Defending Tashard Choice's Autograph Gesture

Mike Foster@michaelsfosterCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31:  Tashard Choice #23 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cowboys Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Earlier today ESPN broadcasted their latest Outside the Lines episode, which focused on the "lack of professional behavior" in today's NFL, as well as the rest of pro sports.

I was completely intrigued, especially considering the Jets-Dolphins tripping incident. 

Other events used as examples for unruly behavior were DeSean Jackson's taunt and when LeBron James joked with former Cleveland Cavalier teammates during a game earlier this year.

But, one "issue" featured immediately had me infuriated. 

ESPN brought up the event where Tashard Choice asked for Michael Vick's autograph following last night's game in Dallas.

Choice, who's Cowboys lost a close 30-27 game to the Eagles, ran up to Vick while he was giving a post game interview to get a signature on a glove.

Apparently this was unprofessional. A little silly, maybe, but the fact that a harmless event was mentioned in the same breath as the Jets tripping incident had me scratching my head.

It took me no more than a few seconds of analyzing to come to the conclusion that what Choice did was the opposite of unruly behavior.

From a respect standpoint, Choice was showing respect to an opponent. Do we not want opposing players to show respect, even when it's to a rival team?

The signature completely contrasted the disrespect showed by Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson's taunt, which I even felt was nearly as harmless of an incident. 

But, even giving a cold stare to the way a man scores a touchdown, how could ESPN take a reasonably disrespectful act like the one put on by Jackson and equate it Tashard Choice's display?

Where is Choice in the wrong? Some people are saying he might have needed to wait until later, or a day during the week, to get the glove signed.

Are you kidding me? It's not a simple task to catch a professional athlete. Had Choice gone to the locker room after the game, his opportunity to get the autograph would likely be gone.

As someone who has experience in post game interviews with athletes, I can tell you that even catching up with a high school football player following a game is a move that is made in haste as soon as the clock strikes zero on the scoreboard.

Luckily, I had Facebook as a tool to help conduct interviews with players, as well as receiving head shots.

But, I never had to get a guy to autograph anything. Choice wanted one for a relative, in the spirit of Christmas, and people are ridiculing him?

Just because he lost the game doesn't mean he should shut his mouth, put his head down, and sulk towards the locker room with no interaction with anyone affiliated with the Philadelphia Eagles organization.

What type of insanely unprofessional interaction are we trying to enforce by expecting players to hate their rivals? Dallas fans who are unhappy with Choice's actions need to get a grip, and calm down.

The state of the franchise has you down and hating. Should every player on the Cowboys team reflect their record by opposing interaction with players from other teams?


What happens before and after the game is  the players business. It's different when players are being disrespectful. It's different when players are starting fights in the tunnel as they exit the field.

This issue coincides very well with the Derek Anderson "incident" from a few weeks ago. The Cardinals quarterback was the top discussion on sports radio because he cracked a smile during a losing effort in a game.

I've been losing in a game I wanted to win before. I also likely smiled a few times during it. It amazed me that nobody gave the thought he was sarcastically laughing. But, even if he wasn't, who cares? The man is aloud to feel emotions. We don't play the games. We don't have the right to critique behavior in that way, unless it is confrontational and harms others. 

Here is to the NFL not even suspending Andre Johnson or Cortland Finnegan. Here is to the NFL not calling helmet to helmet and late hits on Vick during last night's game.

Here is to the media having such a problem with Choice's gesture that they completely forget to bring up the issue of illegal hits put on Vick.

I was even on Anderson's side when he yelled at reporters. I was more on his side when people starting calling him out on it. Just because you are losing a game, or have lost, doesn't mean you should become a depressed zombie.

What Tashard Choice did was completely harmless, and honestly a little heart warming. 

What was he going to tell his nephew?

"Sorry, we lost, I couldn't get the autograph."

And, can we really claim Choice is distracted because of the event? Do we really think the prospect of getting an autograph hindered his on field performance?

Come on. Give the guy a break. He's a class act player, and he showed nothing but respect and good sportsmanship.

Taunting and tripping are completely different, and the only time a Sharpie should ever become an issue in the NFL is when show boats like T.O. stick them in their socks during games.

Stop hating.

Choice's nephew is about to have a really awesome Christmas gift. The outcome of a football game shouldn't dictate any of that.