The news came out yesterday that Penn State would be making a small change to their uniforms. Those uniforms, plain and unadorned, have become one of the signature aspects of not only Penn State football, but of the university itself. They symbolize substance over style, the team over the individual, and so on. A lot of people, as evidenced by the comments on this Black Shoe Diaries post, really and truly care about these uniforms. I am both a Penn State fan and a sports uniform junkie, so it would make sense that I’m one of those people, but the truth is, I don’t understand why people are getting so worked up.
For those that haven’t been paying attention, this is the third year in a row that a small change has been made to Penn State’s uniforms. Two years ago, the trim was removed from the collar and sleeves of the jerseys. Last year, nameplates were added to the back of the uniforms as a way to recognize those players that remained after the scandal rocked the university. I think it was a great gesture, and didn’t really care that it was breaking with tradition. And now this year, the Penn State logo is being added to the center of the neck. I was curious at first as to whether this was an official design, but lo and behold, I received an email from PennStateClothes.com last night telling me to pre-order my #8 and #28 jerseys now (Heaven forbid they say "Robinson" or "Zwinak." These are amateurs, after all).
Penn State, as an athletic program, institution and community has been thoroughly raked over the coals over the last 18 months for not having its priorities in order. I think some of that criticism was totally justified, but much of it was not. But to an outside observer, throwing a fit about a small uniform change does not look very good, and just serves to reinforce a lot of bad stereotypes.
Uniforms are, undeniably, a piece of a school’s identity. For schools of Penn State’s size, the football team is one of the biggest advertisements for the school, and the uniforms are part of that visual identity. That said, they pale in comparison to the people and the institution itself. The students and alumni are the school’s identity, not a set of laundry football players wear a dozen times a year. The team could take the field this fall wearing a technicolor nightmare of a uniform, and they would still represent Penn State.
Do I like the change? Not really. I don’t mind a PSU logo being added to the jersey like that, but I just don’t care for that particular logo, since it looks more like a chipmunk than a mountain lion. The keystone S would have been a much better choice, in my opinion, but that’s just me.
There is reasonable room to differ on this issue. Not every small change is bringing the team one step closer to a Pro Combat uniform. Penn State has made 20 changes to its football uniforms during the past century, and a lot of them were much more significant than this one. You don't have to agree with every single change, but the "get off my lawn" stuff is really tiring. Not every minute change to a football uniform is an affront to the golden olden days and everything you hold dear. So I ask you, Internet Denizen and appreciated reader, can we please relax about this?
While we're talking about uniform changes, who do I have to talk to about getting numbers back on the helmets?