Jay Cutler Doesn't Owe You An Autograph

Quarterback's job description doesn't include glad-handing

Here's the thing about sports fans. We expect our stars to be politicians. It's not just good enough to be a great player, to produce, to do the things you're paid millions of dollars to do. You must also a) be complementary and friendly with the media, even as they press you, b) be active in the community, c) have a sense of your place in history, and speak in according cliches and d) sign autographs every time you go out in public.

It's that last one that has new Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in trouble, at least with a vocal minority of fans who were peeved enough at Cutler they felt the need to email the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh. Haugh recorded their complaints in a brief column note last week. Apparently, Cutler has refused to sign autographs for seekers at Cubs games, and this makes those autograph seekers very angry. One emailer told Haugh, "His lack of appreciation for fans will be his undoing in Chicago."

To Haugh's credit, he noted that while Cutler could probably do himself a solid by being a little bit nicer in public -- really, pro athletes are just like us; the whole "don't be an ass in public" rule applies in equal doses -- his ultimate Chicago fate will be decided on the field. Which is true. No matter how rude Cutler is to you when you approach him after your fifth Old Style, you'll be on his jock again when fall comes around. Just admit it.

But here's the thing Haugh doesn't really get to, and it goes a lot deeper than Cutler: Players don't owe you their autograph. It's nice of them to give it to you. It's good for them, too, because it earns them points with the locals. But nowhere in any athlete's contract does it say that they're required to suffer you when you run up on them at the ballpark. Nowhere does it say that you're allowed to interrupt their dinner out with friends to get a signature on a piece of paper. Not only are athletes constantly deluged with this stuff, but autographs have turned into a semi-sleazy process; there's no guarantee that John Hancock is for "a kid," and it might just as easily end up on eBay.

Really, though, the faster you get over this, the less disappointed you'll be. Athletes don't owe you anything but their performance on game day. If you think your ticket dollars and jersey purchases justify you coming up to them in public when they're trying to have a moment of normalcy, stop spending the money. Your choice. Your money. But don't complain.

Jay Cutler may be a jerk. But if you think you're entitled to a piece of sports memorabilia just because, how much better are you?

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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