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I don't know why things like this still tweak me… but they do. 

Athletes show up at malls, stores, trade shows, flea markets… wherever… to sign autographs. And fans always line up to try to score one. But no one's scoring anything… unless they show up with some cash.

Take, for example, a couple of upcoming signing events for Kevin Youkilis and Rajon Rondo. If you want to get some championship swag with their personalized signatures on them… then get ready to fork over a couple of hundred bucks:

Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is making a New Hampshire stop on Sept. 11, but be aware that since "Youk" has developed into an All-Star and a gold glover, his appearance fee has skyrocketed.  He is signing at BC Sports in the Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem from 6:30 to 8 p.m. that night, but the cost for an autograph on a flat item or ball is $70 and other items are $90. Inscriptions are – brace yourself – an additional $30.

Rondo will be signing in Manchester at the Mall of New Hampshire on Sept. 13. The event, co-promoted by Sure Shot Promotions and Manchester-based New England Picture, is from noon to 1:30 p.m. Rondo's autograph rate has increased significantly in the wake of the Celtics' title run, but that's to be expected. He is signing for $49 on a small flat item and $59 on premium items. Inscriptions, like 2007-08 NBA Champs, will cost you $20.

This is part greed and part necessity. There is… no doubt… some level of cashing in while they can. Whether they're pocketing the autograph money themselves or its going to pay some appearance fee… that doesn't sit well with me. Why does everything have to be about how much money you can get? Youk and Rondo certainly aren't the first… or the last… athletes to do this. Unless this money goes to charity (and it might… I really don't know) then this just smacks of greed.

But then, of course, there is another side. Rondo doesn't know who the hell I am. I could be showing up talking about how much I love him… and then turn around with his free signature on a new basketball… and put it up on EBay. Why should I profit from his signature? Athletes can't even say "I'll sign free for little kids"… because that kid might just be a tool for some collector to get free autographs that are turned into profit.

What's the answer? I think personalized autographs should be free. Those are virtually worthless in auctions. Big-money collectors don't want my name on ball… they want Youk's.  If I wait in line for an hour to get an autograph from Rondo… he should be able to write something like "Dear John, thanks for keeping your stalking to the restraining-order defined 500 feet – Rajon Rondo" without me having to pay for it. 

The whole autograph/memorabilia industry is shady.  I don't know why some of these guys feel the need to get caught up in it.

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