Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Generic Fun with Football

The 1980 Topps set represents the first year of my fantasy football league. And that's why I bought it. That, and the fact it was cheap. It is a Topps-without-a-license set but that doesn't bug me as much as it does with baseball sets. Probably because I'm used to seeing football cards with portrait shots taken on the sidelines. Would it be better with a team logo in the design? Absolutely. But sets can work just fine without them.

The set kicks off with a 'Record Breakers' subset as shown in the Harold Carmichael card up top. Unlike the '86 and '87 sets I've posted recently, this one is not grouped by team. It's done in the usual random player checklist pattern.

I'd like to think I'm the only person alive who can say he had Matt Robinson (who?) on his fantasy team. On a side note... this is supposed to be out 41st season. I think the odds of it coming off as less than 50/50 right now.

My QB that year ended up being my pal Tommy Kramer.

The card design is pretty simple as you can see. That football with the name inserted reminds me of this:

All Pro players with the appropriate banner.

At first glance, I thought Allan Ellis' pic was taken at Memorial Stadium but looking closer (and factoring in his uniform color) I'm thinking that it's Soldier Field.

The backs had stats, vitals, and a random fact related to the featured players' team.

Some helmet airbrushing made the player look like The Great Gazoo.

The Cleveland 'No Logo' Browns didn't have to concern themselves with airbrush nonsense.

Photos from some angles make the lack of logos irrelevant.

The highest cost card of the set is Phil Simms' rookie card.

Sweetness's card is cool no matter what.

Sideline capes, the football version od bat rack shots.

There were some helmetless shots which showed off that's 80s hair look.

BTW...Doug Kotar...or Waylon Jennings? You make the call.

There were a few scattered game action shots. Like this one of Mike Phipps.

And that card brings up one of the mysteries of this set. Check out DE Fred Dryer in that photo. The Rams' helmets were not tinkered with. Their iconic horn graphics were allowed on the cards. Like so:

I tried to find out why that was done but came up dry. Perhaps the 'horn' graphic was OK because it wasn't considered the team's official logo. The team used a ram's head for that. But that doesn't explain why the Vikings helmets' were airbrushed. The Viking horn on the helmet wasn't their official logo either, the Viking profile was. Who knows?

The Chargers had their 'bolts' obscured. It doesn't look as bad on the white unis as it does on the blue.

Scattered through the set were team cards that featured stat leaders. The Giants have always been my 'second team' and even I don't really remember Billy Taylor. He led the team in rushing yards in 1979 while starting nine games. The '79 Giants were terrible.

there was also a League Leaders subset. Joe Washington was fun to watch.

And the playoff subset covered the conference finals and the Super Bowl.

Dan Pastorini as a Raider, My drinking buddy Kenny Stabler as an Oiler. We're living in the Upside Down, people.

At first, I wondered if the black armband was an airbrush attempt to obscure the Cardinal unique sleeve stripe pattern. then I remembered.

The black armband covering their multiple sleeve stripes were worn during the 1979 season following the training camp death of TE J.V. Cain on his 28th birthday. Cain had been the 8th overall pick in the 1974 draft.

Joe Lavender was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

I showed this Paul Coffman card to my wife and she burst out laughing. She said 'You were playing pro football and I didn't even know it!".

Yes, he's my long lost twin. At least he's doing what I'd be doing on a pro football sideline, sitting it out.

I've decided that since I have the set from the first year of our fantasy league that a fun little project would be to nab a set from each of the five years I won the league. I'm working on that right now.

I also found the 30 card Super Football set. Topps loved 5x7 cards back then. They were pretty nice, truth be told.

Good stuff. And 30 cards for just a few dollars made it easy for me to pick it up and include it in the binder.

I won't burden everyone with the sets I pick up for my championship years, or maybe I will!


  1. Nice catch on the Rams logo, I had that set for 40 years and did not notice why they did not have airbrushed helmets.

  2. Love the no-logo NFL cards era, although I'm more of a '70s NFL cards guy.

    I don't think I knew what a fantasy team was until the mid-to-late '80s.

  3. I was about to say that my 1975 Topps football set has the Rams horns airbrushed out when it hit me... those helmets *are* airbrushed, but they changed the curly horns into something like McDonald's arches. Take another look, the 'horn' goes straight down at the back of the helmet rather than curling around the ear hole. Maybe the Topps lawyers determined that this wasn't any more egregious of a license violation than keeping the helmet stripes on other teams' helmets.

    I have very few 1980 Football cards, but I somehow have a well-loved (by someone other than me) copy of the Phil Simms rookie... It might've been in a collection I bought at one point, I don't really remember.

  4. I have a few of this era football cards that I got in blind trades...I think the lack of logos is less disturbing here because their jerseys even today don't feature the logos prominently. The photos appear more genuine as a result, although the helmets do stand out if you know what to look for...which I didn't until you discussed it.

    I think you should do posts on your wins!

  5. I'm amazed that you've been playing fantasy football for forty years, I didn't think the game was invented until about that time. I've never been interested in vintage football cards like I am with baseball, and the lack of logos plays some role in that. There are some nice ones in this set though!

  6. No only are you probably the only guy to draft Matt Robinson to your fantasy football team... you might just be the only person to ever compare Steve Largent to The Great Gazoo ;D

  7. At first glance, I thought Carl Eller was Ron Simmons. While typing this I went back to look again, and yes the resemblance is there.

    Curious, no logos or license, but they can use the teams nickname? Maybe things were different back then...

  8. Airbrushing because of trades is bad enough.

    When its done because of licensing issues, that's just nonsense. If you don't have a license, then don't print and sell cards. You're just ripping off the public with sub-standard crap.

  9. Airbrushing because of trades is bad enough.

    When its done because of licensing issues, that's just nonsense. If you don't have a license, then don't print and sell cards. You're just ripping off the public with sub-standard crap.