The Autograph(s)


by Jason Goodbody

The autograph is a souvenir of an interaction with someone famous, a psychological shortcut etched in ink to connect us with an individual we may admire, and a phenomenon which increases the value of sports memorabilia for precisely the same reason.

The fourth rule of sports media training for professional athletes is to pick an autograph that is incomprehensible and looks different from their signature. Incidently, the first three rules of sports media training are 1) ensure that everyone knows that you are just taking it one game at a time, 2) remind everyone how the word "TEAM" is NOT spelled, which seems like it could be a very long interview, and 3) this victory can only be attributed to the team, or coach, or preferred deity, or the fans, or just that one fan in section 101 who willed it into existence. But the 4th rule is certainly about autographs…probably.

For quite practical reasons, an autograph is a fake signature of a celebrity's name that is usually very different from the mark used to sign checks, legal documents, or deals with the Devil, an area where forgery can be a problem. It is also the same reason celebrities often use a stage name like Bruno Mars (Peter Gene Hernandez) or The Rock (The Duane Johnson), or Tom Hanks (Thomas Hanks), so they can avoid being fraudulently roped into even more deals with the Devil on top of the one that got them there in the first place.

For these reasons and so as to scribble one's way through a throng of very handsy fans to the waiting black car, the autograph can be made very quicky, is barely legible, and it is what brings us to this story.

For those of you who have multiple autographs on a CITY jersey after a season of elbowing out similarly eager fans and their children (shame on you for that one time), or were among the first 50 purchasers of the St. Louis CITY SC and SoccerBible publication Inaugural, a commemorative book documenting the rise of MLS' newest expansion team, you are invariably left with a dozen or so illegible markings making it difficult to brag to autograph-less brothers-in-law.

But one fan answered the call to make sense of the senseless and resolve the question, "Uh, who are all these people." That St Louis CITY SC fan was Jeff Haupt and he took it upon himself to Rosetta Stone the signature page in the Inaugural book for the benefit of the rest of us.

So these are the signatures of our 2023 Boys in Red and barring any creative epiphanies or upgraded CITY media training, most of these will carry over just fine this next season (also, Godspeed and go get 'em Niko, Jared, and Lucas).

And so while many of us anxiously await analysis of our off-season additions, or 2024 predictions, or locker room intrigue, I craft my single post-season musing about….autographs. Sorry, not sorry. The autograph is a story of fame and connectedness and embodies the growth of a club and the fantastical journey of a player who can go from wandering unrecognized throughout our fair city, to signing hand-cramping marathons after a tough match or in the fruit section of a Schnucks, to eventually have his jersey banned from other club's supporters sections in a totally inconsequential and made-up controversy. It is a story that exemplifies fans doing things for other fans, the collaborative nature of the CITY SC soccer fandom that is filled with charity, community, and "can you hold my spot here in the supporters section while I go get a beer?" moments. One man deciphering the scratching of other men so all of us can experience the beautiful game a little more beautifully.

Incidentally I was NOT among those who got their Inaugural book signed by the team but I was able to secure autographs in "can-you-sign-my-yearbook-style" within this special book by nearly every non-player and non-coach within the organization to include Carolyn Kindle, Peter Wood - VP of content and host of The CITY Voice, my ticket rep Lexie (who is the best), Diego Gigliani - club GM, and a range of others in the back office, front office, and even a side office or two. It is one of a kind and represents the hard work by those who built this team to where it is today. At least I think it's their signatures. Jeff hasn't yet translated it for me. 


Signature analysis courtesy of Jeff Haupt and is captured here .