Todd Gurley Suspension Shines A Light on Creepy Memorabilia Market


Georgia running back Todd Gurley is suspended indefinitely for violating an NCAA rule, which of course, reignites discussion about the NCAA typically reserved for the offseason.

The typical dividing lines are drawn, with some falling into the anti-NCAA and others hammering Todd Gurley for breaking a clearly defined rule–and a rule that should have been prominently recognized among all football players, after it nearly cost Johnny Manziel his 2013 season.

But there’s a third category at play that really isn’t commanding enough attention: The sports memorabilia market is creepy.

Two years in a row now, we’ve seen Heisman Trophy candidates embroiled in this seamier side of sports fandom–though describing it as fandom is something of a misnomer.

Memorabilia brokers are not fans. At least, not the kind of memorabilia brokers who pay college athletes to knowingly violate NCAA regulations that will jeopardize their college careers. And certainly, the kind of memorabilia broker who does this, then squawks to every media outlet that it can because he/she feels jilted is not a fan. (Side note: I’m going gender neutral, but let’s be honest: It’s almost certainly a he. Go to a sports memorabilia show sometime and generally, the only women in attendance are moms taking their sons. Otherwise, these events are a dank pit of depression and body odor.)

No, brokers don’t care about the athletes. They care about athletes’ monetary value, and Todd Gurley allegedly devalued a broker’s product by signing autographs for others.

I find the whole market staggering, to be honest. Adults paying hundreds or thousands for a series of squiggly lines?

I understand the excitement of obtaining a favorite players’ autograph. Were I a young Georgia Bulldogs fan today, I’d relish shaking hands with Todd Gurley at the spring game and waiting eagerly as he signed my program.

And indeed, I have fond, childhood memories of approaching athletes to ask for a signature. I was always nervous, but always elated whenever one has happy to oblige. Most of the autographs I collected as a boy now take up space in a closet at my parents’ condo.

The signatures themselves don’t really mean much to me; rather, the memory of being an awe-struck youngster interacting with athletes I enjoyed watching are what have value.

Somewhere along the way, I started noticing girls, I cared a lot more about music and clothes, and I was less enthralled with the idea of getting an autograph.

Now, when my son is old enough to be interested in meeting athletes and perhaps getting their signatures, I’ll encourage him. I want him to look back one day at interacting with his favorite players, much like I look back fondly on my brief interactions with Joe Carter, Sean Elliott, Kenny Lofton and such.

And, hey, if he wants to sprint to do so? I’m cool with that–so long as he’s not yet high-school age.

However, it’s really a bummer that something I remember from the lens of my own childlike wonder exists as a much dorkier version of Wall Street–which, at it’s heart, is the reason Todd Gurley is now suspended.

Some are suggesting the memorabilia rule be abolished, which ties into the larger matter of college athletes being prohibited from profiting off their likeness. Others suggest Todd Gurley knew the rules and should simply abide by them.

Whichever camp you’re in, I think we can all agree that this creepier element of sports can’t go away fast enough.