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Rutgers fans don't need to be traditionalists....just understand traditions

Out with the old and in with the new! Not so fast, my friend, there's more to this than just awards.


So, two guys walk into a bar.  The first one orders Johnny Walker Red on ice.  His buddy says, "Really? JW Red?  Everybody drinks that.  Try Johnny Walker Black....or Green...or Blue."

His buddy says, "But, I always drink Red.  It's....I don't know. Tradition."

As they continue drinking, the conversation wanders ju-u-u-ust a bit.  And the first guy says, "How many Big Ten schools use red as one of their colors?" (Yes, the conversation really did wander).  The other thinks and mumbles, "Uhh, India-a-a-ana, Wisco-o-o-onsin....Is maroon red?"  It's agreed that maroon is at least a shade or variation of red and the final count is seven....with Minnesota's maroon counting.  The second guy says, "Red's too common.  Somebody needs to try another color."  Change colors?, thinks the first guy.  And, as he breaks into song, he says....


Okay, I can't let it go

My colleague Dave White wrote a piece stating that Rutgers fans can't be traditionalists. And I found some issue with it.  Others - a lot of others - did not.

But there really wasn't as much difference in our general thinking as some people thought or even as much as I may have perceived and presented.

First off, I think the term "traditionalist" may have been misunderstood, maybe even misused. By all of us.  Tradition is defined by that source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, as:

.... a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes (like lawyer wigs or military officer spurs)....Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years; the word "tradition" itself derives from the Latin tradere or traderer literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. [emphasis added]

Dave is not a "traditionalist", and is excited about the new direction that RU athletics is taking.  So he posited:

Since I've been alive, Rutgers two prime sports (save for maybe a few years) have been mediocre at best and awful at worst.  Basketball hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game in over 30 years, and before 2005, went to one bowl.  You can talk about how a team turned a bowl down one year and how Rutgers created the game, but let's face it, beyond that it's not what you call a glorious past.

And, so, Rutgers fans, we need to break with tradition, in order for Rutgers to truly be successful.....

You can't be a traditionalist fan, because what's happened in the past hasn't been good enough.  Things have to be done differently....

Now, that doesn't mean you can't honor the past.  There are some wonderful names in Rutgers history.  Jerseys and numbers retired.  Plaques and trophies.  That's all fine and good.

But we can't hold on to what's happened in the past, and do the same things going forward.

I don't argue with the idea of moving forward.  But is losing a tradition?  Not by definition.  It might have become a habit or accepted by some, but it isn't a tradition.  Why would we honor losing?  Why would we feel good about things that didn't work?  I'd rather not talk about the Terry Shea years or the Fred Hill years, but it doesn't mean they didn't exist. If anything, you use those as examples of what not to do. Being a traditionalist is different from holding back success.

Dave wrote, "The greatest successes in Rutgers history happened three years before I was born."  Okay.  But using that line of thinking/reasoning, you could say that anything that happened before you were born or conscious is not worth acknowledging. Sounds like the Schiano philosophy.  When I wrote about naming the football field for Frank Burns (who, by the way, graduated two years before I was born), one reader commented:

Thanks for this piece

It's nice to learn a bit more of the history of the program besides:

  • Played first intercollegiate game against Princeton
  • Paul Robeson played here once
  • After that, not a whole lot happened
  • then Greg Schiano arrived.
I'm not from around here it's always good to learn about the history and the traditions.

Now that I know how awesome Frank Burns was....[h]e deserves to be honored in a much more concrete and prominent way.

by secret ASian man on Apr 21, 2016

What's wrong with knowing the history? Knowing who you are?  Answer: Nothing.  I'd say even Dave agrees.

In another comment, this from vinman with whom I agree a lot, this was offered:

Bob, I love memories too and have great ones from my undergraduate days at Rutgers.

You are also correct that they are essential in generating traditions. However, you have to be careful that they don't become anchors that stop you from moving forward.

by thevinman on Apr 24, 2016

How does honoring the past and preserving traditions "stop you from moving forward"?  I wasn't calling for a plaque for Terry Shea's 11-44 record, or Dick Anderson's 27-34-4 record, or even John Bateman's 73-51.  I did call for a recognition of a highly respected and decorated Rutgers player and coach.  I don't see that as being an "anchor" to doing things differently or better.

Remember all those people who were calling for Pernetti to be brought back?  How about all the Schiano backers who were ready to beatify GS if he was rehired?  Was that moving forward?  Really?

The real break from "tradition"

A major point that Dave made was in the thinking and behavior of Rutgers fans:

It's a new time.  Things change.  And change is good.  When things change, it's often for a reason.  And the change here is to make things better.  You can't expect Rutgers--basketball or football--to get where it needs to be without change.  Change from the fans on up.  That means we have to give big--actually raise real money.  And the athletic department has to embrace more than just football.  They have to build, and be a part of the arms race.  They can't just sit on their laurels waiting for a paycheck.

It has been a pattern of behavior and thinking - and not necessarily a tradition - that RU fans did not give, did not financially support athletics.  Certainly not the way other major schools did.  On that, Dave and I couldn't be more in sync.  And a comment from an Indiana fan in another post makes the point for us:

Indiana has never had problems getting monies. To the point I put them on call block!

Now they're in the middle of the 200th anniversary campaign to reach over 2.5 Billion dollars and are over 55% there with 3 years to go. That coincides with the $170 million campaign for athletics facilities which they have $124 million raised already; this campaign was JUST started.

Not bragging in any way. Just showing you that even though the B1G is lucrative, EVERY school raises money and raises it constantly and without issues. This is what you're up against in the ‘arms race'; state pride is the key by the public, alumni and state officials....

It can be done and must be done since B1G money is split equally (RU and UM later); so we all must make big bucks outside of the incoming cash and that comes down to alumni giving and big donors. NJ should be tops in this catagory and will be when the image of the State University of NJ is rightfully where it should be.

[emphasisadded]                                                                                                                                                                               by TheChicagoWay on Apr 24, 2016

The regular and constant giving of money?  Now that is tradition.

We cannot lament the fact that we aren't getting the same Big Ten money as the other schools.  We can't wring our hands and whine that it isn't fair.  We are in the best conference. Period.  This is the big time, and we, as fans and supporters, need to act and behave like we actually understand that.  Open the checkbooks, folks.  You get what you pay for.

How Chris Ash runs his team or how Steve Pikiell runs his has nothing to do with tradition. Because running a football or basketball team is not "behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning" or "the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth ".  It is coaching.  So let them coach.  And let us - with their support - honor and respect our history. The two aren't mutually exclusive.