When I was six, Don Mattingly and the rest of the 1990 New York Yankees jogged by me as I stood near the warning track at old Arlington Stadium, then home to the Texas Rangers. My next door neighbor had been selected to try to catch fly balls being dropped from a helicopter before the game, I shit you not, and he brought us along. He caught three-in-a-row and won free Wendy’s for a year. Sick promo that needs to make a comeback, IMO.
Back to me, though. My first great sports memory is Donnie Baseball acknowledging me during his pre-game lap. I stood there, frozen, Rawlings on my left hand, jaw dropped, as Mattingly simply uttered, “Hey kid.” Awesome. I had no idea who he was. I ran back to my old man, who was nearby and saw the whole thing, and he brought me up to speed on my brush with greatness.
Jump forward 25 years to last Saturday morning. I sat in the lobby of a downtown Houston hotel, looking like death and licking my wounds from the night before, from the main elevator walks none other than the 2015-16 Dallas Mavericks. I froze. Again. I had no idea what to do. There was remarkably little fanfare, as the lobby was basically empty. Just for context, I’m a massive Mavs fan. I’ll go into hiding when Dirk retires, and I take it personally when free agents don’t want to play with him.
With that being said, what is the proper etiquette for a grown ass man when he crosses paths with his favorite athletes?
While I sincerely respect the “enjoy the moment” movement, you’re out of your mind if you think I’m just going to sit there and “take it all in.” Would I like to someday be in a position that professional athletes, most of whom are younger than me, won’t make me lose my composure like the Falcons in a playoff game? Of course. It’d be fantastic to just nod my head, utter “I’ll be dammed,” and continue viewing pointless snaps of my friends staring awkwardly at the camera with lightning bolts coming out of their eyes. But right now, that’s just not me.
Ask For An Autograph
I’m 31, and I’m pretty sure my window to ask for a 24-year-old multimillionaire’s signature closed well over a decade ago. I’m willing to grant an exception for a father that’s just trying to snag one for his kid, but the potential for abuse there is astronomical. I happened to witness a dude that had at least five years on me approach Chandler Parsons, with a Chandler Parsons bobblehead in hand, for an autograph. Are you kidding me? Surely this guy wasn’t just walking around with a damn bobblehead in his pocket, but it kinda looked that way. For the record, he signed it, but I’m sure he was weirded out. Lord knows I was.
Remember: You do not want to be the dirt bag standing amidst a group of kids begging for an autograph. Just go back to Buffalo Wild Wings with your custom Jets jersey and watch the game like the rest of us.
Ask For A Pic
This is the modern equivalent of an autograph. While you won’t be able to sell it on eBay, you’re guaranteed a full ride to Like University. It can be tricky, though. If you panic and fumble with your phone for too long, you’re going to make it awkward. You may only get one shot at it, and you don’t want to be the scrub who couldn’t figure out how the flash works while John Elway is standing there with a failed smile checking his watch. You’ll need a game plan. Scan the area for people who don’t matter and look friendly enough to snap the pic. You want to make this as painless as possible for the athlete, because they probably have models and prime rib waiting on them.
Take note from your boy:
That’s how it’s done. Okay, I would’ve expected more double taps, but half of my friends are Rockets fans, and they’re still bitter.
CP, because that’s what I call him now, couldn’t have been nicer. I waited until he wasn’t busy dealing with dudes carrying around bobbleheads, or babes that were throwing themselves at him, to approach. He didn’t even hesitate. In all honesty, he probably felt sorry for us since we are mere peasants, but I’ll take it.
I hate the term selfie. In the lexicon of the modern young adult, “selfie” is the most punchable word. Do not approach someone and ask, “Will you take a selfie with me?” Ugh. They’ll cringe, everyone around you will cringe, and you could be arrested. Possibly deported. If you must go this route, just approach with the phone camera already in mirror mode, and ask for a pic. No need to utter that word. They’ve been through this thousands of times in the last week alone, so they know the drill.
Take A Stealth Shot
If you’re crushing lettuce wraps at PF Chang’s and happen to notice Miggy Cabrera is sitting two tables over enjoying Kung Pao chicken with his family, do not approach. An athlete’s safe space should be respected, and I think we can all agree that The Chang’s is a certified safe space. Your best bet is to snag a stealth shot from across the room, preferably with Snapchat so you can circle his face and caption it. Yep, I think that’s the move.
Just Acknowledge Their Greatness
I didn’t get to meet Dirk (which is for the best because I’m not mentally equipped to handle that), but I knew going in that if I did, I’d just go for a handshake. Athletes at that level are constantly bombarded by autograph hounds and pic requests, so I’d like to think it’d be a breath of fresh air just to tell them “Good luck,” or “I’m a huge fan,” or maybe just a “Give ’em hell!” from across the room. Sure, your voice will probably crack and you’ll sound like a tool, but you can at least walk away knowing that you didn’t beat down your favorite athlete by asking if he’d sign your Patagonia hat..