Emerald Specter 30: Tradition

The title of this one is simple, to the point, and something that bothers me. I’ll be talking about a few examples and I’ll be telling you why I think tradition is fairly ridiculous.

When you think of “tradition,” what pops into mind? The choosing of a homecoming king and queen? The rituals of an annual nature (like getting together for a specific Christmas time event)? Celebrating an annual event that doesn’t really affect a vast majority of people (like the passing of a local hero, celebrating a town historical event, or the end of some battle that happened)? Actually, all of these things could be considered tradition, but in most cases, the word “tradition” is tacked onto these things to prevent people from making changes to them.

We advance, evolve, and grow so we must also change the things we do in order to keep from becoming irrelevant.

Within the past year, a high school in Oregon eliminated the selection of a Homecoming King and Queen because the ritual excluded many of the new identities that people are choosing. While I do not necessarily agree with the 6.3 billion different identifiers that have popped up in the last few years, I do agree that their decision to remove the tradition of something in order to reflect what they currently believe is important.

When I personally hear someone tell me that something can’t be changed due to that thing being a tradition, I immediately believe that my thoughts and ideas are considered invalid by the person making that statement. Why do I need to be bound by something someone created 50, 100, or 500 years ago that can easily be “updated” to reflect a more modern sensibility? If we keep ourselves bound by the decisions of people you’ve probably never met, then we won’t ever get to create anything new. Progress stops in this scenario.

You might be thinking to yourself that you believe traditions should be upheld, brought forward, and observed for the rest of your natural life. You might be thinking you like your Christmas tradition that was passed down from your great great great great great great grandfather of eating a cookie right before bedtime to ensure you observed the wonderful efforts of Santa. You might think that your high school’s tradition of stringing up a pair of the principal’s underwear on the flagpole, which has happened every year for the past 75 years, is imperative for the future.

I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong… mostly.

I attended a high school that had the senior class haze the freshman class every year for a week leading into homecoming. This tradition was abolished right before I became a senior, and at the time, I was upset that I wouldn’t get to do the same thing to the freshman that was done to me. In hindsight, the practice is horribly barbaric and displays a lack of intelligence of the school for allowing it to progress for so long. This same school also had a “senior skip day” towards the end of the year, where teachers actually had nothing to do in classes that had only seniors attending the class. This is also a terrible “tradition” because it shows a lack of respect for those who have worked hard to get you to where you are at in your life, educationally speaking. Why not just cut the school year a day or two shorter for seniors?

Though I can’t hear you, I can certainly believe that you are ranting and raving about how tradition is important for reasons like, say, building character and observing history. Well, I’m a history lover, I have decided I’ve spent entirely too much time “looking backwards” and I’ve made the conscious decision to look forwards… progress instead of living in the past.

And now I’m going to point out an example of tradition that many of you believe should never be changed but hasn’t actually been the way you know it for very long.

Due to many reasons, the most watched sporting event in the world is the NFL’s Super Bowl. Every year, hundreds of millions of people gather around a TV or in a stadium to watch either the “big game” or the commercials that are put on during the event. The Super Bowl is traditionally on at about 6 or 7 in the evening on a Sunday. You’ve only ever known the game to be the way it currently is and you believe that should never change.

Well, the Super Bowl hasn’t always been this way and continues to adapt as we progress into the future. The first Super Bowl was on at 4 pm Eastern time, meaning the “prime time” game wasn’t even the barest part of the spectacle we know today. Super Bowls actually started earlier after that, a couple even beginning at 2 pm Eastern. Lunch, Super Bowl, the rest of your night. Still not the spectacle we know today. In fact, the starting time and spectacle we know really didn’t kick in until after 1989, when 6 pm Eastern and a little later became the standard and the commercial phenomenon really kicked into high gear.

So if you do the math, the Super Bowl “tradition” you experience today has only really been around for 27 years. The NFL is certainly not beholden to anything that came before and they change as the times change to remain relevant. Super Bowls used to be in January for the longest time (I was born on Super Bowl Sunday, right after the game ended as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys for the second time), now they’re in February on a regular basis and if things keep moving in the direction they’re moving, we might see more things change over the course of just a few years.

A tradition shouldn’t be something you’re forced into, especially if that tradition was set up by someone more than three decades ago. Those people couldn’t have possible imagined what we would be going through now and those people no longer hold sway in the modern day, thus making a new tradition is a better option than just reusing the old one that has been around for decades and decades.

Think on it.