As you'll discover in this issue, the Yugoslavian term for sneaker is kosharka datike, and that's the least of what you're going to know about athletic footwear when you've finished the article beginning on page 56, bearing the double byline of Jack McCallum and Armen Keteyian.
"After working with Armen," says staff writer McCallum, who wrote the piece, "I have no doubt that he now knows more about athletic shoes than all but a handful of industry insiders. We ended up with a piece mostly on basketball sneakers, but without Armen's research on the whole industry I would have had a tough time putting the story together."
Reporter Keteyian spent a year, off and on, amassing material for the article, and had he not come to it with a background that included a stint as an account executive with the Phillips Organisation, a public relations/advertising firm in San Diego with wide contacts in the sporting goods industry, it might have taken considerably longer.
"I had to get a lot of specifics that people weren't particularly eager to give out, and then cross-check them for accuracy," says Keteyian. "I may have spoken to 70 people by the time I was finished. But having worked in advertising, I empathized with the companies, and I became fascinated by the whole subject."
Keteyian also brought to the project a playing, as well as working, knowledge of sneakers. As a three-sport athlete in high school (baseball, football and basketball) and a varsity baseball player in college, he was, in the most practical sense, familiar with all kinds of athletic shoes. While a senior at Lahser High in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Keteyian was a good enough shortstop and hitter (.375, seven home runs) to be voted the most valuable player in Michigan's Oakland A Conference.
Keteyian earned a partial baseball scholarship at Central Michigan University, where he played for two years before transferring to San Diego State. He played there for one season until his interest in politics took him to Washington, D.C., where he signed on as a volunteer for Frank Church's 1976 presidential campaign. Keteyian graduated in absentia from San Diego, and by age 23 had become one of Church's top advance men.
When Church's bid fell short, Keteyian returned to San Diego and pursued what had been his major at San Diego State, journalism. In five years he progressed from columnist for Life News, a free weekly featuring advertising, to writing sports and features for a suburban daily, the Times-Advocate, and finally for the metropolitan San Diego Union. In fact, it was an award-winning story he wrote for The Union in 1982 on triathlete Julie Moss (a prizewinner in The Sporting News Best Sports Stories 1983) that confirmed our growing interest in him.
When Keteyian, now 30, moved to New York to join SI, he brought with him his wife, Dede, his baby daughter, Kristen, and many, many pairs of sneakers. "Though most of the time, to be honest, I prefer sandals," he says.
You can take the boy out of California, but you can't take California out of the boy.