Why do people ask athletes for their autographs? It happens all the time and all over the world. Players are asked to autograph footballs, baseball bats, helmets, bases, tickets, shirts, soccer balls, game jerseys, hockey sticks, gloves, and seemingly every except jock straps. Why?
I’ve thought about this a little lately and I think I have an answer. Competitors in sport, players and coaches, are achieving in a way that most people do not and many more will not. These competitors have pressed through the discomfort which comes with rigorous training, they have battled the twin demons of fear and doubt, they have taken on real opponents and have won, while most of the world shrinks back from competition altogether.
In the autograph the seeker is seeking to participate in the competitor’s achievement. Thus the premium for “game used” memorabilia. The autograph seeker experiences the thrill of the game’s passion and pain vicariously through the object with the player’s signature serving to personalize the moment.
I have seen autographed footballs on the shelves of offices of men who have never put on a helmet. I have seen autographed baseballs on the desks of people who would be afraid to even step into the batter’s box. They seek to share in the experience of those who have achieved at the highest level in sport and to draw inspiration for their own pursuit of achievement.
So, the next time you’re asked for an autograph, understand that you are tremendously inspirational to the person asking for your signature. Please give it generously and thereby lead him or her to heights as yet unvisited.