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Season of Change

The Guideposts editor-in-chief reflects on the transformative process during football season.

Those of you who have followed my writings—both in our wonderful annual devotional book Daily Guideposts and in GUIDEPOSTS magazine—know that I am a bit of a—ahem—fan of the University of Michigan Wolverines football team, the winningest college football program in the country.

How hard is it to root for a team that always wins? you might ask. Well, this year I am finding out, and it is teaching me lessons beyond merely the virtue of remaining loyal to my undergraduate alma mater. In fact it’s turning into something close to a spiritual lesson. I’ll explain.

The Wolverines have a new coach this season, Rich Rodriguez, who replaced longtime head coach Lloyd Carr. For years Michigan has played your standard smash-mouth Big Ten-style football. Run the ball between the tackles, control the clock, avoid throwing downfield unless you absolutely have to and generally overwhelm your opponent physically on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage.

Before Lloyd there was the sainted Bo Schembechler, who always viewed complicated offensive schemes—and indeed the forward pass itself, I imagine—with deep suspicion. 

Now comes Coach Rodriguez who wants to revolutionize Michigan with what is called the spread offense, an alien football style in the Big Ten, one that depends on speedy backs and a complex offensive scheme with lots of options and movable parts. The immediate results of this have been disastrous. Michigan is off to a terrible start (I attended the only game they have won, against lowly Miami of Ohio, who almost beat them) and things are not likely to get much better this season.

Rodriguez will require at least a couple of good recruiting years to assemble the type of players he needs to make the spread offense click, and when it does it will be a thing to behold. Still, this year I must accept that Michigan will not vie for the Big Ten title, will not get a BCS berth, will probably not be ranked in the top 25 and may not even be invited to a bowl game at all.

Unthinkable. We’re talking about Michigan.

What is at the heart of all this angst? I ask myself. Why am I wailing and gnashing my teeth on Saturday afternoons? Change. Michigan has committed itself to a path of change.

Change is good, right? 

Well…good maybe, but rarely easy and often painful. I look at the change that has occurred in my own life…personal, professional, spiritual. None of it has been easy, especially not the change that absolutely had to get done (and isn’t it always the case that that’s the change we resist most?).

Change asks us first and foremost to let go, often without having something equally secure to grab on to right away. Change demands not just that we become different but that we trust, trust in something better and in a power greater than ourselves who will help us achieve it. Will the spread offense really work? That’s a leap of faith but if the Wolverines are going to win another national championship they need to move past the way they have played the game for so many generations.

Personal change is even more demanding because we must look at ourselves honestly, courageously, and ask if we are willing to let go and move on, and that is never easy; in truth, the harder it is the more we probably need it.

So I will endure this college football season as a reminder that change is the transformative process by which we better ourselves, by which we grow. And personal growth, I’ve discovered, eventually brings us closer to God. It has for me, at least. 

In the meantime, go Blue. 

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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