I used to be an autograph hound. In my single days, when the Ballpark in Arlington first opened, you could often find me at games early, trying for a batting practice ball or a pre-game auto. I did ok, but my success was nothing compared to what some of you guys are having these days.
My two best in person autograph experience were back in those days, but only one of them was baseball related. Meeting Kathy Ireland was the first one and meeting George W. Bush was the other. Kathy was and is my all time favorite SI Swimsuit cover girl and I posted about meeting her right here. My George W. Bush auto came about when I met and spoke to him for about 15 minutes prior to a game when he was one of the minority owners of the Rangers. That was before he was the Texas governor and I posted about that here.
Like many of you, most of my in person auto experiences have been positive. However, there was this one time...
It was a card show in Arlington not long after the Houston Rockets won the NBA title. Hakeem Olajuwon was making an appearance at the show and although I'm not a big basketball fan, the Rockets were the hot team and I thought it would be cool to have something signed by Olajuwon in my collection. I bought my ticket and ended up very near the front of the line. I could see the table where he would be sitting during the signing and was looking forward to my few seconds with him. I didn't have a ball, but I did have the commemorative Sports Illustrated from the NBA Championship. We waited. And waited. And waited.
He was about 45 minutes late and didn't appear to be in a very good mood. The first thing he did was ask where his lunch was and I thought it was weird that he wanted food when he was supposed to be signing autographs. Several of us actually though it was eating lunch that made him late in the first place. I think I was number 4 or 5 in line and when my turn came, I walked up to the table, set my magazine down for the handler to get it ready and walked over in front of him. I congratulated him on the NBA title and thanked him for signing. Nothing. No response, he didn't even look up. I took my very poorly signed magazine and walked off to the side where the two guys in front of me were talking about their "interaction" with Olajuwon. It was pretty much what I experienced. I watched the next 3 or 4 people get the same reaction from him and left with a sour taste in my mouth from the experience.
I don't expect an athlete who is being paid to sign autographs to jump for joy at every compliment he gets or give every person a long drawn out thank you for coming, but I think the least you could do is ACT like you give a crap. Maybe he was having a bad day, maybe he was just tire or maybe he's not good at fan interaction. I don't know, but I left there less of a fan than I was when I arrived.