A New Use for That Webcam

I felt a little older than I should have today after reading about new "Topps 3D Live" football trading cards. Participants in Topps' virtual sports community acquire coded cards featuring one of 25 current NFL quarterbacks - hmm, no Brett Favre - that are tucked inside every pack of the company's 2009 football series. Then they select that player on the ToppsTown web site, hold the card under a webcam, and - voila! - Jay Cutler will "pop up" on the computer screen. With the help of a few keystrokes, Cutler can fire passes to virtual receivers while dodging defensive obstacles.

Whoa! Whatever happened to collecting trading cards just for the sake of, well, collecting trading cards and making new friends? This latest technology - apparently modeled after Topps 3D Live baseball cards, which passed me by completely - seems more like an attempt to meld "Madden NFL 10" and fantasy football into some sort of virtual gridiron experience that will give kids even more reason to ignore the info printed on card backs. Participants can even trade cards virtually.

I'm sure many children and adults will rejoice at this development. But not me. I spent many a grade-school recess during some of my formative years in east-central Iowa trading football cards with other kids - some of whom I didn't even like, but who had a card I needed - and building my social network the old-fashioned way.

Earlier this week, a colleague and I admitted to each other that we each still own at least one Larry McCarren football card. (The subject came up because the former All-Pro center is now a broadcaster for his old team on the Packers Radio Network.) Neither one of us knows exactly where those cards are now, but I think I'll go looking for mine in some boxes in the garage this weekend. And when I find it, I'm going to hold it in front of my webcam - where it will do exactly what it's supposed to do: nothing.

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