Whenever I think of athletes and their interactions with fans, I remember this episode.
My love of football and the San Francisco 49ers goes back to my childhood, watching football with my Uncle Doug when I was eight years old. Guys like Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and Steve Young were some of my favorites, however none of them as much as Joe Montana. Recently, thanks to my dear friend Tim, I was able to attend a Montana autograph signing at a store that will remain nameless. I was actually going to have a chance to meet a childhood hero and one of the all-time greats. Now I’ve been to signings before and typically you get the autograph, handshake, a “thanks for coming” or “appreciate the support”, and maybe a quick snapshot of your item being signed. Not much for what you pay, but it’s the experience…or the investment if selling is your thing.
The signing was BY FAR THE BIGGEST WASTE OF FUCKING TIME AND MONEY THAT I HAVE EVER BEEN A PARTY TO. Let me set the scene for you. After waiting 90 minutes in line, you get to the table and one employee checks your $200 ticket (good for ONE signature, which was fine considering I already have an autographed jersey). Now the tickets started at $160 for just autographed pictures or mini-helmets, but for jerseys and equipment it was $200. I spent the $200 in an effort to try to get a ball & picture signed but to no avail. Fine, shame on me.
Next, another employee takes whatever is to be signed, glances at it and hands it to Joe. You do not speak to Joe, you deal with the employee. I brought a picture of AREA 49 (my man-room for the newbies) to be signed. I asked if it could be personalized. Joe didn’t respond and the employee said “No, there’s a separate ticket for that.” I said fine, no big deal. Joe takes the picture from the employee, scribbles his signature and slides it over to me. I attempted to shake his hand and then said “Thanks, you’re the MAN, Joe!” His response consisted of a half-assed smirk, a weak handshake that would even offend my grandmother, then he turned his sights to the next thing to sign. As people received their autographs, a few of them leaned in over the table to get a quick picture with Joe. After receiving my half-hearted shake, I leaned to the side of the table, as to not block people walking by (plus Tim, who took the picture, was being rushed), and attempted to get a quick snapshot with Joe. Then finally my childhood hero spoke to me and said…
“I don’t think you’re supposed to be over here.”
So, that was my experience. Let me preface this by saying that yes, athletes are just people. I will also say that I understand that when some fans interrupt them at dinner or family time for autographs it can be intrusive and annoying. I also know that some people build idols up in their minds and can be disappointed. NONE of that was the case here. When people are willing to drop close to $200 or more plus the cost of whatever you wanted autographed (sports jerseys and equipment depending on the sport can run up to $300 per item) just to say hello and meet you, WHERE THE HELL DOES ANYONE GET OFF ACTING LIKE A COMPLETE DICK TO PEOPLE. You guys play a fucking sport! Had he simply just shook my hand like a man and said “Thank you” I would have been COMPLETELY satisfied. But for us to simply move along like an assembly line of douchebags is straight up FOUL! Joe Montana flat-out disgusts me right now.
As the self-proclaimed “Voice of the Fan”, I felt it was my duty to speak on this but at the same time let you know that this was an isolated experience. I believe wholeheartedly that the vast majority of professional athletes are very appreciative of their fans. Having said that, I will make the following declaration. I am STILL and will ALWAYS be a 49ers fan; that hasn’t changed. However, NEVER will I purchase ANY further memorabilia of Joe Montana unless it is a part of the team or a collection of players (i.e. plaque signed by the 1989 Super Bowl team). I respect him as a part of NFL and 49ers’ history but that’s where it ends.
11″ x 14″ picture print: $12
Tank of gas: $48
Official NFL football: $90
Ticket for autograph session: $200
Taking a vacation day from work to drive 2.5 hours each direction in a torrential downpour and fog just to have your all-time favorite player barely even shake your hand…