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Jay Paterno: A Trip Around the World Begins With a Football

by on March 24, 2011 6:00 AM

This week new Nike footballs arrived at the Lasch Building, and for the first time in memory, the balls had "Made In USA" stamped on them. Last year the balls were stamped with “Made in The Philippines of USA Leather."

It seems odd to be surprised that the most crucial element of the unique American game is now made here. It prodded me to do some non-scientific random sampling of where things I see everyday actually come from.

It started out in the morning with a trip to a USA-made toilet. After showering and drying off with a bath towel made in Turkey and a hand towel made in the USA, I listened to music played through an iPod made in China. I do recall Apple cleverly pointing out on the box that the iPod was designed in California.

To get dressed, I pulled on Turkish boxers, pants made in Sri Lanka, used an Italian belt and put on a dress shirt made in Egypt. I completed the ensemble with an Italian tie and a sweater from Jordan. Later I would add a scarf from Germany and an Austrian overcoat and walk out the door in socks from Pakistan inside shoes made in Italy.

Who am I wearing? I’m wearing eight countries—and much to my wife’s surprise, the assorted items all match.

But before all that, I sprayed some USA-made hairspray in my hair which I dried with a Chinese-made hair dryer. I know it’s not macho for a man to admit the use of hairspray, but left to its own devices my straight hair would remind you of Jim Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas haircut in "Dumb and Dumber." Admitting that I dry my hair is the lesser of those two evils.

With my sinuses acting up, I used American nasal spray to open my passages before heading downstairs as my wife was heating up some breakfast in a Malaysian-made microwave oven.

For breakfast I ate some cottage cheese from Pennsylvania and some Chilean grapes. I figured I’d better brush my teeth and get some mouthwash so I didn’t smell of curds all day. The mouthwash and toothpaste were both American. The DayQuil gelcaps next to the mouthwash were from our neighbor to the north—Canada.

At this point it was time to head to work. In my American car, I saw that the gas gauge was very low. I stopped at a convenience store to get gas from God-knows-where. They don’t label the gas but I did notice that The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company had manufactured the gas hose in the USA.

Once in my office, I got a phone call while checking my e-mail. This got me thinking so the next thing I did was take apart my cell phone. The phone and laptop were made in China. The phone battery was a Japanese cell assembled in Taiwan, while the laptop battery came from Korea.

After some meetings using a USA pencil, pen and paper, I decided to get a workout over lunchtime. At my locker I pulled on Vietnamese sneakers, shorts from Mexico and a T-shirt from the Ivory Coast.

By the time my workout was over and I headed back to my desk to grab a sandwich, I’d already been in contact with products from 19 different countries on five continents. The day was only half over.

In half a day I’d seen what an increasingly inter-connected world that we live in. The world has grown smaller through speedy shipping of goods and an increasingly inter-connected system of communication.

It has brought the world to our doorstep in ways that are around us every day, and most of the time we don’t even take the time to think about.

As a nation we now live and compete in the global marketplace. We must understand and live peacefully with those around us—and, in most cases, those who are much closer and more connected to us than we ever thought.

The idea of a smaller world hit home for me last Saturday night. Just before heading to a St. Patrick’s Day gathering with friends, I was on Facebook messaging some recruits. A message popped up from a man who coaches football at Trinity College----in Dublin, Ireland.

Through e-mail and social media, I’ve had contact with coaches as close as the next county to places as far as Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland and Israel. This May a friend is taking two football teams to Tanzania to play the first game of American football played in Africa in the Kili Bowl—named in honor of Mount Kilimanjaro.

It would appear that for better or worse eventually globalization touches everything—even in the seemingly isolated provincial world of American football.

Even in State College, we know and see people here to live or study from places that cover every corner of the globe. A trip around town—and my trip around the world in half a day—proves just how global a village we now inhabit.



State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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