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Saturday, February 21, 2015


People always ask me why, but I can never tell them. Why can't I tell them? Because truly, I don't know the answer. But I'm quite familiar with the question: Why do you like NASCAR? followed by the question, "Who's your favorite driver?" My response has always been Jeff Gordon. I could never tell you how, I could never tell you why, all I know is, Jeff is my driver. I started taking an interest in NASCAR around two or three years old, during 1997 or 98. Obviously I was too young to understand the concept of a championship or know what the Daytona 500 was, but there was something damn cool about that rainbow colored #24 car (if there wasn't , I wouldn't have had a banner of it above my red race car bed when I was little). As I got older, I started following the sport more religiously. My first memory of this is when I was six years old. It was 2001, I was at my Grandma's house, flipping through the channels, when the "NASCAR race" happened to be on (turns out it was the Brickyard 400, but to a five year old, it was just a race). Jeff Gordon won that day, on his 30th birthday, and it was the first time that I had seen him win live on tv. I was a fan before this, but that win, for some reason that I can't pinpoint was so cool because it cemented my fandom forever. 

This was among the first of some great memories, such as watching him capture his 3rd Daytona 500 victory in 2005, I remember screaming at the TV during the closing laps, or tying Dale Earnhardt on the all time wins list at Phoenix, and then breaking his record at Talladega (NASCAR irony at its finest). He's even won on my birthday and my prom night. However the two memories that trump all are some of the most recent. since 2003, I have attended the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. in 2012, my 10th year of attendance, I finally got to see my hero win a race in person after one of the most tumultuous weeks of his career. This was nothing new though, he was always the best at proving to people that he's still got "it" after all these years. The one that trumps all though is finally meeting him. Homestead 2013. I was waiting in a certain spot in the garage area where the drivers come through on there golf carts to get to their cars. Out of nowhere comes Jeff on his golf cart, with the person who told me to wait in that spot sitting in the other seat. What occurred next are 30 coolest seconds of my life. Jeff walks over, introduces himself, signs his autograph, and snaps a picture. he then told he has a meeting to get to, I wished him luck on he was on his way. No matter how brief it was, my lifelong goal was complete. I met my Superman. I met my hero, Jeff Gordon.

Last month, Jeff announced that 2015 will be his last full time season and he will retire at seasons end. Tomorrow, he will participate in his 23rd and final Daytona 500. Starting 1st, none the less, while posting the fastest qualifying speed at the historic track in almost 30 years. If that isn't good racing karma, I don't know what is. Tomorrow will be extremely weird, for a lack of a better term. Hell, this whole season will be weird. It hasn't set in yet that this is it. I know it won't. Not until I go to Homestead for maybe the final time in November. The tears will certainly be flowing that day. In other professional sports, players come and go, but your team is always there. In Auto Racing, your driver is everything, and in the case of Jeff, irreplaceable. 92 wins, 4 championships, 3 Daytona 500's, 4 Brickyard 400's.There will never be another Jeff Gordon. Ever. Good luck tomorrow, Jeff. Here's to one last "Drive For Five."

Monday, June 24, 2013

He's Not MJ, He's LJ.

      10 years ago this week, an 18 year old kid from Akron, Ohio named LeBron James was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The hype surrounding James coming out of high school was unprecedented. He was set to be the NBA's next big superstar, and, if he was good enough, perhaps the next Michael Jordan. James had the weight of the world on his shoulders before he even played a minute in an NBA game; and with great expectations comes great scrutiny.

     James was constantly criticized about not aggressively driving to the basket, a lack of a jump shot, not coming through in pressure situations, and perhaps most glaring, turning his free agency decision into a national spectacle; but with age comes maturity. After receiving his second career NBA Finals loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, James knew he had to not only improve the physical aspects of his game, but the mental aspect as well. He no longer paid attention to the media's opinion of him. He instead solely focused on one thing: winning a championship.

     His performances the past two postseasons have been nothing short of spectacular. The man has nearly averaged a triple double in back-to-back Finals. His performances in Game 6 and 7 of the Finals showed that James no longer fears pressure, he cherishes it. He wanted the ball in his hands to make the jumper that gave the Heat its second straight title. He even wanted Ray Allen to pass it to him at the top of the key to tie Game 6, but we all know how that turned out.

     James' game continues to evolve, and that's the beauty of it. He's in his prime and he's only getting better. He no longer pays attention to the media. He doesn't dwell on the comparisons to Michael Jordan. He's busy writing his own legacy. He's not MJ, he's LJ.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thank you Nike

Dear Mr. Parker,
I just put my shoes on by myself  because I can. I am still in shock that one week ago I received shoes from your amazing company, Nike. Your talented team of designers has thoughtfully created a shoe that for the first time in my life, I can put on myself. I have had them for a short amount of time, but I when I put them on every morning, they give the greatest sense of independence and accomplishment I have ever felt in my life.

With all of my gratitude and appreciation,
Matthew Walzer

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nike update

Hi all,
It's been about a month and a half since we made something amazing happen. By using the hash tag #NikeLetter and retweeting the Nice Kicks video , my letter to Nike CEO Mark Parker went completely viral.  I've received so much support from around the sneaker community, family, friends, and most importantly people with disabilities that are also unable to tie their shoes. Nike has been an absolute pleasure to work with, keeping me updated every step of the way. Specifically, they are taking an existing shoe that I've had success wearing and redesigning the upper so it can be closed with Velcro and not laces. They just recently got the first "sample" if you will, back from the factory and decided that the design needed a little more refining before I receive them. Hopefully they will be on my feet in no time! In other #NikeLetter news, the sneaker store Finish Line (who has been a big #NikeLetter supporter since the beginning) corporately reached out to me a few weeks back, and said they wanted to give me a pair of Nike basketball shoes they thought would work for me. I was and am still extremely flattered by their generous gift. This has been an exciting, and whirlwinding month and a half with more exciting things in store. The support I've gotten from classmates, teachers, friends, family and others that have supported the movement via Twitter has been amazing. Thank you.

Remember this: without #TeamNikeLetter there would probably be no #NikeLetter

Matthew Walzer

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thank you Nike, Mark Parker, and Nice Kicks

Dear Mr. Parker,

     There comes a time in someone’s life when something bothers you so much, but when that something is so big, you are forced to wake up every morning and hope for a miracle. For the past 16 years of my life, that something has been not being able to tie my shoes. This summer, I realized that I couldn't wait for a miracle any longer. I knew I had to take action. I reached out to you and your great company in search of a solution. I knew what I was doing was, in football terms “a Hail Mary," and to be quite honest I had very low expectations. I was expecting a very polite letter back in recognition of my request.

     I never imagined that just 48 hours after the letter went viral thanks to the help of Nice Kicks, I would receive a call from one of your employees, Mr. John Poyner of Jordan Brand.When John told me that he also has cerebral palsy, and that he couldn't have been more proud of what I was trying to do, I was honored. John seems like a great asset to your company, and an even better person. When John uttered the words "so here's the next step" I got the chills. I had heard of Tobie Hatfield only 24 hours prior to the phone call, when I read about the spikes he created for Olympian Oscar Pistorius. I could have never imagined that he would be working with me on a shoe that I can put on myself. The past two and a half weeks have been filled with amazement and joy for my family and me. The reality hasn't set in yet, that in a matter of weeks, I won't have to worry about tying my shoes,and for the first time ever I will be able to be fully independent. There are not enough thank yous in the world to express my undying gratitude towards you and Nike as an entire company. I will never forget what you and your company are doing for me.

Warmest Regards,
Matthew Walzer

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Motivation Behind The Letter

First of all, I'd like to thank every single one of you for taking the time to read my letter to Nike! Without your support, I'd be nowhere and have no chance of being heard. A special thanks goes out to Matt Halfhill, the CEO of, for helping me spread my #NikeLetter campaign. The goal behind this 48 hour frenzy remains plain and simple, get in contact with Nike to design a shoe that can be as accessible and easy to wear to a handicap person, as a Lebron signature would be to King James himself. People might be supporting #NikeLetter because it represents a great cause, or other people with disabilities can relate, but only a select few know how it feels to get dressed in the morning, but end up waiting for a friend or family member to tie your shoes. Over the past few years, I've been able to stay home alone with my two younger brothers, but my parents always make sure that they put my shoes on before they leave in case of emergency. There are  times when this is socially embarrassing, this summer was a major turning point; while on vacation, I made a lot of friends while at the pool, when we were ready to leave my friends had to tie my shoes, while this is a very nice gesture, at 16 years old I find this extremely embarrassing. This is just one of the many obstacles that myself and many others with cp face everyday. There have been many things I have overcome, improved upon and some I've learned to accept. But in 2012 tying your shoes should not be optional.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nike Letter

Dear Mr. Parker,
My name is Matthew Walzer. I am a high school student and will be a junior at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
I was born two months premature on October 19, 1995. I weighed only two pounds fourteen ounces, and because my lungs were fully not developed, my brain did not receive enough oxygen. As a result, I have a brain injury that caused me to have Cerebral Palsy. Fortunately, I am only affected physically, as others can be affected mentally, physically or both.
I have overcome many challenges in my life. Although doctors from the country’s top hospitals told my parents that I would never walk; and if I ever talked I would have a major lisp, these diagnoses proved to be false, I walk somewhat independently around my home and use crutches when I'm out or at school. I've also never had a speech problem. In fact, I am planning on attending college. I have attained a 3.9 grade point average (4 being the highest) and I am taking advanced placement classes. I have a strong passion for journalism and write for the sports and news sections of my high school newspaper. This year I personally received an award for writing one of the top high school sports columns in my county.
Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life, there is one that I am still trying to master, tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result I have flexibility in only one of my hands which makes it impossible for me to tie my shoes. My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes everyday
I've worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe because I need ankle support to walk. I am currently wearing the Lunar hyper gamer and LeBron Zoom Soldier 6's. At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating, and at times, embarrassing.
I know that Nike makes slip-ons, sandals and other types of shoes. However, I and many other physically challenged people are unable to wear them due to a lack of support. When I think of Nike, I think of one of America’s most innovative and forward thinking companies. Nike is always pushing the limits, making their shoes lighter, faster and stronger by using new materials, new designs and new technologies. This benefits people all around the world. Bill Bowerman said it best, "If you have a body you are an athlete." I believe everyone, no matter what their physical, economic, or social circumstances may be, deserves to call themselves an athlete, and deserves to have a sense of freedom and independence.
If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them.
I am always searching the web for any type of shoe brand that makes athletic shoes that provide good support, are self-lacing and are made for everyday wear or for playing sports. It is disappointing that no athletic brand has taken the creative initiative to design and produce athletic shoes in this category. I hope that by bringing this to your attention, Nike will consider being the forerunner in producing athletic shoes that will make the difference in the quality of so many lives.

This letter is not a business proposal. I am simply making you aware that there is a need for this type of athletic shoe, a great need.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. No matter what challenges I’ve faced in my life, I’ve always strived to be independent, independence is for everyone.
Best Regards,
Matthew Walzer