At SouthPark last week fans paid $125 or more for an autograph from Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
If you read the Charlotte Observer’s editorial page you know that readers still are reacting, most negatively.
I don’t think Newton went far enough. I think that every time an athlete signs an autograph for an adult, the athlete should collect $125.
Autographs are for kids. Athletes would much freer with their signatures if they didn’t have to sign jerseys, pictures and programs for adults older than they are.
If adults had to pay, and kids did not, the autograph problem would be solved.
If you don’t think there’s a problem you’ve never stood in the infield at a NASCAR track or outside a stadium or arena.
Long ago Charles Barkley, then a Philadelphia 76er, was leaving Charlotte Coliseum after a game against the Charlotte Hornets. I happened to walk out at the same time. Barkley pointed to about 25 fans loudly waiting for a signature from him and his teammates.
They were looking for something free. Collections of people looking for free stuff rarely are orderly. I didn’t see any kids. Maybe they were at home. More likely they had been trampled.
“Would you walk into the middle of that group?” Barkley asked.
“No,” I said.
He didn’t, either.
My rule ends the chaos.
If you’re 21 or older, and you request an autograph from Newton on the street, in the park or at the gas station, in the grocery store, club or mall, you pay $125.
If you fail to say please and thanks you’re charged an additional 50%, or $62.50, which drives the cost to $187.50.
If you see Newton at a restaurant, and you approach him as he’s eating, you pay $250.
The $125 rule applies not only to Newton. It applies to all Panthers, even offensive linemen.
It applies to all Charlotte Bobcats no matter what the team’s winning percentage is.
It applies to every driver at every level of NASCAR, including those who race trucks.
It applies to every team in Charlotte -- the Knights, Checkers, Eagles, Lady Eagles, Hounds and two professional roller derby organizations.
After we establish that it works here, we take it nationally. Drew Brees, LeBron James, Derek Jeter and every Sutter brother and cousin in the NHL? That will be $125 per autograph, please.
The rule applies to golfers, tennis players and athletes who participate in Olympic sports in Olympic and non-Olympic years.
It applies to the disc golfers in Charlotte this week to compete for the Professional Disc Golf Association Professional and Amateur World Championships.
There’s an app that enables a telephone to make credit card transactions. Some athletes will buy one to capitalize on the unexpected windfall. But I’d bring cash just in case.
I’m serious about this.
We could name the rule: Adults pay, kids win.
Look, like Matchbox cars, coloring books and doing the wave at sporting events, there are activities we should outgrow.
Remember when you stopped idolizing athletes? This is the age you stop asking for their signatures.
I grew up idolizing athletes, and one of the athletes I idolized most was Muhammad Ali. I’d met him a couple times, always in a group. Then he came to Charlotte to raise money for Parkinson’s disease.
Ali signed autographs for several of the guests, who undoubtedly paid to be there. A woman who helped set up the event asked if I wanted an autograph.
I admit I paused for a moment. This is Muhammad Ali we’re talking about.
I finally said thanks, but no.
She asked if I’d like to ask Ali a question instead.
He bent down and I asked, “What is the secret of life?”
Ali put his mouth near my ear and said, “Believe in God.”
I wanted to ask, what else? But one question was enough.
Because I said no to the autograph, I received a memory that will last as long as I do.
And, had my rule been in place, I would have saved $125.