The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 8, 2012

Please sign on the dotted line


The Free Press

— I’ve probably mentioned this before in a blog or a column but, with Vikings training camp in full swing, it seems appropriate to bring it up again.

It has to do with autographs. Particularly, autographs of professional athletes.

Everyone from little kids, to teenagers, to moms, to armchair quarterbacks go to great lengths every day of camp to have players sign something. It could be a poster or piece of paper or sports card or article of clothing.

For the most part I just don’t get it.

We’re not just talking signatures by Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, we’re also talking signatures by the long-snapper and No. 10 wide receiver on the depth chart and the fourth-string nose-tackle. If they walk off the practice field in a Vikings uniform, more than one person is going to want their autograph.

I understand there’s a remote chance that one of those signatures may be worth a lot of money some day (and by a lot I mean life-changing money), but the reality is, the overwhelming majority of them will not lead to great personal wealth down the road.

The thing is, the 8-year-old trying to get AP to sign his jersey is not thinking that, maybe in 50 years, when the running back still holds the NFL’s single-season rushing record, I’ll be able to sell this shirt for big bucks. He just wants it to show off to his friends and to interact with the athlete even if it’s only for a few seconds.

By the way, have you ever actually looked at those autographs? I’d wager that 75 percent of them are illegible. If the players didn’t incorporate their number into the signature, as many of them do nowadays, you’d have no idea whose signature it was.

Perhaps it’s not much more than someone getting a chance to actually talk to a sports celebrity. That’s an understandable thrill  and the autograph sort of acts as evidence that the encounter actually happened.

I’ll buy that. But waiting among a mass of people for hours in the hot sun for a signature that virtually no one can read sure seems like a high price to pay. Maybe if I was 9 years old again I’d understand it better.

Bernard goes today

New Ulm native Ali Bernard makes her 2012 Olympic debut this morning in women’s wrestling. The opening round of her 72 kg (158.5 pounds) weight class begins at 7 a.m.

The wrestling will continue through the morning and into the early afternoon. If she makes it to the gold or bronze medal match, it will probably take place sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m.

If you want to watch Bernard wrestle online, go to nbcolympics.com.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com