Onward Debates: Penn State White Out Shirts

The 2012 White Out game against Ohio State is still nearly two months away, but the official t-shirts are on sale now. A few of our writers took a look at the design, which was voted on and created by fans last spring.

The Good by Alex Robinson (@ARobinsonPSU):

This design is the one I voted for when the Daily Collegian poll was going on in March. It was the cleanest and sleekest design out of the four, and the one I liked the most. But, as the events unfolded over the summer, I found myself agreeing with Evan’s evaluation more and more. Why would we keep celebrating tradition when Coach O’Brien and the BOT keep asking us to move on from our old “football culture”?

But I digress. I’ve bought every white out shirt since 2005, and I had originally intended to continue my ritual of coming up and buying it before the first game, until I found out this one was $25. I figured, “Hey, it’s not the best design, but ANYTHING has to be better than that god-awful 2009 white out shirt, right?

The Bad by Bobby Chen (@B__Chen):

Full disclosure: I will not be buying this year’s White Out shirt, mainly because of its outrageous $25 price tag and — in my opinion — bland, unimaginative design. Without spending too much time criticizing aesthetics, though, I want to address the most contentious aspect of the design — the word “tradition”, in all of its bold face, all-caps, in your face glory — easily the dominant feature of the t-shirt.

I have mixed feelings about making “tradition” the symbolic theme of this football season. On the one hand, the choice of “tradition” doesn’t even make any sense — it’s very difficult to find something that hasn’t changed with the football team, whether it’s the personnel on the field, the offensive scheme, and oh, yeah, I think the coaching staff too. Beyond Penn State football, the university and its community have surely changed for better or worse, given the number of challenges that have confronted us since last November.

I really don’t mind tradition, though, within certain bounds. Penn State’s traditions are most definitely one of the reasons I chose to attend this university; besides its record of academic excellence and its history of a vibrant social environment. I’ve always been enthralled with the idea of belonging to the larger Penn State family here during my four years, and later in life as a member of the widespread alumni network.

Really, I just don’t want to see tradition inhibit progress. When traditions degenerate into negative tendencies — complacency, lack of transparency and communication, and ignorance — we lose the ability to adopt with changing circumstances and to ultimately better ourselves as an institution. We don’t have to be a “new” Penn State necessarily, but Penn State — the students, the faculty, the administration, the alumni — must be willing to evolve.

The Ugly by Evan Ponter (@EvanPonter):

The language as well as the actions of Penn State leadership has proven that the best way for our university to more forward from the Sandusky scandal and the rippling aftermath is through untethering ourselves from the past. From Penn State’s transparency efforts being cataloged on progress.psu.edu, Coach Bill O’Brien’s incessant use of the phrase “moving forward” and even the de-Joe Paternozation that followed the release of the Freeh Report; the winds of change are blowing through the PSU community as many break with traditions to ensure a more honorable and esteemed future for the Nittany Lions.

Yet this year’s White Out shirt design brazenly promotes “tradition” in large, pronounced font on the front on the shirt. At a time when the traditions that previously defined Penn State are fading, why should the students slip into a conscripted uniform that attempts to rein in the progress we’ve already made when looking into Penn State’s tumultuous past? Why prove the nay-sayers in the media right by shunning individuality, pledging undying support for the past, and being ignorant to the obvious shortcomings of “tradition”?

It’s time — as Bill O’Brien would say — to move forward. As President Rodney Erickson said in his statement after tearing down the Paterno statue, “Penn State is defined by our actions and accomplishments.” Why should our only actions be those that have been rehearsed and ingrained before we even stepped foot on PSU’s campus?

If you are going to be a shining example of Penn State’s cultish following and mindless zombie support system, do yourself a favor and buy the “unofficial” White Out shirt from “The Freeh Stooges.” At least it blazons your refusal to part with the past instead of masking it with a cute little word like “tradition.”

Your Responses (minus the misguided arguments about Nike and Phil Knight):

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