I went to a Baseball Card shop over the weekend. Yes, they still exist. No, they do not make money. But being an avid baseball collector as a kid, I am always on the lookout for a quality shop that sells baseball cards. To say I was an avid collector undersells it a bit: I was a chronic baseball collector. I spent all my allowance money on baseball cards. I had, and still have, entire collections of Ryne Sandberg and Mark McGwire. I even have a collection of Ben Grieve baseball cards. Who is Ben Grieve you ask? It doesn’t matter. Just know I have more Ben Grieve cards than Ben Grieve has. To me, going into a baseball card shop, a good shop that is, means going back in time to my childhood. And that is exactly what happened this weekend, when I went into that shop and was magically transported back to 1991 and saw all the same boxes of cards, all the same Pennants on the walls, all the same Newspaper headlines, that I would have seen back then. It was magical. It was awesome. It’s like Disney World for card nuts. Chatting with the owner was pure bliss. Not everyone, including my wife, truly gets it. But he got it. And he knew that I got it. We could have gone on for days and days talking shop. I loved every second of it. And then something funny happened: I saw Manon Rheaume sitting on the corner of a shelf. Who is Manon Rheaume? Just google Manon and she is the first thing that pops up. Or check out her wiki page here: Manon Rheaume. Hopefully you checked out the link so I don’t have to explain it, otherwise the rest of this post won’t make much sense.
So there I was, chatting with the card shop guy, when I spotted an entire stack of Manon cards on the corner of a shelf. I told the guy “Wow, Manon Rheaume! You have those cards!” And he said yea. I told him those cards were awesome, and man it sure would be sweet to be able to get a few for my daughter. He grabbed a couple and slipped them in some plastic and said “Here, they’re yours.” Are they worth anything? No, not at all. But what they represent is worth so much more than the monetary value. Even as a boy I thought it was so cool that Manon was trying to make it at the NHL level. I thought how impressive that a woman was trying to make it stick with the big boys. Good on her. If anyone could do it, she could. She was a legit goalie. The fact she made it into games, albeit exhibition games, says a lot. Was it a publicity stunt for a new team in a new market that was trying to attract unconventional fans into their building? Of course it was. But it was also the fact that these guys thought she COULD do it. That is just as important.
Why were these cards so important to me? For one, again, as a sports nut, they took me back to when I was 10 years old, hanging with my dad in the sports card shop all weekend. But two, I realized just how inspirational they could be to my daughter. Women are doing all sorts of things today. No matter how you may feel about it, and there are lots of feelings, but women have been gaining access into Infantry positions in the US Army, even going to Ranger School, and a few even admitted into the Special Forces Qualification course. Women are more prominent in politics than at any other point in history. There’s even a female Thor now. My daughter is going to grow up with this as the norm. Women can do just about anything now. Yet for some reason, sports has also kept the separation of men and women pretty prominent. I personally do not find anything to argue about with that. There are women’s leagues just as there are men’s leagues. If women want to play sports, they have the ability to play most of them professionally. They just don’t earn as much, but that is an entire economic and fan attendance issue left for other people to discuss. Yet when I see those Manon Rheaume cards, I see that women can try to play professionally with the men. Just like Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, someone out there is going to be the first woman to play in professional sports. But most people don’t realize Manon Rheaume already did that, over 25 years ago. So Liv can grow up looking at those hockey cards, see Manon putting on her gear, and know that a girl, just like her, grew up to put on an NHL sweater, and suit up on the ice with 11 other guys. And it wasn’t even a big deal. Can you imagine today, with Twitter and Facebook and all those other social media apps, and everyone’s stupid opinion? Can you imagine what someone like Manon would go through trying to make an NHL team. It’s almost unfathomable. Yet Olivia will have proof that it can be done. All it takes is someone to try. So why can’t it be her? I’m not going to be the one to tell her no. I’m going to be the one telling her to go get her skates and let’s hit the ice.