Dozens of well-known athletes and entertainers were at Lake Tahoe over the weekend for the American Century Championship, a celebrity golf tournament.
Twenty years ago, it was a haven for autograph seekers but once word spread that you might be able to snare some free superstar signatures if you were pesky enough, the gates became overrun with dealers and those hired by dealers to try and get autographs, thus ruining it for those who were just there to spectate and the kids and polite adult collectors for whom the athletes were usually willing to sign (at least some of them, anyway).
I covered this event when I worked at a California media outlet back in the day but things are far crazier now. So crazy that fans are no longer able to bring anything in from the outside to try and get autographs. Bags are checked at the entrance but that hasn’t stopped some from trying to smuggle in photos, baseballs, footballs, hockey pucks, sports cards, jerseys and other items. They get pretty creative according to local sheriff’s deputy Leland Love, who came up with a list of sneaky tricks he’s seen over the last six years including
- Hiding baseballs in cereal and snack boxes
- Hiding them in large coffee mugs
- Putting 8×10 glossies under your shirt at the small of your back or wrapping them around your thigh
- Wearing a jersey like a diaper (really, people?)
- Carrying cards under a hat
- Wearing a camera around your neck and hiding stuff in the camera bag
- Replacing legs of a folding chair with shipping tubes and putting photos in the tubes (smacks of desperation but creative)
See the rest of the list here.
Players do sign, though. Even big names will take some time when its appropriate (not during rounds of tournament play). Players are asked not to sign autographs after the start of their rounds until the conclusion, except at their discretion during periods of suspension of play.
By the way, Billy Joe Tolliver, the former NFL quarterback won the tournament for the second time on Sunday. Michael Phelps finished next to last, just ahead of Larry the Cable Guy who did sign a Prilosec box for this guy.