On A Shoestring

March 25, 2005

It’s about time for me to get some new sneakers. Oops, let me rephrase that. A "sneaker" is a shoe you buy for $25 or less, and you probably won’t find them in one of those stores with all the flashing lights and a guy dressed as a referee standing in a Plexiglas box singing "Chantilly Lace". Sneakers also don’t get advertised. I’m actually thinking of athletic support shoes. When I was in school what you put on your foot was called a "sneaker" regardless of how much it cost, while an "athletic supporter" was something you wore…well, you know. I guess the fancier name better describes shoes that cost, on average, $125 a pair even though they’re made by kids in New Guinea working for about 40 cents an hour. A few years ago this price gouging was justified by all the new features athletic shoes were getting. There were pumps in the front, little lights in the heel, and even springs. Most of these were designed by people who’d watched 72 straight hours of Roadrunner & Coyote cartoons. At that time it was cool to have these completely unnecessary things in your shoes because they were the shoes that all athletic celebrities wore. Remember those far off and innocent days of 1997 when professional athletes were people most of us wanted to be, or at least be like? If we couldn’t jump high or throw a curve ball or pocket the nine-ball after a three-cushion bank at least we could have pumps in our shoes.

Someone actually said to me that there was no difference between wearing "performance enhancing" gear and taking steroids. I have to admit he’s got a point. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a pair of shoes make me bald, impotent, and cause heart failure. Especially the ones with lights in the heel. Between steroids and bright purple shoes with oversized tongues, lights in the heel, and a huge zigzag across the side I’ll take the shoes. I like to have something on my feet even though it diminishes the impact of my firewalking act because tetanus isn’t nearly as much fun as my kindergarten teacher told me. Really striking shoes say, "I’m very secure with myself, and feel compelled to advertise that fact," while taking steroids only says, "I like to jab myself with needles!" Diabetics who jab themselves with needles are brave. People who inject themselves with steroids will only feel secure if they walk around looking like their eyes are trying to escape from their skulls. But I digress. Because professional athletes have fallen from grace the advertising for athletic shoes has a new strategy: it focuses on the games themselves. We see a string of anonymous players getting their teeth knocked out and their faces ground in the mud, and the spoken message of the commercial is, Play the game because you love it, not for money. At $125 a pair the shoe manufacturers have a lot of nerve telling us not to care about money.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A woman takes a lover home during the day while her husband is at work. Her 9-year old son comes home unexpectedly, sees them and hides in the bedroom closet to watch. The woman’s husband also comes home. She puts her lover in the closet, not realizing that the little boy is in there already.

The little boy says, "Dark in here."

The man says, "Yes, it is."

Boy: "I have a baseball."

Man: "That’s nice."

Boy: "Want to buy it?"

Man: "No, thanks."

Boy: "My dad’s outside."

Man: "OK, how much?"

Boy: "$250"

In the next few weeks, it happens again that the boy and the lover are in the closet together again.

Boy: "Dark in here."

Man: "Yes, it is."

Boy: "I have a baseball glove."

The lover, remembering the last time, asks the boy, "How much?"

Boy: "$750"

Man: "Sold."

A few days later, the father! says to the boy, "Grab your glove, let’s go outside and have a game of catch." The boy says, "I can’t, I sold my baseball and my glove."

The father asks, "How much did you sell them for?"

Boy: "$1,000"

The father says, "That’s terrible to overcharge your friends like that .. that is way more than those two things cost. It’s almost like stealing. I’m going to take you to church and make you confess."

They go to the church and the father makes the little boy sit in the confessional booth and closes the door.

The boy says, "Dark in here."

The priest says, "Don’t start that again, you’re in my closet now."

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