Freudian Shoe Review : Nike Challenge Court

November 25, 2012

Megan used to answer when you called the 800 number, right?

Is there a Gino of psychiatry/psychology? During my handful of visits, I should have asked my shrink this, but just explaining to her why Gino is Gino wouldn’t have been worth it, @ $200/hr.

Or would it?

Which leads me to this post. Like many dudes, that McEnroe x Gino Nike ad struck a chord a couple months ago, leading me to purchase the shoe itself. I’m usually pretty zen about skate shoes; that is to say, I’lll skate whatever my local shop–or whatever shop I happen to visit in my travels in the mid-Atlantic–stocks. It happens that the shoe’s quasi-mid top design alligns with shit I usually skate, even though I never skate white shoes besides coke-white half cabs.

Why, then, the Challenge Court ? The answer lies in the psychological nexus point where skating, tennis, and the “it’s like a CAROUSEL, MAN!” * nostalgia that fuels #marketingandbranding collide.

Therefore, in this post, I will deconstruct the psychic connection between tennis and skating, break down some of the psychology of Nike’s extremely effective #marketingandbranding, and engage in a very brief qualititative review of the shoe itself–a task best left, of course, to dudes like the homie over at Ripped Laces.


Skating tennis courts has functioned as a rite of passage (via Maple, natch) in the ‘burbs since the early Eighties, probably. In most suburban areas they are the only flat area for flatground. Furthermore, a slew of legendary spots have appeared on tennis courts, such as those banks in Berkeley and that one bank spot from Markovich’s Fight Fire With Fire and Clyde’s 411 Rookie section. I think 12th & A is located on some abandoned tennis courts as well. On the local tip, we used to drive for an hour to skate this setup on some abandoned tennis courts near Fredericksburg,VA. It was actually pretty tight, I think dudes from DC used to come down there as well; like that dude Adam Graham of EST fame supposedly sw b/s nosegrinded (ground?) the rainbow ledge, or some shit.

Along the same lines, I think at one point there were 5 or 6 seperate setups at abandoned/ill-used tennis courts in this town. The closest one is about a football field away from my house, in the middle of the most ordinary apartment complex one could possibly imagine. Like the #TF, it has a giant crack traversing its width. Unlike the TF, it is adjacent to a pool. However, even when I went there to skate flat in the middle of a 110 (or whatever) degree summer day, hot chicks were nowhere to be found. Melrose Place, this complex is not. In addition, the main quasi-legal skatepark in my town was, until recently, located on some unused tennis courts. This leads to the existential dilemma of a thirtysomething grown-ass man skating some boxes on tennis courts. Is bringing a box to a street spot (such as the local schoolyard with hip)  more or less lame? I guess if Busenitz does it it’s cool. But so did McNatt in the Evol vid, kinda?

ANYWAY, from an NY perspective, the Challenge Court is also  interesting because it references the history of skating in Reebok Classics tennis shoes, a common practive of dudes like Ivan Perez. A light, basic cupsole philosophically alligned with the Fila FX500, their ubiquitous distribution facilitated copping them at pretty much every and any sneaker store. Indeed, on one of the handful or so times I actually skated the city with the benifit of a motor vehicle, the driver stopped at such a store, copped some Reebok classics, then proceeded to noseblunt slide a Paine Webber bench. Of course, this happened over a number of hours.


Did this shoe enable me to channel this nostalgic energy into learning backside noseblunts on ledges? Unfortunately, it did not, but it’s a decent lightweight cupsole shoe, for what it’s worth. Note: while thinking of an angle for this review, I decided on a more narrative approach, as opposed to the criteria-based reporting of Ripped Laces or that German Weartested dude.  As background for said narrative, I have been on some shit recently where I skate cups in the streets and vulcs on transition. Jumping on ledges in vulcs feels like skating in mukluks or some shit. Like someone once said, “I know where my board is; I don’t need the ‘feel,’ ” you know?

While the shoe facilitated noseslides on the local version of CIA ledge, i wished for two revisions: A) a thicker tongue and B)tongue straps. A tongue sliding to one side sends my OCD into overdrive. Nevertheless, after acclimating to the slightly different shape–the heel goes out, as opposed to in with half cabs or whatever–shit was tight.

Next session, I headed down to the local miniramp, where my skill set is much more limited than on ledges ‘n shit. However, I soon found that I needed the “feel” and freaked the fuck out mid-frontside-ollie, kicking my board away. Why are vulcs better on transition anyways? I mean, Hensley and Steve Saiz and those dudes used to kill miniramps in Airwalk 900° ‘s or whatever the fuck. ANYWAY, if this shoe reminds me of any classic model from yesteryear it’s the e’S Creagers, with the Challenge Courts offering a little more increased ankle support, which is tight. Like I said, in the interests of full disclosure, I usually skate mids (DC Rick Howard 2’s are my favorite skate shoe of all time).


And there we have the qualitative, narrative shoe review. However, in order to deconstruct the complete portrait of its marketing and branding, we must delve into the history of skating and tennis’ symbiotic relationship. In recent years, one could easily triangulate tennis’ point of entry into the contemporary zeitgeist via Luke Wilson’s role in The Royal Tennenbaums.** Furthermore, over the past year or so, tennis has been so hot right now, what with that Gino Mighty Healthy internet web clip ad, the Challenge Court x McEnroe, and that  FTC x crailtap demo thing, at which you could play tennis with Carroll (!), or some shit. Did anyone go to that?

I wonder if Carroll serves overhand [nullus]. This brings us to another common thread between skating and tennis: a series of seemingly impossible movements, committed to muscle memory, that can only be learned through solitary repetition. Serving overhand. Frontside grinds. One-handed-backhands. Switchstance 360 flips. Same shit.

Also, when tennis began back in ye olden tymes, the aristocracy considered it to be a basic component of the skill set of a gentleman. and to this day, it remains a tight second date option; you’re doing something the whole time so you don’t have to talk too much, the chick, in all likelihood, rocks some tight outfit, and it sets the stage for the third date, which is traditionally the sex date.

Of course, not according to Meek Mill, 50 Cent, or Too $hort.

 ANYWAY, Skating maintains a similar unwritten code. Every dude should be able to set up his own board and exercise proper spot etiquette, regardless of relative skill level on ledges, flat, or transition. And just like skaters, tennis dudes obsess over the most minute details of their “setups,” like the type of nylon with which they string their racquets, the tape with which they grip their handles, shoes, all that shit. ***

Tennis, like skating is also distilled into a series of transcendent moments, differing from other sports because it’s just one dude versus one dude/spot/trick. Case in point: the 2008 Wimbeldon Men’s Final, which combined the stylistic and technical prowess of Gino in Trilogy with a level of Ternaskian emotional gravitas that was like Soldier’s Story to the power of Questionable. The only thing in skating that even approaches this level of impact is watching a highly-anticipated video for the first time. #prettysweet #patientlywaiting [50 cent singing voice]

And although skating has teams with a team “identity,” most skaters back and identify with individual dudes, just like in tennis, where sponsor teams aren’t really that big of a deal. However, I have nothing to base this on; like, maybe there are “welcome to SLAZENGER” web clips out there. ANYWAY, when said dude makes an impact, it can last for generations. When Jovantae pops up at on the crail couch or some shit, or when they show Bjorn Borg**** at Wimbeldon in a powder blue suit drinking a mimosa, it’s fucking majestic.

This is the common thread of skating and tennis with which I resonate the strongest on a personal basis; in the same way that some families are die-hard Steeler or Yankee families, my family is a tennis family, and they back the dudes they back to the death. Everyone still watches and follows the shit, including my grandmother who just turned 86. And just like with skating, the tennis players one backs communicate something about one’s personality. For example, if you claimed McEnroe over Borg in the early Eighties, that made a statement, like if you claimed Julien in the early Nineties (or today for that matter).

Along those lines, my grandfather claimed Federer literally until he died a couple years ago. If I recall, he did so because of the way dude was so fucking cool in the way that he handled his shit and took dudes out (I’m paraphrasing here). Maybe I identified so strongly with the Challenge Court in order to validate skating in the mindset of my parents and grandparents, something I consistently failed to do verbally. Kind of like that one episode of In Treatment when the Gabriel Byrne character subconciously initiated hand tremors –a symptom of Parkinson’s Disease–in order to complete the self-fulfilling prophecy of getting Parkinson’s just like his father.

Or some shit like that.

Continuing on the psychoanalytical tip, while back at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner, I found an old notes packet–a bunch of Freud writings in one photocopied bundle, which I assume is done 100% via the internet now–from college. It proved useful in this post, but only by directing me to Chapter III of Totem and Taboo, entitled “Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thought.” In this chapter, Freud breaks down (via cocaine, I guess) the psychic processes of “Animatism” (the attribution of ideas and mythos to inanimate objects) and “Magic” (the strategies used to do so and to transfer them from one place to another). One can easily apply this to to modern marketing and branding–Jordan, Gino, dylan., even Magik Inc.

Trip the fuck out. The above insight fully reframed my perspective on our “waiting-in-line-for-shit culture,” to recycle a Dill quote.

So, to sum up, #marketingandbranding is a form of sorcery just a few steps removed from the most primitive pre-civilization shamanistic rituals.

That would be tight if that’s how Paul Rodriguez came up with the name for his shop, but I doubt it. Well, see you dudes later; Ii’m going to go work on developing my personal brand.

ps. @frozenincarbonite on that insta, @carbonite1994 on that twitter. also fb.

pps. shoutout to Mad Decent for producing the mix tape trilogy that I listened to almost exclusively while writing this. I recommend checking it out if you are looking for some music to get you amped enough to charge a fuckin’ machine gun nest.

*for the record, I have never watched an episode of Mad Men, I have just seen that clip a couple of times

**a similar phenomemon occurred with orange beanies via Steve Zissou

***I know this because, a couple years ago I think,  someone directed me to what could only be described as the tennis version of the SLAP messageboard

****whom many, according to that HBO doc Fire and Ice, accused of being robotic long before a certain Australian cyborg

2 Responses to “Freudian Shoe Review : Nike Challenge Court”

  1. smorales said

    Growing up in a tennis family as well (my mom manages a club), this is very much my shit. You are on point about a bunch of things here. I may have been the one to point out the SLAP boards of tennis. My mom is a lurker.

    The actual “freudian” part of this could have been delved into a little more but it would have started to get pretty #academic and warranted way too much space.

  2. Doodguy said

    All this skatology is getting uncomfortably close to trekkie talk

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