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Billy Ard

So the family went shopping at our nearby Stop and Shop yesterday afternoon.

The four of us enter the store, see a table up front … sorta distinguished-looking middle-aged man sitting behind it, holding a Sharpie. “Attention shoppers!” a man announces. “Former New York Giant standout Billy Ard is now signing autographs in the front of the store! Billy Ard—now signing everything.”

My boy, age 5, is a Giants fan. We walk to the table, I introduce my son and Ard kindly scribbles his name across a piece of white paper. He smiles, but says little. A few other people approach, and when the two hours expire Billy Ard gladly walks out the door, never looking back.

This is not a critical blog post. Billy Ard did nothing wrong, seemed pleasurable and surely made some kids’ days. Plus, Stop and Shop was handing out free mini-footballs. The son was thrilled.

As someone who has done his fair share of autograph events, however, I wonder, frankly, what Billy Ard is thinking. Sitting at a table in a book shop is rough enough. But in a supermarket? With the manager announcing his name into the PA system? I can think of no greater torture. I have often thought that, for ex-jocks, nothing is worse than the autograph junket, when you’re stuck inside Ballroom C of the Mt. Kisco Holiday Inn, slugging signatures for $10 a pop alongside Todd Bridges and Tom Underwood. It seems like a personal hell—telling the stories of a long-ago life; of a life that will never/can never be again.

Then again, I’ve never been in Billy Ard’s shoes. Perhaps that’s part of the joy—a snippet in time, revisited.

 

One reply on “Billy Ard”

The depressing life of the former athlete is often written about, yet I am not sure how it is more depressing than the experience of any other aging human. You get older, your physical prowess and appearance diminish, society deems you less relevant, your professional life often ends on someone else’s terms. Maybe Bill Ard is occasionally treated like an old thoroughbred at pasture, but if he was some other guy in his 50s pushed out of his job as a purchasing manager, he’d be treated like a broken down plow horse.

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