The Danger of Feeling Entitled
Not every collector does it, but many do. So, what am I writing about? I am writing about the danger in expecting sports heroes to be something more than human or expecting them to be "human" at all during personal encounters. Furthermore, as fans, the thought that we are somehow entitled to a certain reaction, an autograph or simply the attention of the athlete we encounter is a dangerous approach.
The classic scenario is one where a fan approaches an athlete which he or she recognizes on the street, at a restaurant or at a sports collectibles convention. In most cases, the experience is disappointing. No, the athlete doesn't have to spew obscenities or steal a milk bottle from a baby in order to make the experience a bad one... they just have to fail to live up to the expectations that we place on them.
The problem is that professional athletes are idolized, deified and often held to standards beyond those of regular folk. The same is true of Hollywood celebrities and politicians; it is the price they pay for fame but we have to remind ourselves that they are human beings. They have good days and bad days. They have personal problems. They are just like the rest of us, nothing more and nothing less.
Some collectors feel that these athletes simply owe us, since we bought tickets to their games, jerseys with their name on the back and helped make them rich... a feeling that they are obligated to take pictures with us, sign things for us and listen to us ramble incessantly about a game we saw 15 years ago. They don't owe us anything. All we can hope for is that they treat us with respect. All the athlete can hope for is that we treat them likewise.
Just imagine being constantly pestered for your time or your autograph, whether you are trying to have a quiet dinner or enjoying a peaceful walk. Just imagine rarely being able to venture out into public because, anywhere you go, someone wants a piece of you. Just imagine how many times some of these athletes have been scolded because they dropped a pass or struck out with the game on the line. It's no wonder that some of them become jaded about every future fan encounter.
Please understand my message. I am, in no way, condoning bad behavior on the part of the athlete. I do believe that people should treat others as they would want to be treated. This applies to everyone, no matter how much money or fame one possesses. That being said, the message here is to protect yourself, to protect your inner child. Most of the time, hobbyists will do more harm to themselves and to the enjoyment they get from collecting than anything else. Some have been fortunate to have great personal encounters with athletes but there are no guarantees.
In an instant, your childhood hero can burst the bubble you put them in by simply not living up to expectations. As we get older, our bodies and lives change but we still hold on to our childhood memories. Long after his retirement, Mickey Mantle was blown away when grown men would act like little boys in his presence. That vulnerability still lies inside us. Those emotional ties can be powerful.
I choose to be a fan from a distance. I respect the athletes for what they do on the field. I don't want to have dinner with them, wish to reminisce with them or want them to sign anything for free. They don't owe me anything and I choose to preserve the child within. All it takes is one bad experience and it can alter your hobby experience forever. Why risk it?
Never get cheated,
Editor In Chief
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