So what if Prescott used an au­topen?

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - GIL LEBRETON

Long be­fore there was fake news, there were fake au­to­graphs.

No less than the third pres­i­dent of the United States, Thomas Jef­fer­son, em­ployed a de­vice that would au­to­mat­i­cally du­pli­cate his sig­na­ture on an ad­join­ing doc­u­ment.

More re­cently, Pres­i­dent Obama used a so-called “au­topen” to af­fix his sig­na­ture on both the Pa­triot Act ex­ten­sion and the fis­cal cliff bill.

And now, it seems, Dak Prescott, quar­ter­back and hero of the Dal­las Cow­boys, has sparked head­lines by al­legedly au­to­mat­i­cally au­to­graph­ing a few foot­ball trad­ing cards.

Oh, the hu­man­ity. Prescott’s hereto­fore choir boy im­age is be­ing as­sailed as “tar­nished.”

Real Al Capone stuff.

The Dak-O-Matic ac­cu­sa­tion be­gan mak­ing the rounds Wed­nes­day in a story on the ESPN web­site by Darren Rovell. He added a photo on Twit­ter of four of the cards, all with sus­pi­ciously iden­ti­cal Prescott au­to­graphs.

This is not the Zapruder film, ladies and gen­tle­men. But you know the Cow­boys — if they aren’t out club­bing and cannabis-ing, they’re coun­ter­feit­ing. That’s the na­tional me­dia’s go-to take.

Not for a minute am I try­ing to in­fer that Dak Prescott has done any­thing il­le­gal or im­moral. I don’t see him quar­ter­back­ing that Long­est Yard foot­ball team this fall.

Get it straight. Prescott isn’t forg­ing Jerry Jones’ sig­na­ture to checks. Rather, a ma­chine is be­ing ac­cused of du­pli­cat­ing Dak’s au­to­graph.

(Ques­tion­able “au­to­graphs” in the sports mem­o­ra­bilia busi­ness? I’m shocked! Shocked to find such fak­ery go­ing on there!)

Sports col­lect­ing has had an au­then­ti­ca­tion prob­lem as far back as the 1909 Honus Wag­ner card. A brief visit to your lo­cal sports mem­o­ra­bilia shop or eBay will at­test to that.

Are those re­ally Nolan Ryan’s and Robin Ven­tura’s au­to­graphs on a framed and mat­ted glossy of their in­fa­mous 1993 brawl? Did Eli Man­ning re­ally wear that au­to­graphed hel­met?

Caveat col­lec­torus. Let the col­lec­tor be­ware.

As HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gum­bel pro­filed in Jan­uary 2006, many so-called “cer­tifi­cates of au­then­tic­ity” (COAs) aren’t worth the parch­ment they’re printed on.

The HBO re­port told the story of Greg Marino, the Michelan­gelo of au­to­graph forg­ers. Marino’s coun­ter­feit sig­na­ture racket took off in the frenzy of the 1998 Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race, and it es­ca­lated to where Marino was reg­u­larly forg­ing the au­to­graphs of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, Frank Si­na­tra and Mother Teresa.

“He was a ge­nius,” says “Ed­die,” a co-con­spir­a­tor whose face was con­cealed in the TV story.

Many of Marino’s forg­eries were “au­then­ti­cated” by real-life foren­sic ex­pert Don­ald Frangi­pani, who later sued HBO un­suc­cess­fully, claim­ing his ca­reer had been ru­ined.

COAs, ac­cord­ing to Ed­die, are “a scam like no other.”

Nei­ther Prescott nor the Cow­boys have re­sponded pub­licly to the ESPN story, and they may well not. It’s en­tirely pos­si­ble Dak didn’t even know some­body had me­chan­i­cally signed some foot­ball cards for him.

But con­sider the source of the story, Beck­ett Me­dia, based in Dal­las. What bet­ter way to call at­ten­tion to its newly formed Beck­ett Au­then­ti­ca­tion Ser­vices than to have one of its two top au­then­ti­ca­tors, Steve Grad, blow an easy whis­tle on the Cow­boys quar­ter­back?

In the Prescott case, no­body is claim­ing any­body coun­ter­feited any­thing. The whis­tle be­ing blown smacks of Beck­ett grand­stand­ing at Prescott’s ex­pense.

Movie stars, rock stars and, yes, even pres­i­dents have used an au­topen to re­pro­duce their sig­na­tures. If you’re an au­to­graph col­lec­tor, you prob­a­bly al­ready know that.

Half the fun of own­ing a player’s au­to­graph, though, is get­ting it from the player him­self — see­ing him or her up close, sign­ing your score­book or what­ever, with your own Sharpie.

I’ll wa­ger that Dak Prescott would gladly do that for you, if you see him in per­son.

In the mean­time, you know the Cow­boys, Al Capone’s team.

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