Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 2008


Not all changes are worthy of an “Aha!”

Change has become an important political litmus test, has it not? Before and after the Internet, for instance. Fax machines. Technologies like television and its evolution are easy to track. Next winter, no more rabbit ears? Heck, if it were required that everyone had to have rabbit ears to watch TV, there would be a bigger or more perceptible change — in reverse.

Recently, I was picking up my wife from a friend’s where she was playing bridge with a group that had been no-trumping monthly for the past 30 years. “Come in, come in!” I was entreated as they had only two hands to go. Al, who had been watching the tube in the basement, invited me down. 

“What’s the score in the Sox game?” I asked.

“Oh, gee,” he said grabbing his controller and began searching for the game. His rig had more than 300 channels listed. That’s certainly a change from my basic cable package, which is a clear upgrade from the old three-networks-and-ETV that seemed adequate years ago. And that setup beat the two radio stations that entertained and informed my youth.

But there have been few “Aha!” moments for me like the one I’m about to tell you.

Understand, I am a committed, arrogant shopper. I’ve always overvalued the worth of my time; therefore I dismissed any urge to shop around, price-compare, or be the least bit discerning or good at finding the best, or even the better, value. 

So when I needed new sneakers for tennis, I used the time my wife was playing bridge to get some.

It’s been a while, you know, since Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi led the men’s side of the draw at tournaments, but I wasn’t ready for what I found — at the FIFTH store I tried. I have never even gone to five car dealers before declaring a shopping victory.

It was a big-box sporting goods store, and the back wall was nothing but athletic shoes. Each 4-foot section was topped with a header board of a shoe in action playing football, baseball, basketball, soccer, or running or training or hiking ... no “tennis” header. I grabbed a clerk. “Tennis shoes?” I asked. He walked me over to the cross-training section and pointed to four sneaks.

Well, at least they had four, which was better than the previous stores I had tried. Do you think they had my size? You’re right, they didn’t.

To make things worse, I not only spent more time and effort shopping than I had ever done in my life, I also talked about it later with another guy, for goodness’ sake.

“I know, I know,” he said as we talked for several minutes about my footwear saga rather than the real business purpose of the call. His son reportedly had picked up a pair of Stan Smith’s* recently.

“Oh my gosh, where?” I pressed.

Aha! Something HAS changed after all, and it happened within a fortnight of Wimbledon: Men’s tennis is nearing extinction in the United States. Thank goodness we still have the Williams sisters.

*Stan Smith was the number-one-ranked singles player at year-end 1972. His shoes are still made by Adidas and have leather uppers and feature green piping.