Schuckman: Blue or black doesn’t matter as long as jersey is worn with respect and pride

Quincy guard Dom Clay passes under pressure from Collierville forward Alex Vandenbergh. Quincy played Collierville, Tenn. in a quarterfinal game at the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic basketball tournament at Collinsville High School in Collinsville, IL on Thursday December 29, 2022.  
Photo Courtesy Tim Vizer Photography

Sophomore guard Dominique Clay, right, dishes a pass during the Quincy High School boys basketball team's game against Collierville (Tenn.) in the quarterfinals of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic on Thursday at Vergil Fletcher Gym in Collinsville, Ill. | Photo courtesy Tim Vizer Photography

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Shock. That’s what Dominique Clay’s expression screamed.

He wasn’t alone in his jaw-dropping assessment.

“I had the same look, too,” Camden Brown said.

After the Quincy High School boys basketball team dispatched Collierville (Tenn.) 62-48 in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, the Blue Devils were headed to the vans in order to get back to the hotel and rest before playing a semifinal three hours later.

I happened to be leaving the Collinsville High School parking lot at the same time when Clay and teammate Ralph Wires asked my opinion of the all-black uniforms the Blue Devils wore for the first time in program history.

My answer left them befuddled.

“What?” Clay said. “You didn’t think they looked good?”

It wasn’t the aesthetics that bothered me. I joked with Clay, the sophomore guard, that he always looks good, which led to him flashing his million-watt smile. And I further explained I thought the uniforms looked sleek, to which Clay and Wires both nodded in appreciation.

My issue was strictly the color.

Quincy’s school colors are blue and white. It’s written into the school fight song with the line “For today we raise the White and Blue above all others.” When the song is performed during the pregame ceremony at Blue Devil Gym, it leads into a cheer of “White, blue? White blue? Who, who, who are you? Blue and White. Blue and White. Quincy High School. They’re all right.”

Nowhere is black mentioned as part of the school colors or landscape.

To be fully transparent, I don’t like it when the cheerleaders wear black outfits or the football team dons black uniforms. There’s a disconnect when cheerleaders chant “Blue and White” while wearing black. Same goes for when the football team wore all black uniforms on homecoming a few years ago when the Flinn Stadium stands were filled with alumni wearing blue and white.

I realize my traditionalist views are due in part to my age. I turn 50 next October and I don’t look at things from the same lens as a high school athlete.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t express or share my thoughts, nor should those athletes be forced to limit their desire and appreciation for doing something different or outside of the box just because they’re young and older generations might not agree.

Being unique and different is why the Blue Devils begged for black uniforms long before they actually had them.

“Love ‘em,” Brown said. “It’s unique. You see all the colleges doing different things. Look at Duke. They’re blue, but they have black uniforms.”

For the longest time, teams wore one color at home — usually white — and a dark color on the road. In Quincy’s case, that was always Blue Devil blue. But professional teams introduced alternate jerseys and colleges followed suit. Now it’s filtering down to the high school level.

“They’re real crisp and look nice,” senior forward Sam Mulherin said. “It’s never been done by the Blue Devils, so that’s a cool part of it, too.”

Quincy coach Andy Douglas, now in his eighth season, said his players have pestered him to order black uniforms for years, and he finally decided this was the right time to introduce them. However, he didn’t get them ordered in time to be here when the season started.

Knowing they’d be ready by the holidays, he told his players to expect a Christmas gift. 

“We showed them those uniforms,” Douglas said. “And they were pretty hyped about them.”

They should be. Figuring out how to express yourself is part of the maturation process, and the Blue Devils’ willingness to engage in a thoughtful conversation about the uniforms showed growth. Every point of view, even those leading to a moment of befuddlement, was embraced.

“Respect,” Wires said, nodding after hearing my explanation for why I prefer blue road uniforms. “I totally respect that.”

That feeling is mutual. I drove away from the parking lot smiling to myself, knowing this generation of QHS basketball players understands and appreciates tradition and embraces the responsibility that comes with wearing a jersey with “QHS” emblazoned on the chest.

It doesn’t matter what color it is as long as it’s worn with pride.

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