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.