May I Have Your Autograph Mr. Clark?

I spent a lot of time as a kid at the old Redskins Park. It was quite different back then, the old park had virtually no security and was small in comparison to the current RP in Ashburn. I was able to parlay my time at Redskins Park into many memorable moments and adventures. I filmed part of a practice and filmed a semi-interview with Dexter Manley. I tossed a nerf football around with Rickey Sanders and Mark Rypein. I also helped a coke delivery man deliver cokes into the locker room, where I proceeded to watch highlights of the 87’ Super Bowl with Reggie Branch and Ravin Caldwell. Great times for a 13 yr old kid.

I was also able to obtain many autographs, autographs from virtually every great player from the 80’s. Gary Clark was recently called out by Larry Johnson for not giving an autograph to LJ when LJ was a little kid. LJ turned that experience into a positive one and now signs every autograph he’s asked for, until the last fan is finished. If that is true, then I admire him for doing so. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine how any reasonable fan would expect an athlete to sign for everyone, every time. I also can’t imagine how fans can ask an athlete to sign an autograph while the athlete is eating dinner, or engaged in something else that requires the athletes attention. Regardless, I want to tell you about my Gary Clark experience.

I was visiting Redskins Park in January of 1988, the last day before the Redskins headed off to San Diego to completely destroy the Broncos 42-10. I arrived early that day and was the only person in the lobby when Gary Clark walked right by me at a brisk pace, headed upstairs to where the admin offices were located. I quickly asked Gary if he would sign an autograph for me, he informed me that he was in a hurry and could not sign for me. Even at 13 years old, I remember this being a WTF moment? I’m the only person in this lobby and he’s not going to take 30 seconds to sign for me? He spent more time explaining why he couldn’t sign than it actually would have taken to sign. I was bummed.

A few hours later Redskins Park was a madhouse. Hundreds of fans had congregated at the park to see the Super Bowl Champions off. The lobby was now shoulder to shoulder and I was now a small fish in a big pond. Players were sneaking out the side and back to avoid the rush of fans. I was now sitting on the stairs leading up to the 2nd floor admin offices. I had managed to get a few autographs before the larger adults had squeezed me out of my prime location by the locker room door and forced me over to the stairs. My autograph collecting opportunities had taken a serious hit at this point.

As I was sitting on the stairs watching all the mayhem, I heard a psst, psst noise coming from the 2nd floor above my head. As I turned and looked up I was amazed to see Gary Clark waving me up the stairs. I collected my things and bounded up the stairs to meet Gary and who else should be sitting up on the 2nd floor…Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen, who was enjoying a large cigar. Gary happily signed for me and even promised to catch a TD for me in the Super Bowl (he did.) As an added bonus I was able to also secure the autographs of 2 Hall of Famers.

Maybe Gary felt bad about the encounter we had earlier and decided to sign for me, maybe he really was busy and couldn’t sign for me at the earlier time. It really doesn’t matter, he came thru for me big time and I’ll never forget it. On a separate and totally unrelated note, I ran into Gary at Camelot in DC in the late 90’s. He was sitting alone at a table with a bible. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing, it’s just unusual to see a man in a strip joint with a bible.

I thank Gary for that moment and all of the Redskins that I met during my childhood that were always super cool and gave me memories to last a lifetime. It’s really hard to form an opinion of someone in a single moment in time. Just because an athlete doesn’t want to, or can’t sign for everyone doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Gary Clark was cool to me…now if you want an example of a D-bag (and this is based on several meetings,) this is your guy.

Cheers and Hail

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