• Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When I was a kid, Converse All-Stars were considered The Shoe.
We also wore Keds, Red Ball Jets and PF Flyers. I fervently believed in the advertising that came along with them.
PF Flyers promised to make you run faster and jump higher, and being one of those kids who neither ran the fastest nor jumped the highest, this was huge. That summer day between third and fourth grade, when I got my brand new pearly white PF Flyers, I went looking for the fastest kid on the street. I wanted to race.
With me my speed was deceiving. I was slower than I looked.
The problem was wind drag. There was too much of me.
I was tall and skinny and it took a long time to pick up my Bozo feet and move them from point A to point B, but I was buoyed by the confidence that my PF Flyers would give me the winged feet of Mercury and I would soar like the birds in flight.
His name was Timmy, and he had long been the thorn in my side in all the backyard games requiring speed and agility. Timmy was built like an elf, short and low to the ground. He didn’t run, he scurried.  
Defeating someone who scurried would be no small task, but I was brash.
I merely strode into our neighborhood back yard arena and threw down the gauntlet, letting all know as I paraded around the driveway in a tribal fashion that yes, I had new gym shoes and yes, they were PF Flyers, the shoes that would make me run faster and jump higher.
“I got PF Flyers,” I announced to Timmy. “I can beat you in a race.”
Timmy’s confidence was just as high.
“No you can’t,” he replied simply.
To which I came back with what could be called Beginner’s Trash Talk 101: “Wanna bet?”
The challenge had been issued, brashly, which means lacking forethought.
I lacked forethought a lot as a kid, but I had my PF Flyers to back me up.
And that challenge had been rebutted and then backed up with a wager of substance. The race was on.
When a race challenge was issued, you just didn’t line up on the sidewalk and take off down the street willy-nilly. There were certain ground rules to follow.
For example, there was no tackling, tripping or pushing in order to gain any undo advantage, and while I wanted this to be a pure race of molded rubber and white canvas speed, this would also be a race of endurance and agility. We were not only going to run fast, but run far, and run over and around things. And there would be no cheating.
If you can’t win wearing PF Flyers and you have to resort to cheating, then you don’t deserve to be in the race to begin with.  
I toed the sidewalk crack and waited for the call. Looking down at my pristine white shoes, I still felt confident in what simple canvas and molded rubber might do to enhance my speed.
As I toed the line, I cut a look at Sherman, the wimpy kid in our gang, who could never run faster or jump higher, but was also head and shoulders above the rest of us in intellectual and cognitive reasoning skills.
He often knew things we didn’t … like bogus sportswear advertising claims.
His mouth was set in a grim, unconvinced lined, and he slowly shook his head as if knowing the outcome already.
My confidence in my PF Flyers began to erode.
Wait a minute…
“On your mark… get set… GO!”
Oh, this would not be pretty.
NEXT WEEK: The race is on.

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