Was It Wrong For A Dallas Cowboys Player To Ask Michael Vick For His Autograph After A Loss?
I’ve seen enough episodes of MTV Cribs to know that there are plenty of professional athletes out there that like to collect the autographs of other professional athletes. Thanks to the unprecedented access that they get to other athletes, they get them to sign all kinds of things—jerseys, balls, hats and helmets and posters included—and then hang them in the “man caves” they’ve got tucked away in their multimillion-dollar mansions. Just like the little trinkets that you or I might collect during our days working at the office or on the job site, these autographs are meant to help players remember their playing days.
With that in mind, Dallas Cowboys running back Tashard Choice must have really wanted to remember Sunday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Because despite the fact that the Cowboys lost 30-27 in a shootout that could have went either way in the closing minutes, Choice approached Eagles star quarterback Michael Vick after the game with a glove and a Sharpie—again, despite having just taken a loss to the Eagles—and asked for Vick’s autograph. Vick obliged, albeit somewhat awkwardly, Choice got his autograph, and millions of Cowboys fans across the nation gasped in unison as the moment was broadcast nationally by the NBC, which was covering the game as part of their weekly Sunday Night Football broadcast.
Can you say, “Oops!“? It didn’t take long for the critics of Choice’s move to strike, either. Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News (and, more recognizably, ESPN’s Around The Horn) wrote a column early Monday morning where he ripped Choice for his of timing. He reiterated the fact that the Eagles and Cowboys are division rivals in a division that features teams that notoriously hate one another. He pointed out that Choice should have waited until after the game—waaaaay after the game, out of the sight line of even just one fan—to seek out Vick for an autograph. And he noted that this is just the latest case of NFL players—and professional athletes, in general—sticking it to casual fans by showing that they don’t really care enough to take their feelings into consideration. So what if a family of four just paid a grand for a night out at the big game? Tashard Choice wanted an autograph and he wasn’t going to hold back on asking for it just because they might not want to see him do it!
I’d have to agree with Cowlishaw’s assessment—and I’d challenge anyone who has paid even just five dollars for a ticket to a pro sports game to argue with me about it. NFL players—and all athletes—have gotten a little too lax when it comes to keeping their fans in mind. Sure, they’ll thank their fans after they win a championship and proclaim that they have “the greatest fans in the world!” when they do something like win an MVP trophy. But, what fans are really watching for is to see how players react when times are tough. It’s one thing to embarrass your franchise by being poor sports—like the Cincinnati Bengals were after their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon, when several Bengals players started a melee in the middle of the field as the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock—but it’s just as frustrating for fans to sit back and watch their favorite players hug and salute guys from the opposing teams when they’re supposed to be their most hated rivals.
Listen, as a sports fan, I’m not naive. I know it’s not 1968 anymore and guys on the New York Giants don’t hate guys on the Philadelphia Eagles—much as I might want them to. I know that, off the field, most NFL players are friendly with guys on other teams. And at the end of a game, guys from opposing teams get a chance to see each other for, in some cases, the only time all year. So it’s only natural for them to want to check in with their buddies and share a few words about how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to since they caught up last. But asking for an autograph from another player? That crosses the line.
In Tashard Choice’s defense, I read later that he obtained Michael Vick’s autograph for a nephew. In this day and age when so many athletes do try and give back to their communities, I also initially thought that the autograph could be for some kind of charity event that Choice was putting together. But even if that was a case, there’s a time and a place for everything and, if he wanted Vick’s autograph, the Cowboys running back should have used his connections to get one. Instead, he upset his own fans and made his team look like they didn’t care enough to take a nationally-televised loss to a division rival seriously.
In this case, Choice made the wrong choice. Let’s just hope some of his fellow players start to learn from his mistake and keep their off-the-field business where it belongs: off the field.