During my high school days our football/soccer team was a blend of two distinct groups of players conveniently separated by railroad tracks. Beyond our weekly matches against formidable testosterone-fueled opponents, an internal battle was being waged. Although on match days we were outfitted in the finest uniforms, alloted a soccer team in an American football dominated school, practice days featured a smattering of clothing choices that were as disparate as the household incomes of my teammates. In our own version of Project Runway, points were awarded in two categories, Ghetto and Status. Ghetto Points were awarded to those of us that re-appropriated basketball shorts, NFL jerseys and air-conditioned t-shirts covered with colorful stripes earned during summer painting jobs. Status Points, also dubbed Jew Points by our yarmulke donned teammates, were awarded through the wearing of Adidas equipment. Shirts of the latest colors and patterns were proudly worn along with matching or coordinating shorts and socks. But it was the shoes that were the real kicker. Shiny black leather adorned with the unmistakable three white stripes, a far cry from the lesser brands sported by the rest of us. Did the shoes make the player, or the player make the shoes?
It is now 26 years on since my last high school match. And much to the chagrin of Natasha's father I have continued to play the beautiful game. However, my game has not been so beautiful of late. It couldn't be that I am getting old, or spending too much time sitting on my ass in front of this computer, right? Therefore it must be the shoes. Of course, the shoes!
When my football buddy (I use the term in jest), Terje said that he was looking for new boots the other day, I became giddy with the prospect of my pitch redemption being a purchase away. We agreed to meet at Paragon Sports to only find a pathetic selection of shoes in a sea of Beckham Galaxy jerseys. Two Footlocker stores and one Sports Authority only proved to me that this nation has all but dismissed the game that the rest of the world can't live a day without. Drained of my giddiness, my last hope was the Adidas store on Broadway and Houston.
Past the running sneakers, and around the baseball cleats I was to soon discover the Holy Grail of football boots. The adiPURE (firm ground version) in classic black with traditional 3-stripes is a purist's wet dream. An ageless beauty, fashioned in kangaroo skin and impeccably detailed with both copper and black stitching by artisans familiar with old-world craftsmanship and the game itself. The cleats are a perfect blend of high-tech molding and high-performance comfort. A short tongue, delicate embossing, sleek piping and a subtle copper rivet round out the detailing on a boot whose beauty surpasses the sum of its parts.
The first test run on a wet and slippery Cadman Plaza carpet afforded me the agility and stability to make a few moves, a few key passes and the occasional goal. A perfect 10 on Status Points, finally.