Sign of the times
These guys aren't called autograph hounds for nothing
Posted: Thursday January 27, 2000 12:40 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA -- Steve McNair and his touchy turf toe look just fine. In fact, if Steve McNair looks like he did Wednesday night in the team hotel, he might just run up 200 yards on those St. Louis Rams in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Especially if the Rams come at him with uncapped Sharpies and a duffel bag full of sports memorabilia.
It's late Wednesday night at the Tennessee Titans' predictably swank team hotel in the predictably swank Buckhead section of Atlanta. The first real workday of the week is over for the Titans, and some of them are heading out on the town for some late dinner and socializing.
But first, all of them -- whether they're starters or backup special teamers -- have to deal with the hounds of the autographs as soon as they step into public.
It's a strange, strange thing, autograph hunting. Hard to understand, really. A signature from an athlete these days is about as personal as a politician's handshake. I mean, it's a scribble on a card, for goodness sakes. A black mark on a ball.
If it were a letter, or a nice haiku, maybe. A limerick, for crying out loud.
There once was a QB from Nashville
Who'd be glad to give you an ear-full
If the reason you're askin'
Is simply to cash in
Well, why should he sign all that bull?
Most of the time, though, an autograph from an athlete is an illegible scratch from a guy who wants nothing more than to get away from you. And, the fact is, you hardly can blame him.
Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt, a dozen or more autograph seekers trolled the lobby looking for fresh Titans meat. There was the dude on the cell phone, who hired a dad and his two cutesy kids and flew them in from the West Coast so they could act all innocent while they were shoving mint-condition cards under players' noses. There's big money in it. That's the story I heard.
There were the two guys, duffel bags stuffed with still-in-the-box footballs, posters, magazines, cards and the like, stalking the lobby bar. Some guys from L.A., the word was, came to Atlanta with their vans brimming with the virgin memorabilia.
There was the grocery store employee whom I chatted with, there with his aunt, who collects autographs, he says, for the fun of it. And when he thinks an athlete might not want to sign for him, he dispatches his frail-looking Auntie to score the booty.
She walked gingerly over to Titans cornerback Samari Rolle at a table and offered up a card. He signed. She went back and waited for more.
Sure, there was the young kid with a football looking for autographs. You could tell he was in it just for the fun of it because he actually was playing with the ball. And there were some Titans fans, it seemed, down from Nashville, just wanting a special memento of their trip.
But, for the most part, it was a sad, sobering scene, driven by greed and desperation.
The players sign, of course. Jevon Kearse is stopped at the elevators. He signs a few things. A half dozen or so entrepreneurs surround Anthony Dorsett, a backup until last week. He signs. Some guy wants his picture taken with Dorsett, and it seems like such an innocent thing.
The guy needs the photo to show that the signature he just got is authentic. Worth more that way.
Rolle signs, Marcus Robertson does. Running back Eddie George shows up at the bar and is immediately swamped. He waves a pen at a few things, then disappears again.
And then McNair pops into the lobby, suddenly, by the front desk. And when he turns away from the counter, the people come, Sharpies at the ready.
"Can't do it. Got to run," he says, bolting for the safety of a part of the floor patrolled by security.
Hmmm. Good read. Quick decision. Got rid of it quickly.
It may be the best move Steve McNair makes all week.
John Donovan is senior writer for CNNSI.com.
Comments? To e-mail Donovan, click here.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.