I remember marveling at my dad's autograph album as a youngster. The collection was Hall of Fame worthy. Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron. Jim Bunning before he went crazy. You name it. I showed it off to all the kids on the block, convincing some of them it was worth a fortune.
It probably wasn't worth that much because those autographs aren't particularly rare. And in my later years I have come to the conclusion that they shouldn't be worth anything --they're goddamn signatures. Even the most stunning calligraphy is not worth spending four hours or four figures to acquire:
Schroeder said he was first at Gate 10 on Sunday morning when he arrived at 11 a.m. By the time the gate opened at 3 p.m., the fans waiting behind Schroeder curled around most of the stadium's east face, while another line stretched two long blocks down Breese Terrace from Gate 1 to the west.
Schroeder and his friend, Aaron Myers, said they spent some of their four-hour wait insinuating themselves into the good graces of security personnel to find out "the lay of the land" -- that is, where star Badger athletes like receiver Nick Toon and running back Montee Ball would be found inside Camp Randall's walls.
Myers, 32, and Schroeder, 35, said they have been coming to Family Fun Day for years, and have amassed a treasure trove of signed photographs, footballs, posters and helmets.
"We're here for the kids," Schroeder said, referring to his three daughters, ages 3 through 14, whom he believes won't fully appreciate the memorabilia until they are a few years older.
What will be most interesting about the autographs of college athletes 20 years from now is wondering what those athletes become. The successful ones might land a gig selling insurance or teaching gym. The less fortunate will be in prison or blogging for an alt-weekly. A very, very small number will actually make money playing the game that made their signatures so coveted.
It's not that I don't understand the value of memorabilia. I love my old baseball and political posters because they capture an image of history, from Dick Allen smashing a home run at Connie Mack stadium in Philadelphia to Barry Goldwater delivering a menacing message about the evils of communism. However, I don't see why I would care a great deal about a piece of paper with either of those guys' names scrawled on it. Nor would I care to shake their hands. Dick Allen's hand probably feels the same as any other 70-year-old, and Goldwater's bones would probably crumble under my iron-firm grasp just like any other corpse.
In theory, we are in awe of celebrities because they do something impressive. Maybe they run fast, or play guitar well, or write riveting books on anarcho-syndicalism. Very rarely, however, do they attain fame because of their penmanship. And yet often we value that more than the product that made them famous. Why?
I would very much like to meet Russ Feingold because I believe he is an impressive person. A political conversation with Russ Feingold would be awesome. His signature? Meh -- I bet mine's better.
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