We love our fans, athletes say when interviewed, We’re going to win it for the fans.
But do they mean it?
I took my son to an L.A. Clipper basketball game last Saturday. It’s a big event for a kid who plays and loves basketball. So we splurged and had seats close enough to see the action well.
As soon as we arrived, my son and his friend ran to the area near the ‘tunnel,’ a passage through which players come out to warm up, return to the locker room, later come out for the game.
Two players, Hedo Turkoglu and Jared Dudley, stopped to give autographs and chat. Very nice guys.
The bigger stars, Chris Paul and Matt Barnes, stopped to say: “I’ll get you guys on the way back.”
They’re busy, I understand. Don’t want to be distracted from the game. Even if Chris Paul didn’t play that day.
The boys wouldn’t have left that spot if promised ice cream or a month-long homework pass or both. Sure, they got tired standing there, but they waited, pen and paper at the ready. They promised, Mom.
Finally, with less than a minute before the game we gave up and took our seats. Chris Paul and Matt Barnes found their way to the locker room and back via a different route.
I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched them play, what must be like looking young fans (dressed in jerseys bearing said players’ names and numbers), in the eye and blowing them off.
As I later learned, autographs are a huge money-making business. They fetch big bucks on eBay. Giving autographs to random kids would diminish their value, and players (or their representatives) know that. They don’t know we’d never do such a thing. They don’t know us. So, I assume, they used: “I’ll get you guys on the way back,” as a No.
All of this is an assumption, but it’s the story circulating among fans. True fans.
With that in mind, the resentment we harbored vanished. A little. I’d imagine players could spot and separate autograph hunters from true fans. Of course, that’s not their job. They’re there to play a game, which they won on Saturday. Woo-hoo.
For us, however, two things changed that day:
1. Hedo Turkoglu and Jared Dudley made fans for life.
2. We still like Chris Paul and Matt Barnes, sort of the same as before, but … well, time will tell.