Monday, August 03, 2009

Off-Day Randomness: Autographs

I was inspired by a follower, and somebody whom I follow on Twitter to write this post. And I'm going to try to make it as coherent as possible. I haven't taken a writing class since I was in OAC (formerly known as Grade 13....formerly known as a grade year in general). The Twitterer, or Tweeter in question was asking people to send stories about players who snub fans for autographs, or just general snub stories when it comes to Baseball players. So this post isn't exactly a rebuttal or anything, but just a collection of personal thoughts when it comes to the matter of autographs.

Back when I started to attend Jays games regularly (2003), there were actual designated autograph times before each game during the away team's batting practice. The Jays organization would send out one or two lower tiered players (a la Howie Clark and Bob File) to a section where they would sign and take photographs with fans. In 2004, it changed to just weekends. In 2005, the sessions no longer happened. During this period, I became accustomed to being able to easily get autographs. I was ecstatic! It was when I finally was able to meet Jays players because the last time I had gone to games was during the Glory Years. Yeah. Practically impossible, even though I never tried.

Unfortunately, since 2005 I've noticed a trend. Fans are increasingly expecting that players "have" to sign for them, no matter what. After all, the players apparently owe us all an autograph for supporting the team.

In my opinion, players don't "owe" anything. Their job is to play Baseball. I go to batting practices with this philosophy because the game on the field should be the primary focus of each player. Most players actually DO give autographs, but it's based on many factors. I'm not sure how it is for a lot of other teams, but Jays players tend to sign a lot more on the road than they do at home. The reason? I'm not positive, but I do some thoughts about possible factors as to why.

After travelling to see the Jays play in different cities, and seeing people wanting autographs, the glaring difference is how fans treat the players here in Toronto. Apparently, these fans were never taught the words "please" and "thank you". I've witnessed some players blatantly "snub" fans simply for not being polite in asking for the autograph. Truthfully, why should they? They're taking time out of their pregame rituals (though occasionally for some players, part of the ritual is signing for fans) to sign autographs. They're not there to have merchandise shoved into their faces with exclamations of, for example: "Downs! Sign this!" They also aren't there to see kids and other fans being crushed by people pushing their way through, jumping on the seats to "be sure they get their autographs". Automatically, Toronto fans think that players are snubbing them, and that they're rude based solely on the fact that they aren't accommodating their rudeness. Out of personal experience, I've met many Jays and the nicest ones are the ones I actually spoke with and that I was polite to. I'm always grateful when players take time to sign for people.

Then, when players do acknowledge the fans that are being rude about it, they call them out. What does that make the player? An asshole. Without mentioning the player's name I am reminded of Fan Appreciation Day in I believe 2006 (though I could be wrong). This player regularly signed every weekend, and treated fans like gold (and still does). A man was there with his child, and the player walked past the glove that the man was holding out (while the man was in the process of hitting people in front with said glove from the 2nd or 3rd row). Right away, the man shouted, "Thanks a lot! You suck and I hope you pitch like shit today." The player retorted right back, "You know what? You're a great fan, buddy. Thank you for your support!" Then stopped signing for everybody and started to walk away while looking back at the crowd. Everybody in the crowd turned to look at the man who subsequently ran away since he believed his life was in danger. The player was watching as this unfolded, and as he was walking away.

Which partially leads to another point. Yes, I understand that kids are kids. But I do not understand why adults think that because they have kids, they can use them. I'm all for kids getting autographs, though not necessarily over adults 100% of the time. But that's only because there are adults who use kids. The biggest culprits? HOUNDS.

Hounds are probably the main snubbage factor here in Toronto. Every hound is recognizable by each player. And most players would prefer to sign for nobody than to sign for people who make their living selling their stuff at jacked-up prices. Most of these hounds push kids out of the way to get the 20th copy of an 8x10 glossy signed by a player.

Which gets me to the "old" story about the Alex Rios YouTube video. The video had no context whatsoever. The person who yelled at Lexi, causing him to swear back, is a known hound. Not only by Jays staff and fans, but by the players themselves. This is a hound who attends every game, and who goes to the visiting teams' hotels on a nightly basis to get autographs to sell. He's also known to bribe kids, or younger folk to get his autographs for him because he knows his face is recognizable. Not only that, there ARE younger hounds out there themselves.

There's another hound, whom someone I know witnessed accosting a player for an autograph outside the Dome before a game. The player actually said to the hound, "How many times have I signed for you? Not now, and not anymore. Please leave me alone," in a very polite manner.

I do realize that for every bad hound there's at least one nice hound. I've seen a few. And they don't expect anything, and they're respectful for people around them. If it wasn't for them, I might not have been able to meet some of the players I've met.

I think one thing that fans need to remember is that sometimes, if players cannot sign, it's a lot easier for them to ignore fans than saying "no". I personally know that as a fan, and having somebody saying "no" to be before, it stings a lot more than a player walking past, or a player saying, "I'll come back later," and they don't.

And as a fan who has met many Jays, and a few players from other teams, it breaks my heart when fans badmouth somebody because they've been "snubbed". Some of the players I've met are on the "Asshole Player" list, yet when I've met them, they've been some of the NICEST players I've ever met. I'm not going to mention their names unless asked lol. But I think one of the main differences is that some people who bitch about it don't treat the players with respect.

For me, the autograph truly doesn't mean as much as the experience I have in getting the autograph. Without that experience, it's Sharpie on paper.

As fans, we don't always know what's happening with the players. They could be having a bad day. They could have just signed 200 autographs for kids visiting the Dome through a JaysCare event. They can't sign 24/7.

Don't get me wrong, I know there are players who do snub and who never sign and it's upsetting that they don't...and some I will truly label as "jerks" or "assholes". But just because Baseball players get paid more per year that a lot of the fans do for "playing a game", doesn't mean that they aren't human.

There. I'm off my off-day soap box :) In the meantime, please visit Joel's Blog. It's a good read.

And I hope all my fellow Torontonians had a spectacular Simcoe Day.

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