Tradition. I can practically hear the song from “Fiddler on the Roof” playing as people squawk at how the University and its football program has lost its sense of the word in recent years with the Dave Brandon era and subsequent mediocre football program that occurred during his reign. Fans proclaim that the want the tradition of the old days when football was simply about football without all of the gimmicks and high prices the program has seen lately. Yet, I highly doubt that they would be saying that if Michigan was behind in the times compared to other football powerhouses like Alabama and Ohio State. The game is now at the point where if a program isn’t up to these standards then they are considered to be behind.
A Place of Tradition
The recent firing of Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke and the departure of athletic director Dave Brandon got me thinking about the concept of conservatism and how people like consistency but most of all, tradition. In recently reading the works of Irish conservative Edmund Burke, I was struck with his idea of how “a cobbler should stay at his task” i.e. stick with what you know and don’t change things. While I think that this idea is important to a degree, I also have to disagree with it. If we never change anything then we will be stuck in the past. Part of life is change.
People will always be disgruntled. People will always have something to complain about. That’s inevitable. When Rich Rodriguez was coaching people complained about him too. What I think is telling though of how the University will and must change is the statement made by Jim Hackett the other day. He said, “I want to get rid of the word Michigan Man.’” He was referencing what has become an iconic phrase harkening back to the days of Bo Schembechler, who used the term when describing how he wanted a candidate to be a coach at Michigan. However, people typically use it in reference to how someone has to be of the Michigan character and even have ties to Michigan. The problem with that, though is that we live in a world today where that just isn’t possible. The fans and the people who work for athletics need to adapt to the changing environment while also maintaining the integrity of the sport and the program that Michigan has always been so famous for.
Some Michigan Fans
I don’t think it is bad to assume that we should maintain an air of conservatism in the way our football program carries out business, but I also think it’s important to pay attention to the fact that the business game is always changing and sometimes we need to adapt to that. You can still maintain your core values while changing the way you do business.
In recent days, a lot of events have been occurring on the University of Michigan’s athletic campus. Most recently Jim Hackett, the interim athletic director, fired the head football coach Brady Hoke. While this event probably seems irrelevant to a political science class, I think Hackett might be taking an approach John Stuart Mill would’ve approved in the firing of Hoke and the ongoing search for the next football coach. And that approach is changing the tradition of the much discussed “Michigan Man”.
Edmond Burke argued that tradition is a great thing and that traditions cannot be disrupted or a nation will fail. He argues that once tradition is eliminated, people no longer know which direction to take. Some traditions should be maintained in the United States such as the basic ideals of freedom and equality. However some traditions have dated since the passing of laws in the late 1700’s. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” While this law was effective years ago, there doesn’t seem to be the traditional need to carry weapons as the United States, has thankfully not fought a war on our soil in over a century.
Sure modifying this amendment would confuse some citizens as Burke suggests change would however I believe that this nation is capable and mostly willing to adapt to not being able to purchase semi-automatic weapons. These have been responsible for the Newtown School Shooting, Columbine and the tragic event at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. I am not suggesting that all weapons be eliminated because being a free nation and citizens having the right to protect them is important. However I don’t believe that automatic assault weapons need to be in the hands of the average American citizen. We pay taxes in order for our military to protect us from enemies that capable to need these weapons.
In one of my recent political science classes, we discussed tradition at universities. Tradition plays a huge part for universities. It is involved in the recruiting process for athletes and also for students. For not just athletes, but also the general student population, tradition influences the choice in school they make. For the University of Michigan, tradition plays a huge role for students, professors, and athletes. The tradition at Michigan is known all over the country. For example, the fight song for Michigan is very well-known especially in athletics. After each touchdown, point, run, or score that happens the Michigan fight is song is played and is sung by the fans. The Michigan fight song is the most well-known fight song for college sports. There are many traditions here that people respect. In class, we discussed how every freshman, during their orientation, walks through a fountain in the middle of campus for good luck. The football team at Michigan has many traditions they follow. Before every game they run through the tunnel and jump and hit the banner that says “Go Blue”.
Tradition, touching the banner.