I heard that Mike Ditka, the ESPN commentator and former player and coach, got in an argument with a fan Thursday morning about Ditka's alleged reluctance to sign autographs. Also heard that Ditka regularly signs autographs. Don't know who was at fault. But there is an easy solution for this and other autograph-related issues.
If you're an adult, don't ask another adult for an autograph. Don't come to Ditka with a box full of Mike Ditka pictures or action figures or non-action figures which you'll attempt to sell. Don't come with a single picture. Don't come with a piece of clean white paper you don't intend to sell.
I offered a solution years ago, and if it had been adopted the world would be a better place to live. You should not be able to ask anybody younger than you are for an autograph. True, race car driver Mark Martin would take a huge hit. But he's fit enough to escape when the pressure becomes too great.
What's the appeal of an autograph? You want to look at it or show it to your friends? Interaction between athletes and fans would go so much smoother if adults got out of the way and let kids move to the front of the autograph line.
I have three autographs, each from somebody I respect -- Ric Flair, David Thompson and Dick Vitale. I didn't ask for them. They signed their books and their publishers sent them to me.
My kids wanted autographs from the athletes I wrote about, but explained that I couldn't ask a favor one day and criticize them the next. I also told them I found the practice demeaning.
I did a radio show with LL Cool J and knew my kids desperately wanted his. Nice guy, too. But I couldn't ask.
If you thought about it rationally, you'd realize that a moment with an athlete -- a moment that offered insight into who he or she is -- is much more valuable than a signature.