In many of the moments in the Let’s Remember Some Guys videos in which I appear to be successfully remembering various guys, I am in fact remembering the basketball cards that I once had on which they appeared. There are some instances in which this is not the case, but many of these people played their last professional game decades or more in the past, my mind long ago began the process of turning into some sort of chunky soup and is at this point just about ready to be served, and in many cases a trading card of a particular player was the only way that I knew such a player even existed. To me, many of these Guys were, and to a certain extent still are, cards.
Fantasy sports were the province of older weirdos, there was one NBA game on every week and it was always the Bulls against the Pacers, and even as a young person I understood that I would need to be judicious when it came to asking my dad to take me to a New Jersey Nets game. I was young enough that I didn’t understand my father at all—honestly I am still working on it—but old enough to understand that there was a limit to how many times he would be willing to drive into the sourdough-smelling swamplands of North Jersey and pay money to watch Reggie Theus score 17 points in a losing effort. I had no such ceiling, but I was not going to waste one of the games I got on The Thurl Bailey Live Experience.
And yet, when Luis pulled Thurl—all begoggled and gangly, a Guy in full—from this pack of 1991 Fleer NBA cards, I recognized him. I saw him play a few times, if never to my recollection in person, but I absolutely had this card, and had experienced the feeling of seeing it surface in one of these packs. It was not the most meaningful card to me—of the ones discussed in this week’s Let’s Remember Some Guys installment, only a Danny Manning card ever elicited anything like an emotion. But there are degrees of meaning at work, here, or different stops along a continuum. Really considering Thurl Bailey, looking the totality of his career in the goggle-domed eyes and assessing what I see, is not something I ever really did. Watching him play, when he was at his respectable peak, is not something I really remember doing, either. But he’s a Guy. I saw him and I recognized him—not as a friend, exactly, but as something like a friendly face.