Nike Elite, $14. Nike Hyper Elite, $18. adidas NCAA Team Speed, $14. Under Armour Ignite $13. Nike KD Elite, $16. Under Armour Ignite Stars and Stripes, $15. Nike Vapor, $18. Nike Lebron, $16. Jordan Dri-FIT, $16.
Only $18 for a pair of Nike Hyper Elite's? Only $14 for a pair of adidas? Only $13 for a pair of Under Armour Ignite's? Only $16 for a pair of KD's? Only $16 for a pair of Jordan's?
Wait. What's that you say? We're talking about socks? $16; for a pair of socks!? For one pair; of socks? Shenanigans!
It turns out that 35 is the age at which you officially become old when it comes to your take on sports; the games themselves, and the fashion and theatrics tangential thereto.
I'll save - at least for a few weeks - a full fledged analysis of my metacognitive-styled take on why last year was the first season during which I found myself disenchanted with college basketball. The short version, for now, is that college basketball used to be, at least personally, one of the last bastions of basketball being played at a high level, truly as a team sport; complete with motion offenses, changing defenses, youthful exuberance; and, with the NCAA tournament representing a month-long, anything can happen in one game, Cinderella-story-lined basketball-based meta-theatre. Now, college basketball, on the whole, is a watered-down version of the NBA game's over-reliance on high pick-n-roll-heavy, spread the floor and skip pass to and for the corner three (pointer) offenses, which are wholly predicated upon one-on-one principles.
But, back to socks (for now).
I feel old because I've become the cynical adult in the room; or, in this case, in the gym, or in Dicks Sporting Goods. $16 for one pair, of socks!?
I think the return of the (over-priced) crew sock as a basketball (and lacrosse, and general) fashion-forward trend had it's (Gladwellian) tipping point two years ago. I was in the gym with a team of high school basketball players; wearing my no-show socks, when the players chided me that my "ankles must be icy." Using my Merriam Webster's Millennial-to-English Translation Dictionary I realized the kids were saying my ankles appeared to be cold because I was not wearing a pair of trendy, $15 per pair, Nike Elite crew-length socks. My bad.
When I was at Carolina we were issued, as part of our uniform, a pair of socks. To be clear, the socks were issued as, and were as much a part of our uniform as our jerseys and shorts. The socks were not issued along with, or as an optional accessory to, our uniforms. Why(?), asks the present-day AAU player who believes it's his God-given right to play college basketball - because it was a UNIFORM (and we were a TEAM). Google it. No earrings. No facial hair. No shooting sleeves!
I'm willing to concede to my age and to the fact that I was equally part of the want to show some flair by rocking, at different times, knee-length (but all white) tube socks or no-show(s). But, and regardless of age, what I cannot concede to is the sentiment that, as I read in a recent New York Times article, is tied to the same $16 per pair Elite sock trend.
I read that kids are able to, or so they think they can, tell who the real elite players are by and because of who is wearing the Elite socks. Back in the day (which was well-before Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and before cell phones) there was a debate between and among those who fell into two schools of thought. The first felt a player should and/or needed to "look good first, and play good second." Whereas, the second believed a player should play well first, and look good second, if even at all. The rationale behind the former is almost as empty as its grammar is faulty.
I've never been, nor have I ever been accused of being, pretty; and, neither has or is my game. If you want to be elite, practice. Work on your fundamentals and your game. $16 per pair designer crew-socks will get you just as close to playing college basketball (lacrosse or soccer) as a shooting sleeve (on your non-shooting arm, for any reason other than to actually combat tendonitis) will. Wearing $16 per pair Elite socks does not make you a baller.
I know because I wear Nike Elite shorts, and my game is terrible.
Matt Laczkowski's column appears every Monday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.