Inside the Pack: The Five Stages of Not Attending the National

This past week was the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. The National is the center of the baseball card world and it’s always an incredible experience. This year, however, I had plans to go with my wife to Austin, Texas, because she had a conference there. Austin is a great city so I was really excited to go, but as the time approached, the thought of missing out on the card show started to sink in. It was then that I started to go through the Five Stages of Not Attending the National.


It feels like the 2018 National was just a few months ago, so there’s no way it could be coming up this soon again, I thought. I can just go to Austin, have a great time, and then it’ll be time for the National after that. 

Plus, the more I thought about it, Austin is a much cooler place than Chicago. Live music is everywhere in Austin and it’s not like Chicago is well-known for music. Austin has barbecue and tacos — what food is Chicago famous for? Austin has the Texas Longhorns and Chicago isn’t even a good sports city! Right?



I’m starting to see ads for the National now, and I’m getting upset. Gary Vaynerchuk is going to be there basically the entire time. It’s not fair! Darren Rovell is writing about the National. Why can’t I be there? I’m seeing photos of the giveaways — will anyone get them for me?

Now I start to think about blame. Should I talk to the organizers of my wife’s conference to make sure this conflict never happens again? Maybe a sternly-worded email would get across the importance of attending the National.


There’s a way. There has to be a way.

My wife’s going to be in workshops all day Thursday and Friday. Maybe I can fly with her to Austin, then fly from Austin to Chicago, just for a couple days. It’s the same time zone and everything.

…Flights are a little pricey last-minute, so maybe I can drive. It can’t be that far, right?

…Okay, 17 hours is a little too much. Please, let there be a high-speed rail system between Texas and Illinois that I’ve never heard of!


My wife asks why I’m so withdrawn. I mope around the house.

“It’s time to pack for our trip to Austin,” she says.

“Why even bother?” I reply. “As soon as we pack we’ll just have to unpack when we’re there and then repack to come back home and then unpack again once we’re home so what’s the point?”

I definitely wasn’t making any sense.


It was a long road, but I got here, and I’m glad I did.

On the first day of the National, I did research on baseball card shops in the Austin area. I took a Lyft to Kenny’s Collectibles, about 12 minutes away from my hotel. Kenny’s is a giant store with tons of baseball cards, comics, Hot Wheels, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I spent several hours digging through boxes at Kenny’s. Then when I was done, I spent about an hour talking about cards to Kenny himself. Thoughts of missing the National started slipping away from my mind — after all, here I was digging through boxes of cards and meeting new people just like I would have if I were in Chicago.

On the second day of the National, I went to a really neat antique mall where there just happened to be some unique vintage baseball items. I walked away with two vintage ticket stubs, but left behind old catcher masks and a minor league souvenir from the 1960s. Then I went to an awesome collectible store with piles and piles of old stuff, and left with a few old programs and a 1993 Topps Micro complete set. Digging through stuff is my favorite part of the National, so I was happy to get to do some digging on my trip.

On the third day of the National, however, I made plans for next year’s National in Atlantic City. I firmed up who I’ll be sharing a table with and started looking into flights and lodging. I may be in the acceptance stage now, but I don’t plan on going through the other phases again next year.

Leave a Reply