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Just Can't Do It

Niketown exhausted me -- and I wasn't even shopping.

Now, I'm not one of those people who say they liked Bruce Springsteen before anyone else, but I did wear high-top sneakers before they were fashionable. Lately, however, I seem to be lacking the technical knowledge necessary to make appropriate footwear selections.

A Niketown recently opened about 20 minutes away from me. (Soon we'll all be able to say that.) Niketown is a store, sort of. It's more like a shrine to sports heroes wearing swoosh-marked shoes and clothes.

I recognized a black-and-gray map of the world that stretched across half the store, but if marketing and special events manager Mark Sacks hadn't given me a tour, a lot of the other stuff would have escaped my eye. He pointed out a waffle pattern on the glass stairs. That's where it all began for Nike, he explained.

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While handcrafting running shoes for the University of Oregon track team he coached, Nike founder Bill Bowerman used a waffle iron to melt the rubber soles. He and his team were delighted to find that the waffle shape afforded them unexpected traction. It's a beautiful piece of Nike lore, but someone could have held a gun to my head, threatening to shoot unless I explained why those little squares were on the stairs at Niketown, and I'd never have guessed they were a tribute to Nike's waffle-bottomed origins (another irrefutable argument for gun control). I shudder to think of the loss to the sports world and the beauty of Niketown's steps had Mr. Bowerman owned a microwave or a double boiler.

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