1/25: Welcome to the World of Sports Signings!

If ever there was a blank slate, I was one.

azzoli-caricature-445It was June of 2009, and I found myself amid a crowd of basketball fans at my local shopping mall.  No, there wasn’t a sale at Modell’s, Champs, Foot Locker, or any other sporting goods store.  We were gathered for an autograph signing by former New York Knicks players John Starks and Anthony Mason.

It was my first sports signing in more than 20 years.  And, trust me.  My name was never synonymous with this type of event.  Don’t get me wrong, I love sports!  As a kid, I was thrilled to meet New York Mets Howard Johnson, Terry Leach, and Mackey Sasser at baseball card shows at my elementary school.  As an adult, though, attending these events never really appealed to me.  But, all that changed.

Shortly after meeting my, now, fiancé, I discovered the one addictive part of his personality — his love of collecting sports memorabilia.  Enamored by the stories of those he had met and the pieces he had in his collection, I became intrigued and was a willing participant in the next signing.  To put it simply, I thought it was cool!  I mean, I could hold my own.  I have those childhood baseball card shows under my belt.  I thought I knew what was in store.  Boy, was I wrong.

Soon, I realized this wasn’t just a hobby, it was a whole world (not to mention an industry) with its own set of rules populated by some of the most loyal fans around.  Here’s a taste of what I learned:
•    Collect unique items (e.g. a ball signed by the pitcher and catcher of a perfect game)
•    Without an inscription, it’s really not worth it
•    Inscriptions are extra
•    Prices vary based upon the athlete
•    Different fees exist for different items (balls, flats, jerseys, etc.)
•    16×20 photos must be purchased sparingly (They take up too much wall space and should be reserved for only the most exciting of action shots.)
•    When framing memorabilia, do so with UV protected glass
•    The thrill of meeting some of the greats never dies

Mays, Berra, Palmer, Ripken, Henderson, Seaver, Gooden… Needless to say, I am hooked.  Would I call myself one of the 18% of Americanswho told the Marist Poll they would prefer an athlete’s autograph over, say, the president’s?  Probably not.  But, I will say the adrenaline rush of meeting an athlete whom you’ve watched, and in many cases, admired over the years, is incredible!