The reasons for the awkwardness are plenty: there was the time I asked former Brewers Gorman Thomas and Jerry Augustine for autographs at London Square Mall without having any idea they were on break from a signing session. Or the time I brought my Twins cap – with a Tim Laudner 1987 signature – to a 2001 ex-player autograph game day at the Metrodome and getting in line to discover that day’s signer was ... Tim Laudner, then handing him the cap to sign next to his signature.
I came away from both events thinking these celebrities thought less of me as a person, but through years of dealing with famous folks through my work in the media, I have come to realize that they have almost certainly forgotten who I am within moments. It is nothing personal to them, and they also likely would not remember you in a good way if you had a successful interaction.
I got a chance to meet Jack Morris earlier this year at the Eau Claire Baseball Hall Of Fame Induction Dinner. I’ve matured to the point where I think I have sufficiently honed my celebrity interaction: quick introduction, a quick ask for what you want (i.e. autograph, picture), then get it done briskly, thank them, and move on. I found someone I knew standing near Morris, made the proper eye contact with Jack and made a quick request for a photo, handed my phone to the guy I knew, posed for a couple shots and was done. Success. No awkwardness. Just like my Rick Springfield encounter in Chippewa Falls last summer. I think I’m getting good at this.
If you find yourself with that chance to meet your sports hero, follow the aforementioned tips. Also, avoid trying to ask too much of a question, but a touch of small talk is OK. Brevity and smiles are the key. Only approach them if you think they would be expecting a fan to talk with them. Do not take too many pictures ... and make sure your camera works! Say a quick thanks and be done. You will come away thinking you just became friends with your sports idol. Even if they already forgot who you are.