In his classic Nike ads from a generation ago, Spike Lee (as Mars Blackmon) asked Michael Jordan what made him the best basketball player in the universe. Was it the vicious dunks? The long shorts? The short socks?
“No Mars, “ replied MJ.
“Money, it’s gotta be da shoes!”
I have never written a shoe review in my life, but how can shoes not be an issue in a sport where footwear is the only equipment used? Like tires on a car, shoes are where rubber meets the road/track in foot racing.
If the kicks weren’t so important. why has every shoe company continued designing and experimenting for the last 50 years? Obviously, marketing is one answer, but there is always more to learn, more performance to squeeze out. Not that a new pair of Air Jordans will make you approximate Mr. Jordan on the court, but in the realm of performance, the small difference is where the money gets divided. Which makes new strides in technology open to new rules in governing. Which, in turn, illustrates why a shoe company sponsorship of a governing organization eventually leads to conflicts of interest both unwanted and unneeded in a time when the integrity of the sport has been called into question over and over again.
So, say, someone goes out and breaks the women’s steeplechase world record by eight seconds, but does so like she were taking the pet terrier out for a walk in the park, and instead of unalloyed encomiums, inevitably some will say, “Whoa! That sure looked easy!” That’s how you know a sport has a PR issue, when a great performance raises red flags rather than simply goosebumps, and the big, red carpet sports awards show (ESPYs) doesn’t even take note of two of the historic American marathon performances in 30+ years. (more…)