NFL: "I Bet I Know Where You Got Those Shoes"

Randy SavoieAnalyst IIJuly 13, 2009

BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER  15:  On display are the famous black high top shoes worn by Johnny Unitas while completing his last touchdown pass as a Colt on December 3, 1972.  A jersey painted with his name and uniform number on the grass is in the background.  The Baltimore Ravens paid tribute to Johnny Unitas prior to the start of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 15, 2002 at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Baltimore Colts' Hall of Fame quarterback died of a heart attack September 11 at age 69.  The Buccaneers shut out the Ravens 25-0.  (Photo By Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Now more than ever, the NFL has evolved into a "I bet I know where you got those shoes" league.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are probably the kind of person who has asked the question at some point in your life: "What's Jazz?"

Like they say, "If you have to ask the question, you're never gonna' know."

Osgood and Brantley know what I'm talking about. Ask Joffrion to comment on it during his podcast.

Yeah, it has become a league full of million dollar, Escalade drivin', diamond ring wearin' shoeshine hustlers.

Hey, I've got nothing against someone trying to make an honest living and if you want to shine shoes for a living that's a beautiful thing. I just don't want this hustle to infiltrate the National Football League. It's bad enough I have to put up with it in the French Quarter.

The art of shoeshine hustling can be traced back to 19th century Istanbul, Turkey when one villager reportedly said to another, "Et ala betya sandelia," which translates in English to the equivalent of, "I bet I know where you got those shoes."

If you have been to New Orleans, you know the scam.

The shoe shine shark will ask you if you want a shine. If you say, "No thanks", he says "Betcha five dollars I can tell you where you got your shoes." You say, "Sorry, no thanks." Then, he persists, saying that he can not only tell you where you got those shoes but he can tell you what street you got them on.

The unsuspecting tourist takes the bet because he is certain there is no way the hustler can know such personal information.

Then the shoeshine hustler answers, "You got your shoes on your feet. And your feet are on Bourbon Street." He hassles you for the five bucks until some mall cop chases him off.

This con is getting really very old and I, for one, never dreamed it would find its way onto NFL football fields. It is a cheap hustle that has no business in the world's most elite sports league.

Any sideline reporter has witnessed it.

You ever wonder what players are saying to each other at the line of scrimmage?

Wide receivers and cornerbacks exchanging menacing stares and yelling at each other, "I bet I know where you got your shoes." 

Urlacher and Lewis challenging Brady and Manning, "I bet I know where you got those shoes, pretty boy."

We should have known one day it would come to this.

Fashionable footwear in the NFL dates all the way back to Johnny Unitas and his high-top black shoes. Peyton Manning ordered four pairs of those shoes and planned to wear them in a game as a tribute to Unitas until the NFL threatened him with a $25,000 fine at which point he relented.

Nevertheless, men were men and football players were football players in ole Johnny U's day. And you can be damned sure it never occurred to some linebacker to yell over the line of scrimmage, "Hey Johnny U, I bet you I know where you got those shoes."

That player would have been tossed from the arena post haste, and rightly so if you ask me. He would have been labeled a pariah for the remainder of his playing days.

The great Joe Namath continued the trend in the late 60s and early 70s as he brashly stood out from the rest of his New York Jets teammates by wearing white shoes rather than the traditional black.

This was quite the ultimate fashion statement in those days. Yet, football historians who have done considerable research on the subject, conducting hundreds of interviews and reading thousands of articles, can uncover not a single shred of evidence that an opposing player ever had the audacity to scream at Namath, "I bet I know where you got those shoes, Broadway Joe."

In the early 80s, New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor remembers "standing on the sidelines for our preseason finale against the Steelers when Mean Joe Greene came running out in his gold shoes, I thought, 'Man, I'm in the big time now.'"

LT readily admits it never would have occurred to him to say," 'Mean Joe', "I bet you I know where you got those shoes." He knows full well what the ramifications would have been if he had.

Billy Johnson was one of the most electrifying performers in pro football. He did wild end zone dances after thrilling touchdown catches and his fashionable cleats earned him the moniker "White Shoes".

Although he enjoyed drawing attention to himself, no foe on the other side of the ball ever looked Billy "White Shoes" Johnson in the eye and declared, "I bet I know where you got those shoes, Billy Johnson."

And my guess is that if someone had, "White Shoes" would have knocked him flat on his a**.

Today it is a common occurrence.

Maybe it's a sign of the times, and today's narcissistic, ego-driven athlete.

You can bet T.O. has been involved in the shoeshine hustle with defensive backs more than a time or two.

Commissioner Goodell, put an end to this utter nonsense before it's too late.

NFL shoeshine hustlers, find a new scam or get out of the league now.


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