In a recent column, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy listed various ways in which having games without fans in attendance will actually be a good thing. One of them really bugged me:
“No adults asking players for autographs, or knocking kids to the ground to retrieve foul balls that should be for kids only.”
This is a sentiment that I have heard from numerous people over the years. Once I heard a talk radio personality express the opinion that adults should not go to Patriots training camp unless they are accompanying children. As an adult sports fan who watches practices and sometimes asks players for autographs, I’m offended by this. Why should getting autographs from one’s favorite players be restricted to one age group?
I became a sports fan around age 14. The first team I liked was the Red Sox. Later, I became interested in the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots as well. It wasn’t until my 20s that I became a big enough fan to start going to Bruins practices. I’m not sure why it is that I became a sports fan relatively late in life. Perhaps it is because, as a kid, I was obsessed with animals, dinosaurs, and Beanie Babies, and didn’t have time for other interests. Perhaps it is because my parents almost never put sports on the TV, so it didn’t occur to me that watching games was even an option. As I got older and had more control over what I watched on TV, I realized that watching a Sox or Bruins game, even if just in the background while I was doing other things, made my day better. Sports also provided a refreshing sense of balance as I became increasingly interested in more serious topics such as law, history, and philosophy. Sports are generally not matters of life and death, or moral right and wrong, but it is mentally stimulating to follow the statistics, strategies, and personalities and to listen to the colorful banter of the commentators.
Anyway, if one argues that there is something wrong with adults asking for autographs, one believes that someone like myself should be content to live my entire life without ever receiving a player’s autograph. I didn’t have the chance to ask a player for an autograph as a kid, because I wasn’t a sports fan then. (Well, technically I had the chance to, I just didn’t choose to go to any practices or games because I had no interest in sports.) Plus, when it comes to lifelong sports fans, why should they be limited to obtaining the autographs of only the players who were active when those fans happened to be kids? Collecting autographs is one of my hobbies, as is the case for many people of all ages. If one collects autographs, it makes sense that one would attempt to get autographs from as many players as possible across the years. People should not be frowned upon for pursuing their hobbies, merely because of their age.
Additionally, politely asking a player for an autograph, while being respectful of the other fans around you, should not be lumped into the same category as knocking kids to the ground. When I go to a Bruins practice, if I decide to try to get an autograph, I calmly make my way in the direction of the tunnel through which the players leave the ice. I wait behind anyone who is already there, and I politely ask the player to sign my notebook if he appears to be relatively non-hurried and in a good mood. I do not shove anyone out of the way. I do not squeeze in front of anyone who is already there. Generally, if someone younger than me is approximately equally close to the tunnel as me, I let him or her talk to the player first. What exactly is wrong with this?
And why should foul balls be for kids only, for that matter? The same principle applies to them as applies to autographs. I think we can all agree that it would be wrong for an adult to knock a kid over… but for an adult to knock over another adult would be wrong, too. So would a kid knocking over another kid, or a kid knocking over an adult.
Finally, I also think that viewing autographs and foul balls as kids-only defeats the purpose of having these things at all. Personally, I know that the kid version of myself would not enjoy an activity as much if I knew that I would only be allowed to do it for a limited time, and that when I became an adult I would not be allowed to do it any longer. People should be allowed to have something to look forward to as they grow older. Becoming an adult should not mean giving up your hobbies and interests and having all joy and fun gradually sucked out of your life.
I realize that I have probably way overanalyzed a somewhat silly topic, as I am wont to do. To sum up: no one should knock other people to the ground, but everyone should be free to pursue their hobbies, regardless of age.