Plea to athletes: Don't make your autographs the Pitts

Take it from Arnold Palmer, a sloppy signature is no way to become King of your sport.

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
  • Arnold Palmer signed about 1.2 million autographs, all of them legibly
  • A-Rod should have made J.Lo sign a pre-nup stating she'd return his $1.8 million engagement ring
  • Jaguars fans need to raise money to buy Trevor Lawrence a chip for his shoulder.
  • If Abraham Lincoln had an autographed rookie card, would it be worth more than Tom Brady's?

Before we get to breaking news of the world about the end, a word of advice to prospective NFL draftees.

If you're going to sign an autograph, please don't do it in hieroglyphics.

An autograph kerfuffle erupted last week when semi-famous sports business reporter Darren Rovell took very famous NFL prospect/ex-UF standout Kyle Pitts to task over his autograph. Rovell tweeted to his 2 million Twitter followers that Pitts should put forth a little more effort when he signs things.

The signatures in question were on a series of Leaf Draft Football cards. Instead of his actual name, Pitts scribbled his initials. And the P looked more like an oblong balloon sticking out of the K.

Rovell was blasted on social media for picking on Pitts, who is finally getting to make some money off his name/image/likeness instead of having to donate it to UF's athletic budget.

Not to pick on Pitts, because he's hardly the first person to pen an indecipherable autograph. But I wish every jock/celebrity had Arnold Palmer's approach to autographs.

He considered it an honor when someone asked him for his signature, he took incredible care to make it legible. Arnie's flowing and precise autograph became part of his trademark and influenced generations of golfers.

"He and Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus have very legible signatures and I always try to make mine legible as well — or at least know that it's me if you look at it from a distance," Phil Mickelson told PGATour.com.

One other thing. Palmer signed an estimated 1.2 million autographs — for free. I don't expect anyone to pass up easy money. But if someone's paying for you to sign your name, you should at least sign your name. ...

On to Armageddon, billions of people are reeling from the Big Breakup news. No, not Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez splitting, but Sunday's announcement that 12 of the world's top soccer teams plan to form their own league, the European Super League.

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson slammed the move, saying it's a money grab that will damage smaller leagues. In keeping with U.S presidential tradition dating back to Warren Harding, Joe Biden said, "Soccer? What's that?"

I'm no expert on this seismic occurrence, but I fully expect the SEC and Big Ten to try to join the new league. ...

Toaster Update: The Jaguars fans who set out to buy Trevor Lawrence a $300 toaster as a wedding gift ended up raising more than $11,000. Lawrence was so moved, he's kicking in $20,000 more, all of which will go to charity.

That's nice, but I still think for $300 a toaster better be able to block a blitzing linebacker and make an omelet. ...

Correction: Arnold Palmer charged for his autograph one time. His grandchildren set up a lemonade stand at the 1994 Bay Hill tournament. Business was slow, so Arnie agreed to sign for anyone who'd buy a $1.50 glass. His grandkids made a quick $50 before running out of lemonade. ...

Alabama got a commitment last week from Jaheim Oatis, a four-star offensive lineman from Mississippi for the Class of 2022. He was originally offered a scholarship as an 8th-grader.

Before you accuse Nick Saban of cradle robbing, the Gators have offered scholarships to a couple of 8th-graders over the years. Softball coach Tim Walton got a commitment from 7th-grade pitcher Keagan Rothrock in 2017. She's now the top-rated recruit in the 2023 class. ...

Stud of the Week: Steph Curry. He made 10 3-point shots in three games. Other than Klay Thomspon (five), only three other players have made 10 3-pointers in three games for their entire careers. ...

A moment of silence, please, for Hester Ford of Charlotte, N.C. The oldest American died Sunday at age 116.

 Ponder that. Teddy Roosevelt was president when she was born in 1904. The Gators were unbeaten in football, but only because they didn't have a team until 1906. Cy Young won 26 games and pitched a perfect game, but he still didn't win the Cy Young Award.

 Autograph Redux: The priciest autograph ever is on George Washington's personal copy of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. It sold for $9.8 million in 2012, though none of that went to George or Martha. Next up is Abraham Lincoln's autographed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, which sold for $3.7 million.

In related news, an autographed Tom Brady rookie card recently set a football-card record when it sold for $2.25 million.

The unofficial record for most autographs signed goes to Richard Petty. It's estimated he's signed two million of them. In other words, if he had a dollar for every autograph he signed, he still couldn't have afforded that Tom Brady rookie card.

Something's wrong with that, though not as wrong as a Tom Brady card relatively worth an Abe Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation. ...

UEFA warned Monday that anyone who plays in the European Super League might be banned from top international tournaments. That means if about 300 more teams join the proposed league, the U.S. might actually have a chance to win the World Cup. ...

Clarification — Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is expected to be a first-round pick. He gets a pass if he shortens his name for autographs. ...

Trevor II — Some draftniks are wondering if Lawrence has the competitive mentality for the NFL after he told Sports Illustrated he doesn't "have this huge chip on my shoulder" when he plays.

In response, Jaguars fans have started a campaign to buy Lawrence a chip the size of a toaster for his rookie season. If he autographs it, it will probably sell for $1.2 million. ...

Breakup Update: J.Lo reportedly has yet to return the $1.8 engagement ring A-Rod gave her. French President Emmanuel Macron said that's what he gets for taking PEDs. ...

Final Note — Is it mere coincidence autograph gods Arnold Palmer and Richard Petty were both nicknamed "The King"? ...

Final Final Note — The longest name in U.S. sports history was Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. Fortunately for announcers and autograph collectors, he went by only the first two names. ...

 Final Final Final Note — The only autograph I ever asked was Secretariat's. He graciously turned me down.

David Whitley

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley