ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

A plea for improved prep football jerseys

New jerseys keep being designed on which the numbers barely can be seen if you're sitting in the bleachers or a press box unless you have binoculars, Eric Sondheimer writes.

It's the time of the year when high school football coaches start designing new uniforms for the coming season, and let me make an urgent plea: Can the jersey numbers please be visible to the naked eye?

For some unknown reason, new jerseys keep being designed on which the numbers can barely be seen if you're sitting in the bleachers or a press box unless you have binoculars. And even then, they can be tough to identify.

It's not good to get grandmothers and grandfathers angry, not to mention TV announcers and sportswriters, but that's what several teams did this past season with their fancy, Nike-designed uniforms.

Two of the worst offenders were Bellflower St. John Bosco and Los Angeles Loyola. In fact, I happened to cover the game in which the two teams played each other and wore their special uniforms. I wish the coaches who approved the uniforms could have sat in the press box and tried to keep statistics, let alone try to figure out who was carrying the ball or making a tackle.

It's not in the best interest of high school football when fans who paid $10 for a seat in the bleachers can't make out the jersey numbers of players they came to see.

Last month, the football advisory committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations discussed the jersey issue and noted the concerns being voiced, according to Bob Gardner, the executive director.

Although no changes were proposed, Gardner said the committee "could possibly come back in another year and could do something if it continues to deteriorate."

The problem is a growing trend of schools designing jerseys on which numbers can hardly be seen from a distance because of the lack of contrast between the color of the number and the jersey.

The national rule book states, "The numbers shall be clearly visible and legible using Arabic numbers."

And they are clearly visible if you get to stand on the sideline or get to be in the huddle during a timeout.

But most people don't receive that kind of access. So I'm asking athletic directors and football coaches to start using common sense when approving uniforms.

Yes, players enjoy wearing uniforms similar to what Oregon wears in the college ranks, but fans sitting in the bleachers are not happy.

St. John Bosco Coach Jason Negro is in the process of getting new home and away uniforms. The Braves could have one of the best teams in Southern California this fall. Do they really want the announcers from Time Warner Cable, Fox Sports West or ESPN to debate whether to televise a St. John Bosco game because their announcers can't make out the jersey numbers?

"I will make a specific request that you'll be able to see from the press box," Negro told me.

That's good news for everyone.

City Section respect

Westchester earned some respect for City Section basketball Saturday night, giving Santa Ana Mater Dei all it could handle before losing, 63-60, in the final game of the Nike Extravaganza. Westchester has lost in close games to three of the top teams in the Southern Section — Mater Dei, Torrance Bishop Montgomery and Long Beach Poly.

Asked who's best, Comets Coach Ed Azzam said, "The best team is Bishop Montgomery. They're strong at every position, plus have depth."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

 

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