Mavericks in society stand out. From Frank Zappa to Stanley Kubrick, those who decide to stand up and be counted inspire either love or loathing. Many times it seems as though those who loath the maverick secretly respect them. Still, it’s not an easy lot in life.
Of course, it is one thing to tell filmmakers they are heading in the wrong direction. It’s rare you ever hear about Spielberg going after someone with a bat for being a maverick. In fact, in filmmaking, mavericks are often saluted as long as they do not have commercial success.
In firefighting, the process is much more difficult. There are few Frank Zappas or Kevin Smiths, partly because Zappa is deceased and because Kevin Smith would find it difficult to climb a 100-foot aerial ladder carrying 45 pounds of gear.
Firefighters who are mavericks tend to inspire hatred and worse. Tell someone who has been doing it one way for 30 years to do it another and a bat comes out. Fire service mavericks are as rare as Britney Spears poems.
Change can be a dirty word, Sheryl Crow notwithstanding. Imagine walking a path for years and learning the nuances of every bend, rise, or shallow depression only to learn one day that your path is different. For some it is a challenge and for others it's kerosene applied to various parts of the body and a lit match.
Look at Bob Dylan. He lost fans because he left acoustical and went electric. Some argue it was a positive development while others maintain he’s dead to them musically. Either way he chose a different path.
Change can be bad. Witness Van Halen at the height of their career. David Lee Roth departs and the band is never the same despite having the same core members. Even in their 15-minute comeback with Diamond Dave, it was doomed.
Still, in the words of someone long ago, change or die. What is true for music, film and dancing is true for firefighters. Sure, you can stay traditional but at a price. In the former categories, the cost is in dollars and reputations. In the latter, it is measured in lives.