Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fans make it work

I'm not much of a NASCAR guy, but couldn't help but appreciate an interview I came across yesterday about Richard Petty, one of racing's true legends.

According to the story, Petty has an "unwavering willingness to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans."

Petty is quoted in the story as saying:

"These people walking around are the ones who pay the bills. The fans gotta buy the product. Fans make it work. "

I couldn't agree more. As a kid, I loved getting autographs from athletes. Sports consumed me as a youngster. To this day, I can tell you who would sign an autograph for me and who wouldn't.

Reggie Jackson may have been the rudest I ever encountered. On the other end, NBA players like Lionel Hollins and Alex English were incredibly gracious and approachable.

As a kid, that's a big deal. Watching these guys on TV and imitating them on the playground, what kid hasn't done that? When you finally get close enough to them for an autograph, two things can happen: They can either (1) greet you with a smile, say hello, and sign it, or (2) brush you off (or worse, say something rude).

It's a meaningless moment for most athletes, but something a kid will remember forever.