|
|
The Suburbanite
  • STEVE KING: Chuck makes a sneaker comeback

  • It’s been said that when your time comes, your life passes before your eyes.Realizing that, then, I’m holding on for … well, dear life. If they’re going to take me, they’re going to have to fight to do it. I won’t go quietly. My life didn’t just pass by me recently. Rather, it ran past me. I can identify the shoes that were used.

    • email print
  • It’s been said that when your time comes, your life passes before your eyes.Realizing that, then, I’m holding on for … well, dear life. If they’re going to take me, they’re going to have to fight to do it. I won’t go quietly.
    My life didn’t just pass by me recently. Rather, it ran past me. I can identify the shoes that were used.
    Black ones.
    Black Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars canvas ones, that is.
    Back in the day, those were the shoes of choice of every male basketball player, real and imagined. Kids, high schoolers, colleges and even the pros wore them.
    We saw that on Sundays on ABC-TV when the Boston Celtics played the Philadelphia 76ers or the New York Knicks. Those were the only teams whose games were televised. The rest of the NBA, such as Cincinnati, where the “Big” Royals, with “The Big O” (Oscar Robertson) and “Big Luke” (Jerry Lucas), played, was flyover country.  
    Chuck was a popular guy. Everybody wanted to walk a mile – or run 94 feet, the length of a basketball court — in his shoes.
    Eventually, though, Chuck fell by the wayside. His reputation got walked on. Players of all ages gravitated to other shoes.
    The page had been turned — in Chuck’s life and in ours. We hoped he would enjoy his retirement.
    If the truth be told, though, we didn’t think about Chuck for years. It’s not that we were turning our backs on him. It’s just that we were turning to other things, like getting married and starting families.
    Those kids didn’t wear Chucks. They wore tennis shoes that glowed in the dark or had Big Bird emblazened on them.
    In comparison, Chuck, with his black color, was like black-and-white TV — yesterday’s news.
    Then, years later, Chuck made a comeback, although those of us from back in the day didn’t know it. We still were doing other things. Our athletic events didn’t involve trying to soar through the air like Elgin Baylor, but rather shuffling along walking trails on surgically repaired knees with tennis shoes that were advertised to be easy on the joints.
    But if you stick around this world long enough, you’ll realize that life is like a boomerang. Everything you used to know comes back your way, stares you in the eye and says, “Remember me?”
     And so it was with Chuck. While walking into a local shoestore to buy a pair of sneakers that are good for walking because they’re kind to creaky bones, I stopped dead in my tracks. My jaw dropped. It was like the first time I witnessed a Bob Cousy behind-the-back pass, in that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
    Page 2 of 2 - There, on a decorative display, were countless Chucks, all dressed up in their finest for 2013. Think of your crew-cutted Uncle Myron from back in the day, with horned-rim glasses, a white sports shirt and black pants, showing up on your doorstep with long hair in a ponytail, a tie-dyed shirt and bell-bottom pants.
    These were the new and improved Chucks. Those wanting them and wearing them don’t know if there are basketball games on TV and they don’t care. All they want to do is text and tweet — as fast as they can, like John Havlivcek leading the fast break.
    These Chucks more resemble the tennis shoes our kids used to wear, with glitzy colors and styles and Sesame Street characters smiling back at us, than they do the Chucks we knew.
    There were lime-green Chucks.
    Hot-pink Chucks.
    Bright-orange Chucks.
    Chucks with all kinds of colors on them, like the time your basketball hit the paint rack in the garage, knocking all the cans from the shelves and spilling their contents onto the concrete floor.
    Chucks with designs on them. Think of the prints off one of your Aunt Ethel’s handsewn quilts stitched onto a tennis shoe.
    Yes, Chuck had been resuscitated, even reincarnated. But he didn’t look like himself. There was nothing resembling a shoe that Bill Russell used to wear.
    It is at that moment that my life passed before me. The final curtain appeared ready to be brought down, and it wasn’t pretty.
    The shoe that you once believed with all your heart was the be-all and end-all of your total existence, that when you wore them it made you somebody even when you were nobody, were now being displayed in full-page ads in Seventeen magazine.
    It is the same knock-you-to-your knees, stuck-in-the-distant past realization that comes when your most favorite be-bop hits from back in the day now serve as elevator music;  when you can’t give away a big, ol’, bulky analog color TV that once served as the centerpiece of every family’s living room on Sunday evenings while “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” was on; and when nobody younger than of 40 even has any idea who Jerry West is.
    But these younger people all now about Chuck, just like we did, and there’s certainly some comfort in the realization that at least part of who we were and is still relevant. We’re not dinosaurs quite yet.
    So maybe that’s not my life passing before me after all. Could be that it’s just the smoke from a distant fire.