Well Earl Campbell puts the saying, “You can’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”, to the test with this autographed photo. While I was happy to once again get Earl on something I would have been a bit happier if it was on a card. I had even ordered a couple thinking I might have a chance at getting him, but when I arrived at the event, the promoters and handlers for the event made it clear he was only going to sign the stock photo memorabilia. Still when Earl was chauffeured up in his signature black GMC with a handicapped placard I couldn’t help but feel slightly sorry for the guy. He’s been through a heckuva lot, and people just keep heaping more on him, in addition to treating him like a demigod. A woman in front of me said he had a responsibility to sign autographs, and basically make people happy because of his celebrityship. I really disagreed and tried to be more diplomatic about it. We are all human after all.
When Earl emerged from the passenger side of the vehicle, I’m sure many fans were surprised to see what condition their hero of lore was in. (It’s hard to live in an information vacuum, but it’s much easier if you are only a casual fan of sports and did not see the 30-30 ESPN presentation on him.) Earl was clearly using a walker, and had to be helped to the table. While I had heard differing tales of his stubbornness at events, such as when he only signed “E Campbell” at the Fan Fest in 2012, or how he both refuses to allow for personal photos with him or outside personal items now at non-paid signings, Earl for the most part seemed in good spirits. While I was not going to poke the bear, I noticed that on a few larger families of autograph seekers at the beginning, he simply penned “Earl”. First his legs. Now his hands. As the line coiled through the queue and out into the street, I realized how thankful and fortunate I should be to even get an autograph. A few people who were there went up and complained to his hapless son about how they had driven from here or there and wanted to get Earl’s autograph on some sort of memorabilia they had packed, but they really had no excuse, especially after receiving a charity autograph from a Texas and NFL great, clearly doing this out of the kindness of his heart and for some pocket change. Again, the GMC event was very mechanical. When I said to Earl: “Luv’ Ya HOUSTON OILER Blu’ “, he was too busy talking and smiling at his handlers, that were interfering with the whole mystique of the event. I doubt he even heard me. It was a poignant end to an uneven event.