The travelling circus that is NASCAR has just rolled into the Windy City.
Those who have been following this blog for a while might know that while the Cubs are my number one sports love, I also have a passionate crush on motorsports. For nearly two decades, my family and I have made annual pilgrimages to Indianapolis in order to take in the festivities surrounding the Indy 500. Additionally, in the early aughts, I was even more fanatical about NASCAR Winston Cup racing than I was about Chicago baseball. The era of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Jr. and crew had me hook, line and sinker - seriously, I would not leave my house for anything on Sunday, unless maaaaaaybe if it was on fire. While my passion has waned over the years as the cars changed and the stars retired, I still keep a passive interest in the goings on of stock car racing. In short, I love our nation's pastime; but, I also have room in my heart for fast cars.
While at a family dinner, the topic of Funko POP! Figures came up because my little sister collects them with the intensity that I do baseball cards. It was mentioned that Funko's never-ending line of mini, vinyl figures was soon expanding to include some of the most popular names in NASCAR's history. Now, I do not collect these little statuettes myself, but when little sister mentioned that Richard Petty - my all-time favorite racer in any discipline - would be one of the pilots included, my ears perked up. The conversation was quickly steered in another direction, but my wife must have noticed my eyes briefly light up, as this showed up in my mailbox the other day:
Have I ever mentioned that I am married to the best person on the planet? She noticed a quickly passing fancy and pounced - apparently, as soon as there was a break in the conversation, unbeknownst to me she whipped out her IPhone and pre-ordered Petty for me. Therefore, if I haven't mentioned it before, well, I totally am!
For those who may not be aware, Richard Petty is the undisputed King of NASCAR. He has set dozens of records that will never be broken, including his dizzying 200 career wins in the (insert sponsor name here) Cup series. Although he retired when I was just three years old after the 1992 season, he was my first favorite professional athlete, largely thanks to the fact that my first "Hot Wheels" car was 1:64 scale model of his '92 Pontiac Grand Prix. In fact, while it's certainly seen it's share of wear and tear, I still have that beat up hunk of plastic today:
For a while there, I was so enamored with Petty, that I automatically considered every racecar a "Richard Petty," much like one would generically use Kleenex in reference to any disposable tissue. I quickly began to expand my "Petty" collection, including a fair amount of actual Richard racers. Before long, my collection of NASCAR die-casts took up an entire corner of my childhood bedroom. Among these treasures was what I consider to be the second-coolest hot rod (here's the machine which holds the title) to ever take to the banks of any race track, a 1:24 scale model of the King's 1970 Plymouth Superbird:
Over the years, I've handed down, donated, or sold off most of my die-cast collection, but these two cars have stood the test of time. As I said, I kneel at the altar of King Richard. While he was arguably the greatest driver in stock car history, has served as a moderately successful team owner, and has stuck around as a recognizable ambassador for the sport, his most influential role in my eyes was serving as my introduction to the high-octane world of auto racing.
My wonderful wife knew all of this, knew that I secretly wanted a Petty Pop and she didn't wait for me to realize it. All told, she's simply the best.
Neither one of us actually collects these things though, so she turned to a third-party vendor to reserve a copy of the then-unreleased Petty figurine. Fumble Pop might be a familiar name to those of you out there in the blogosphere who dabble in this sphere of collecting; but, to me, they're just a nifty sticker:
Fumble Pop also had pre-sales available for the rest of the drivers in the line, which include Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Bill and Chase Elliott. However, Petty was the only one of interest. Maybe if I were to dive headfirst into the world of Pops, I would be more intrigued; that said, I'm not looking to complete the checklist at this point.
Anyway, I'm not one of those types who looks at toys as investments - Sheldon Cooper and I do not see eye-to-eye with the concept of "mint in box." With that, I did what might make the skin of any Funko Funatic immediately begin to crawl, I opened the figure and tossed out the box. Sorry, ya'll:
Just as his competition learned, you can't keep the King contained!
I'd say that Funko did a remarkable job of recreating Petty's likeness without sacrificing the unifying look of their Pop figures. They made sure to include his trademark cowboy hat, ubiquitous shades, and his dapper mustache - it's as though they shrunk Richard Petty himself down to size. For reference, here's a photograph that I captured of Mr. Petty during a radio broadcast in Indianapolis in 2008:
This surprise gift made me want to marry my better half all over again - she truly knows me better than I know myself. Although, as much as I love this little guy, I think it's safe to say that I won't be diving headfirst into the never-ending pool of Pops. First of all, there's simply too much out there for me to truly be able to focus - I mean, name any intellectual property and there is probably already a line of Pops dedicated towards it. Secondly, Pop figures themselves don't really move the needle for me on their own - I don't really desire to have a whole shelf full of these sorta creepy, black-eyed dolls. Thirdly, my collecting focus remains steadfastly on my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection and lord knows that I don't any more side-collections diverting funds from my ultimate goal of obtaining one card of everyone to don a Cubs uniform.
Of course, all of that being acknowledged, I wouldn't say no to the "Bryzzo" figures that I discovered in the process of drafting this post. King Richard could use a buddy or two, I suppose...
Do you collect Pop figures? Are you a certified Funko Funatic? If so, please tell me about your collection and how you pursue your Pops. Meanwhile, are these figures a fad in the mold of Beanie Babies? Or, do they have the potential to be a collectible item for years to come, much like our beloved baseball cards? Please feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comment section below.
In the meantime, after writing this up, I suddenly feel the need to wrap my wife up in another bear hug. Richard Petty might be the King, but my wife will always be my queen!