Hutton: Memorabilia can be a dangerous wasteland
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or email@example.com October 20, 2012 11:44PM
FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2009, file photo, former basketball coach Bob Knight speaks at a fundraising dinner for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in Indianapolis. After finding out how much those souvenirs cluttering the drawers around his house were worth, Bob Knight decided to auction most of them off. Included are his three NCAA championship rings, an Olympic gold medal and even one of his sport coats.(AP Photo/Tom Strickland, File)
Updated: November 22, 2012 6:55AM
Do you think Bobby Knight should sell his national championship rings and his Olympic gold medal?
He is not broke or adverse to the memories that memorabilia brought, which occurred during his days as the Indiana basketball coach.
He is simply being practical. He doesn’t use the stuff, he doesn’t think about it, he doesn’t need it and he can help pay for his grandchildren’s college education with the money he makes from it.
It’s all curious to me, the way we respond to our memorabilia.
I write this in a room that has a Knight-signed IU basketball sitting on top of a book case. Next to it is an autographed Harry Caray baseball enclosed in a not-so-airtight plastic case. The last time I checked, it was worth $150. I have no intention of selling it, yet if someone walked in and pulled out $150 and offered it to me, I’d have to think about it.
Somewhere in this room, I have a letter that Luke Appling wrote in 1946, wishing my deceased uncle “Happy Birthday.” The experts would say it’s not worth nearly as much as it could be because Appling addressed the letter personally, writing “Dear Jim.” Those are insignificant details, I know, because I don’t plan on selling it.
Somewhere else around here I have a 1975 Cubs baseball, signed by every member of the team — Jose Cardenal, Manny Trillo, Don Kessinger and Steve Stone were all on that team. The signatures are faded, in some cases not even legible or there anymore, and the ball is worn out. The memory of walking on the field — it was cold and windy, an early spring day at Wrigley — and collecting all those autographs is still fresh in my mind 37 years later.
Somehow, my dad knew a friend who had access to the press box who offered to take my brother and me. I’m sure it couldn’t happen again like that for kids today — wander around Wrigley Field during batting practice before a game, collecting autographs.
Downstairs I have my favorite piece of memorabilia: A signed picture of Phil Mickelson jumping in the air on the No. 18 green at Augusta in 2004 after he made the putt that gave him his first Masters title. My father bought it for me and I like it particularly because it’s part of the family room now. I stop and think about what it means every time I see it.
All of this stuff means something to me, but our relationship is complicated. I can spend hours and even weeks drifting through museums and perusing history, wondering what golf, for instance, was really like when they used hickory shafts.
I love nostalgia, just like the next person, but it can be a dangerous wasteland.
I can’t tell you how often I get a phone call from an old Gary guy who went to high school in the 40s or 50s and played some sport. They can talk for hours about what a bustling, vibrant high school sports scene they used to have when there were eight schools and great athletes on every street corner in the city. I had one of those conversations early this week with a great athlete who returns to the city a couple of times a year to visit the graves of his deceased parents.
I’m not sure what to say so I generally let them reminisce, careful not to ruin those wonderful memories. What they say about the “City of the Century”, which was once a bustling, vibrant place doesn’t jibe with anything I know. Broadway is mostly boarded up businesses with faded memories of better days.
But there are still great athletes and great kids and great coaches there today, trying to make it better for everyone. I connect more with those people, the ones that are working now to make it better, more than the people who can’t stop thinking about what it used to be like.
That’s why I ask the question about Knight and his memorabilia. He is a good analyst and he still wants to coach. He still lives in the present. He doesn’t act old even though he’s 72. I just hope I can be that way when I get there someday.