Brian Cook has assembled a list of the worst college football uniforms of all time over at the AOL Fanhouse. While Penn State did not make the top five, we did get a "dishonorable mention".
Now I like Brian a lot. I read everything he puts up at MGoBlog and most of the stuff he puts up on the FanHouse and I'm always amazed by his wit and analysis. We play off each other's blogs a lot and we've even exchanged an email or two. But in this case he's dead wrong.
Back in the 1990's, the Chicago White Sox changed their uniforms mid season. Instead of the usual white with pinstripe they wore an all black jersey on Sunday afternoon home games. It was a hit with the fans and the demand for these jerseys overloaded the company that created them. And thus began a trend where teams created new jerseys to market and sell. Nike soon got into the fray and began signing contracts with universities to provide their athletic gear and that's when things got really out of control.
But some teams seem to rise above capitalism and resisted change for the sake of change. To them tradition means something. They view their uniform as more than something to market to the fans. The uniform provides a higher purpose than separating the home team from the visitors. They unify the team and they unify the fan base. They move grown men to tears as they watch their players walk past them in the tunnel on the way to the lockerroom. They become symbols of the university of which they attended. These schools are rare. Notre Dame is one of them with their golden helmets. Michigan's uniforms might be the most recognizable with their winged helmets. While I think they look ugly, Michigan fans adore them, and who am I to judge?
The Penn State jerseys are plain blue with white pants at home. On the road they go entirely vanilla. There are no racing stripes. There are no names. There is no block PSU on the sleeves. In fact the words "Penn State" don't appear anywhere. The helmets are white as snow with a single blue stripe down the middle. Even that has been debated and considered for removal over the years. There is no logo, but at one time during Joe Paterno's infatuation with Bear Bryant the helmets were adorned with the number worn by the player. Thankfully that practice ended in the 1970's. And of course our favorite part of the uniform here at BSD is the black shoes. Rumor has it Joe insisted on black shoes because it made his team look slower. If they ever change the shoes, I'm going to have to find a new name for the blog.
There is nothing flashy about Penn State's uniforms. There is nothing that says, "Look at us!" We have a saying at Penn State: When there is no name on your jersey, you have to find other ways to get noticed. While some may find the jerseys boring, Penn Stater's wouldn't change them for the world. In fact some people would like to go even more plain by doing away with the trim around the collar and sleeves. Revolution was in the air the first time the horrid Nike Swoosh appeared on the breast.
The plain uniform stands for everything Penn State honors. Hard work. Unity. Teamwork. Toughness. Sacrifice. No nonsense. Not upstaging your opponent. In many ways they also represent the not so great things about Penn State. Stubbornness. Resistance to change. Uninspiring. Doing the bare minimum to win. But we take the good with the bad. Though we may not like some of these qualities, they make us who we are and we bear our cross with pride.
While others may claim they're "boring", Penn State fans will always resist changing them. The Penn State uniform represents more to us than any fan from any other school could ever understand. Because for us, our uniforms say "We are Penn State."