(Written by Jason Snell)
There’s nothing that cures a season-killing streak in which you lose six of seven games like… removing names from your uniforms?
Maybe as jarring as the gold stripe down the middle of the new Cal helmets, will be the lack of names on the back of the newly designed jerseys. Coach Jeff Tedford removed the names before last season’s Armed Forces Bowl as a tribute to the military, and he admitted Monday that the tribute will continue this season because it was a twofold statement. “After the way Washington and Stanford happened, it was evident that we all needed to come together and look at accountability issues,” Tedford said. “That’s what we did. It was taking identity off of individuals and putting it back on the team.”
Not to freak anyone out, but this is not the first time Cal has pulled a move like this. The last time it happened was during, you guessed it, the depths of the Tom Holmoe era.
Now I’m pretty sure that players are not able to spin their heads around, “Exorcist” style, and read their names (upside-down) on their jerseys as an ego boost. But there is one group that directly benefits from names being placed on jerseys: The fans.
While many of our readers no doubt can memorize the name and number of every Cal player — and can even pick on the subtle physical characteristics that differentiate that number 4 from that other number 4 — I’m betting that 99% of Cal fans can’t.
Names on jerseys help the process by, y’know, actually telling you the name of the guy who just made that play.
Of course the no-names-on-jerseys trick is a cheap motivator. But to me it reeks of desperation, perhaps (I admit) because this is the same kind of genius motivational tactic we saw in the tainted Holmoe era. And because it’s disrespectful to the fans.
But hey, I guess those of us paying hundreds or even thousands of bucks to go watch games in Memorial Stadium aren’t as important as a team-unity stunt. There are plenty of ways to preach team unity to a bunch of college athletes. Couldn’t they find one that didn’t degrade the fan experience?
(Update: Look, this is not exactly a gigantic issue that’s going to rock Cal’s football team to its foundations. But it’s just so stupid that it drives me batty. So I wanted to add one more point. If this is really about “taking identitity off of individuals and putting it back on the team,” why not go all the way? Assign jersey numbers randomly every week and give the number listing only to accredited members of the media! And don’t announce the names of players on the Memorial Stadium system! Make the fancy introduction video on the little BearVision screen all about the team and don’t read off the names of players in a pre-game ceremony. Sadly, the rules don’t allow you to remove numbers completely, but if you really want to “take identity off of individuals,” there are a lot of annoying things you could do. Why stop at nameplates? -J.S.)