Camouflage makes issue clear

From high school on, whenever somebody would pull out some kind of school or office supply decorated in camouflage, there would always be some kind of joke.

“Wow, John … how is that pencil eraser just floating in the air? It’s magical. Oh, oh, sorry … I didn’t see the pencil because it was camouflage.” Innocent joke, never failed at a cheap laugh.

The University of South Carolina debuted a special uniform Saturday in its college football game at Auburn. The uniforms, made by Under Armour, were created to be auctioned off the following week for the company’s “Believe in Heroes” campaign. The uniforms were complete pants, shoes and other accessories for the moment — just like the pink you’re seeing everywhere in the NFL for breast cancer awareness.

Pregame came around, and officials saw the dark uniform top included names and numbers in a camouflage print. Officials said, “We can’t see them because they’re in camouflage.” They weren’t joking, and required the Gamecocks to change into their standard home black tops while keeping the rest of the uniform.

I predicted a quick Internet lambasting of these nameless officials, because that’s what the Internet seems to do the best.

Some of the anonymous comments, with grammar improved:

z “It’s terrible that they would not let a team wear jerseys honoring our troops for making ultimate sacrifices for the freedoms that allow us to have college athletics.”

z I find it frustrating game officials could not suffer through some minor inconvenience in order to allow these jerseys to be worn by the players.

The criticisms were shortsighted. The referees did allow much of the jersey, including the pants and shoes, and the burden is on jersey manufacturers who use these college teams as billboards — and pay handsomely for it — to make a jersey appropriate for competition.

And what would have happened if these referees let it slide, and they missed a pivotal call at the end of a game, like illegal man downfield, because they weren’t sure about which player was which? I have a hard enough time seeing jersey numbers at local high school football games, with white block letters on dark jerseys.

Fortunately somebody spoke up for reason. He said he was military — no way to verify, but no reason to distrust him. He continued that the referees had a job to do, and what gets worn at a football game isn’t the type of thing that bothers him.

I’ve found that to be the case with other military friends of mine. They’d like to get paid more, get more discounts to stretch out that paycheck and be thanked for what they do. Sound like anybody you know? Sound like everybody you know?

The biggest reason I hate knee-jerk posts about perceived slights is they’re titillating enough for us to not pay attention about the real issues, like whether we send our soldiers into reasonable conflicts, whether we give them adequate supplies to do so and whether we take care of them when they get back. And making a giant issue out of Saturday did nothing to dissuade me from those feelings.

Camouflage, in the wilderness, is supposed to blind us to things. I hope with the right conversation, camouflage makes us see what’s really important.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email:

kwilson@cnjonline.com