Autographs are for kids. If you're old enough to sit on a bar stool and order a drink, you're too old to ask for an autograph.
After watching Nextel Cup drivers move like LaDainian Tomlinson to avoid the rampaging autograph-seeking adult hordes at Lowe's Motor Speedway during May, I wrote a column in which I proposed a rule: If the athlete is younger than you are, you can't ask for his signature.
After spending six days at Carolina Panthers training camp, I can tell you the rule has yet to catch on.
The rule doesn't deserve to catch on. It's too weak. New rule: If you're an adult who sells autographs on eBay, mounts them on the wall or pulls them out of a drawer to look at them or to show your friends, put down your pen and get out of the way. Do it now.
Joey Moody Jr. wishes one adult had.
Joey is 12. He's a big, football-loving kid, about 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, and plays defensive line for the Mint Hill Panthers. He'll be a sixth-grader at Mint Hill Middle School.
Joey's favorite player is Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan. He met him once and remembers how nice Morgan was.
Joey likes Morgan so much he wears Dan's number, 55. He likes Morgan so much Dan's name is part of his e-mail address. He likes Morgan so much his room is a testament to the Miami Hurricanes, all orange, white and green. Miami is where Morgan played.
I suspect the rest of the house is not orange, white and green
"The rest of the house is normal colors," says Laura Moody, Joey's mom.
On Monday, Laura and Joey and Joey's 7-year-old brother Brent went to Panthers' training camp at Wofford. While Laura was with Brent, Joey waited near the front of the line players must walk past after practice. Many pause to sign autographs.
"I was having a lot of fun waiting for my favorite player and then a man grabbed me by the shoulders and shoved me down," says Joey.
Joey says the guy who shoved him was old, about 40, and had gray hair. Joey was unable to reclaim his place near the front and unable to collect Morgan's signature.
Ruin your day?
"It ruined my day a lot," says Joey.
In an e-mail to the Observer, Joey wrote: "I think kids should be first to get the autographs and pictures. It means a lot more to kids than to adults. Don't the adults remember seeing their favorite player and dreaming to be just like them someday?"
A tip: If you are 40 years old, have gray hair and dream about being Dan Morgan someday, you are deranged.
Even if you're an adult who does not shove kids to the ground, what do you get out of a signature? What does it signify? What does it really mean?
If you want a connection, take a picture. See that kid awaiting his athletic idol? Look at his face. Now that's a connection.
Reminds you of when you were 12, doesn't it?
Here's another reminder. You're not 12 anymore. Move on.