The Tradition of Breaking Traditions

Michigan football is full of traditions, I think. I guess it depends on your definition of tradition. How long of a history does something need to have to be considered a tradition? Is a tradition something that find its roots in the fanbase or does it come from the team? Who decides the point at which something makes the jump to being considered a program tradition?

The recent (as yet unconfirmed) news of the much desired #1 jersey being handed to an incoming defensive back has once again stirred the "doom and gloom" Michigan faithful's continuing paranoia of Rich Rod coming in and burning every Maize and Blue bridge possible in an attempt to seize complete creative control of the world's greatest football program. I wonder if Coach Yost felt the same pressure when he decided to add numbers to the back of the jerseys back in 1915. No doubt the sportblog world would have had a field day when Coach Carr decided to end the tradition of helmet stickers...if only sportsblogs existed back then.

With regards to the #1, which got some press last year with the announcement of the Braylon scholarship, I refer you to a very well done post from that time from the MZone. It chronicles the history of the #1 jersey, which actually went unworn for nearly 50 years before Bo Schembechler decided to break that tradition and give it to, um...a defensive back. Then they gave it to a kicker. Of course, with the donning of the #1 by Anthony Carter, the "tradition" began. Greg McMurtry and Derrick Alexander followed...before this piece of tradition setting excellence:

Junior College transfer Tyrone Butterfield was inexplicably given the #1 jersey in 1994, though he sat out the season as a redshirt. Butterfield is best remembered by Michigan fans for dropping a pass short of the end zone in Lloyd Carr's first game as head coach with time running out. If Butterfield had hung on, he would have been tackled short of the goal line and the game would have been over. Instead, with one more play, Scott Dresibach hit Mercury Hayes just inbounds for a touchdown on the final play and Michigan beat Virginia, 18-17, in what was at the time the greatest comeback in Michigan football history.

Whoooo hooooooo! I know you often have pined to find out who is going to don the jersey worn just 13 years ago by a JuCo transfer (that I had orientation with BTW) that is best known for a pass he dropped.

The truth is, we don't know what the reasoning was behind the alleged jersey promise. But let me throw this scenario at you... What if part of Terelle Pryor's decision was based on him getting the #1 jersey at the school he planned to attend. Would you have thrown it his way to get him to come to Ann Arbor? Ya, you would have...tradition be damned. Hell, Braylon would have even came out publicly behind that decision.

What you should be concerned with as a fan are the real traditions. The stadium, and its tradition of housing 100,000 plus on any given Saturday should go on for eternity. The winged helmets, which not only will remain on the heads of our football team, but have morphed into an official logo on the gear in other sports. The Victors, the greatest fight song ever written, will always let us know when the team has taken the field, and when the ball has crossed the goal line.

Rich Rod is not going to change any of these things. But you must keep something in mind. The Coach is in charge. He's in charge of the lives on and off the field of large group of kids that just got out of high school. He gets to decide. He gets to pick the offense. He gets to pick the defense. He gets to choose the starters. He gets to put the numbers on the players. He chooses the rewards, he dishes out the punishment. He decides when practice begins, when practice ends, and if a lineman needs to stay late and do 3 more sets of bench presses. He has complete control. Anything less would undermine him as the leader of this program. In short, we as a fan base need to stop acting like the guys in the barber shop in Hoosiers.

There are some Michigan Football traditions I would like to break. The tradition of getting burned deep. The tradition of waiting until our backs are against the wall before we open up the offense. The tradition of using the shaking of keys to mark a significant 3rd down play instead of just making as much noise as possible. The tradition of losing to Ohio State.

Michigan football wins. And they do so more than..and at a better clip than...any program in history. The only Michigan Football tradition that Coach Rodriguez needs to concern himself with, that he has control over, is the tradition of winning. The rest is fluff.