Thursday, June 26, 2014

Early Christmas

The white box with the red football-shaped APBA logo sat on the doorstep and I smiled like a little kid does just before tearing into Christmas packages

And it was like a Christmas present, in a sense. The box contained 810 cards for the 2013-14 hockey game the company just released; those who get the cards can replay the entire season, rolling the dice for the game, pitting teams against each other by following last year's schedule, or they can create their own tournaments.

I hadn't bought any hockey season cards for nearly 20 years from APBA and the last baseball season — for which APBA is best known for producing — I bought was a couple of years ago.

So, I was due for fun. I ordered the set and while I waited for the delivery to arrive I did the paperwork involved in creating a new season. I handwrote the schedules down for each team on sheets of lined paper, leaving spaces for logging the scores after I play the games. I got line ups ready and set up more pages for keeping the stats.

Like I said, I was acting like a little kid.

And what other thing can get a grown person to act as such? Ask any APBA player and he'll tell you the same thing. Seeing that package is akin to an early Christmas morning years ago. At my age now, the postman usually only brings bills; AARP membership applications; home refinancing deals; recalls on my car; and, in heartfelt, caring letters, special discounts on burial insurance. The Pavlovian response I generally get when I see the mail man come a-knockin' is not a good one.

That's what makes getting an APBA box in the mail even more special. Maybe it's the onslaught of bad that comes with being an adult that makes getting a package of cards even more enjoyable. In the semantic scale of life, the majority of all mail received is on the “strongly dislike” category. It contrasts greatly with the box with the APBA logo.

There is a reason why we play APBA long into our adulthood, too. Most of us became acquainted with the game as a youngster. I did, first playing the company's basketball game when I was 17. I knew it was a fun game, but I didn't know the lasting value of it until now. A lot of the APBA players, like me, are into their 50s or more now, and we still hold onto the game, grasping that memory of life when things were better and the mail wasn't so dismal.

I opened the package on the kitchen counter; I didn't even make it into the living room before tearing in. And I looked at the cards. They are simple productions. White cards the size of playing cards with a player's name on each, along with numbers that correspond with dice rolls. There are no pictures on them. Just numbers. But that's all we need to play

It had been several years since I had played a hockey game. I took out two teams — Chicago and St. Louis — and played a practice game, rekindling the memory I had of the game and working out any kinks before I actually began the real 2013-14 NHL season. The game was great. St. Louis won, 2-1, and in the third period of the game, Chicago fired 14 shots at Blues' goalie Ryan Miller. He stopped each one. Again, I reiterate: These are white cards with red numbers printed on them. That's all. But rolling the dice, playing the game, brought the intensity of the real game.

I'll start the season replay soon, but for now I am still reveling in just looking at the cards. Christmas came early to my home this year and it made all those burial insurance offers, bills and junk mail addressed to “occupant” seem just a bit further away.

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