Plain blue or white uniforms with only a number to break the monochromatic monotony have been a Penn State feature for more years than I can remember — and this Turkey goes back to the 1960s. I can recall only three minor changes: the stripe on the helmet, the Nike swoosh on the breast, and the v-neck trimmed in white (last year the trim turned blue). That’s it. Otherwise, it’s been the same since 1890, when the colors were changed from pink and black to blue and white.
Many of us, particularly the Paternoists, take pride in the symbolism of the plain uniforms with black football shoes. Tradition is, after all, a big part of college football. It is the constancy in Penn State football that has bonded the fan base through the years. We have loved the power expressed by unadorned, unaccessorized out-of-the-box player uniforms, the stealthily apparent lack of speed watching those black shoes eat up the yards, and the namelessness, suggesting a team effort transcends the individual glory. Players honor those who wore their number in the past by not usurping it for their own glory. Lots of good reasons.
We also like the way the program pushed back against Nike when that company wanted Penn State to participate in its gaudy Pro Combat uniform design program, even though Paterno and Phil Knight were great friends. No way would a Nittany Lion every wear something with duck feathers, the Maryland state flag, or even a picture of the Nittany Lion shrine on his shoulder. That was for “them”. Plain blue and white is for us.
When Bill O’Brien was hired, he said that he would do nothing to change the uniforms, but that was then and this is now. The Sandusky case has been tried and the slimy ex-coach has been convicted. The administration has been accused of covering Sandusky’s tracks for 15 years. Joe Paterno is dead, his legendary career sullied. There is some impetus to make changes that put the past behind and speak to a new future, even though the NCAA is going to rub our noses in it for several years, sanctimonious hypocrites that they are.
But I digress.
“I reserve the right to change my mind,” said Bill O’Brien when asked why he has been singing a different tune about uniform changes of late. He has made some noise about wanting to make a small design change that will undoubtedly piss off some purists if it is made to happen. He has talked to players and their parents about it. He wants to put names on the jerseys. I can feel the grumbling in my old Turkey gizzard!
“There ain’t no ‘I’ in team!” you say.
(Comeback: Yeah, but there’s three “U’s” in “shut the fuck up!” I saw that one on Facebook recently and thought I would share the laugh.)
I don’t think the absence of names means as much symbolically as it does historically. Penn State fans don’t want change. We’re old farts now, right? We demand to keep things as they are. “Change” is why some of us voted for Obama, and look at how that one turned out. Now, we’re doubly resistant to change. Why do we fear change so much? Does it take us out of our comfort zone?
Frankly, this Turkey has been looking at those plain old uniforms for one helluva long time. Paterno’s teams reused uniform numbers on offense and defense, and sometimes, especially on special teams players, we had to scratch our heads about who did what to whom. Furthermore, everybody isn’t as good as this Turkey and the other forest creatures with whom he hangs out at memorizing numbers. So, what is so god-awful wrong with putting a name on the jersey?
Tradition. Change goes against it. Yeah, well, when I attended State, girls were called “coeds” and they had to be back in their female-only, well guarded dorms by 11:30 pm on weeknights. They couldn’t live anywhere outside the dorms unless they were either over 21 or married. Good old Penn State traditions.
I didn’t hear anybody squawking when that one changed!
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I addressed that before. We’re going to see a lot of strange people running around in Penn State uniforms because we’re going to be getting one-star recruits, and damn few of them, for the next five or six years. Who has the time and energy to memorize all their numbers? We’ll be having a big bail-out before spring practice, no doubt. Lots of new numbers, lots of new names.
I say, go ahead and put names on the jerseys. You go tell O’Brien that’s not the Penn State Way. Go ahead, I dare you! What you’re really telling him is, “We don’t want you. We want Paterno.” Sorry, you can’t have him. He’s in another dimension now. How about getting over it, huh? There’s too much of that going on at a time when we should be letting the new order take charge and watching its results. Quit screwing with it. O’Brien will get what he wants.
By the way, he said he was unsure that he could get the names thing done by September 1, the home opener against mighty Ohio U. This might have to wait until the fateful 2013 season.
What do you think of that change? No one is talking about duck wings or checkerboards. Just names. How about it?