Monday, July 17, 2006



There are times in every person’s life where an event can have an impact great enough to set off a chain reaction that shapes part of who we are and why we do some of the things that we do. I’ve nailed down one of those events in my life.

June 11, 1989.

The world recognised. I recognised.

A teenager by the name of Michael Chang became the youngest Grand Slam champion the tennis world has ever seen. Standing at 5 feet 9 inches and having been on this earth for only 17 years and 3 months, he battled against the heavyweights of the game and against all odds, came out on top. Some might call it a fluke but after beating cramps and Ivan Lendl in a marathon 5 setter in the semis, and then Stefan Edberg in the finals, those that witnessed these two incredible matches knew that it was no fluke. I was in awe. Mesmerized by what he had accomplished. Like so many kids around the world that day, I wanted to be like Mike.

I wanted the same shirt that he wore, the same shoes and even the socks. I even had the exact racquet he endorsed later in life. I wasn’t alone in this. Going to tennis coaching in the afternoons, plenty of other kids were decked out in the exact gear. We fell for the marketing hook, line and sinker but hey, we were impressionable kids then. No harm being a dreamer (and a poser). It didn’t matter that we couldn’t hit the ball for peanuts but at least we looked good. I can’t help but think that this was where the seeds were sown.


The beginning of a new decade. I don’t think that the somewhat conservative world of tennis was ready for another John McEnroe, let alone a new and 'improved' version. McEnroe was still on the tour then but the last thing parents wanted to see was the 90s version of him being a role model for their sons or worse, a sex god for their teenage daughters. Andre Agassi was not a guy you wanted your daughter to date or your son to become. The long peroxide hair, the earring and the denim shorts, these were some of the signs that made a lot of people nervous. A rebel without a cause? Maybe in the early stages of his career but I think that he is genuinely expressive and he was a character that would bring excitement, flair and colour into the game. And boy, was there going to be a lot of colour.

“Did you see those shorts?!”. Everybody was talking about Andre when he unveiled the fluorescent lava red outfit. Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those shorts but I have got to have those shoes. I don’t know what it was but those shoes had a hold on me and I couldn’t shake it. I can still remember the day I got those shoes and the feeling that it brought when I had them in my hands and on my feet for the first time. It was ecstasy. I wore those everywhere. Dinner functions, tennis, football in muddy fields, hanging out, you name it. Within a year, it was trashed. My beloved shoe had a huge hole in the soles but that didn’t stop me from wearing them or cherishing them.


Nike made the second of the Air Tech Challenge series. It was just as beautiful as the first. I’ve got to have it…again.

These babies were as hot, if not hotter than the first. I would have traded all my Transformers toys for them if someone had asked me. (Ok, so I wasn’t as cool as those GI Joe kids. You happy now?) . As luck would have it, things don’t go according to plan. My trusty chant of, ‘Mum, can I PUUUUHLLEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZZZZZZZ have them?! PUHLEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ?!’, did not work. I could put a seasoned monk to shame with my devotion to that chant. I can remember my mum laughing at me because I would be slurring those exact words even when I was so buggered and falling asleep. Mum was having none of it because another pair of expensive tennis shoes within such a short period of time just was not going to fly with her. Fortunately, my dad had a weakness. My chants. He probably wanted to save himself the public humiliation that my mum was immune to.

Since then, I have had a fascination with sneakers. I would wander into a sports store now and again to check out the latest releases and drool at the odd pair. As a kid with no job, I have missed out on my fair share on ‘must haves’. Birthdays and Christmases provided me with much joy and anticipation as they were a kid’s pay day.

That fascination has manifested itself to something pretty ugly these few years. As a grown man, with disposable income come many temptations. One of which is to feed the inner child in me. To have what I could not have when I was a kid.

The vast majority of people outside the sneaker-loving community have a hard time understanding the passion. I’ve been through my fair share of weird looks and comments. I think this is mostly due to my age and profession. I have had acquaintances from work come over to my house to chill and as soon as they see my displays, shoes and shoe boxes, they have that look. Not the, ‘Wow! That’s so cool’ look but the, ‘Why is your penis growing on your forehead?’ look. The kicker is when I tell them that a lot of them are brand new and I don’t plan to wear some of them. At this point they’re probably looking for the quickest exit and getting ready to kick me in the balls to make their getaway. That is why I would say that I’m careful in who I tell my addiction to.

I guess I can find solace from other avid collectors that I have had the privilege to meet over the years via the many forums and websites dedicated to us crazies. Just knowing the amount of sneakers I have pales in comparison to some fanatics out there makes me think that I’m not that bad but am I? All I can say is, ‘I am what I am’. Wait. I think that’s a Reebok commercial.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Nike Air Tech Challenge II Commercial


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