Sunday, September 1, 2013

Follow The Liga

More than erasable pencil marks near the doorway tracking growth spurts, my personal timeline is measured by the various brands of shoes I've worn. Blue suede Nikes stylishly covered the otherwise shackled steps thru the penitentiary-like hallways of Churchland Junior High during my mandatory sentence in 1984-85. Three years later, a welcome transfer to the more relaxed campus of Bayside High provided a comfortable test track for the Marshall's-purchased gray leather Filas. Canvas K-Swiss Classics crumbled to pieces while engaged in an after-hours match on the tennis courts at Salem High -- the site of my final scholastic stint. The last vestige of my skinnier days is captured in a 1992- era surviving photograph of yours truly fashioning green suede Etonics from the much- missed A & N and a homemade KFC "New Meatier Breast" T-shirt whilst balancing a carton of Edy's ice cream atop a shaved dome. Wet footprints from 1995-2010 were left by Payless-bought BoBos like Cross Trekkers and boring labels a la Spalding. Amidst the X-Mas shopping season of 2011, a blowout sale on a brand I'd once sported at CJHS made me jump from the computer chair and shout: "I AM DONE WITH BOBOS FOREVER!"

Flashback to Marty McFly and the Delorean: Along with the aforementioned Nikes, I was fitted for a pair of black suede/red stripe Pumas at a store inside Military Circle Mall. Brian, my fellow CJHS prisoner and brother, had earlier opted for the Oakland Raiders- inspired shades of black and silver. Prominent figures such as Pele, Boris Becker, Usain Bolt, Jack Black and Rickie Fowler have touted Puma footwear throughout the decades, but no one has ever truly rocked the "Big Cat" like CJHS' own "Fookie." Sure, other inmates like "Mann" and "Pooh" drew numerous catcalls and whistles with their respective Air Jordan and shell-toed adidas togs. The mighty "Fookie," though, made them appear to be modeling Pro Champs. Seriously, it seemed like the legend had over two dozen pairs of Pumas. Following the "rules" of fashion, he never wore the same style on consecutive days. "Fookie" also complemented the chosen shoes with similarly hued Puma warm-up suits and appropriate Kangol head coverings. One morning at the bus stop, he was bedecked in enough purple to make both Grimace and Prince look colorless. If I recall correctly, "Fookie" owned the low-cut Ralph Sampson signature model in gray, light blue and maroon. It's too bad that Puma didn't reissue the version in a limited run when Sampson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year. Did "Fookie" have the foresight to save a new pair in the box for a future date? I'll ask him at the CJHS 30th reunion. Or not.

Returning to 2011, my post-Bobos era commenced with a sneaker deal too irresistible to ignore. The Puma Liga, an indoor soccer shoe, was priced to move at a holiday rate of $33 per pair. Even better, that amount also paid for the shipping and handling. It was tough to choose just one color of Ligas, so I treated myself to a very Merry Christmas and picked two. Did I select red and green as a nod to the yuletide atmosphere? They were strongly considered, but I placed an order for a couple shades that have always ranked in prime slots on my Top Six list. Naturally, I had to go for the classic look of a blue suede/white stripe Puma to atone for the tactical error at Military Circle. An attractive combination of gray suede/blue stripe unlocked the indecision of my "B" pair. Staring intently at the monitor, I spotted several differences between the Liga and its more famous relative. Most notable was the brown rubber sole in place of the white, waffle-patterned one on the original Puma Suede. The Liga's upper tongue was leather, unlike the completely suede portion of the traditional. Lastly, a more defined toe box made for a sharp contrast with the PS' ambiguous part. Transaction completed, the next move was to peek thru the blinds every ten minutes in search of a brown or white delivery truck. What the hell happened to Santa and his sleigh? Oops, I meant to say "heck." Really!

Five business days later, "Big Brown" deposited two cardboard containers on the bench adjacent to my doorstep. The receipts confirmed both packages were from Puma's U.S. headquarters. Now it was time for unboxing! Instead of a regular shoebox, the Ligas were housed in a red, recyclable "Clever Little Bag." Puma's symbolic cat adorned the front and back, while information pertaining to the environment was etched on the sides. Enough about the farmer's market! I finally grasped a blue-and-white "tomato" that smelled of newness and riped with anticipation. Earlier test trials of the Liga at Rack Room Shoes had proved an old line about Pumas "running small" to be accurate, so I made sure to go one full size greater than my usual 9.5 fit. The ten-point-fives felt extremely lightweight and very comfortable during qualifying treks inside the house. Did they perform as well in public? Remembering its roots as an indoor soccer shoe, the Liga and wooden surfaces were a beautiful match made by Chuck Woolery on "Love Connection." On slick floors, though, the worst moments of Roger Lodge's late-night couplings came recurring. I almost cracked my skull on the toilet-in-a-closet at Colley Cantina while barely maintaining a foothold on the drenched tile. To twist an old Alice Cooper album title: Flush the function.

Obviously, this breed of Puma is more about the fashion side of the LP. Recognizing as such, I never wear the Ligas even when it's slightly raining. Sunny days are often referred to as "Puma weather." When not on my feet, they are put back into the "Clever Little Bag" and stuffed with the original, fresh-scented shoe paper. Yes, I occasionally scrub the suede with a toothbrush ... and a brand-new one at that! I've yet to display the maneuver in front of anyone, though.

No more BoBo demotions for this slugger. From now on, I'm in a Liga of my own.

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