O.K., SO IT'S Opening Day! What say we all go out to the ballpark and get nobody's autograph!
In fact, why don't we make autograph seeking punishable by one hour's worth of foul tips to the groin?
Is there anything more stupid and dehumanizing for everybody involved than asking for an autograph? What exactly is the thrill in making Ken Griffey Jr. put down his calzone, have to ignore his wife and kids, wipe the sauce off his face and hands, just so he can sign a napkin that will spend eternity in your junk drawer?
"What's wrong with a handshake?" says George Brett. "What's wrong with a 'Hey, really enjoyed watching you play!' "
Just once I'd like to see somebody go up to Mark McGwire, interrupt him in mid-sirloin and say, "Sign this 'To Bruce,' will ya, buddy?" And McGwire would write:
Do you mind? I'm trying to eat here, buddy!
If fans feel abused by athletes, athletes feel abused by autograph hunters. It's a never-ending pain. "I'd give $100,000 to go a whole day in Denver and not have anybody know who I am," John Elway says. "Just one day."
Says Allen Iverson, "I sign all the time. I sign and sign. But I don't want to sign all day long. So the first person I finally say no to, it's 'Man, you can't do this for a kid? Aw, you ain't s—-!' And I'm like, Damn!"
The basic autograph request has become more soulless and life-sucking than Tuna Helper. "The spirit of the whole thing has been lost," Drew Bledsoe says. People bring up boxes of baseballs for stars to sign and say, "It's for my collection." Really? You have six of every signature in your collection? Scumbag collectible dealers hire kids to get signatures and then sell them. Parents push their kid forward to get the autographs of people the kid has never heard of.
One time, former ABA and NBA star Dan Issel came out of practice in a hurry and signed as many autographs as he could until he finally had to stop. "Gotta go!" he said as politely as he could to the half dozen people left. Two days later he was ripped by a woman in a letter to the editor for being "exactly what's wrong with sports today." The reason Issel had to leave? His wife had gone into labor.