As college football prepares to start a new season, perhaps no team is struggling to find its identity as much as Pennsylvania State University. The actions of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky have forever scarred the lives of so many young boys, and forever stained the reputation of the university. As Penn State deals with the repercussions of its actions (and inactions), I hope we never stop praying for God to heal those hurt by the adults who failed these young men.
As the university begins the process of rebuilding its football program, it announced this week that some changes will be made to the football uniforms. According to reports, a blue ribbon will be added to show support for victims of child abuse (which is nice, but there is still much to be done in this area). In addition, they’ll be adding players’ names to the jerseys. Penn State was one of the few teams in major college football to have a uniform without the players’ names.
As I thought about this seemingly insignificant change to the Penn State program, I couldn’t help but think how disappointing the change will be. The symbolism behind sending the message that no player is bigger than the team is a respectable gesture. Football is a team sport, and the few remaining teams that don’t include players’ names on jerseys seem to reinforce that concept. When you consider that so many players today try to make it all about themselves, it seems this step at Penn State has them joining those ranks.
Hockey coach Herb Brooks once said, “The name on the front of the jersey should be more important than the one on the back.” Perhaps all sports teams could benefit by eliminating names on jerseys. It would sure be nice to get back to a time when football was truly a team sport.