Today, I had the "honor" of heading down to Sterling, Va., and meeting Bret Hart for the first part of his U.S. book tour. It only took me an hour to drive down to the local Borders and get details of the event.
As I walked into the establishment, carrying my own copy of Bret's book that I ordered months ago from a Canadian bookstore online, I approached the information desk.
The kind gentleman behind the counter informed me that they were going to give away bracelets to people who buy Bret's book that day at the store.
Okay, a minor setback and a miscalculation on my part. I should have assumed that a bookstore would want you to buy the book from them to have it signed by the author. No big deal.
I purchase my new copy of the American printing of Bret's book and decided to hit town as I had about 4 hours to kill. I venture off and come back around 3 o'clock to see many, many wrestling fans standing around waiting to see Bret.
No surprise here because whenever a wrestler shows up to the Virginia area, they get swamped. So I go and wait around the signing table, as the official line hasn't formed just yet, when the manager of the Borders shows up with the rules.
Apparently, Bret will only sign one piece of memorabilia for every book you bought from the store. So if you purchased one book, he'll sign one thing. If you bought 20 books, he'll sign 20 things. This makes sense. Why wouldn't Bret try to upsell his book?
Then the manager said, Bret will not be signing anything that came from the WWE or the WWF. What? Apparently, the reason behind this was Bret didn't want Vince to be making any money off of him so he refused to sign these items.
Okay. I'm not following anymore. If someone is standing in line with an action figure that they bought, let's say at anytime, wouldn't the WWE have already made the money off of the item as it has been sold? Isn't this just now a piece of memorabilia in someones collection and not something that Vince will sell later?
Keep in mind that the only thing I wanted Bret to sign was my book. Well, two books now. I could see the disappointment spread through the store as everyone had something that came from the WWE that they wanted Bret to sign.
And why wouldn't they have it? Bret's longest wrestling run came from the WWE. He has more merchandise from this company than anywhere else. Of course, this leads to small protests and questions. The manager informs the crowd that this is Bret's rule and he will not make any exceptions.
Then the manager announces that if you are standing in line with any of the forbidden merchandise, you will be asked to leave. That's right. They were planning on kicking people out of the store if they broke the "No WWE merchandise" rule.
But to the bookstore's defense, I personally didn't see them kick anyone out, but I wasn't watching them as they went through the entire line.
So we all get in line and waited about an hour for him to show up. He was about 15 minutes late, but his plane landed late. So you really can't blame him for that.
Another Borders employee walks through the line to check your items and leave you a post-it with the exact phrasing of what you wanted Bret to sign in your book. Kind of strange if you ask me, but I guess if someone has a weird name, it's good to have it already spelled out.
I finally get to the front of the line and I am ecstatic. Bret Hart has always been a personal hero to me and this was the first time I ever met him face to face. Sadly, I wish I never went.
The Borders employee took my book and handed it to Bret. Bret began to sign my book before I ever approached the table. I began to tell him how much I appreciate him and everything he has done for the industry and he never looked up at me. Not once. He said "Thank you for coming out" held my hand as someone took a picture and gave me my book.
Let me stress the fact that he held my hand in a shaking position. He didn't shake my hand. When he handed me my book, he was already signing the next one as a Borders employee began shuffling me off to the side.
Being the apologist that I am, I assumed that Bret was having a long day and he had a ton of people to get through. I decided to watch his interaction with everyone else and it was the same. Every single person that went up, Bret barely said anything to them and went through the motions for the pictures.
Finally, a large group of children showed up and I thought to myself "Well, he has to be nice to kids." I was wrong. They got the same treatment. Everyone did and it surprised me that everyone seemed okay with this.
Everyone just excepted the fact that Bret Hart was blowing everyone off. He didn't care that these people made his career. That these people are the only reason that he is still relevant today. That these people spent there Sunday standing in line and driving from as far as Chicago to come and see him.
I walked away from the store feeling terrible. One of my wrestling hero's from yesteryear was exposed for what he truly is; An arrogant, egotistical, bitter old man.