Chapter Four-Reasons For Fences... Installment 15, Magpies

October 01, 2009

Recently, the new University of Michigan’s head football coach, Rich Rodriguez gave away the number 1 jersey to a defensive back. It became national news because of the outcry from fans and former players. There is perhaps no more traditional a football program than the one at Michigan. The House that Bo built still leans heavily on the specters of alumni players and long gone coaches. It was built because of the ravenous fans who number over 100,000 each fall Saturday. The number 1 Jersey has, at least within the last 20 years, always gone to the top wide receiver. In fact there is a $500,000 scholarship established by one of those receivers to ensure that it remains a Michigan tradition.

A thinking person would have to acknowledge that the uproar seems to be much to do about nothing. It’s just a number, right? Some observers may say, “Good. Exactly what we need around here. A little bit of a shake up. Players are spoiled anyway. This is probably part of the coaches master plan to assert authority. I understand. Master the little things and the big things come along. That is exactly what was wrong with the football program in Michigan. Stayed traditions don’t win championships, Selfless players recklessly throwing themselves at opponents does.”

I sat in a pastors’ office a couple of weeks ago and asked him about a recent decision his board made to choose a universally applied curriculum. The selling point of the curriculum is that families can discuss the same topic in their cars and dinner tables on the way home or after church. I sensed a Norman Rockwell fantasy coming. I asked him how many families did he think would do that. He answered that he could only think of one. Obviously, this was a poor decision.

He leaned forward and lowered his voice and said something like this. “The truth is, this is not about curriculum. We had to do something in order to get a few Sunday School leaders to quit acting like kings of a domain. A couple of teachers have challenged the authority of the leadership and we HAD TO DO SOMETHING RADICAL.”

I get that. I understand when we as leaders have to take drastic steps to move people in a new direction. I wonder how many time Moses said that?

A person, thinking about the shift at the University of Michigan, or this curriculum maneuver might ask the question, “Why would a new coach or pastor mess with something so small, knowing that it would raise the ire or traditional fans and faithful attenders. Aren’t some things better left untouched?”

Change is hard. Sometimes the safe decision is the deadliest one. That “safety first” mentality may just be the way we have ended up in the economic straights we are in as a country. It could be the reason that American automakers are unable to compete with the world’s automakers. Change scares us. We like what we know. It could be why some guys still wear a mullet. Change is, frankly, sailing your boat out of the harbor. For all we know the sea ends and sea monsters rule. Traditions become sacred cows. Sacred cows become protected by the religious masses. The religious masses become bound to their own devices.

I’m not one of those guys who are afraid of change. I am one of those guys who realize that not all change is wise. Sometimes it’s good to shake things up a bit. Sometimes, it causes a shift in the geological tectonic plates that support the foundations under our house. When that happens, homes slip off the cliff into the ocean.

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Dawn M. RoutledgeOct. 01 2009, 2:00pm

Keep Going.

Stephanie K.Oct. 01 2009, 5:05pm

Awesome stuff. :]


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