Saturday, December 12, 2009

1981 Fleer NFL Team Action Card Set

Now that we've finished up the review of the sticker variations, its time to take a look at the 1981 Fleer Football card set.

As in years past, the set has 1 offensive and 1 defensive card per team as well as a Super Bowl subset with a card for each game that had been played up to that point. A new addition to the set which increased the set size from 70 cards in 1980 to 88 cards in 1981 was an additional subset featuring a look at different aspects of the game, such as training camp and the pregame huddle.

Here is a look at the entire 88 card set:

I've said it before on previous posts regarding the Team Action sets, but these cards really outshine the cards that Topps was issuing at the time. For example, take a look at the the card with the group of Bengals tackling the runner or the Broncos playing in the snow:

Since Topps couldn't use team logos until 1982 that meant most pictures were of players without their helmets on. In addition, since the Topps cards were of a specific player, the pictures that were action shots were so tightly cropped that you usually only saw the player himself and perhaps one or two other players.

Because Fleer had the opposite situation where they could use team logos but couldn't specifically mention players names (as they did not have a license with the Players Association) they instead focused on much wider shots that captured the action of the game (hence the name of the set being called Team Action).

One other thing I like about these cards is that in many cases its very clear where the game is being played as you get a very good shot of the stadium in the background. For example, check out the Jets card showing a game played at Shea Stadium (with the Mets baseball fence featuring NL pennants) and the Cardinals game at the old Busch Stadium (with the scoreboard with the Anheuser Busch logo):

I always enjoyed the Super Bowl subsets that were included in the Team Action sets. I can easily remember the teams that played in the first 20 or so Super Bowls in large part because of collecting these cards each year.

Here are the subset cards showing some different aspects of the game. I love the card in the middle below showing a great shot of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore where I saw my first NFL game. Seeing a card like this that so clearly captures the stadium takes me back to that first game which ironically was against the Browns who are now Baltimore's Ravens!

And finally, here is a look at the card backs:

This set is a great time capsule of what the NFL was like in the early 1980's. As I've been scanning the set, it really is apparent how much the game has changed in almost 30 years in terms of where the teams play.

5 of the teams have relocated (Colts, Browns, Oilers, Rams, Cardinals), and very few of the teams still play in the stadiums pictured as most have moved into new stadiums since this set was produced.

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