Updated: January 20, 2013 6:16AM
As a rule, I don’t write about sports. Friends and family who have watched me watch games can talk endlessly about how little I know.
But Brian Urlacher has shown me that ignorance need not be an impediment to self-expression.
So with apologies to great sports writers like Rick Morrissey of the Sun-Times and David Haugh of the Tribune who have commented eloquently on Urlacher’s recent spit fit at fans and media, I offer this small story:
Back in the day — before Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno — there was Jack Paar. He was the king of late-night television on NBC’s Tonight Show when I was in grammar school. On rare occasions, my parents would let me stay up to watch him.
One of those nights, Paar turned his considerable comedic skill on his army of fans, berating them as boorish boobs who had the gall to approach him on the street or in a restaurant to tell him that they watched his show.
Some of them, he pointed out with biting humor, were nervous, some were clumsy, and some of them in their excitement could only remember his face but not his name. I recall Paar mimicking them, “ ‘You know who you are, uh, you’re, you’re . . .’ ”
My father, watching Paar’s performance that night, called me by my nickname saying, “You see that guy, Annie? He’s biting the hand that feeds him, ridiculing the people who pay his salary. Turn him off.”
I never forgot it.
And years later, working in the NBC newsroom in Chicago, I paid it forward to my own child. That day, two big basketball stars, Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller, came in for interviews.
A few of us brought our little kids including my son Josh. The kids shyly asked for autographs. Shaq rolled his eyes and only reluctantly and ungraciously agreed. Miller, who had a tough-guy reputation, couldn’t have been kinder to every single one of them.
When Josh and I got in the car to leave, I told him, “You see the Reggie Miller autograph? Keep it. You see the Shaquille O’Neal autograph? Tear it up. He doesn’t deserve you.”
That’s what I think about Brian Urlacher.
A spoiled brat who doesn’t deserve fan loyalty. Or the percentage of the eye-popping ticket price he collects as his team loses yet another game.
As a former soccer mom, I’ve always believed in offering words of encouragement even as players fumble or fail.
“At least,” I always told my son, “you tried. And that’s what counts.”
Urlacher — and by extension, as Rick Morrissey points out, the Bears — have made no such effort with those of us watching from the sidelines.
And so, if you have an Urlacher autograph, tear it up.
If you have his jersey, give it to Goodwill.
If you see him on the street, ignore him.
He’s earned it.