More than sports than just autographs

By Jeffery Armstrong

I'll be the first to admit to anyone that I am a sports fan.

I love to watch and play most sports that are out there and because it's my job, I find myself watching (or at least listening to) sports that I'm not crazy about (hockey, pro basketball, pro baseball). It's safe to say that I will most likely be a fan of sports for as long as I live and breathe.

The thing I'm not is a fanatic, and I never really have been, even as a kid.

I have a subscription to ESPN the Magazine and in the latest issue, it showed a photo of several Boston kids who actually lay down on the sidewalk and stretch their hands under the fence of the Boston Red Sox player's parking lot clamoring for players to sign their baseballs. I was stunned to see such a display. Later on in the magazine, Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said one fan chased his car for two blocks in order to get an autograph from the star hurler. Pedro did stop and sign the kid's ball and ordered him not to do that again. Again, I was stunned. When I was a kid, I never thought to track down any of my favorite athletes just to get them to write their names down on a piece of paper, glove or baseball.

Where were the parents of the kid who ran after Pedro? That kid could've been hit by a car and been seriously injured. My parents would've beaten me senseless if I would've tried to do something like that. But there was no need for them to worry n I've never been that interested in getting autographs.

From what I've seen of these players' signatures, they are little more than chicken scratchings. A lot of them don't have time or don't care to write legibly and what is the fun in that? I'd like to be able to show my friends or family that signature and they automatically know who wrote it.

Plus, athletes are so popular that you're not guaranteed to get their signatures. There are so many people wanting autographs and so little time players devote to signing that you might not get your item signed.

I wasn't a fan of former Baltimore Orioles player Cal Ripken, Jr. but I did admire the fact that he would hang around after games for hours on end to sign autographs. I thought that was really cool. If I were an athlete or entertainer, that's what I would do.

Instead of getting autographs, I've been a fan of photos. I'd rather get a photo of my favorite athlete and myself together than that player's signature. I believe a photo is much better than a crap signature. A photo together makes it look like you and your athlete are connected, almost buddies in some way. Or a photo of the athlete by himself or herself is proof that you did meet that individual.

I only have one athlete's autograph in my life and that was former Houston Rockets star center Hakeem Olajuwon. He was filming a commercial and I was by myself around him and I asked him for his signature. I can't tell you where that piece of paper is at this moment; I'm sure it's long been thrown away.

I do have photos with current Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green and myself (when Green was with the Minnesota Vikings) and with former wrestler "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and myself. They are safely in my possession and will be for years to come.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.