In my 30+ years of autograph collecting I had one of my worst collecting experiences recently. It was not an in-person experience or through-the-mail, it came while watching Episode 4 of HBO’s Hard Knocks. Carson Palmer is the 2002 Heisman trophy winning quarterback from USC and the Cincinnati Bengals starting quarterback. HBO spent training camp with the Bengals in Georgetown, Kentucky filming a documentary of the day to day experiences as they happen leading up to the start of the NFL season. Their numerous off the field problems in recent years made Cincinnati a prime candidate for the show and not their quality of play.
During the episode a young boy is shown approaching Palmer for an autograph. The problem is that Carson’s younger brother Jordan also plays for the Bengals and looks strikingly similar. The boy is shown walking up to Jordan with a Carson Palmer jersey. You then hear an adult tell his kid as Jordan is signing: “That’s the brother, not the star. That ain’t #9.” The moment was more than awkward and I had to wonder what Jordan Palmer was thinking?
I attended Bengal training camp during the filming of the documentary. The Bengals held a half-hour autograph session and I took my twin 6-year old boys. There were no formal lines which led to a flood of mostly adult men pushing their way to the front of a chain link fence in a chaotic quest for signatures.
I look back after both events and I have a new respect for celebrities and their willingness to sign for fans. If Jordan Palmer never signed again, I can’t say that I would blame him? As fans do we have an obligation to give back to the celebrities that we admire enough to ask for a signature? What respect or "payment" do the celebrities deserve when signing? I have seen Tommy Lasorda and Bob Feller stop and reprimand people who just received signatures for not saying “thank you”.
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