Do Off-Field Events Influence Collecting?
I had a unique experience this weekend while my wife and I were visiting my parents. On Friday night, as we were leaving the local Mexican food restaurant, we happened to notice a familiar face. I took a double-take and realized it was Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings. He grew up in the same small town I did, graduating from my high school several years behind me. He was eating with some of our longtime family friends so, noticing that they hadn't gotten their food yet, I approached the table.
Now, I normally don't bother famous folks but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I said hi to everyone and was introduced. Adrian stood up and the first thing I thought was, "This guy must work out." He was huge, a genetic freak.
He said, "Hi, I'm Adrian. Nice to meet you."
Now I am an average-size dude and in somewhat decent shape, but I have never had anyone shake my hand with that kind of death grip. I actually had to consciously try not to squeal in pain. We had a short conversation and then left. He seemed to be a sweet, down-to-earth individual. As we left the restaurant, we all commented on how nice he was to us. It was awesome to meet someone you root for and have them turn out to be cool. My hand still isn't right.
In the mid-80s, my dad had the chance to have lunch with Mickey Mantle. He was definitely excited to meet and hang out with his childhood hero. My dad would always say, “Mickey Mantle is the greatest player to ever step on a diamond." He said it was a wonderful moment in his life to meet him and talk, but he will also say he was disappointed, too. The Mick was still a raging drunk and, in my dad's words, kind of “a prick" to people around him.
That got me thinking. What if your favorite athlete turned out to be a jerk in real life?
Would that change your wanting to collect their memorabilia, autographs or cards? Does it even matter?
I thought long and hard about it. My first thought was that it didn't matter. It's on the field where their actions are celebrated and admired, not off. So maybe they punch babies or they don't believe in unicorns. So what! With all the steroid witch hunts, interviews taken out of context, the alleged assaults, the shooting of your 'own self' and so on. Is there any athlete immune under the glaring microscope of today's twenty-four hour press and social media? Since none of us are perfect, probably not. If I took my talents across the street, would you care? Or if I held an hour-long special about it, would you call me a selfish media whore? See, there are two sides to every coin.
Let's be honest: how many of you still even have or cherish your O.J. cards? Are you rushing out to get a signed Barry Bonds bat or Roger Clemens glove? When was the last time you pulled out your Lenny Dykstra rookie cards and admired them? Tiger may be the only man in the world where HIS actions got ME looked at crazy by MY wife at the house! I didn't do anything wrong, I just watch on golf on Sundays!
When athletes appear on the nightly news, it is usually bad news. As an avid collector and sports fanatic, I try to use common sense after hearing these tales. I almost always have two different reactions to the story, 1) Was it just a mistake?, or 2) Was it a stupid move? Both scenarios can be forgiven, as long as the apology is sincere. However, when there's lie after lie, well, then you are just a jerk (see Pete Rose).
I firmly believe we are a forgiving society. Life is all about falling down and getting back up. There is no right or wrong answer here, just opinions. You collect because of the passion for the game, the team you love and the athletes that are involved. After much deliberation, the bottom line is this: beauty is in the eye of the collector.
Disclaimer: Cardboard Connection does not condone punching babies and obviously believes in unicorns.