ROSEMONT, Ill. - Thursday afternoon, I made a semi-triumphant return to the dorkiest place I've ever been: the National Sports Collectors Convention.
As it was in 2017, the convention was held in suburban Chicago, and I was joined by my two sons, ages 12 and 10, who held varying degrees of enthusiasm for the event.
The eldest mostly wanted to know when we were going to Chipotle, while the youngest nearly had a seizure when he found out he could take no more than two 8x10 pictures of random 1980's Blue Jays, none of whom he could identify. (At least now you'll know why a picture of Kelly Gruber is in Sawyer's room).
The day started on a promising note, when a middle-aged couple, with heavy Northeast accents, handed us two VIP passes.
We were excited about this, since the passes went for over $100 at the door.
We were less excited when we found out the special privileges the pass afforded us on this day included a fireside chat with the president of a sports card company and a free Bill Cartwright autograph.
Sometimes when you win, you lose (I still haven't gotten over an errant Cartwright elbow into the grill of a beloved Jack Sikma in the early 90's).
The boys were each given a budget of $40 to spend (my wife would latter declare that we should have just set the money on fire).
Two years ago, my youngest boy was big into hockey, and came away, thanks to the kindness of dorky strangers, with hundreds of hockey cards.
Since then, something amazing has occurred, possibly the biggest positive development in my life: Sawyer decided he didn't like hockey anymore.
That meant no more 6 a.m. Sunday trips to a frigid rink in Monroe, no more expensive equipment and fees, and as a result, no more hockey cards.
I met my college roommate Matt at the show. He drove from Iowa to be there, which by my scientific calculation, makes him a bigger dork than me by more than three times.
As I walked down aisle after aisle of the main cavernous main exhibit area of the Donald Stephens Convention Center, a few things caught my eye.
Anything you want of Ricky Williams, you can pretty much have if you want to pay for it.
I saw an autographed jersey, a helmet, and yes, I saw a Heisman Trophy.
While Williams was racking up the rushing yards in the NFL, he was evidently donating heavily to the son of a Nigerian prince who promised a healthy return on his investment.
It didn't work out, and I'm pretty certain you can purchase some game-used edibles by Ricky himself. Check eBay if you can't make it to Chicago this weekend.
After turning down Larry Bird's game-used Dream Team shoes (only $2,000!) and a Mickey Mantle jersey (much, much more than $2,000), the boys turned into volume shooters, buying as many basketball packs as they could.
The results were in: Definitely worth it. Giannis, Curry, Harden...and only a few Jabari Parker's. Another successful day at Dorkfest. I even saw three women there.
And yes, we made a beeline to Chipotle after departing. Like the convention itself, it never disappoints.