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Old 08-27-2008, 04:03 PM  
DTLB58 DTLB58 is offline
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Do pro athletes have a responsibility to sign for their fans?

I wrote this shortly after returning home from River Falls in early August.

I know there aren't a lot of Herm fans here right now, but here's another way to look at things. Guess it's not always about the X's and O's.

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Do pro athletes have a responsibility to sign for their fans? By Mark Kappel



For years fans have chased after their favorite athletes, waited in long lines at organized autograph signing sessions, (I have waited as long as 5 hours under the hot sun to obtain an autograph) paid literally hundreds if not thousands of dollars just to get a signature of the athlete on a treasured piece of sports memorabilia. A lot of athletes will even sign for free and most of them do it willingly especially for kids.

But what happens when the athlete gives the fan a cold shoulder?

I recently encountered such a moment and it got me thinking, if what I was asking for was the right thing to do and what was the athlete thinking when he denied me the autograph?

I’m not here to unequivocally say what is right or wrong because to do that, I think one would have to have spent a day in both the fan and the athlete’s shoes and I have not done that. I merely will share my story and bring to light a few issues.

From the fans perspective: I would say the #1 reason for the fan to obtain an autograph is so that he or she can say and have proof that they met the athlete. In today’s Internet world we can basically buy anything with anyone’s named on it if you just take the time to search and have the money. But to actually have the item signed right in front of you so that you know it’s not a forged signature is pretty special.

Secondly, to have the prized piece of memorabilia displayed to admire and show off to others in a room that reminds us of memories of when and how it was obtained is nice.

Lastly, for the money. Let’s face it, there are a lot of people out there looking to make a buck off of someone else’s name. I met two such individuals at a recent signing session. They told me they were not fans of any specific team or players that were their that night just as autograph seekers and that one day down the road when they retire they are going to sell everything they have collected over the years and use it to help supplement their income.

This probably leads us to the #1 reason for athletes that don’t want to sign. As I mentioned earlier it seems the athlete is more willingly to sign if the seeker is a child. They probably think that the youngster is a lot more likely to hang on to the cherished item they just received rather than run out to the nearest street corner or favorite on-line auction site and sell it to the highest bidder.

Secondly, and arguably first in some eyes, invasion of privacy. Who wants to always be hounded down when you’re out in public? Maybe you are with the family trying to enjoy some quality time only to have your conversation interrupted by a fan seeking that elusive personalized autograph!

Thirdly, The athlete just doesn’t feel it’s their obligation to sign. It’s a hassle, they might be in a hurry, late for an important appointment and this clown is following me around, don’t they have anything better to do? Get a Life, they may feel like saying.

So why shouldn’t athletes sign at will for autograph seekers? Most would argue that we as fans pay their salaries.
The club owners get write-offs to depreciate their high salaries. Taxpayers help build new stadiums and arenas.
Some fans like myself that have spent thousands of dollars through the years (34 to be exact) on their team and favorite players jersey’s, player cards, game tickets, etc and shed many a tears through the ups and downs not mentioning defending their team through good and bad that we may feel the player owes us to take a few minutes out of their day to say thank you for all the support through the years.

Is that too much to ask? Apparently, as you will read next, for one player that was too much to ask for.

On a Saturday morning in early August, my oldest son, Nick, and I, made the 3 ½ hour, 187 mile trip up to River Falls, Wisconsin location of the summer home of the Kansas City Chiefs training camp.

Before leaving for training camp I heard a press statement from Chiefs Tight End, Tony Gonzalez earlier in the week. He had stated he was 95% sure he was playing next season but not sure of his playing future after that. With Tony being one of, if not the biggest star players for the Chiefs and a sure thing for the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. I thought this is the time to get his autograph like I had done so many other players at training camp in past years. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to obtain his signature. The rumor I had heard from others in past years at training camp, that, aside from the team scheduled organized 20 minute signing sessions (Family fun night) Tony was most inclined to sign if you were female, blonde and shall we say…. well endowed on their top half. (More on this later).
But I searched on-line anyhow found the jersey I wanted him to autograph, had it shipped overnight (Cha Ching!) to ensure its arrival on time. The next day the jersey arrived and so we were ready to go.

Upon arrival in River Falls we met up with some friends (Bill and son, Andy) that had already been up in the North woods as some call it for 2 days. We had some lunch, spent a little time chatting.

After lunch, Bill mentioned that we could tour the Chiefs training facilities. Through the years visiting training camp, Bill had made some friends and this particular one had access to some areas at the college. So we headed over to the sports complex and sure enough before we know it we were inside that white building at the end of the playing field which for so many years before had seemed so off limits with it’s tight security and signs surrounding the exterior reading “Chiefs personnel only beyond this point! We were shown the weight room and then the player’s locker room. Our tour guide allowed us to take a picture sitting in front of Tony Gonzalez’s locker holding his helmet! Wow! That was something special.

After our tour, Bill drove down to where the player’s dorms are where they stay while in town. Shortly after we drove up players and coaches started coming out to get into their cars.

We first saw and approached, Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe and Quarterback, Brodie Croyle. I asked Brodie if he would autograph the Chiefs hat I was wearing and he politely obliged. Bill and his son, Andy got pictures with Dwayne.

Next out came Herm Edwards, Head Coach of the Chiefs. Bill asked if we could take pictures with him and Herm also politely did so. First with my son, Nick, and me, then with Bill and Andy. (I have this picture in an 8 X 10 frame on my wall next to where I am writing this). The picture will remain special to me for a long time not only for who is in the picture but because of the memory I have of how Herm greeted us that day. The professional way he handled himself when some strange fans walked up to him. Starting with a warm smile, a firm handshake, a few laughs, and even took the time after the picture to answer a few team related questions.

A few minutes later out came who I had been waiting for! Tony Gonzalez. As I started my fast paced walk towards Mr. Gonzalez, I heard Andy behind me saying there ya go Mark, you’re going to get it. As I got closer to him I saw Bill and Nick who were ahead of me slowing and turning around. Tony had said to them “You guys aren’t supposed to be over here” (the dorms). I continued anyways, and asked him if he would sign my jersey? (I was wearing the bright red new # 88) he said NO! I’ll catch ya tonight at Family fun night. With that, Tony got in his vehicle and drove off.

All the years of supporting, cheering, and watching as he broke all the records and scored all those touchdowns seemed distant and unimportant. I wished at that moment, our paths had not crossed that day so the image I had of him had not been tarnished.

I tried to think what it was that we did to him to respond that way? He said we weren’t supposed to be over there, but there were no signs saying so, no security personnel or roped off areas to keep fans away. The head coach of the team had just met us in that same parking lot and said nothing of the sort. I wondered if I was a 7 year old kid would that have made him react differently and if so, was I doing something childish as an adult then?

Family Fun night came and passed without me getting the Jersey signed. There were 1,700 fans there, hoping that the 20 minutes allowed by Chiefs officials was enough time to get the signature they wanted. As I watched the crowd around Tony, many being little kids it didn’t seem as important to get the signature as before.

After the festivities at the stadium we all headed back to the popular restaurant in town where we had met for lunch earlier that day. As I was sitting at our table a woman at the bar turned to me and started saying something I couldn’t hear her over the music so I walked over to where she was sitting and she said, “Tony Gonzalez signed his size 12 football cleats and gave them to me” I told her we had met him over at the dorms earlier in the day and he wouldn’t sign for me. She said “Yea, I heard” She then exclaimed “I must be special” I just smiled, nodded and walked back over to our table to finish my meal, when I looked back over to the lady I just spoken with I realized two things about her, she was a) blonde and b) no wait, make that D as in probably a 40D bra size!

I went up there that day hoping to meet a player I idolized,and to thank him for all he had given as a Chief through the years. Instead, I returned with renewed respect and admiration for a man I thought I didn’t like very much but now know different. Thanks Coach!
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:06 PM   #2
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I never figured out the allure of having someone's autograph. Even more, why would you pay for it?

So I guess, no, they don't have a responsibility.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:06 PM   #3
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**** no.

Fans are pathetic.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:16 PM   #4
Buehler445 Buehler445 is offline
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Meh, I don't know. I've never been even close to either party in your story, so its tough for me to say.

But, just based on the sheer volume of people that love Gonzo, he's gonna have to turn down an autograph or two.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:22 PM   #5
Chiefnj2 Chiefnj2 is offline
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Tony's always had that reputation.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:25 PM   #6
Tribal Warfare Tribal Warfare is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kstater View Post
I never figured out the allure of having someone's autograph. Even more, why would you pay for it?

So I guess, no, they don't have a responsibility.
Personally, I only have or attain my childhood heroes autographs, with current players that are playing now while I'm an adult I concur.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:26 PM   #7
Mr. Laz Mr. Laz is offline
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to a certain extent ... yes
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:33 PM   #8
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Eh, I'm sure it gets annoying, but the fans do pay your salary. Then again I'm sure it's frustrating to see people selling shit you've signed on eBay. I wouldn't have a problem with a "kids only" policy, sorry but if you're an adult and trying to get an autograph you're either going to sell it or you're a tool.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:37 PM   #9
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Yes, they have a responsibility to attend and sign at team scheduled events like family fun night or other such events and appearances throughout the season as is likely spelled out in a player's contract. Other than that, nope. Everyone thinks why not this one little time, or it's for my kid, but multiply that by every place an athlete goes and is constantly hounded.

It surely isn't personal when they decline, they just set up some basic rules for themselves individually and try to stick to it. My family encountered #88 during the ProBowl festivities at a local restaurant and dance club, and he was a treat to be around. Maybe the end of season party atmosphere is different than when in camp working hard.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:39 PM   #10
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Even if someone sells it, what's the big deal. Wow, they can sell it and make $50 bucks. To an athlete making 10 million a year what's the harm in letting some ordinary joe supplement his income by a few hundred dollars a year?
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:40 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by underEJ View Post
Yes, they have a responsibility to attend and sign at team scheduled events like family fun night or other such events and appearances throughout the season as is likely spelled out in a player's contract. Other than that, nope. Everyone thinks why not this one little time, or it's for my kid, but multiply that by every place an athlete goes and is constantly hounded.
QFT

Think about this, would you like to leave your home and have some random guy come up to you and ask you to sign something? How about everywhere you go, the same thing happens.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:43 PM   #12
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I've seen guys go to sporting events just to get autographs. I've seen the same guy at different sporting events in this area stay after the game just to get his plastic bags filled with shit signed. I'm assuming he just sells them on ebay.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:47 PM   #13
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Eh, I'm sure it gets annoying, but the fans do pay your salary. Then again I'm sure it's frustrating to see people selling shit you've signed on eBay. I wouldn't have a problem with a "kids only" policy, sorry but if you're an adult and trying to get an autograph you're either going to sell it or you're a tool.
I wouldn't even do that unless it is personalized to that person... DJ came to my job once for a charity event and to sign stuff.. One of those sports memorabilia shops paid kids to get stuff signed for them in addition to what the guy was getting signed..

I would only sign stuff that something along the lines.."thanks for being a fan, John Doe.. Tony g..."
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:47 PM   #14
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Even if someone sells it, what's the big deal. Wow, they can sell it and make $50 bucks. To an athlete making 10 million a year what's the harm in letting some ordinary joe supplement his income by a few hundred dollars a year?
There's no "harm", but that's not what the spirit of asking for an autograph is all about. It would annoy the hell out of me to have people constantly interrupting my life just so they can make a few bucks off of my name.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chiefnj2 View Post
Even if someone sells it, what's the big deal. Wow, they can sell it and make $50 bucks. To an athlete making 10 million a year what's the harm in letting some ordinary joe supplement his income by a few hundred dollars a year?
Probably because those that are doing it are making a couple thousand to tens of thousand a year..
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