessons about hard work, discipline, physical fitness, overcoming fear, character, and teamwork.
Topps, the U.S. market leader for collectable trading cards since 1952, recently allied with the Indian Premier League (IPL) to produce trading cards for the sport of cricket. With a brand value of over $4 billion according to The Times of India, the IPL is going global. TAM Media Research published data that cumulative viewership of the IPL was more than 120 million in 2009. More than 400,000 viewers from the UK regularly tune in (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board). Australia’s Ten Network purchased viewing rights for 5 years (ESPNcricinfo). It is reported that there has been a massive response in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. There was moderate interest in South Africa.
Lalit Modi, who was instrumental in the creation of the IPL, predicted that the IPL will “become bigger than the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL).” He went on to say that the IPL is “already India’s biggest brand.”
If Modi’s predictions are accurate, then Topps’ alliance with the IPL to produce cricket trading cards will not only produce massive revenue. The alliance will produce collectibles that kindle global cricket fan admiration and memories of life-lessons learned from sporting competition.