Some friendly advice to the athletic department: the word tradition does not mean what you think it means

The New York Times has a story today about UConn's decision to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before its home football and basketball games. I linked to the story in TheRoundUp, but there is a passage in it that is so breathtakingly stupid that it deserves its own post. We haven't covered the pledge story here because it's something like the 83rd most interesting UConn story at the moment, and we don't even have time to cover the first 82. But, in sum, it's this: interim AD Paul Pendergast heard the pledge recited at a local chamber of commerce meeting, liked the idea, and brought it to UConn games. Some people like it, some people don't, yawn.

That's not why I'm writing though, I'm writing because the Times story contains this passage:

Mike Enright, a UConn spokesman, said the university, which has played top-flight football for only about a decade, was also looking to emulate other universities in establishing a tradition. Ohio State, for instance, is known for dotting the "i" by its band in a script Ohio formation.

"We just don't have a lot of traditions," Enright said. "This is a chance for us to say, ‘At UConn, they have the Pledge of Allegiance.'"

That's one of the dumber things I've read in a while, and certainly the worst thing I've subjected myself to today.

The athletic department has fetishized the concept of "tradition" for years and focused on its artificial creation at the expense of a lot of other things such as: a sensible season ticket policy, the lack of a basketball practice facility, making online video content of minor sports easily accessible for a reasonable price, public promotion and fan relations (which has admittedly gotten worlds better in the last 12 months), and the continued existence of the XL Center.

Here's the thing: you cannot force tradition. It's something that happens organically over time -- that's why it's a tradition and not a fad or an innovation. You can't ring a bell after every point scored in a football game and have that automatically be a thing. And since you can't force tradition, UConn would be well served by not worrying about it, and instead focusing on things that matter, like winning.

As it happens, UConn actually does have a tradition -- it's not exactly script Ohio, but it's not nothing either. You see, we have a portly man with a red beard who stands up at basketball games and spells out U - C - O - N - N with his arms. On its face is that dumb? Incredibly. But it's also pretty awesome, and it happened on its own, over time. Plus, everyone knows about it. Look at what our buddies over at Card Chronicle tweeted before Saturday's football game. Or think about the atmosphere at a Big East Tournament game. Have you seen just how much other the fans of other schools hate that cheer? It annoys the shit out of them -- it is delightful.

No one, anywhere, ever, is going to say, "Oh, UConn, they have the Pledge of Allegiance," because A) That would be idiotic and B) because it is not related to the University in anyway -- it's just a thing UConn happens to do. There are things the athletic department does well, for instance: staying out of the way of Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, not scheduling all the basketball home games in Hartford, and putting together highlight videos that are scored to Kanye West songs. Tradition is not one of those things, because that's something fans do on their own, so please UConn, stay out of it.

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