The other day I was watching a little TV in between study sessions, (Yeah, right. I was actually watching a little TV in between watching a little TV, but I digress) when I stopped on an interview with Tiger Woods.
Woods was talking about his tendency not to sign autographs for most kids that approach him at tournaments or other places.
“I did it for a while,” Woods said. “But eventually I stopped. Most of the time they are working for sports collectors, and those guys just sell the autographs on the Internet.”
My immediate thought was, so what? What difference does it make to a guy that makes $200 million a year if some schmo makes a few bucks off his autograph? What if at least one of those kids approached Tiger thinking, “Tiger Woods is my hero. It would make my day – no make that my life – if he would sign this measly little autograph for me.”
It doesn’t make a difference to Woods. He doesn’t want some guy making thirty bucks off his signature, so he’ll crush a kid’s soul and send him to therapy if he has to, just to make sure it doesn’t happen.
It reminded me of a time when, as a fresh-faced youngster, I attended a Denver Broncos charity softball game. My brother and I brought a notebook so we could get autographs from all the Broncos players, past and present, playing in the game. Most of them obliged cheerfully. Steve Foley, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Sewell and a bunch of other over-the-hill football players signed this notebook for us without a problem. But the main guy we wanted to get an autograph from, the one guy we saved our prized Denver Broncos pennant for, wouldn’t sign. He was on his way out of there, he explained, and had decided not to sign anymore. “Couldn’t you do just one more? We think you are the greatest defensive player the Broncos have ever had,” we begged him. He shrugged and couldn’t have cared less. We might as well have been speaking Yiddish. “Can’t do it,” he said, and with that, he jumped into his Lexus and sped away.
Now, I’m not going to mention his name and tarnish his good name (Steve Atwater), but I will say that it had a devastating effect on me.
Yes, I understand these guys are real people, and it’s not easy to accommodate every fan who wants a piece of them. But I also know that you can make a kid’s world by doing something as simple as signing an autograph for them, and you can ruin it by something as simple as refusing. Sure, I suppose you’re rolling the dice that these kids aren’t working for collectors, but even if they are, how much does that really hurt these guys? Not enough to smash a young man’s soul and strip him of his innocence. (OK, that might be a little dramatic, but you get my point.)
So that is why, here and now, I am making a pledge to all of you. If, or I should say when, I’m famous, I pledge never to pull a Tiger on my loyal fans. What will I be famous for, you ask? Well, I’m not exactly sure yet, but that doesn’t really matter right now. The point is, I will sign autographs for all of your kids and pose for pictures, if they wish, whether or not they are working for collectors. I pledge to make myself available to any mothers who want me to kiss their babies and all the other things that stars are asked to do.
Well, for a while anyway. After that, my loyal fans should get used to hearing this phrase from me:
“No autographs, please.”