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Editor’s Blog: No Football Cards for Te’o Yet; Odd, Ominous Start for 2013

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Blessed doesn’t even begin to describe hobby shops in 2012.  There was Bryce Harper’s long-awaited big league arrival that lit the fuse.  Then came Mike Trout, whose cards became even hotter by season’s end.  We had a guy who was a rookie in the early part of the last decade win the Triple Crown, sending dealers and collectors scrambling for their old 2000 Topps Update sets to pull out the Miguel Cabrera.

Then came football.  Andrew Luck or RG III;  that was the big debate.  Turns out it didn’t matter who you picked because they were both great.  “Oh,” said the card gods, “and you can have Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and some guy named Russell Wilson, too”.

If you were running a hobby shop and couldn’t make money selling new cards in 2012, you need to find a new line of work.

Which brings us to 2013 and the rookie many people would have been talking about.  Actually, they already are and we haven’t even reached the combine season yet.

Manti Te’o.

Ouch.

There will be other rookies who will make their mark and excite collectors and get shop owners buzzing.  Te’o isn’t a ‘skill position’ player, so maybe he wouldn’t have ignited the hobby even if he turned out to be really good.  Still, he was a Notre Dame guy. Enormously popular.  By all accounts, a heckuva person.  Huge motor.  Bigger heart.  He could have been huge.  He was a great story and there were all kinds of media outlets willing to tell it, without checking facts as it turns out.

Now what?

If Te’o is found to have fibbed his way through the season, his draft stock will surely plummet.  He may never be the same player if the scrutiny gets too intense.

It’s the most bizarre sports story, dare we say, since we shockingly found out in the summer of 1994 that there was a pretty good chance O.J. Simpson, the always smiling “Juice” of 2,000 yards rushing, Hertz rental cars and Police Squad movies, was actually a killer (you probably have to remember all of it to understand).

Someone lied.  Maybe they lied a lot.

Maybe Manti Te’o is a complete victim.

However, unless he plays ten years at an all-pro level, this is what he’s going to be remembered for.

A guy who could have been one of the most prized rookie cards in the 2013 football product—one of those players who drives sales and keeps dealers in business—may be something else whether he’s a little at fault, a lot at fault or not at fault at all.

We reached out to SAGE and Press Pass, both of whom will produce the first football cards of this year’s rookies, to find out if they’d signed Te’o yet.

“We’re in discussions w/ the agents for dozens of top rookie prospects, including Manti Te’o. A firm checklist is not available at this time,” Press Pass relayed.  SAGE said essentially the same thing.  In this situation, does the price go down or does added fame—or infamy—make it rise?  Who knows.  Fake dead girlfriends have not been part of any trading card company-agent discussions prior to January 2013.

The  collecting angle will not be talked about much even in the hobby itself until this whole thing comes to some sort of inglorious conclusion but for those who make their living based on a fresh supply of popular autographs and rookie cards, it can’t be a positive development.

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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