Cardinal sin

There are some things most credible journalists just know:

...and Bert Blyleven, and Jim Kaat...

1. It’s called deadline for a reason.

2. More than, not over.

3. The press pass around your neck means you’re here working, not to be a fan.

Apparently, some credentialed media members at Sunday’s Bengals/Broncos preseason game forgot that last one.

A photographer and a Cincinnati reporter allegedly asked for the autograph of Denver’s third-string quarterback — Tim Tebow. After Tebow obliged to the request, a member of Denver’s PR staff booted the reporter and photographer. You know it’s bad when even a PR guy is taking the high road.

Now, I know Tim Tebow is a great guy who is especially beloved by the media. I’m really happy that he’s making a name for himself for good things, and not for arrests, drugs and paternity suits. Writers and photogs can be fans of the guy. Buy his jersey. Lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl with him on Madden. But when you’re on the clock, that stops. There has to be a separation of your personal life and your professional life, and to openly ask for an autograph while you’re working is pathetic. It automatically cuts your credibility down to zilch and is on par with celebrating in the press box.

Writes MJD of Yahoo!’s Shutdown Corner:

If the sports media wants to prove themselves above the fray that Le Batard describes (ed note: Le Batard is equal parts jock sniffer and columnist), the final step in this process (and kudos to Marvez for reporting it in the first place) is to name the two media members who asked for the autographs in the first place. Not to undermine or humiliate the people involved (you’d hope they each feel bad enough at this point), but to make it very clear that the standards apply to everyone. In every circumstance. And that anyone disgracing the profession under any circumstances will have to answer for it in the same public forum they use to get their words across. We know good and well that if someone from the blog universe had asked Tebow for an autograph in the locker room, his or her name would be all over the Internet right now, and his or her mistake would be used as the newest in seemingly infinite referendums on professionalism in sports media.

Which leads me to my next point… if you’re a grown man, don’t you feel a little sad and awkward asking for an autograph?

Something changed when I started looking at the Oakland A’s roster a while ago, and seeing birth years like 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987… these guys are suddenly my age! I wasn’t really looking up to grown men. And looking at Brett Anderson’s Twitter feed, most of the A’s aren’t much different from well, any other 20-ish year old guy. It felt weird to really idolize these guys. I’d imagine it feels even weirder for adults, who are years older than the players, right?

Wrong.

I don’t totally understand the appeal of grown men asking some 25-year-old manchild who makes roughly their yearly salary in a month to write his name down. What, to say you met a player? Just say you did. And getting an autograph at a ballgame seems odd, if you’re an adult. What are you trying to say, if the signature isn’t going straight to eBay, “Hey, I saw Derek Jeter earlier today!”? Yeah, so did I, on ESPN. Don’t see me bragging about it.

Writes Rick Reilly:

“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:

To Bruce,
Do you mind? I’m trying to eat here, buddy!
—Mark McGwire

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.”

The worship is kind of sickening. I can understand maybe if your childhood hero is now coaching your favorite team or is doing a charity appearance at the local bar, that’s OK, because there’s some kind of reason and you’d have a story. But otherwise, I don’t really understand the appeal of an autograph for adults. It doesn’t say anything other than the fact that you had some kind of limited interaction with someone who wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a police lineup.

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2 thoughts on “Cardinal sin

  1. I used to have a pretty extensive A’s autograph collection. I had been given a nicely bound journal for Christmas one year. Since I’m not one for keeping a diary, I decided to turn it into an autograph journal instead. Over several years, I was able to get autographs for everyone from Barry Zito to Milton Bradley. I even got Graham Koonce’s signature at FanFest in 2004.

    Obviously, those guys didn’t play for the A’s that long ago. At the height of my autograph seeking, I was, in fact, slightly older than you are now. At the time, I didn’t even think about how it looked. I just thought it was a fun way to spend the hours leading up to a game.

    Karma (if you want to call it that) eventually bit me in the behind. My autograph journal was swiped by one of my teenage campers during last summer as a camp counselor. I was bummed for about a day until I realized that it didn’t really matter that much. I haven’t asked for an autograph from anyone since.

    This is a wonderful piece, Justin. I don’t know what compels people, even those who are older than me, to forsake their respectability in the name of a signature. It just boggles my mind nowadays. A reporter doing it is all the more bizarre. Actually liking Tebow might be the most bizarre part of it all, though.

    1. Thanks, Wes!

      Wow… that does suck about the autograph journal, sorry to hear about it, but it’s nice that you were able to at least take something away from it.

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